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Miracle in Berlin
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Where did all the time go? Thirty years ago this week the Berlin Wall fell. Then Soviet chairman Mikhail Gorbachev freed the Baltic states and allowed divided Germany to reunite. It was a geopolitical earthquake of historic proportions – and a major miracle of our times.

The once mighty Soviet Union had become exhausted by its long military/economic/political struggle to keep up with the much wealthier United States and its rich allies. Moscow had 40,000 tanks, but its economic infrastructure, crippled by Marxist ideology, was an empty shell.

A senior KGB general in Moscow told me that, a decade earlier, the renowned Soviet physicist Andrei Sakharov had warned the Politburo that failure by Soviet industry to account for deprecation to modernize and replace outdated equipment would provoke a major crisis by 1990. This is exactly what happened.

By 1990, Soviet industry was broken down, outdated or rusted away. The Kremlin could no longer maintain the Soviet welfare state with its free medicine and education, long holidays, vacation spas, early pensions and unaffordable military spending. Arms alone may have accounted for over 40% of Moscow’s budget.

The Soviet Empire came crashing down after a revolt by East Germans, followed by Baltic peoples and central Europeans. Secretary Gorbachev, an idealistic leader of high ethics, refused to use the Red Army to crush the rebellion.

KGB, fed up with decrepit Communist misrule, abandoned the Party and moved to take control. East Germany broke free of Moscow and joyously reunited with West Germany, altering Europe’s balance of power to the displeasure of Britain and France, Germany’s historic rivals.

According to the Russians, Moscow made oral agreements with Washington, London and Paris that, in exchange for allowing Germany to reunite and then join NATO, the Western powers vowed NOT to extend the alliance into the former Communist states. They agreed to a neutral buffer zone across Eastern Europe and the Baltics.

The West lied. Precisely the opposite occurred. NATO, led by its sponsor, the US, moved relentlessly east, using its economic and political clout to dominate Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland (they were delighted), the Baltic states, Bulgaria, Romania and the wreckage of former Yugoslavia. New NATO bases in Romania and Bulgaria gave the US-run alliance much greater access to the Mideast.

The Georgian government, led by Gorbachev’s foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze, a key player in dismantling Communism, was ousted in a CIA-led ‘color revolution.’

Protests by bankrupt Russia over NATO’s intrusion into Eastern Europe were scornfully dismissed by the West with ‘well, you don’t have anything in writing to confirm your claims of a deal.’

True enough, in the confusion of ‘fin de regime’ Moscow and its Russian diplomats failed to get signed treaties. `We trusted the Western powers,’ came their pathetic reply. Meanwhile, US intelligence agencies were looting Moscow of its military technology and bribing the corrupt government. At times, Russia felt like an occupied nation.

ORDER IT NOW

The US poured vast sums of money into Russia to shore up its pro-US oligarchs and robber barons, corrupting everyone in their path. A bunch of drunken former Communist Party bigwigs attempted a clownish coup, only to be blocked by the KGB and military. Another serious drunk, Boris Yeltsin, was helped into power on a route paved with US $100 bills by the West. It was Russia’s darkest hour.

KGB finally seized power by outing Yeltsin and installing one of its brightest officers, Vladimir Putin. He quickly began rebuilding Russia and cleaning Moscow’s Augean Stables. Germany achieved another miracle by its successful reunification with former East Germany.

I walked through the deserted main building of East Germany’s Stasi secret police and the abandoned HQ of the quarter million-strong Group of Soviet Forces in Germany. Files were strewn on the floors; sheets of paper marked ‘Top Secret’ blew about. It was spooky and miraculous.

I was reminded of poet Shelley’s great poem Ozymandias:

“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

(Republished from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: History • Tags: Berlin Wall, Soviet Union 
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  1. Alistair says:

    The USSR would have thrived had the Soviet leaders allowed a Central Banking System, along with perversion of FIAT money — just the way the American Capitalist System operates.

    The key to resiliency of the American Empire vs Soviet Union was it’s important financial alliances with rich European countries, Japan, and the Gulf States, who allow the US to issue FIAT money, virtually without the risk of inflation: Ever since “the Bretton Woods Monetary Agreement” in July 1944, US allies have been buying the US Government Treasuries, supporting the USA by loaning massive sum of money to America, which are used to finance the US government but also the US empire abroad.

