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Kohl adviser unveils details on fine points of reunification talks

Seven months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev invited Chancellor Helmut Kohl to the Caucasus, where together they worked out the final sticking points of German unification.

Horst Teltschik, foreign policy advisor to Helmut Kohl

Teltschik recalls talks between Kohl and Gorbachev ran smoothly

In July of 1990, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev met in the Caucasus to work out the final details of German reunification. Horst Teltschik, at that time Kohl's foreign policy advisor, recalls Bonn and Moscow working together for a solution that both sides could agree upon.

DW: What kind of sticking points regarding German reunification still had to be resolved during the Caucasus meeting?

Horst Teltschik: There were a number of key questions that had to be conclusively answered. At the top of the list was the question whether or not a united Germany could be a member of NATO. It had already been discussed numerous times, but President Gorbachev had not given a conclusive answer.

The second question was related to the end of the Four Powers' - US, UK, France and the Soviet Union - authority over Germany. In other words, it had to be made clear that Germany would regain its full sovereignty.

The third question touched on the bilateral treaty between Germany and the Soviet Union. Helmut Kohl had proposed a treaty - to be signed after unification - that would regulate the future relations between Germany and the Soviet Union, especially on security issues.

How did President Gorbachev react to the major issues regarding German reunification?

The negotiations went very well. The first discussion between Chancellor Kohl and President Gorbachev took place in Moscow a day after Kohl's arrival. During that discussion Gorbachev had already agreed in principle that Germany could remain a member of NATO and would regain its full sovereignty. The details had to be worked out during the meeting in the Caucasus.

What was the attitude among the German and Soviet delegations?

The fact that President Gorbachev had organized the meeting in the Caucasus, his home, was for us a sign that the negotiations would go well. You don't invite a partner to your home if you want to fight. Chancellor Kohl had a positive attitude after the G7 summit in Houston. Before the the negotiations in the Caucasus began, there were several other small moments that emphasized the prospects for a positive solution.

Perhaps you have seen the images of the mountain meadow, full of flowers next to the river. Raisa Gorbachev - the President's wife - went into the meadow and picked a small flower bouquet and gave it to Kohl. That was also a sign that there would be no conflict. Instead, both sides wanted to work toward a positive result. And that's what happened.

How much money did Germany pay for the withdrawal of Soviet soldiers and Moscow's agreement to unification?

You have to understand that the question of money is relative. When Helmut Kohl met with Gorbachev in Moscow that February after the fall of the Wall, Gorbachev had basically already told Kohl that the two German states could reunite. If Gorbachev would have said at that time: Mr. Chancellor, I agree with you, but it's going to cost Germany 50 billion or 80 billion - could we have said no?

German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev

West Germany supported the Soviet Union with generous financial aid

In other words, the financial issues were partially a benefit that we offered on our own initiative without receiving any demands from the Soviets. We delivered over 1 billion deutschmarks (511 million euro, $687 million) food aid to the Soviet Union in 1990. We offered to build housing for the Soviet troops after they withdrew from East Germany, because they didn't have any accommodations in the Soviet Union. We offered 300 million for the re-education of retiring Soviet officers. We also gave Moscow a loan of 5 billion in May 1990 as a part of the final political solution in order to secure the financial solvency of the Soviet Union.

In August, Chancellor Kohl and President Gorbachev talked once more about the money. Kohl had promised 10 billion; Gorbachev wanted 15 to 20 billion. In the end they agreed to 12 billion. In comparison to the result - reunification - the money was all relative in its size.

Horst Teltschik, born in 1940 in Klatendorf in the Sudetenland, was from 1983 to 1992 the assistant head of the federal chancellery and the foreign policy advisor to Chancellor Helmut Kohl. From 1999 to 2008, he led the Munich Security Conference.

Interview: Matthias von Hellfeld (sk)
Editor: Jennifer Abramsohn

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