In This Review

From Yalta to Berlin: The Cold War Struggle Over Germany
From Yalta to Berlin: The Cold War Struggle Over Germany
By W. R. Smyser
St. Martin's, 1999, 496 pp

A veteran observer of German affairs, Smyser has written a comprehensive and lucid study of Germany and the Cold War. His analysis of key historic turning points -- the 1948 Berlin airlift, the Berlin crises, Ostpolitik, NATO's 1982 deployment of intermediate-range missiles, and Mikhail Gorbachev's reversal of alliances -- is a model of dispassionate clarity and good judgment. In a shrewd dissection of Stalin's postwar handling of Germany, Smyser recognizes that Germany was divided because the occupiers decided that "they would rather have their own slices than risk letting their prospective opponents have the whole." His insightful account of reunification and its players pays tribute to Gorbachev for deciding that Soviet influence over all of Germany and western Europe mattered more than dominance over eastern Germany and eastern Europe. But Smyser's conclusion on Germany's changing role in Europe overstates the Berlin Republic's likely political influence. Berlin may be the geographical center of Europe, but the constraints of the European Union and Germany's economic and social difficulties, unmentioned here, make German preponderance unlikely.