Hubert Védrine: Answering NYT: The Berlin Wall, 20 Years Later





[Hubert Védrine was spokesman for President François Mitterrand when the wall fell. A future foreign minister of France, he was then 42 and a Socialist.]

What went through your mind when you first heard that the wall had fallen? How did it affect your life and/or your thinking? Looking back now, what one thing would you have done differently?

The opening of the wall by the rudderless Eastern German authorities confirmed that the country was finished. The event was therefore spectacular and moving, but not so astonishing. In fact, ever since Mikhail Gorbachev said in 1985 that he would not use force to maintain those regimes, they were condemned — unless they reformed themselves radically, which they were incapable of doing. The acceleration of events in November led us up to what had been the obsession of François Mitterrand: to ensure that German reunification, which would necessarily follow, went well.

November 9 in itself didn’t change things. What took place then was the collapse of a structure that had been eaten away by termites. It was later, after 1992, that the real choice arose: After its knock-out victory, was the West the master of the world? Was it the end of history? As we now know, the West does not hold a monopoly on power, but must share it with emerging nations. It took us a long time to figure that out...


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