Amb. Henry F. Cooper, Chairman Lt. Gen. Daniel Graham, Founder
High Frontier . . Building Truly Effective Defenses . . . Reagan’s Vision Lives!
E-Mail Message 141112
When the Wall Came Down . . .
By Ambassador Henry F. Cooper
November 12, 2014
“Are these the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state? Or are they token gestures, intended to raise false hopes in the West, or to strengthen the Soviet system without changing it? We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace.” ~ Ronald Reagan – June 12, 1987
World War I ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918—beginning the following year, we Americans have celebrated this date, first as Armistice Day and then after the Korean War as Veterans Day to remember the service of all veterans—as we did yesterday.
Moreover, this year is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of that alleged “war to end all wars,” an aspiration that just hasn’t worked out. It began by miscalculations triggered with the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Astro-Hungarian Empire. We have sought to avoid such miscalculations ever since, not always successfully. But we have had important successes.
On Monday, many celebrated a major success in our continuing efforts to avoid a conflict in which nuclear weapons are used. It was the 25th anniversary of the day the Berlin Wall came down, and most celebrated then the apparent end of the Cold War between East and West—which had involved surrogate “police actions” in Korea and Viet Nam but none that evolved into another world war. And so far all these conflicts have been “managed” so as to avoid the use any of the existing tens of thousands of nuclear weapons.
Will we be able to make a similar claim in another quarter century, given the growing number of states with nuclear weapons—and the dynamics of nuclear proliferation that involves these states and possibly even surrogate terrorists? That’s a question to pause and consider—say, in the context of the legacy of the Berlin Wall experience.
On November 9, 1989, the world watched TV broadcasts in amazement as jubilant crowds gathered on both sides of the Berlin Wall around midnight to celebrate the opening of the border crossings between the eastern and western parts of the city. (Click here for Tom Brokhaw’s memorable NBC report that evening—well worth 6 minutes just to see the dancing in the streets.) It signaled the beginning of the end of Germany’s postwar division and national unity came less than a year later on October 3, 1990.
It is worth remembering the history of how our World War II victory so rapidly descended into the Cold War that this event signaled was ending—and noting how we again appear to be entering another, perhaps even more dangerous, Cold War.
An Important Prelude to Freedom.
The above memorable milestones begin when Winston Churchill was invited by President Truman to speak at Westminster College, in Fulton, Missouri. After receiving an honorary degree, Churchill introduced the phrase “Iron Curtain” to describe the growing division between Western powers and the area controlled by the Soviet Union. As such, the speech marked the onset of the Cold War. (Click here for an in-depth Fordham University summary of the speech. Click here for a 3-minute black and white video of the famous lines and Soviet propaganda at the time.)
Following World War II, several allied powers (the U.S., Great Britain and France in the West and the Soviet Union in the East) managed the aftermath and disposition of the legacy of the Nazi regime—a subject beyond our discussion here, except to note that Berlin was trapped within the East German sector, some 100 miles from the border of West Germany—and potential freedom for the citizens of Berlin.
The Soviets occupied East Berlin, associated with the new communist German Democratic Republic (GDR)—which in turn became a state within the Soviet Block of the Cold War—the Warsaw Pact. West Berlin associated with the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), founded in concert with the first major East-West test of the Cold War. (Click here for a brief NATO history.)
In June 1948, the Soviets sought to blockade Berlin, in part to restrain East Berliners seeking to escape and no doubt also to capture all of Berlin. The Western Allies organized the Berlin airlift to carry supplies to the people in West Berlin. Aircrews from the United States Air Force, the British Royal Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and the South African Air Force flew over 200,000 flights in one year, providing up to 4700 tons of necessities daily, such as fuel and food, to the Berliners. Neither side wanted a war; the Soviets did not disrupt the airlift; and by April it was delivering more cargo than had previously been transported into the city by rail.
