Nikita Maslenikov (expert on E Germany), 1992

Nikita Maslenikov, Moscow, late May and early June 1992
Interviewer — Metta Spencer, with Alexander Kalinin

Maslenikov: The question of influence is a delicate one, not easy to trace—especially when we speak of German influences.

Spencer: you say you were close to politicians in East Germany?

Maslenikov: Yes, quite intensely. In 1988 I worked in East Germany in a special mission there. A year before the wall came down. And in the next year, 1989, I was present at the SDP congress in Bonn and when I returned I saw a message on the TV — a message about the beginning of the demolition of the wall. Sasha is more versed than I on the issues of peace movement and their influences on political decision-making, but I can just give some rough explanations. I am a bit embarrassed because I am afraid to disappoint you. The influence of OUR peace movement on the decision-making elite was quite minimal.

MS: You mean the Soviet Peace Committee?

Maslenikov: Let me make a correction. When I say “our” I mean official organizations such as the peace committee. The “formal” peace movement. Nevertheless, it is necessary not to underestimate the influence of this institutionalized peace movement —official, formal organizations — because they played a limited, yet important, role. They created regular exchange between Soviet citizens, a selected few who were engaged in these activities, and the Western peace movements. And these contacts were getting more and more intensive, more and more regular. The flow of information that was provided by these structures helped provide some changes. Thus we may define the role of those organization as a tool, or rather, an instrument. They were supportive structures. They never played an independent role in the political decision-making, but they helped to provide people who were involved in foreign-policy decisionmaking or were close to that very narrow set of people with new information, sometimes quite unconventional. And they created opportunities for these people to come abroad.

MS: You mean Soviet people?

Maslenikov: Yes, Soviet, and in particular, those who were close to foreign policy decision-making. But this organization has never been able to influence foreign-policy decision making — or any decision-making — because the decision-making in the Soviet Union developed within closed structures. The outcome was determined by discussions between different groups within the Communist Party and then within state institutions.There are two goods examples of this role played by the official peace organizations. The first is the launching of contacts between retired generals, those people who were involved in those contacts from the Soviet side already had some influence within the soviet military industrial contacts and within the establishment in the broader sense, but when they got their own independent information they could exert some influence, and make some corrections in the perceptions of the West, of NATO, of the European Community. And the second example is International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Chazov, who was Minister of Health, played an extraordinary influence because he was responsible for the health of all Soviet leaders and he could whisper important things to the right ears. But he also needed contacts abroad and this organization provided him with such.

MS: One thing I don’t want to forget to get from you are phone numbers of some people who were active in that organization in Moscow. I don’t feel right about asking for Chazov’s time. I understand he has quit being Minister of Health and has gone back to running his cardiology clinic.

Maslenikov: And the third example of these useful contacts was the interconnection of the formal structures and the semi-formal structures. For example, after the election of the Union Parliament, or rather the Congress of People’s Deputies of the USSR, immediately after the first congress, there was an urgent necessity just to introduce the People’s Deputies to the West, to the new ideas, to the new political plans, to the new concepts and so on. And to some extent because Genrikh Borovik was himself a people’s deputy of the union, his organization was very active in establishing these contacts between members of the Russian Congress or People’s Deputies and parliaments and public organizations and individuals in the West. Possibly it was a moment when those who may be quite tainted and ineffective in the peace organization acquired a new, higher status because many of their members were people’s deputies —moreover, precisely those people’s deputies who were members of committees and commissions of the Union and in republican parliaments who were directly involved in decision-making. Unfortunately, by that time, this process immediately was confronted by some limitations because by that time the balance of power within the Soviet Union was such that some obstacles that had been in the making finally paralyzed it — maybe not so much the decision-making as the implementation of decisions that were already taken. By that time the process of political, ideological, and to some extent, organizational consolidation of the groups that from the very start were opposed to Gorbachev’s policies began at that time. And one of the first and the most visible line of division between Gorbachev and his political opponents was the line that divided them on foreign policy decisions.

I don’t want to make my view too assertive, but to my mind there were two opposite trends in the political struggle at that time. By the time when formal peace movement organizations had higher status and were able to exact direct influence on the decisionmaking, opponents of Gorbachev rallied and began to destroy the necessary mechanism for decisionmaking and implementation.

