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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Was Margaret Thatcher Right to Fear a United Germany?

Documents published last week highlight the former prime minister's concern that the fall of the Berlin Wall could be a risk to Britain's national security. Was she right to be worried, asks historian Andrew Roberts

From The Telegraph
By Andrew Roberts
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

According to documents leaked from the Politburo, Margaret Thatcher believed that the fall of the Berlin Wall would lead to 'a change to postwar borders [which] could endanger [Britain's] security.' Photo: AFP/GETTY

"We do not want a united Germany," Margaret Thatcher told President Gorbachev at a lunch meeting in the Kremlin in September 1989, two months before the fall of the Berlin Wall. "This would lead to a change to postwar borders, and we cannot allow that because such a development would undermine the whole international situation and could endanger our security."

Among the 1,000 transcripts of Politburo and other high-level papers smuggled out of Russia by Pavel Stroilov, a researcher in the Gorbachev Foundation, and published for the first time last week – in what The Times described as a "bombshell" – was Thatcher's admission to Gorbachev that although she supported German reunification in public, in private and off-the-record she felt "deep concern" about the "big changes" afoot.

In fact, far from being a scoop, each of these points were contained on pages 792 and 793 of The Downing Street Years, Lady Thatcher's autobiography published in 1993. But what the smuggled Russian documents do is highlight the accuracy of Thatcher's own account of those heady days of two decades ago.

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