    Under the Bretton Woods Monetary System, Gold was the basis for the U.S. dollar and other currencies were pegged to the U.S. dollar’s value, which had effectively became a worthless FIAT money by 1971 when Bretton woods had collapsed — but the practice of the Bretton Woods pegging remained effective even to date — today the US owes over 110% of its GDP, with ever growing budgetary deficits that being financed buy new FIAT money.

    American FIAT money is the backbone of the US military spending; it has also been used to buying and bribing foreign governments to join the US Military-Financial Alliance. Without the FIAT money the US would not have had the financial means to survive — at best, America would have been comparable to Brazil, but in the northern hemisphere.

    The Soviet Union didn’t understand the important function of FIAT money, and didn’t use FIAT money to finance the Soviet ambitions, and that led to their demise by 1986.

    • Agree: Digital Samizdat
    • Troll: Svevlad
    • Replies: @animalogic
    , @76239
  2. ‘We trusted the Western powers,’ came their pathetic reply.

    That’s a rather harsh, albeit true judgment; the Commies thought they were dealing with Capitalists. Capitalism, as I learned in B-School, was predicated on the free and fair exchange of goods and services among willing parties. That’s the theory. In reality, the proliferation of lawyers and lawfare in what the Commies used to call the decadent West should have made it clear that they were not dealing with people of honour, certainly not Capitalists in the truest sense.

  3. Utter lies.

    If you believe anybody got “freed” with the Selling of the Soviet Union to the Western Mafia, you got another thing coming.

    Most of the people in the “freed” countries of eastern Europe, as well as in Russia, wish, oh, wish with all their might that they were back in a communist country.

    So they could eat. And get some medicine. And have a job.

    • Replies: @Random Smartaleck
  4. @obwandiyag

    Most of the people in the “freed” countries of eastern Europe, as well as in Russia, wish, oh, wish with all their might that they were back in a communist country.

    Speak for yourself. My family in East Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic hold no such delusional wishes, having been on the receiving end of the Soviet jackboot from start to finish.

    • Replies: @obwandiyag
    , @Paw
  5. At times, Russia felt like an occupied nation.

    Hard to feel sorry considering the 45 years of actual conquest & occupation inflicted by Russia on half of Europe.

    • Agree: byrresheim
    • Replies: @Kratoklastes
  6. The point not made here, is that a supposed ‘hyperpower’ can implode in a few months if the basis for its power is no longer taken seriously – which happens once the median schlub realises that his material affluence is has stopped advancing… which in turn takes roughly a 40-year stagnation in real median wage growth (so that 2 generations feel the same pinch).

    Post-WWII the mood in the soyuz was pretty elevated, and if anything got better after Sputnik. Those sorts of things tamp down disquiet. But 30-ish years after Sputnik, it was obvious to every Dmitri, Aleksei, and Sergei that their lives were not improving.

    Failing to exert their will in Afghanistan didn’t help the national mood either.
    .
    .
    Anyone had a close look at real wage growth in the US by income decile? This Pew piece is reasonably good… but it doesn’t take into account that hedonics, substitution effects, chain-indexing and OER – all introduced by Greenspan and his ilk in order to help the US renege on COLA for retirees – serves to bias the US Personal Consumption Deflator downwards by 1-2% a year.

    Likewise… taken a close look at some recent OIG reports on key US infrastructure?

    • Agree: Dieter Kief
    • Replies: @Hail
  7. @Random Smartaleck

    The average schlub in the soyuz was just as much a victim as anyone you’ve got in mind.

    Power games don’t benefit the citizenry – they’re not intended to.

    • Replies: @Random Smartaleck
  8. @Alistair

    Good points.
    Funny how its “Marxism” which destroyed the USSR, but the same Marxism is totally ignored as part of the foundation of China’s success…. cake & eat it too’ism.

    • Replies: @foolisholdman
  9. The point of the article? Wow, it was a miracle…. but, implied, is it was no miracle at all — the USSR was totally corrupt & decadent — which, indeed it was.
    Of course, Gorbachev did try to deal with these problems … too little too late — or the Party demonstrated a failure of nerve, faith & simple political acumen… in which case, we really do have national decadence.