The NATO Treaty was signed on April 4, 1949—in its renowned Article 5, the new Allies agreed “an armed attack against one or more of them … shall be considered an attack against them all” and that following such an attack, each Ally would take “such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force” in response. On May 11, 1949, The Soviets lifted the blockade of West Berlin, but the city remained divided between East and West—a major political eyesore, an emblem of the competing ideological and economic visions for postwar Europe, particularly Germany.
Because of the economic success of West Germany—fueled by the US Marshall Plan—and increased political repression at home, East Germans sought a better life in the West. But the GDR sealed the borders; and on August 13, 1961, closed all crossing points between the East and West Berlin and began constructing the Berlin Wall. For the next 18 years, numerous Berliners died trying to escape that regime.
That was the stage for President Kennedy’s memorable June 26, 1963 speech at the Brandenburg Gate (Click here.), during which he stoked that thirst for freedom by exclaiming, “Ich bin ein Berliner!” In another 24 years, President Reagan spoke in the same location (Click here.)—consider this memorable excerpt:
“. . . now the Soviets themselves may, in a limited way, be coming to understand the importance of freedom. We hear much from Moscow about a new policy of reform and openness. Some political prisoners have been released. Certain foreign news broadcasts are no longer being jammed. Some economic enterprises have been permitted to operate with greater freedom from state control.
“Are these the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state? Or are they token gestures, intended to raise false hopes in the West, or to strengthen the Soviet system without changing it? We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.
“General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
“I understand the fear of war and the pain of division that afflict this continent– and I pledge to you my country’s efforts to help overcome these burdens. To be sure, we in the West must resist Soviet expansion. So we must maintain defenses of unassailable strength. Yet we seek peace; so we must strive to reduce arms on both sides.”
A thirst for freedom along with the economic pressures imposed on the Soviet Union—as well as Reagan’s will to confront the Soviet military buildup, led to growing protests in the Warsaw Pact including in East Germany. Eventually in response, the GDR leadership lifted travel restrictions to the West on November 9, 1989—and shortly before midnight, tens of thousands flocked to the Berlin Wall. The border guards could not hold them back, and jubilant crowds greeted the first arrivals to freedom in West Berlin.
In another 11 months, Germany was reunited. East Germany held its first free elections on March 18, 1990, and the East German electorate voted by an overwhelming majority for those parties demanding swift accession to West Germany. In summer 1990 a treaty to this effect was negotiated and consummated on October 3rd, since celebrated as the Day of German Unity and an official German holiday.
Berlin, as capital of all Germany, is perhaps our strongest ally in confronting today’s threats to freedom. A quarter century after that momentous evening when the Berlin Wall fell, we again celebrate that precious freedom that America and our friends enabled by steadfast and unfaltering support.
More or less concurrent events in 1989 joined with ending the Cold War during the early days of the George H.W. Bush administration. For example, in June 1989, the first round of the Nuclear and Space Talks with the Soviet Union began again in Geneva. And on September 21-23, I attended, as the associated Chief U.S. Defense and Space Negotiator, my last Ministerial in Woods Hole, Wyoming.
At that ministerial, the Soviets dropped their previous demand that the U.S. abandon plans for a space-based missile defense—which they had claimed was a major obstacle to final agreement on the strategic arms accord that became the START Treaty. We had sought this welcome delinking for almost five years. Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze also acknowledged that the Krasnoyarsk radar was a violation of the ABM Treaty and agreed to dismantle it—also an obstacle to agreement. All this was positive—boding well for our future negotiations.
As my parting gift to my successor Amb. Dave Smith, I arranged for a December 1989 trip—after the fall of the Berlin Wall—for him to lead the Soviet delegation in visiting several U.S. facilities involved in the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), all in an effort to gain their cooperation in building effective ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems, including space-based ones.
This outcome was consistent with President George H.W.Bush’s May 12, 1989 speech at Texas A&M University that said the U.S. Goal in the Defense and Space Talks was to preserve the option to deploy advanced defenses when they are ready. Thus, we had set the stage for cooperation toward that end, including increased transparency.
