1989: The Struggle to Create Post-Cold War Europe

In This Review

1989: The Struggle to Create Post-Cold War Europe
By Mary Elise Sarotte
Princeton University Press, 2009
344 pp. $29.95
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Beginning exactly 20 years ago, the diplomacy surrounding the reunification of Germany in 1989-90 transformed world politics. Sarotte's readable and reliable diplomatic history will no doubt take its place as the classic overview of this period. It is sensible, balanced, and well documented, drawing on what is now an extensive international body of primary and secondary sources. In her view, 1989 was a unique opportunity brought about by two men: the Soviet Union's Mikhail Gorbachev and West Germany's Helmut Kohl. She thereby downplays the contributions of Washington and Paris, both of which played positive, but less decisive, roles than American and French accounts suggest. Yet the final settlement -- a reunified Germany in NATO, rather than some sort of confederation -- was decided not by statesmen as much as by people on the streets of East Germany, who forced the pace and the form of reunification. Thereafter, Gorbachev's irresolute bargaining stance, along with the West's shortsightedness, led Moscow to settle for weak assurances about the future expansion of NATO. The resulting resentments rankle Russians to this day.