MS: When?

Maslenikov: By the end of 1990, but it is difficult to point out a particular date. Since autumn of 1990, the opposition to Gorbachev, to new political thinking, to foreign policy was getting stronger and stronger. And the group Soyuz was eager to criticize many political steps taken by the minister of foreign affairs, Shevardnadze. For example, there was severe criticism, attacks, and even attempts to organize public discussion on the issue of the delineation of the boundary between Alaska and [Chukotka?] in the Bering Straits.

MS: I never heard of that one.

Maslenikov: There was a special US/USSR agreement, but the Soyuz group decided to launch a campaign against this agreement. Finally the agreement was ratified but it was one of the first acts of the opposition. When that fragile foreign policy consensus eroded, the very position of the People’s Deputies who were involved in the activities of the formal peace organizations, they were unable to resist the criticism of foreign policy. They didn’t give adequate support for Gorbachev and Shevardnadze. Probably they were too timid or shy, or too involved in other activities for any people’s deputy has to perform a lot of tasks, and they decreased their foreign policy activities. And so the initiative in foreign policy debate was intercepted by the representatives of the opposition.

MS: The Soyuz group?

Maslenikov: Yes.

MS: Is it possible to identify some of these people, the people who were initially in the Peace Committee and then became Deputies?

Maslenikov: (110)___ Andronov, the political adviser to Vice-President Rutskoi. He is very active in the mission to Afghanistan to liberate Soviet prisoners of war. And Vladimir Lukin, who was the chairman of the Russian Parliament’s commission on foreign affairs and foreign trade, and who is now Soviet ambassador to Washington. But these two persons, to some extent, continue the foreign policy launched by Gorbachev and Shevardnadze. And there is a tragic example — Alexander Susoav ____?(176) who was very active in the formal peace organizations. For more than 20 years he was head of a committee of solidarity with African and ASian countries. He organized several quite effective campaigns to stop the particular wars in the Third World and to prevent militarization of the Third World. So many achievements there can be attributed to him. Under Gorbachev he got an appointment to be Soviet Ambassador to Damascus for a number of years so he was active in the implementation of Soviet policy. Later he was the chairman of the committee on foreign affairs in the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. In his last capacity he failed to resist attacks from the right wing oppositions. Sometimes he could repel some attacks and refute some criticism, but nevertheless the activity of the committee as a whole was not particularly successful. Finally Alexander _________ (315) was promoted to some of the highest positions in the Communist Party hierarchy. Probably the very fact of promotion limited his freedom. This was probably one of the reasons for his very ambiguous position during the August coup. He didn’t support Gorbachev but he didn’t distance himself from the (plotters) so his career was doomed for a while but now he tries to play a role of pacifier or peacemaker in the conflict between South Ossetia and Georgia. Probably it is an indication of the new role in the Soviet peace organizations, for now it is not enough for us to establish contacts between the Indians and the Pakistanis, for example, but to establish peace and mutual understanding between the peoples of the former Soviet Union, especially in the conflict regions, such as as Moldova and the Transcaucasus, and there a real need for such activities now.

Now there is great activity of many international organizations that try to settle peace within the former Soviet Union, such as the United Nations. It sends missions, special envoys to the hot spots, especially to Karabakh, but all those efforts will come to nothing if there is no support within the ex-Soviet Union, and this is the main task of the peace movements of the ex-Soviet Union — to create support for the activities of the international peace organizations. For peace organizations have to provide two functions — to provide information and to build confidence between the sides in a conflict. Moreover, it is necessary to attract attention and support from the peace organizations abroad and not to make these conflicts unknown to the rest of the world but make them known and to provide as objective information as possible.

MS: I interviewed Mr. Lukshin a few days ago. He said something that not everyone would agree to. He said that the changes in public opinion were really very important because the general population had changed its views on, for example, nuclear weapons, that this had influenced the government. I had always felt that the changes that took place were definitely from the top down and not in response to anything that the public maintained? Do you think it is really true that decision-makers felt pressed by public opinion?

