A quarter of a century has passed since the end of the Cold War. In the West, a new generation of leaders is in power, most of whom had little personal involvement in the East-West standoff that defined international politics for most of the post-1945 era. By contrast, Russia has been under the stewardship of a leader who came of age politically with the fall of the Iron Curtain. Mikhail Gorbachev recently warned that a new Cold War is emerging. But what, if any, are the links between the events of 1989 and Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014? Can we make sense of Europe’s renewed confrontation with its eastern neighbour by peering into the past? Reflection on the events of 1989 sheds light on those of 2014 in two ways: by illustrating how Vladimir Putin’s personal experiences of the end of the Cold War have shaped his foreign policy priorities, and by highlighting the importance of Mikhail Gorbachev’s acceptance of the Helsinki principle in shaping the post-Cold War European order.
The festivities organized in Berlin to celebrate the fall of the Wall these days are plenty in number and can hardly be overlooked. Besides the official ceremony today there are many exhibitions, concerts, discussion circles taking place; there was even a U2 concert at the Brandenburger gate Thursday night.
The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy took the occasion to organize a conference with the adequate title “A World Without Walls – An International Congress on “Soft Power,” Cultural Diplomacy and Interdependence.”
Renowned figures from international politics and academia reflected on the development of international relations since 1989, the challenges faced by the leaders of the future, and the growing influence of cultural diplomacy and “soft power” in the contemporary political international environment.
Two decades after the fall of the Wall the world and Germany itself is afforded a moment for self-reflection and an opportunity for analysis of the consequences of that momentous event. As well as providing us with a unique reference point in terms of the end of the Cold War and Cold War history more generally, the end of Germany’s division provides us with a benchmark for the analysis of the progress that Germany has made since its re-unification nearly two decades ago.
- This week, we publish an ISN Special Report on Germany Beyond the Wall, featuring three articles by top level academics. Victor Mauer, deputy director of the Center for Security Studies (CSS) examines German foreign policy before and after the fall, with an emphasis on the continuing quest to balance tradition and Cold War legacies with transformation. Dan Hough, from the University of Sussex, examines the evolution of German national politics and political culture. Belinda Cooper, a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute looks at the German national identity and the search for a cultural one.
- In our Policy Briefs section, a Center for Eastern Studies (CES) paper evaluates German memory in the year of the double anniversary of 1949 and 1989 and analyzes its influence on the collective identity of the German people.
- In our Links section we feature 20 Years After the Wall, a web page provided by Spiegel Online that offers articles, background and opinions on the anniversary of the fall of the Wall.
- A piece of history from our Digital Library: a 1987 EastWest Institute analysis of Gorbachev’s policies.
- And a classic from our Primary Resources section, JFK’s Ich bin ein Berliner speech from 1963.