Ulrich Albrecht (German unification), 1994

Ulrich Albrecht April 28, 1994 at a meeting of Helsinki Citizens Assembly in Czechoslovakia.
Interviewer — Metta Spencer

METTA: Petrovsky? Vladimir Petrovsky?

ALBRECHT: Yes. I had a conversation with him and he said that the kind of argument which was around in the peace movement in the years 81-82. This apparently played a role in the Social Democrat dispute, and in the Socialist International, and of course, we have links to Socialist International, and they tried to convey this to us. And as a beginning, we were very hesitant but then came Gorbachev with his new thinking. And Gorbachev, according to Petrovsky. But it was also Falin and Kwisinsky.

METTA: Who? Falin and who?

ALBRECHT: Kwizinsky. He was a deputy Foreign Minister, a lower ranking one, but he was ambassador to Germany in the crucial years.

METTA: Can you spell his name because I don’t know his name.

ALBRECHT: K-W-I-Z-I-N-S-K-Y. And Kwizinsky reported. First he simply reported. He said several dissident forces, as he calls them, the German Peace Movement and that they had these and that ideas about common security in favor instead of national security, but when Gorbachev took over, he certainly learned that if he could send more substantive things and then he invited, as I know, the Peace Movement groups to talk to him, and they of course, did it. And…

METTA: Gorbachev invited all kinds of people, millions, who were like that. But you’re thinking of some particular group, like Bahr.

ALBRECHT: Yes, Bahr was repeatedly invited and he had this very strong link to Falin and Falin is now in Egon Bahr’s place, so they were befriended in a way.

METTA: Falin is working at Egon Bahr’s institute?


METTA: Oh. Well, that’s very interesting. Does Falin speak English?


METTA: Good, because I have been thinking I would like to interview him but I didn’t know where he was.

ALBRECHT: Well you know. He is staying now in Hamburg, well, maybe that he’s prosecuted as a secretary of the International Department in the Secretariat. There are charges that he was head signer for instance, all these commissions and financial transfers to Communist Parties abroad. Therefore, he may prefer to stay outside. But as the number of people who confirm that it was not actually Gorbachev himself. He never was very strong in international affairs, but in order to enable Perestroika and to find the necessary finance, a substantive increase in detente steps — this was smallest, the basic approach. And for Gorbachev, the new foreign policy was simply a prolongation of his domestic approach. We need a new thinking in order to come to grips with our Soviet economy. And Gorbachev never speculated about the new thinking in Russian democracy. He continued with his authoritarian style of the Secretary General — be on top. But for him, Perestroika and Glasnost meant to increase the efficiency of the system and the new thinking should be some sort of a modernization. And to foreign policies it means detente: Arms reduction, cutting out IMF type missiles, and intercontinental range missiles with START. This of course needed a certain political philosophy. And those people close to Gorbachev — the names which I have been use — the deputy Foreign Ministers, and Shevardnadze rather belatedly, they accepted these basic notions that national security in the present age, given nuclear weapons, is much better off, if you understand our security as a common one. That piling up weapons of mass destruction against each other always means insecurity. My security is you most extreme insecurity, and this was the race based on wrong premise. And this was a key notion, and I think there were these three or four steps. First, the Peace Movement articulated something: its basic discontent with existing doctrines of national security and defence. Then the Social Democrats and more official circles took up and there are two bridges. The one is Egon Bahr and the Palme commission and the second is the Pugwash movement, but Pugwash was not so outspoken there. But there, the Russians had also contacts. Then, the surrounding of Gorbachev took it over in an effort to safeguard the domestic Perestroika. And then in the end, Gorbachev accepted this. And you can try to read it up in his first book. There’s a concept that emerges, but…

METTA: His book called Perestroika

ALBRECHT: Yes, but the language is not very clear there, and if you ask two to three key Russians, then you rapidly will learn it. There is also a deputy to Falin who speaks German, Fedosov, and he took the work as a drop-in reading of what the Germans had been conveying, because his grandmother was German so he was able. And he travelled to Germany to learn more about this.

METTA: Now if I talked to Falin, would he fill in things?

ALBRECHT: Yes, I think so. He has recently published a book also in German.

METTA: I wish I read German.

ALBRECHT: No, it’s also available in Russian.

METTA: I don’t read either one.

ALBRECHT: Because he was so high up, maybe there’s also an English language version for this.

