First Conversation between M.S. Gorbachev and Chancellor of FRG H. Kohl
On June 12, 1989, Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev began a four-day visit to West Germany, just two weeks after a similar visit to West Germany by United States President George H. W. Bush. Gorbachev had by the summer of 1989 become a popular figure and expectations were running high in West German society over the summit. From the Soviet Union's perspective, West Germany represented the largest economy in Europe and welcomed the possibility of increased trade. For many Germans, the visits by both Bush and Gorbachev during the summer of 1989 illustrated joint recognition of the new, pivotal role that West Germany played in East-West relations.
During this conversation with Helmut Kohl, Mikhail Gorbachev clearly articulated his new policy not to interfere with the internal affairs of the Eastern European governments, which represented a de facto repeal of the Brezhnev Doctrine. Gorbachev's decision not to intervene in Eastern Europe during the years of democratic reform and revolution was soon dubbed the Sinatra Doctrine by Western observers (referring to Sinatra's hit "Do it My Way"). Both the "Sinatra doctrine" and Gorbachev's adherence to the reform ideas of Glasnost and Perestroika created fertile ground for the explosion of democratic reforms throughout the Soviet sphere.
Helmut Kohl voiced his support for Gorbachev's change in policy regarding reform in Eastern Europe, but also raised his concerns that East Germany under the leadership of Erich Honecker was not following the reform initiatives as in other Eastern European countries. Although Gorbachev did not commit himself to fostering reform in East Germany, he would indeed make his feelings clear to Honecker during his visit to East Berlin in October 1989.
Mikhail Gorbachev, conversation with Chancellor of FRG H. Kohl, 12 June 1989, trans. Svetlana Savranskaya, Notes of A.S. Chernyaev, Archive of the Gorbachev Foundation, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).