In 1990, shortly after becoming SDI Director, I also arranged for a number of former Soviet scientists to work with ours on areas of mutual interest. And the Nuclear and Space Talks proceeded toward completing the START Treaty, signed on July 31, 1991 by Presidents Bush and Gorbachev. Then, in December 1991, as the world watched in amazement, the Soviet Union disintegrated into fifteen separate countries. Thus ended the Cold War, transforming the entire world political situation—leading to a reformulation of political, economic and military alliances all over the globe.
By January 1992, Russia had its first openly elected President, Boris Yeltsin, who at the United Nations on January 31st stated:
“I think the time has come to consider creating a global system for protection of the world community, It could be based on a reorientation of the U.S. Strategic Defense system to make use of technologies developed in Russia’s defense community.”
Regrettably, the Bush-41 administration was not able to close on this opportunity while revamping the START Treaty to include the various former Soviet states, now independent states, as parties.
The Clinton administration dropped the related negotiations entirely in 1993; reverted to a Cold War view of strategic relations based on Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD); sought adherence to the ABM Treaty as the “cornerstone of strategic stability;” gutted the SDI program; and maintained only an effort to develop Theater Missile Defense (TMD) systems.
Thus was lost an opportunity to build a truly effective global defense. More for another day.
The Reagan Connection.
Lest we forget, my former boss, President Ronald Reagan, is due major credit for bringing about the collapse of the former Soviet Union—including the fall of the Berlin role.
This is not just my view alone. Click here for an excellent summary of the conditions deliberately established by President Reagan’s formal directives. It didn’t just happen as an accumulation of fallout from a long term strategy of deterrence and/or certainly not détente, which he disliked enormously.
Reagan’s objective in dealing with the “evil empire” was not just getting along—it was, “We win, they lose.” And so it was to be.
Furthermore, SDI played a major role in that strategy. And many former high ranking Soviets have agreed over the years, though there is a lot of revisionism going around these days.
I’ll never forget former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher telling our SDI team at a session in Colorado Springs on August 3, 1990 (the day after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait)—that
“I firmly believe that it was the determination to embark upon the SDI and to continue it that eventually convinced the Soviet Union that they could never, never, never achieve their aim by military might because they would never succeed. . . . We must always keep our defenses sharp and we must always keep our technology ahead.”
And for the Future?
Michael Gorbachev attended the Berlin celebrations this week and observed that we are on the brink of another Cold war. At an event marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, close to the city’s iconic Brandenburg Gate, he said, “The world is on the brink of a new Cold War. Some are even saying that it’s already begun.”
In paying tribute to East Berliners, President Barack Obama in a statement released last Friday said that “as Russia’s actions against Ukraine remind us, we have more work to do to fully realize our shared vision of a Europe that is whole, free and at peace.”
Indeed, the White House released a statement on Sunday that “We are very concerned by intensified fighting in eastern Ukraine, as well as numerous reports…that Russian backed and supplied separatists are moving large convoys of heavy weapons and tanks to the front lines of the conflict. We continue to call on all sides to strictly adhere to the cease-fire.”
Actually, there is little surprise that Russian President Vladimir Putin, who as a young KGB officer in the GDR possibly watched as the Berlin wall came down and certainly as the Soviet Union dissolved, is now trying to reinstate as much of what Mother Russia lost as possible.
Now President Obama is traveling in the Far East seeking to gain support for his “pivot to Asia” policy—so far mostly talk. President Obama is seeking support from China—a longstanding Russian ally and source of proliferation of ballistic missile and nuclear technology to North Korea, Iran and others. Russian and Chinese leaders have strengthened their ties in defiance of the U.S. as the West has tried to isolate Moscow with economic sanctions. And as I have previously written, both Russia and China are modernizing and building more advanced military systems—while ours stagnate and/or atrophy.