METTA: Well, why don’t I speak to him and then if there’s some version in English of something in English, I’ll try to get it or if I have to have something translated, I will.

ALBRECHT: But Falin’s responsibility was foreign relations by and large, ranging from international communist contact to defence policies, but Petrovsky, he was below him.

METTA: I have interviewed Petrovsky, but I didn’t get anything very specific. He was very benign. It’s totally consistent with what you have said, but not very specific. And so, it would be nice to get somebody who could give names, as you’re doing. Names, times, and particulars.

ALBRECHT: Well, then, there are these two German speaking second… Falin also speaks German very well. But of course, he was too high up to run behind the peace movement asking them, “Could you give your [pressures?]” so it’s Kwisinsky whom I mentioned and Fedosov.

METTA: And both of them actually did sort of hang out with peace people?


METTA: Very interesting. Okay. And now, but, which one should I speak to?

ALBRECHT: Kwisinsky is I think is a more direct link.

METTA: And he speaks English?

ALBRECHT: Yes, very well.

METTA: Okay.

ALBRECHT: But he is now in Moscow and he was on the wrong side during the coup in ’91. Well, you know, the Russian system was — you have got a minister and six to eight deputy ministers, and one of these persons always was in charge in an emergency, and the Foreign Minister was abroad, and so at this particular moment in August, 1991, Kwiinsky was in charge, and the junta wanted the Foreign Ministry to send their messages to all the embassies.

METTA: Who wanted them?

ALBRECHT: The junta, the military. And maybe he didn’t have an alternative, but he simply obeyed orders, and therefore he was politically dead afterwards.

METTA: Just as that, the Foreign Minister, what’s his name? Bessmertnykh.

ALBRECHT: Well, Bessmertnykh was lucky that he wasn’t at the spot right during the coup but he also didn’t behave in a politically clever manner so that he could’ve survived. But Kwisinsky is active and he accepts invitations, for instance, to travel to Germany, and he told me recently, he had saved before the end of the Soviet Union some 30,000 rubles, and his famliy always considered this to be a major saving, and some sort of security, but now it’s worth nothing.

METTA: Yes. Well it’s tragic, but…

ALBRECHT: Therefore he tries to earn some money by publishing, by doing interviews, maybe that he charges you a decent fee, but…

METTA: Okay. Well, that’s great.

ALBRECHT: Well, that’s about all I can say.

METTA: Well, very good. You could tell me how to get in touch with the institute.

ALBRECHT: In Hamburg?

METTA: Yes, I don’t know the name of your… Tell me more. You worked there in what way?

ALBRECHT: No. I am working in a parallel institute but I have at the hotel, I have the phone numbers, and it’s very easy and the address — the name of the place in German: Institute for Peace and Security Politics. And the address is Falkenstein 1, Hamburg 55. That is Hamburg Blankenesia. but I will furnish to you tomorrow the phone number. And so the director is Egon Bahr. And his deputy is also very well aware of this. His name is Dr. Dieter Lutz. Because he normally accompanied Bahr to the Socialist International meetings, and so he would, and he has always been interested in his contacts with the Russians, and he also could introduce you to Falin.

METTA: Good. I don’t intend… well, I have no plans to go to Germany in the next while, but I could do some interviews by phone, and in Moscow…

ALBRECHT: Well, ask Egon Bahr if he has any plans to travel to your place.

METTA: I do have people in Moscow who will interview for me, so maybe I could speak to someone there, I don’t know. But anyway, Falin is most of the time in Germany now?


METTA: Yes. Do you have any idea, there’s a fellow named David Cortright, who has been writing a book on… in fact it’s out now.

ALBRECHT: And he was linked with SANE, I remember.

METTA: Yes, that’s right. And he has a book on how the Western Peace Movement influenced this White House policy, the Pentagon policy. And that’s actually what gave me the idea of doing this, because I thought it would be easier to show that Soviet policy was influenced from American. Anyway, he and I talked the other day. I called him to order his book, which is out, but I haven’t received it yet, and I asked him about. Well, he has a much more specific approach. He’s trying to show particular arms control decisions, who decided about Star Wars, who decided about, you know, Trident missiles, etcetera. And I’m not doing it that way. I’m doing more like a general network kind of analysis. I’m trying to show who knew whom and with what effect, in general, but he said that he thought that the critical would be to show how the INF decision was made, and he said, “I don’t have the smoking gun on that.” He thinks that it still should be possible to show the international peace movement, in a rather specific way, influenced the INF decision — Gorbachev’s INF decisions, and but I don’t know quite what he has in mind. Maybe from his book Ill be able to get a clue. I don’t know where to go to get that. Do you have any idea?