Maslenikov: Fascinating question. I partially agree and partially disagree with Lukshin. The influence of the public opinion on the decisions taken by the elite was negligible. The influence of the public and even of experts or advisors on those who took real political decisions was negligible. There was a wide gap between the things that were discussed in the media, and conferences and seminars, and real policy. For example, a month before the August coup, Oleg Bogomolov(?_____),who was responsible to the Central Committee for the military industrial complex and was the representative of the military industrial complex on the committee, published a long article in Pravda and the title was “Free Cheese can be Only in the Mousetrap.” He meant that the West would never provide any sufficient aid —

MS: He’s right!

Maslenkov: —or if it did so, it would be only because the West had some strong and sincere interest in the Soviet Union. But the connotation of this vague statement is that we have to continue autarky, self reliance, that no intensive economic ties with the rest of the world are necessary for us, that it is the wrong path. We have to mobilize our resources and solve our problems ourselves, without any help, without establishing better relations with the rest of the world — especially with the West — and it was the position of the military industrial complex. Thus I am sure that the people who took decisions were quite impervious to the influence from the public. In addition, the basis of the conflict and confrontation between the right wing opposition and the Gorbachev-Shevardnadze line was purely economic. The relations between these two groups deteriorated drastically at the moment when the first attempts to achieve real conversion were made. The military industrial complex, which was very sensitive to attempts to undermine their economic dominance in the country, was getting more and more nervous, more prone to political adventurism. The formal peace organizations made great efforts to elaborate the concept of conversion, to elaborate specific programs. There were several international seminars on this issue between Soviets and Japanese specialists, Soviets and French, Soviet and German specialists, and they made specific recommendations but all these attempts were stubbornly blocked by the military industrial complex.

What was said so far concerns my disagreement with Lukshin. Now I am going to say a few words in support of Lukshin’s view, though with some corrections. Probably the most important achievement of the Soviet Peace organizations is

but this achievement cannot be attributed solely to peace organizations because other publics were active in this respect to this country. The first is the real experience of what “nuclear threat” means. The national tragedy of Chernobyl impressed the public at large. And the second factor that played a role with respect to the Semipalatinsk testing was national revival movements, for it was one of the fundamental tenets of the Kazakh movement to stop the tests. Actually, the anti-nuclear agenda of the movement against the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site was rather a form, but the real content of the movement was striving for national revival, for the revival of national culture, national identity, and finally for national self-determination. So I cannot agree with Lukshin if he meant that this success can be attributed solely to the peace movement. And one more example, the present attempts to stop military activities in the vast territories of the north of Russia —

MS: Such as the Kola peninsula?

Maslenikov: Yes— are to a very great extent connected with the attempts of the peoples — small nations of that region — to acquire and to assert their national identity. It is not purely an attempt by the peace movement.But this means that the peace movement, the peace organizations in this country, have to redefine their agendas and to be more involved in the practical, domestic programs that essentially are replicas of the global problems — food problem, environment problem, the problem of the maintaining of cultural diversity and so on, but they are very deeply rooted in Russian ____ and they have to be approached, not on the abstract level, but in very practical terms. Probably this is the hope for the revival of peace movements. But they have to reappraise their role.

MS: Worldwide too. It’s not just here. In Canada the peace movement is also unclear about its role. You have mentioned that the peace movement deputies didn’t support Gorbachev and …

Sasha Kalinin: I didn’t support him.

MS: I know you didn’t.

You said that some members of the peace movement became deputies and that when the Soyuz people and the right wing became more aggressive, that they didn’t stand their ground very well or support their position very well. Can you explain that? I was perplexed watching those events. I had my own problems with Shevardnadze because I was opposed to the Gulf War, but at the same time, when he was about to quit, the congress didn’t support his foreign policy. Can you explain that? Why did the right gain strength in that congress?

Maslenikov: I would like to try to answer this question. The first, most simple, even naive, explanation is that the people who were involved in peace activities, who represented the peace organizations, constituted a tiny minority in the Congress. If the total number of peoples deputies of the USSR was about 2300 people, then the people who were involved in peace activities numbered no more than 50 or 60. But there is a second, more pertinent explanation. Shevardnadze resigned quite unexpectedly. All the people were astonished — opponents, enemies, allies, supporters. They were to some extent stunned. And many, even radical or moderate people felt something like insult and considered the resignation of Shevardnadze as a surrender, inexcusable surrender. So it was his personal movement and he made it without any consultations or attempt to modify it, though Shevardnadze was quite right and his forecasts were proven by the events in Vilnius two months later.

