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NATO Speech on the Establishment of German Unity


With the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, the prospect of a powerful reunited Germany worried nations in both the Eastern and Western blocs. Soviet officials suggested in repeated messages to the US that the four allies empowered to govern Germany at the conclusion of World War II—Britain, France, the US, and the Soviet Union—meet in order to relinquish their occupation rights and to control the reunification process. Sensitive to both German and Soviet concerns, Secretary of State James Baker proposed a “two-plus-four” plan for negotiating the reunification process, whereby the two German nations would work out agreements regarding domestic issues, while the four occupying powers would participate in discussions concerning external aspects of reunification, discussions that would be led by the two Germanys. Baker presented his plan to British, French, and West German officials in late January and early February. In response to Soviet fears of a unified Germany joining NATO, West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher proposed that during a period of transition, Soviet forces would remain in the East German section, where NATO forces would be prohibited. NATO Secretary General Manfred Wörner, in a speech--excerpted below--delivered a few days after these talks were held, presented NATO’s position concerning these issues. The following day, on February 9, Baker proposed the “two-plus-four” plan to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who expressed interest but remained non-committal. In fact, Gorbachev and a group of Soviet officials coincidentally had agreed late in January to a suggestion by his adviser on foreign affairs, Anatoly S. Chernyaev, that a “sextet” comprised of the same “two-plus-four” countries should discuss all problems connected with reunification. Later in February at a meeting in Ottawa, the foreign ministers of the two German nations and the four allied powers issued a joint statement announcing they had agreed to embark on talks to negotiate “external aspects of the establishment of German unity.”

Secretary General Manfred Wörner, "NATO Speech on the Establishment of German Unity," Making the History of 1989, Item #52


Manfred Wörner, "Atlantic Alliance and German Unity," speech, February 8, 1990, NATO, Online Library, NATO (accessed May 28, 2006).

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