ALBRECHT: No, but I possibly could add simply that the German Social Democrats were under tremendous pressure exactly that this INF question because it was Chancellor Helmut Schmidt who claimed to have brought the NATO [democratic] decision into being, and he always demanded party loyalty to this. And on the other hand, of course, Willy Brandt, for instance, was addressing one of the major rallies of the peace movement, and had very diverging views. And though the [SPD] was virtually split about this, it’s true. And this alarmed both Americans and the Russians. How would the SPD, if they would come back to power. (Nobody knew in those years that Helmut Kohl would be in office for ten years) how would they opt? And therefore, I know that there are SPD people around who could tell you much better. For instance, there are two members of Parliament: Freimer Duver and Weiskirchen, but I was partly involved in this. And when I entered the East German government in spring, 1990. That’s no longer that INF but the overall issue, I remember that James Baker’s foreign secretary’s name instructed his folks to collect information about these peaceniks running now the Foreign Ministry in East Germany, what they had in mind, and for instance, Professor Blackwell. Blackwell is his second name. He is a professor, I think at Harvard. He wanted to learn as much as possible, and they invited Hans [Misilwicz?], the Secretary of State, to lecture them about their approaches. Nut this was more, I think, they wanted a general background, about what kind of personalities have they got.

METTA: Maybe if he gave a lecture there, I might be able to get something from Harvard.

ALBRECHT: Yes, if you ask Blackwell. And Baker appointed as his personal aide, somebody who was not high up in the hierarchy of the state department. I try to remember the name. And he in fact was then his negotiator during the 2 + 4 accords. What was a little bit odd, because under the minister level, normally is, was the level of the so-called political directors, so Genscher had his political deputies there, and of course the Russians had the head of the German department, and the same was true for Britain and France. And the Americans showed up with a very junior figure, but this person was well-informed about the East Germans and the West Germans and the implications.

METTA: What I would have also asked Falin was… how the decision was made to allow Germany to reunite.

ALBRECHT: Oh this is a major theme in his book.

METTA: So he does talk about that.


METTA: Oh, great. Okay.

ALBRECHT: But there is also the Russian ambassador to East Germany, Maximichev. I have invited him to my department and he is visiting professor to give lectures exactly about this and he says, for him as a person, it was obvious since January 1990 that reunification would come very soon. But the official Soviet position still was the utmost, they would concede, would be a confederation based on certain treaties, like the Quatrapartheid Accord about Berlin. This was in their view the model and he had talked to Falin. And Falin was very angry with him and he said after January 1990, that reunification would come very soon, so this would be a countercheck, Maximichev to Falin. And I remember Falin that he was very disappointed in July 1990, and he said, Gorbachev and Shevardnadze are truly amateurs. If he would’ve been present, but this all, as a professor in Russia said, “They would have tried to stop this process,” and to get much more in terms as a compensation for this concession. And Falin is very critical in his book about Gorbachev’s behavior. And I remember that he writes that he gave the last warning during the crucial evening, said, was, I think, July 16th. It was after the end of the first day of German-Russian negotiations, and of course, Falin was offended that he wasn’t present. He was the top party official who should have been present and he always had been present as a top party official and that only the Soviet Government was present. Shevardnadze in his perception was somehow the government counterpart.

METTA: Are you saying that if he had been there he would have kept him from caving in?

ALBRECHT: No. He pressed Gorbachev… He recalls his telephone conversation with Gorbachev and he pressed him not to do things too quick, to insist on certain guarantees. And he said he got a very lame response from Gorbachev. He said he was afraid that things are now on their course and that Gorbachev, he couldn’t do much about it. And he said that this was a very lame response. But I remember very well the next days, the 17th or the 18th, was the Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Paris, where I was present, and I remember that Baker was so taken by surprise. There was a funny meeting at the men’s toilet, and I ran into the toilet and I saw Baker talking to the French Foreign Minister, Dumas, and I of course asked, well “should I return?” and he said, “No.” Baker told me, “No.” He knew me a little bit, and said, “well, come in. And aren’t you also surprised about the events of yesterday?” And I said, “of course, yes.” And Baker told Dumasse and me that their State Department expectation would have been that during the September meeting in Moscow, that because it was a place Moscow, the Russians would come forward with something, but not so substantial, but a substantial concession.