And the third reason for Shevardnadze’s resignation was the vulnerability of his position on Kuwait-Iraq. About one-third of the people’s deputies of the USSR were prone to reject his line on this issue, for they felt that it was necessary to fulfill the treaty obligations to Saddam and were critical of Shevardnadze’s line. Probably he did not get support from his leader in this respect as well, because the position of the USSR toward Iraq was not at that time well defined. Primakov continued his shuttle missions to Baghdad and Soviet diplomacy made its best effort to prevent the war. There were a lot of articles in the newspapers and columnists guessed how many foreign policies the Soviet Union had, for there was a visible and distinctive difference between the policy of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shevardnadze, and Primakov.

And the fourth and perhaps the main reason is the mood of the people’s deputies, for the fourth congress started with the speech delivered by Sergei Umalotov (__?) of the Soyuz group, who openly demanded the resignation of Gorbachev. Thus the resignation of a close ally of Gorbachev was perceived as a victory by many deputies and the rest were demoralized. It was the congress that finally, after several rounds of voting, elected Yanaev to be Vice-President.

MS: Thank you for this. Very interesting. Do you know any of the physicians here who might be good informants about the role of IPPNW?

Maslenikov: In a few days I will find someone for you. It is by far easier for me to organize an interview with some member of the Generals for Peace.

MS: I will be speaking with General Milshtein. I wanted to ask you a little more about the Generals because I had two different kinds of impressions. I insterviewed Gen. Michael Harbottle of Britain, one of the founders of the Generals for Peace. He said that he had been in an organization called “Just Defence” that promoted defensive defense ideas and he thinks that some of the Generals may have imported that here. But others have said that members of Generals for Peace said they had no influence with the Soviet government. I also spoke with Eugene Carroll, a retired Admiral in the U.S., who had a different group of generals and admirals together and he said that they were influential. I don’t know the difference between these two sets of admirals and generals.

(side 4 begins here. A word or two are missing.)

Maslenikov: _____________ is known to the newly-emerging military elite and he is influential because of this.

The movement, Generals for Peace, had different stages of its development. The most influential members of this movement are those who didn’t just go abroad to establish contacts and talk to other military in the West but those who were experts in different groups that prepared the new concept of military defence policy in the USSR and Russia. For example, Lt. General Serebrenikov who was active in Generals for Peace, is now military advisor to the chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Russia, Khasbulatov, and he was very active in the elaboration of the military reform concept. And the second name to mention is Major General Dubnik (_____?) who was invited to meet with us in the MosSoviet during the coup and who sat with us. General Serebrenikov (___________) published an article, “Army and Coup” in a recent issue of International Relations and World Economy. He analyzes the internal configuration of forces within the armed forces and it is very interesting. So the measure of a particular military influence is determined by the volume or number of his ties or his connections and by his participation in the particular projects and in debate on military reform. So I think that the future will belong to the still-nonexistent organizations, such as Generals for Military Reform or Generals for Russian Army.

MS: Yes. If I understand you correctly, the people who were most influential in policy were not Generals for Peace who went out and talked to other people around the world, but generals who stayed here and did their own expert work recently. That means, I assume, that the policies that really had an impact were not involved in those discussions with foreigners. They were developed autonomously here.

Kalinin: No, it is not so. Some people who were in the Generals for Peace were active also in the domestic debates on military issues.

MS: Such as?

Kalinin: Serebrenikov, Dubnik, _________… and many others can be mentioned, but only if some person combines these two types of activities is he influential.

MS: I see.

Maslenikov: The influence of the Generals for Peace as the organization depends on the ability of its members to establish contacts, not only with the Western military, but with the new generation of officers and by their ability to take part in the elaboration of the doctrine of military policies.

MS: I would imagine that General Milshtein would be very important outside because he’s very well known. I’m a member of Pugwash and he is well known in that circle, but maybe he is less influential here. Can you tell me who are key people whom I should interview?

Maslenikov: Milshtein is an exceptional figure. He has a real influence here. Serebrenikov is the best candidate for you, for he is quite a prominent political figure and at the same time he didn’t sell out his ties with the armed forces and he has a good understanding of military problems, and he will help us to find other people to interview.

