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Checkbook Diplomacy in 1991 (Retrospective Account, 1995)

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Germany’s Contribution to the Liberation of Kuwait

On February 23 the final phase of the Gulf War began. We were all relieved that, despite some predictions to the contrary, the war could be ended so quickly. Never before had an aggressor been given as many chances to concede as had Saddam Hussein. But he had refused to seize even a single one of these opportunities.

Within its limits Germany had proved a reliable partner of the war alliance: It was one of the first nations to transform the United Nations embargo of Iraq and occupied Kuwait into binding national law; we also subjected our government to the United Nations Security Council resolutions on the Iraq crisis as well as all further resolutions passed by other international organizations. Since we were not represented in the Security Council, our participation in other international associations—such as the EC and the European Political Cooperation, the WEU, and NATO, as well as institutions for economic cooperation—was all the more important. In March 1991, after the suspension of hostilities was announced but before the official truce, Bonn also met the United States’ request to send naval units to the Gulf to sweep for Iraqi mines.

Germany made an important contribution to Kuwait’s liberation by facilitating the Soviet Union’s political cooperation with the West; we advocated opening the West’s financial institutions to Soviet interests and needs.

In this crisis situation we significantly stabilized the situation in Europe through our Eastern policy and contributed to the balance of interests and cooperation with the Soviet Union. Germany’s willingness to support the Soviet Union’s economy facilitated its withdrawal from Central Europe. That move in turn improved the Alliance’s strategic position in regard to security.

A stable position of security for Europe at a time of fundamental change was a precondition and basis for the actions in the Persian Gulf. Without the peaceful political developments in Central Europe that had resulted from the London NATO summit of July 1990 and the agreements made shortly thereafter between the Federal Republic and the Soviet leaders, it is doubtful whether Moscow would have helped to implement the United Nations’ measures against Iraq and the presence of American units in the Gulf. And on September 17, 1990, Eduard Shevardnadze, speaking in Tokyo, had stated, “If the crisis [the Gulf War] had erupted before the end of the Cold War, we would have prepared our missiles for firing, unleashing the Third World War.”

Prudence in foreign policy and a clear endorsement of the policy of the Western Alliance, with consideration of the Soviet Union’s basic needs—these were our guidelines. Our American, British, and French allies were entitled to solidarity from us. At the same time we supported the final French as well as Soviet attempts at mediating the conflict. Because I viewed it as our primary task to avoid war without abandoning our objectives, I regarded Mitterrand’s and Gorbachev’s efforts as an expression not of weakness but of responsibility.

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