The Soviet Origins of Helmut Kohl’s 10 Points

Published on The National Security Archive, by Svetlana Savranskaya, Thomas Blanton, November 18, 2009.

Washington, D.C., November 18, 2009 – Secret messages from senior Soviet officials to West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl after the fall of the Berlin Wall led directly to Kohl’s famous “10 Points” speech on German unification, but the speech produced shock in both Moscow and Washington, according to documents from Soviet, German and American files posted today on the Web by the National Security Archive.

Published for the first time in English in the Archive’s forthcoming book, “Masterpieces of History,” the documents include highest-level conversations between President George H.W. Bush and Kohl; the text of the letter Kohl had delivered to Bush just as he announced the “10 Points” to the Bundestag on November 28, 1989; excerpts on Germany from the transcript of the Malta summit between Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev; Gorbachev’s own incendiary meeting with the German foreign minister after Kohl’s speech; and more. 

The documents show the American administration’s devotion to stability and “reserve” while the West German leader rushes to get out in front of the rapid changes in the East, at the same time that neither Bush nor Kohl expects unification to happen so quickly.  Most strikingly, the documents and related accounts by Kohl’s aide, Horst Teltschik, and Gorbachev’s aide, Andrei Grachev, show that Kohl’s famous “10 Points” speech was based in large part directly on secret messages from Moscow – but unbeknownst to Gorbachev.

The new history of the “10 Points” speech hinges on a back-channel communication from Soviet Central Committee expert Valentin Falin (head of the International Department and former Soviet ambassador to West Germany in the 1970s), through long-time Soviet interlocutor Nikolai Portugalov, to Teltschik, on November 21, 1989, about the idea of “confederation” between West Germany and the rapidly collapsing East German regime – a way to prop up the East by getting some equal status for the two states before the bottom fell out.  According to Grachev, Falin’s rivalry with top Gorbachev assistant Anatoly Chernyaev had prevented Falin from getting his ideas to Gorbachev directly, so he decided to use a long-standing “confidential channel” through Portugalov to Teltschik, anticipating that Teltschik would then persuade Kohl to call Gorbachev and discuss the idea of confederation while reassuring the Soviets that it would only take place in the context of the “common European home” … (full text).

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