  10. According to the Russians, Moscow made oral agreements with Washington, London and Paris that, in exchange for allowing Germany to reunite and then join NATO, the Western powers vowed NOT to extend the alliance into the former Communist states. They agreed to a neutral buffer zone across Eastern Europe and the Baltics.

    According to the Russians? Actually, our own ambassador to the Soviet Union, Jack Matlock, who was present when Jim Baker made the promise, said the same thing:

    At the close of the cold war, at a meeting held on February 9, 1990, George H.W. Bush’s Secretary of State, James Baker, promised Gorbachev that if NATO got Germany and Russia pulled its troops out of East Germany, NATO would not expand east of Germany and engulf the former Soviet states. Gorbachev records in his memoirs that he agreed to Baker’s terms “with the guarantee that NATO jurisdiction or troops would not extend east of the current line.” In Super-power Illusions, Jack F. Matlock Jr., who was the American ambassador to Russia at the time and was present at the meeting, confirms Gorbachev’s account, saying that it “coincides with my notes of the conversation except that mine indicate that Baker added “not one inch.” Matlock adds that Gorbachev was assured that NATO would not move into Eastern Europe as the Warsaw Pact moved out, that “the understanding at Malta [was] that the United States would not ‘take advantage’ of a Soviet military withdrawal from Eastern Europe.” At the February 9 meeting, Baker assured Gorbachev that “neither the President or I intend to extract any unilateral advantages from the processes that are taking place.”

    Did you hear that? “Not one inch!”

    True enough, in the confusion of ‘fin de regime’ Moscow and its Russian diplomats failed to get signed treaties. ‘We trusted the Western powers,’ came their pathetic reply.

    At a high level, it wouldn’t have mattered very much. Written agreements can be broken just like oral ones. Does anyone here remember how the US up and unilaterally withdrew from the ABM Treaty back in 2002? Washington could have just as easily done the same in the case of a non-expansion pact. The Soviets made the mistake of thinking they were dealing with gentlemen rather than neocon gangsters … their bad.

  11. Hail says: • Website
    @Kratoklastes

    Good points, but a big difference with the US of our time is that the US took seriously Bertolt Brecht’s satirical suggestion that the state “elect a new people” if it’s having trouble with the current one.

    (Steve Sailer popularized this idea, the re-interpretation for our times, and I suppose the de-satirization, of Brecht’s “elect a new people.”)

    • Replies: @Hail
  12. @Random Smartaleck

    Liar. Trolls always give personal information.

    • Replies: @Random Smartaleck
  13. @Kratoklastes

    The average schlub in the soyuz was just as much a victim as anyone you’ve got in mind.

    I can’t disagree there. Nothing that developed post-collapse was “deserved” by the common Russian people. But my emotional side can’t help but feel a little Schadenfreude when seeing an occupation-like situation visited on Russia, given the history of Eastern Europe.

  14. Paw says:
    @Random Smartaleck

    I see often the hand of the Highest Power /not from our world/, when someone starts to poke stupidly into Czechs and the Magical Prague.
    A/ 1618 – Czechs defended our beliefs and started the 30. years war , somehow up to 3/4 Europeans dead and total destruction everywhere.. .
    B/ 1938 – terrible consequences for anyone taking part to destroy Czechoslovakia..
    Including Slovak, Poles , French , British etc. Much worse than before..
    C/ 1968 ridiculous attack by the Huge monstrous armies so stupid and after that ,the Warszaw Pact went from destruction to destruction by long process. Then Russians went from disaster to disaster..
    From Brezhnev to Gorbachev and the agent of the west the Zombie, Yelcin and hid family and his oligarchs….
    Because so few victims , Russians were allowed to recover..

  15. Hail says: • Website
    @Hail

    Bertolt Brecht’s satirical suggestion that the state “elect a new people” if it’s having trouble with the current one

    Brecht was talking about the East German state in the 1950s.

    The extension (de-satirization) of Brecht’s satirical Elect a New People suggestion is about like this:

    (1.) Mass immigration, of people unconnected from the historic ethnocultural core of the nation, is the creation, via policy (or “election” in a sense), of a new people (contra the vague, general-public view that immigration somehow doesn’t change the nation at all); and

    (2.) Immigration is encouraged and maintained for the same reasons as those implied by Brecht’s satirical suggestion — the new people the regime is ‘electing’ via immigration policy is going to be more passive; kind of like strike breakers don’t ask for raises.

