A year of revolutionary change has given Europeans, East and West, a new vision of a common destiny distinct from the ambitions and needs of the Soviet Union and the United States. In impoverished Eastern Europe, 1989 brought a glorious upheaval against a dying order; in the prosperous West it brought an adjustment both hopeful and apprehensive. The rush of change and the echoes it produced across the continent affirmed that Europe still exists as a political and strategic entity, even after four decades of cold war division and, in the East, subjugation and tyranny. Finally and unabashedly, it was the Year of Europe, beyond any policy planner's dream. The long winter of world conflict based on the division of Europe seemed to be approaching an end.
While visible and radical changes were occurring behind a collapsing Iron Curtain, more subtle but nonetheless fundamental shifts in power balances were under way in the western part of the continent. West German influence on European events became dominant, filling much of the vacuum created by the Soviet political retreat and a small but perceptible American retrenchment.
Throughout the year both superpowers centered their most important diplomatic and political strategies on West Germany, at times in competition, at times in tacit consent to Bonn's new position of strength. The same was true of Bonn's partners in the European Community (EC). French diplomacy was occupied with trying to guide and control West Germany's power, especially after Bonn made clear its intent to pursue German reunification actively. Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sought, more simplistically, to deny and then to obstruct German power in NATO and in economic affairs. She failed on both scores, and her prestige suffered at home and in Europe as a result.
The whirlwind of change that swept over Eastern Europe was created in a nexus of Soviet weakness and West German strength. The results, which promised to fulfill Roosevelt's vision of Yalta and overcome Stalin's corruption of the outcome of that conference,
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