MS: This is an exceptionally helpful interview. I would love to take tens of hours of your time because it is so excellent.

(From this point, the discussion resumes at a restaurant about a week later, June 8th. We had spent some time discussing the situation in Georgia and I had made some additional notes about Germany, as follows:)

In E. Germany Maslenikov talked to the man in the party responsible for the media. He said that E. German journalists were among the most serious enemies of the communist regime.

Sputnik was repressed at that time by E. German authorities. This represented the fall of the Russian media.) Then, in the autumn of 1988, E. German society could be compared to the boiling pot. The lid would be removed soon. About 2/3 of the East German poapulation expected the lid would be removed by the W. Germans. After the fall of the wall and during the elections to the Bundestag on Eastern lands, many analysts said that elections had been won, not by parties but by the Bundesmark. Public opinion was in transition in 1988 — 1/3 vs 2/3 who were pro-West Germany and reunification. The 1/3 hoped for E. German perestroika on Soviet lines. Everyone was intimidated by 80,000 Stasi.

At this point I told Maslenikov about the call for German reunification in the Prague Appeal, and how it had been dropped from the Giving Real Life to the Helsinki Accords document, allegedly at the insistence of W. German peace activists such as Dieter Esche. I mentioned Herb Ammon’s statement that it was because no German peace activists had called for reunification that when reunification came, Germany was the only country where the peace activists were not a significant part of the government. I asked him to comment on this.

Maslenikov: The W. German peace movement had nothing to do with reunification, which actually came out of the changed relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States, and these relations depended on the changed attitude of the Soviets toward political processes in E. Europe, especially in the GDR and Poland. Until proper geopolitical preconditions had been created, nothing could happen. A far greater role was played by the initiatives of the W. German government. Though I cannot prove it, I think that in 1989 the W. German government and political circles in general were anxious about the possible demise of Gorbachev from power. It was exactly the time when the negotiations on the economic aid, and the future of the Soviet troops in Germany were initiated. Though these negotiations happened in 1990, the agenda was formulated a year earlier. They unequivocally bet on Gorbachev; they helped him and made him more agreeable to the political elites in other Western countries. Probably they had estimates or scenarios that happened in 1991, but that they thought could have happened earlier.

MS: People in Kohl’s government anticipated that those events could have happened earlier?

Maslenikov: Doubtlessly. There was a permanent contradiction between two lines in German policy —between the lines of the SPD, represented by Brandt, Lafontaine, and the line of ____. 1991 was the year of the general parliamentary election. Much, if not all, of the political maneouvering was focused on the elections. This was the second factor that prompted Kohl to move rapidly because reunification of Germany was and is the main plank of his election campaign and the justification of all other errors or mistakes.

In vindication of the peace movement in W. Germany, I can say that they were not entirely wrong when they objected to the immediate reunification of Germany. For example, they were right when they appraised E. German society as a highly militarized piece of totalitarianism that has to be integrated into Western society. The results of this process are unpredictable. Many people in W. Germany, including social democrats and the Greens, with whom I talked a lot — for example, with Gert Bastian, who was very active in the Generals for Peace movement. These West Germans said that the rapid development of economic inequality between East and West would create a potential for the revival of right wing extremism. They didn’t mistake greatly when they predicted increasing pro-fascist tendencies in E. Germany. The potential support among voters for the right wing radicalism, for example, Republican Party in Germany — in East German lands is far greater than in W. German lands. So the potential support for the radical right parties or political organizations, especially among the youth, such as the skinheads, is quite great in E. Germany. This damages democratic society in Germany as a whole. And probably the most obvious, explicit characteristic of the post-totalitarian society is witch hunting and persecution of the former Stasi member, of former members of the United Socialist Party, the desire to take revenge. This is peculiar to East Germany.

MS: Czechoslovakia. I have a friend, Jan Kavan …

Maslenikov: But you cannot imagine such a thing on West German lands. The W. German Peace Society was not entirely wrong when it opposed reunification in itself, because of the the rapidity.

MS: The W. German Peace Society in particular — someone like Guido Grunewald? Or the peace movement in general?

Maslenikov: The movement in general, but in particular to the Greens and to Social Democrats.

