- Explain Mikhail Gorbachev's vision and why it failed
- Explain how Helmut Kohl was able to reunify Germany and remain in NATO
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• explain Mikhail Gorbachev's vision and why it failed
Gorbachev's vision called for a restructuring and rejuvenation of the Soviet economy. When he came to power as General Secretary in 1985 he realized that years of military struggles against the West had severely weakened the USSR. He desired to institute reforms that would cause the Soviet economy to become stronger, eliminate goods of inferior quality and allow for competition against other nations through the exportation of Russian manufactured goods.
As he attempted to revitalize and restructure the economy, Gorbachev realized that this would be impossible without a reform of the political structure and societal realities in the Soviet Union. He therefore began to seek political and social reforms not for their own merits but because these reforms would allow for a stronger and more competitive national economy. Examples of these reforms are the significant tax on the sale of alcohol and the effort to combat corruption in the Communist Party. The campaign against alcoholism was somewhat effective but cost the state millions in lost taxes as alcohol sales migrated to the black market. The effort to combat corruption was also successful though it created many enemies for Gorbachev.
Gorbachev also made significant strides in reforming free speech and international relations. With increased freedom of the press the people were able to voice their concerns with a reduced fear of reprisal. On the international stage, the West was won over by Gorbachev's intentions to reform. He also proposed a reduction in the arms race which was welcomed by all free nations.
One could claim that Gorbachev's vision failed because the economy never really grew and in some cases it actually got worse. However, his decision to combat corruption and human rights violations within the USSR had far reaching consequences that are viewed by most people as positive. The Eastern Bloc European nations were granted autonomy and most broke away from the Soviet Union within a decade. People within the USSR enjoyed greater freedoms. The escalating nuclear arms race with the West was halted. The Berlin Wall was torn down. International trade increased. In many ways Gorbachev's reforms were extremely positive. However, they did not improve their intended aim which was to improve the Soviet economy and they also contributed to the actual political collapse of the Soviet Union.
• explain how Helmut Kohl was able to reunify Germany and remain in NATO
Helmut Kohl was elected chancellor of Germany in 1983. He embarked on a series of reforms in Germany and of a rethinking of Germany's place in Europe and in the world. Early in his leadership role he sought to improve relations with the western nations against whom Germany had fought two world wars. He sought specifically to improve relations with France, Britain and America. He developed a close relationship with Francois Mitterrand, the president of France. Kohl also sought a stronger relationship with America. He and Reagan held a series of diplomatic talks and he allowed NATO to establish missile sites in West Germany to counter a Soviet strike that might be forthcoming.
The Berlin Wall collapsed in 1989 and Germany began their journey toward reunification. Kohl oversaw this delicate process. He, along with like-minded leaders in East Germany pushed for a speedy reunification rather than a long, drawn-out process. Banking leaders and conservative politicians, as well as western allies were nervous about the political and economic impact of reunification. Eastern Germany had an anemic economy and its infrastructure was in disrepair. Kohl, however, persisted and embarked on a plan for a quick reunification in spite of the reservations of other politicians. He sought assurances from the Soviet Union that they would allow East Germany to seek their own political destiny without hindrances and that a reunified Germany would be allowed to enter into any treaties and foreign alliances without political pressure from the Soviet Union. Behind this meeting with the Soviet Union was Kohl's desire to remain closely allied to NATO to impede Soviet manipulation of a unified Germany.
In summary, Kohl sought the reunification of Germany because he believed it was best for Germany. He did not give in to the concerns or criticisms of other factions but remained firm in his resolve. He sought relationships with other national leaders and put the interests of all Germans ahead of the interests solely of Western Germans.