METTA: Do you think he was really pleased, or do you think that they also had reservations?

ALBRECHT: You mean the Americans?


ALBRECHT: No. They were the most favorable to reunification compared with the British, the French, and the Russians.

METTA: Well, officially, yes. Do you think that privately, there was any reservation?

ALBRECHT: Yes, there may have been reservations, but I think political realism said if you want to have a cordial relationship with the Germans and the German government, then you must accept unification and the Germans would not understand if unification is so to speak, within arms reach, and your main ally wouldn’t support you. This of course, would have alienated any German government for years, and of course, the Americans couldn’t know to what extent the Russians would give up the GDR, but of course, to weaken the Soviet Union by taking away the GDR as a major ally from them, this is also the goal for American Foreign Policy. So I think it’s two-sided, and of course, there is uneasiness how the reunited Germany would develop. It certainly is an American concern, though there are reservations not only on the mental side but for a serious political analyst. And you must ask such questions.

METTA: Do you know Herbert Ammon?


METTA: I remember talking with him some years ago, and he was predicting that because the western peace movement and the German peace movement did not — that the whole western peace movement — did not endorse reunification that there wouldn’t be support in Germany politically, and I guess Germany was the only country that didn’t, at least temporarily bring a former dissident group, or a former pacifist kind of group of people into office right away. I guess, it seems to me he was right. Do you think so?

ALBRECHT: Yes. But there’s no contradiction. What we had in East Germany was a revolution. In the revolution what is quite common, if you research revolutions, is the dissidents, the pastors who overthrow the SAD regime, their first option was a more democratic GDR, even more democratic then the Western bit, and to make it into a model German state, and there was a lot of speculation about this third road. I mean, the ecologists also came in and said, “we don’t want to implant a western anti-ecologal economy, like present capitalism is. And of course, there should be perfect freedom of mobility. The East Germans should travel wherever they please. And people who wanted to emigrate to West Germany should.” But this you can take from all the party programs in the Autumn of 1989 that the GDR should continue as a state. It should be a very democratic state, socially concerned, and ecologically minded. But when people learned that demonstrating in the streets was not any longer dangerous, then suddenly were masses and there was — the shift was first noted before the fall of the wall. No there was a huge demonstrations on the 4th of November, five days before the fall of the wall.

METTA: In Leipzig?

ALBRECHT: In Leipzig there was just one placard calling for unification, and all the others, “for we are the people” and these slogans. And in the end of November, when everybody could demonstrate for free, suddenly, the slogan shifted from “we are the people” to “we are one people”. And then suddenly Kohl grasped that he should make something and then came forward with his Kohl plan. This was issued or publicized without consultation with the allies because there was simply no time within two days or so. And then Kohl tried to ride on this flow of reunification. And there was strong disagreement from the leading dissidents in East Germany and [they] said well this “call” is a tactical manoeuvre to organize some more conservative or “right wing” vote but during the election campaign for the March elections then apparently everybody gave in and was in favor of unification. And then Maximichev said, “Well, in January it was obvious that the Germans are going to reunite and nobody can deny this to them.”

METTA: Do you know Nikita Maslenikov?

ALBRECHT: Not very well, yes.

METTA: I interviewed him in Moscow and he told me something. He said it was an open fact that there was just one road leading… I hope I have this right… that when, ah! the guy! who’s the old man who got kicked out? Chancellor?

ALBRECHT: Our old Chancellor Adenauer?

METTA: No, who was in power then? I can’t think of his name?


METTA: No, in East Germany?

ALBRECHT: Honecker?

METTA: Honecker! I blanked. That, if he had tried to crush the resistance, the uprising, or the demonstrations, he would have had to bring troops in on a particular road and that the Russians had trucks and things and they basically blocked that road so that he could not have brought troops in. Is that true? Do I have it right?