MS: If you are through with this question, I would like to switch to a question relating to this side, namely, how did the decision come about to accept the reunification of Germany? Last summer I interviewed Likhotal, and he said that it happened when to Shevardnadze went to Wyoming and came back converted to reunification, when until then they had been saying “No, no, no.” What is your understanding of that process?

Maslenikov: I am confident that we all agree that the explanation given by Likhotal is true, but if so it is evidence of what I said before — that the change of the United States/Soviet relations was due to the changed Soviet attitude toward political processes in E. Germany. It has to be checked but it was just a historical coincidence that the last Soviet objections against reunifications were removed after the attack upon Lafontaine’s life. Until that attempt on his life, the Soviet Union objected to the reunification by demanding secession of Germany from NATO, but when Lafontaine was wounded and it was evident that he was unable to run for Chancellor, the Soviet Union removed all objections to the reunification and tacitly agreed on continuing Germany’s membership in NATO. The tension was increasing in E. Germany. It was obvious that no one could keep E. Germany’s separate statehood. There was some vague possibility to create a confederation of the two German states. This possibility was lost, mainly due to the development of political processes in East Germany. The Soviet political leadership wasted too much time by evaluating various possibilities and when they finally came to some conclusions, the processes in E. Germany were quite uncontrollable. The attempt upon Lafontaine’s life is not the essence of the process; it is just a visible, superficial landmark. The critical moment when Kohl and Brandt united was lost by the Soviet leadership. It was not recognized that they decided to work together for immediate reunification?

MS: What was lost? What would have happened if the Soviets had seen that moment?

Maslenikov: Probably the model of reunification would have been different. It would have been a confederation model, and Winston Churchill.

MS: What? Winston Churchill?

Maslenikov: The confederation model was the model that was advanced by the Social Democratic Party. There were different approaches to reunification within that party, and finally the position of the great old man of the SPD (Brandt) gained the upper hand. There are some justifications for the alliance of Brandt with Kohl, for Brandt moved to this alliance only after the SPD lost elections in the E. German lands.

MS: Had he ever said: no reunification?

Maslenikov: No.

MS: He didn’t care much but when the opportunity arose, he said, reunification as confederation. Is that what happened?

Kalinin: Yes.

Maslenikov: The Social Democrats were traditionally keen to achieve reunification, but they were in favor of piecemeal integration, not radical integration.

MS: I would have to wonder whether they were as enthusiastic. My impression is that the SPD was not pushing for reunification, just as the peace movement was not pushing.

Kalinin: That isn’t true.

Maslenikov: You are wrong. The SPD was always in favor of reunification and in 1989 they had a party congress that adopted new party program. Moreover, they adopted a resolution that called for piecemeal, stage-by-stage reunification.

MS: With as much fervor as the Christian Democrats? I thought they were less enthusiastic.

Maslenikov: Probably the SPD position took into consideration the doubts and suspicions that were articulated by the peace movement in W. Germany. Probably the Social Democratic model of reunification could succeed, provided that the SPD gained a majority in the elections in E. Germany and would be able to form their own government. Unfortunately, they failed and probably the Soviet leadership is partially responsible for this failure because it was necessary to create a new image to the successor of the Socialist United Party of Germany, to the party of Democratic Socialism, and to emphasize the very close positions of the Social Democrats and the Party of Democratic Socialism on reunification issue. But unfortunately, it happened that the left was sharply and bitterly divided between Social Democrats and supporters of the Party of Democratic Socialism. That’s why the left lost elections in E. Germany and couldn’t form a government and thus could not implement the Social Democratic model of reunification. Under these circumstances, one has to excuse Brandt, who made his best efforts and used his moral authority just to join social democrats in the last stage of the reunification process to this process.

MS: To jump on the bandwagon so they wouldn’t be lost forever?

Kalinin: Yeah.

MS: But out of their hearts they were slow on this?

Maslenikov: Well, it a great sacrifice on the part of Brandt and the Social Democrats, but thanks to that sacrifice, social democrats took part in reunification.

MS: And saved their skin in the long run. Can you tell me a bit about the Soviets in E. Germany and Berlin who had any influence on the decisions earlier. For example, there was a debate about the inclusion of E. Germany in NATO. I remember reading the statements of Mr. Dashichev, who seems to have taken a radical position for that time. Can you tell me about the debates and the people who participated in it?