So far, President Obama has failed to achieve close working relations with either Chinese President Xi Jinping or Mr. Putin despite White House efforts. During his three-day stay in China, Mr. Obama has come face to face with Mr. Putin, reportedly for the first time since June—but only briefly.
Perhaps they can still find a way to cooperate on some important issues—say in the Middle East, but President Obama previously essentially abandoned the field to President Putin in dealing with its long-time ally Syria in particular. So, don’t hold your breath while associated troublesome issues in the Middle East continue to fester—where Mr. Putin appears to hold the upper hand. In my opinion, the former KGB officer is unlikely to be very cooperative—and there is room for lots of mischief. Almost any cooperation is not likely to benefit America and our allies.
For example, Putin’s longstanding allies in Iran enables him to participate on both sides of the P5+1 talks (involving Germany plus the five permanent members of the UN Security Council—the US, Britain, France, Russia and China), supposedly focused on reaching an agreement by November 24th to curtail Iran’s quite deliberate efforts to build nuclear weapons.
The horse trading has been alleged to include a deal in which Iran helps counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in exchange for legitimizing a number of Iranian centrifuges processing nuclear materials, and reducing the sanctions on Iran. Of course, the only true democracy in the Middle East, Israel, will not welcome such an agreement. And neither should we.
These concerns are not likely to diminish anytime soon.
Where, oh where, can we find leaders like those who so clearly identified the Iron Curtain threat, fashioned a strategy to counter it, and stubbornly for decades resisted a persistent existential enemy?
Happy Birthday to the Marines!
Sandwiched between the Berlin Wall celebrations and honoring our veterans, was another important milestone—the 239th birthday of the U.S. Marines!
Missions have changed over the years, but since the Continental Congress approved on November 10, 1775 the resolution to establish two battalions of Marines able to fight for independence at sea and on shore, their commitment has been to protecting the lives of our citizens and the interests of our nation.
Their congressional mandate is to be this nation’s rapid response force; they are thus called to be “most ready when the nation is least ready.“ From humanitarian relief efforts to combat operations; from air, land and sea to every clime and place, the Marine Corps stands ready to answer our nation’s call. (Click here for a brief history.)
We all need to be ready to join them in confronting and defeating today’s existential threats . . .
Near Term High Frontier Plans.
We will continue to emphasize our efforts to inform the state and local authorities—and publics—about the existential EMP threat and what we can do to counter it.
We will continue expanding our work with the National Guard to help them gain knowledge and workable plans to help harden the electric power grid and counter the EMP threat. This work will go hand in hand with efforts of State legislators who are seeking to expand on the excellent work of those in Maine and Virginia, who have passed legislation requiring serious studies of the EMP threat and the needed countermeasures to protect the electric power grid.
We are working with South Carolina National Guard to plan tabletop exercises to help them understand how best to engage constructively with private citizens and their local and state representatives and other authorities to understand and respond to this serious threat. We also are supporting related activities in neighboring and other states.
We are informing SC state legislators and senators about the threat and what can be done to deal with it—and expect the coming legislative session to take up proposed legislation modelled after that passed without a negative vote in Virginia. (Click here.)
We also expect to work with Cong. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) whose district includes my SC farm—and other members of the Congressional EMP Caucus to again seek passage of the Shield Act and the Infrastructure Protection Act.
We will be working with members of the EMP Coalition and others who are seeking to take our message across the country—especially with Bob Newman, a former Adjutant General of Virginia, to help us link our SC plans more broadly and especially into Virginia and the National Capital region.
What can you do?
Join us in praying for our nation, and for a rebirth of the freedom sought, achieved and passed to us by those who came before us.
Help us to spread our message to the grass roots and to encourage all “powers that be” to provide for the common defense as they are sworn to do.
Begin by passing this message to your friends and suggest they visit our webpage, www.highfrontier.org for more information. Also, please encourage your sphere of influence to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter.
And support us with your tax deductible gifts to help enable our continuing efforts.
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