    This kind of Electing a New Peole immigration is familiar in all the NATO countries, with in-earnest start dates ranging from the 1960s to the 1990s, depending on the country.

    To its credit, the East German communist regime never brought in non-Europeans, except a few communist Vietnamese; no Muslims of any kind.

    Meanwhile, by 1989, the Federal Republic (or BRD in German) was well on its was to the Multikulti-nightmare in perpetual soft decline that it is today; a state named Germany but on the road to “de-Germanicization,” a path on which it is now proceeding in steady strides, as if ordered from the top down (as it was, very literally so, in August and Sept. 2015, via a no-consultation Merkel order to bring in as many Muslims as possible, “without limit.”)

    (A right-wing protest group, with origins well before the shocking Muslim Merkel Madness of 2015-16, used the provocative slogan, “Die Demokraten bringen uns den Volkstod” — The democrats bring us national death [Volk being a term well-enough known in English to carry ethnic connotations — the organic nation, not a political entity; Tod being, of course, death].)

    So I would ask, in the same retrospective sense in which Margolis is writing here:

    Who won from German unification, in the way it happened?

  16. NATO’s “victory” in the Cold War marked the end of the peace. The period 1945-1991 was a post-world environment; we are now in a pre-world war environment. The West’s expansion east shows an ignorance of what part of the cycle of war we’re in. Although it could be argued logically, if the expansion had not taken place, Russia would have bounced back, eventually refilling the vacuum left by the collapse of the Berlin Wall and Warsaw Pact. Sometimes logic can be dangerous: it has set NATO on course for war with Russia, now without any buffer zone, and therefore viewing itself under existential threat. Russia, which survived the USSR, now views that survival as in danger. It is the prospect of defeat that will cause a leader to press the button: that’s the fall-back position of nuclear deterrence doctrine.
    https://www.ghostsofhistory.wordpress.com/

  17. “KGB, fed up with decrepit Communist misrule, abandoned the Party and moved to take control”

    Evan McMullin may have been a trial run. The Deep State would prefer a succession of American Putins, with the intelligence apparatus firmly in control of the oval office.

  18. @animalogic

    I agree with the Chinese communists, that by about 1960 the CPSU(B) had, in fact, though not in name, abandoned Marxism and had in effect found nothing useful to replace it. They were half-heartedly following the capitalist road and “sort of muddling through”. No real ideology, no mission, except to survive/prosper on an increasingly individualistic basis.

  19. anon20 says:

    Now today Germany is being invaded by Arabs, Muslims, Africans, etc.. Maybe that wall wasn’t such a bad thing after all…..

  20. JackOH says:

    Yes, I’m glad to see the end of the Soviet system, but the American triumphalists during and after were obnoxious. We were given the song-and-dance that Western liberalism socked it to those Soviet thugs with blue jeans, refrigerators, and, oh yes, our vaunted political freedoms. “End of history”. Right.

    My own personal view is two Mafia dons, both corrupt but in different ways, duking it out for nearly half-century, with the Western liberal don eking out a sort of “victory”.

    I don’t recall the details of those “convergence” theories promoted by some political folks in the late 20th century, that the Soviet Union and the West were becoming more like one another. When I survey our hollowed-out American institutions, our corrupt politics, the fact that nominally Communist China is a world economic power and one of our major trading partners, the inability of millions of Joe Sixpacks to meaningfully influence our military interventions—well, maybe we’ve become the new Soviet Union. We have converged.

  21. 76239 says:
    @Alistair

    “The USSR would have thrived.”

    Pure ignorance.

    The USSR couldn’t even stock the shelves with toilet paper. Couldn’t even import basic consumer goods. Spent all the public’s resources on the military. The death knell of this Soviet dumpster was the foolish move to limit alcohol consumption among the populace in the 80’s.

    Once alcohol was limited, the public made a run on sugar in order to make the booze themselves. Once sugar vanished from the shelves, and the average woman could no longer make the traditional holiday fare, they revolted. A system that cannot even provide basic goods to the local markets can’t be called a system at all.

    What is so funny about life under communism that is never acknowledged is that the free market continues no matter what policy the authorities implement. The free market is just re-branded as the “black market” and the commerce continues. Certainly more inefficient, and more expensive than an open market, but the market remains.

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