ALBRECHT: There are contradictory reports about, for instance, Russian officers, and they had Russian liaison officers down to the battalion level in East Germany with the National People’s Army. But there were preparations, I mean, certain units of the National People’s army were put in alarm state and they were moved closer to the big cities and all this. But I think the main, the convincing idea is, that Honecker expected some sort of uprising calling to the pattern in ’53, early violence in the street and the kind of insurgents which the Communists were themselves in the past. Some people with a revolutionary identity trying to arm themselves to control the T.V. stations and all this and the security system was not prepared for this kind of people who didn’t call for immediate power. They called to consult the government to introduce reforms and there were demonstrators, but they shouted all of the time. “No violence!” And because the old Communists ways were fixed to the kinds of opponents they were once themselves: conspiracies and secret networks of communications, their emergency preparations were exactly in the wrong direction. For instance, in the case of state emergency, the regional districts would become more or less autonomous. They all should publish emergency papers to oppose any armed dissent, so in a way, there is a phrase in Germany is that it was a revolution without revolutionaries — the conventional type of revolutionary. And I think this is true to a large extent.

METTA: So you think he would not have been able to use violence to suppress something that non-violent?

ALBRECHT: Yes, and of course, there were questions and problems of the loyalty inside the army. For instance, I was first approached in ’87 when everything appeared to be in order, by high ranking East German officers at international meetings, and they came to me and said, “Don’t you also think that if our government continues to oppose Gorbachev, that we never will get modern Soviet equipment again?” This was their concern. And they felt that sooner or later Honecker should give in and adopt Gorbachev’s cause. And I repeated this… I made this experience repeatedly. So, whether the armed forces would have crushed a rebellion, that’s unclear. But the system worked throughout October. We had these very harsh repressions of demonstrations and police violence and the security forces were beating up people and all these stories… it was there. If you are interested in some of the details I have been asked by a Finnish body of colleagues to sum this up what is available in the open literature. I mean I could simply send it to you.

METTA: That would be very good. I would love to get it. Ill give you my card. Can you also tell me a little bit about your own career, your own history?

ALBRECHT: Well, I was born in East Germany, although, in ’41, this was still united, it was Germany. But I was born in Leipzig and was raised around Leipzig, and when the National People’s Army was proclaimed, I came into this age group. And for instance we were registered for the draft and then we fled to the West because we were petty bourgeois. It was my two brothers and me. [Train Whistle and lots of noise here]. And since we had very limited prospects to go to University in this case.


ALBRECHT: And, after finishing my high school time I wanted to become what now is called Peace Research, but there was not a such a matter in German Universities, and so I studied politics and economics and aeronautical engineering.

METTA: I’d like to know. Who were the likes of you? Who were in the west?

ALBRECHT: I went to the West and I studied technical college, these three subjects.

METTA: Thank you.

ALBRECHT: And I simply will send you a draft of the manuscript.

METTA: Terrific. And how did you become a politician?

ALBRECHT: Well, suddenly was President Heinemann. There was a call to establish Peace Research in Germany, and at a very young age of 31 I was appointed Professor for Peace Research at [the free] University in the Political Science department. But I also assumed, one should also have some direct access to practical politics, so for instance, I took a leave of absence and joined in the United Nations Department for Disarmament Affairs in ’83 for a year. And I was interested of course in the Peace Movement in East Germany, and so I have a very long record with people who became very well known later: De Meziere, or… He was simply one of the very few lawyers who defended conscientious objectors.

METTA: I didn’t know that.

ALBRECHT: No, there were all together three of four. One was De Meziere. The other one was Gyze, the head of the PDS, and the third was [Schmeour?], who worked directly for the Stazi and he was the head of the Christian Democrats in East Germany. And when the SPD was formed in East Germany, I was asked to advise them. When they made the first trip to the United States, they asked me what kind of questions would we get, and such things. I said, “Well, maybe the Americans would firstly ask you, ‘What do you think about NATO?’” They were terribly afraid of this question.


ALBRECHT: Their habit was always to have been critical about NATO as a militarist undertaking. And when they formed the government and the SPD became the portfolio for Foreign Politics, they simply asked me to come over and to be a person advisor. But, in Foreign Ministries, protocol is a very strong force and so I was promoted to the position was “Head of Planning” in the Foreign Ministry. And the major thing we had to plan was German unification. It was assumed that it would take us two years. And I got another leave of absence for two years from my University but it took only half a year.

METTA: A rush job. Well I think a few things could be thought through a little better. [Laughs] Did you anticipate some of the things that have happened since then?

ALBRECHT: Yes. But I couldn’t claim to be an active politician, but I am regularly invited by the SPD and sometimes the Liberals, and also the Greens, to talk about foreign policy. Well, all German parties have to reorient their basic foreign policy options after unification, and this is an ongoing process.

METTA: So, you’re mainly SPD?


METTA: Wonderful. Thank you! This is extremely interesting.


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