Maslenikov: It is difficult to answer. I can judge from my own experience, which is quite rich. The official representatives of the SU in E. Germany, at least in 1988, didn’t pay necessary attention to establishing good working relations with the opposition forces — the opposition to Honecker’s regime, and in fact even tried to shy away from such contacts.

MS: Who would you call the opposition to Honecker?

Maslenikov: For example, Lothar de Mezier and Loehen von Boeme, to say nothing of Forum and Civil Initiative. All these organizations were excommunicated by the Soviets.

MS: Let me go back because Civil Initiative was linked, I think, to the peace movement — such people as Barbel Bohley. The people that the W. German peace people contacted. And again, they never supported reunification, as I recall. Can we say that Civil Initiative didn’t win because of their history in regard to that issue?

Maslenikov: You are partially right when you think that the Civil Initiative had its origins in the peace movement in E. Germany, but it is very difficult to explain the meaning of “East German peace movement” because the official E. German peace movement was even more ossified than the Soviet peace movement, but nevertheless it was practically the only open avenue for the expression of latent opposition to the regime.

MS: I don’t think I could agree.

Maslenikov: I’ll continue. The peace movement organizations in E. Germany provided precious possibility for all dissidents to come and announce their ideas more or less openly.

MS: In churches, the independent peace movement in such places as the Church of Zion …

Maslenikov: I should add that the E. German peace movement was far more infiltrated by security than the Soviet one.

MS: The independent peace movement or —-

Kalinin: It is difficult to differentiate.

MS: No it’s not! The people who went to the Church of Zion were quite different from the —

Maslenikov: You can be satisfied. I meant the independent peace movement. It rallied around the evangelists. And one more word on the position of the official authorities, for no one can ignore the position of the army that was based on E. German territory. The Soviet army intentionally didn’t interfere into the political processes in E. Germany and due to their reserve, the political processes evolved as they evolved. I was at a press conference of Willy Brandt’s after or during a congress of the Social Democratic Party in 1989. Brendt said that we have to be grateful for the bloodless development of the processes in E. Germany to the position of the Soviet Army. If Honecker is put to an open trial, many things will be evident there. One of the accusations against Honecker that was pressed initially but now is waived, was that he had given an order to use arms against demonstrators in Leipzig. Unfortunately, I was not present in Leipzig at that time but the witnesses said that some strange things occurred there. Many highways to Leipzig were blockaded by the Soviet military vehicles that suddenly broke down. And that meant that no other troops could be moved to Leipzig at that time. This story can be seen as a legend but there are witnesses to this.

MS: I heard that Gorbachev was the only one who prevented Honecker from using force. That there was a real order: “You do this or we will not support you.” I don’t suppose you can comment on this.

Maslenikov: I have a stale military secret for you. Any massive movement along E. German highways was under control of the Soviet commanders.

MS: So the physical breakdowns of trucks on the road, this was an observable fact.

Maslenikov: Yes. I didn’t see it, but witnesses confirmed it.

MS: I hadn’t heard it. I don’t think it was reported.

Kalinin: I heard it.

Maslenikov: The position of the Soviet forces prevented use of arms against demonstrators in E. Germany. This hypothesis can be confirmed by the fact that the German government is quite tolerant to the presence of Soviet forces on German soil now. The only unsettled issue between the German and Russian governments is the environmental damage, the results of the military activities over manay years — field manoeuvres.

MS: Tell me about the debate over NATO.

Maslenikov: After the elections in E. Germany and Germany, it became evident that the Soviet reaction was too late and it was necessary to accelerate this reaction. It was a matter of balance of interests — if the E. Germans were quite staunch about membership in NATO, then the Soviets would try to bargain favorable terms for the withdrawal of the army and economic aid. The Soviet leadership was quite successful in both respects.

And the third factor that was important was that the tolerance to reunification had to keep good relations with the US and membership in NATO. It was a very important issue and very sensitive for the US in particular — probably more so to the US than to Germany.

Audio file

(this recording covers two sessions and runs more than 2.5 hours).

Apple and smartphone-friendly audio link: here

The Russian Quest for Peace and Democracy, by Metta Spencer, published by Lexington Books