Britain’s Iron Lady Was Right
British newspapers jumped on the story when documents were released in September disclosing Margaret Thatcher’s vigorous opposition to German unification in 1989.
In one Kremlin transcript, the former prime minister was revealed as telling Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in off-the-record meetings in September 1989 that the “reunification of Germany is not in the interests of Britain and Western Europe.” While that might appear different from public pronouncements, she stated, Britain does “not want a united Germany.”
It’s not hard to justify the release of these documents as headline news. They shine added light on what was a turning point in modern European history when the Berlin Wall collapsed in November 1989. But the British media and government opted not to report on the most important angle: howMargaret Thatcher’s sober forecasts are actually being fulfilled.
Among the nuggets the Times latched onto was Mrs. Thatcher’s “bombshell” off-the-record admission to Mr. Gorbachev that while she supported German unification in public, privately she held “deep concerns” about the “big changes” afoot. “Even 20 years later, her remarks are likely to cause an uproar,” wrote the Times.
“Mrs. Thatcher (as she then was) was wrong,” the Times haughtily blurted. “As Germany reaches two decades as a reunited country, its unshakable place within the Western family of democratic nations is cause for celebration. Apprehensions about a united Germany were misguided and have clearly been refuted” (September 11; emphasis mine throughout).
They have? Says who?
The Financial Times reported that the decision by Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office to publish the documents was perceived as an “attempt by Britain to set the record straight and show that its diplomats were positive about reunification early on—in spite of Mrs. Thatcher’s personal misgivings” (September 10). This perception wasn’t inaccurate, as Patrick Salmon, chief historian at the British Foreign Office, confirmed: “What they do is they correct the impression that was around at the time, and later, that Britain was negative toward [German unification],” he said.
Such shallow and misleading representation of these revelatory papers in the British media, as well as by the British government, was a tremendous disservice to the British people, many of whom are upset and disturbed by the German-led EU’s growing impingement on British sovereignty.
The release of these documents provided British politicians and journalists an opportunity to investigate why Thatcher opposed German unification, if her reticence was justified, and whether or not her fears are coming to fruition. However, they used them to court Germany, even though it meant turning their back on their former stalwart leader.
German media picked up the same story line. Germany’s Spiegel Online reported that the “new documents reveal that [British] Foreign Ministry diplomats were considerably more far-sighted than Thatcher, who was led by her gut reaction against Germany” (September 11).
“The long-secret papers show that the British government played a far more constructive role in German reunification than had been previously thought,” Spiegel wrote. “Only one person had serious doubts about the change: Margaret Thatcher.” This is pure revisionist history that belies the concern shared by the most astute observers of Germany’s intentions to dominate Europe by using the European Union.
Before we prove whether or not Thatcher’s concerns were justified, we must first understand just what they were. And while the Times and its ilk reported on these documents as if Thatcher’s opposition to German reunification was blockbuster news, history shows it was no state secret.
Mrs. Thatcher openly, eloquently and extensively explained her viewpoint in her 1993 autobiography, The Downing Street Years. Written shortly after the Berlin Wall’s fall, the book gives context to her recently disclosed remarks, which were made in meetings that occurred between 1986 and 1990. Reading Thatcher’s explanation, it’s evident she was not the naive rogue, plagued by a lurking hatred of Germans and totally wrong in her views about German reunification, that some have spun her to be.
Throughout her illustrious political career, 11 years of which she stood tall as Britain’s prime minister, Mrs. Thatcher proved herself an avid student of human nature and an eager disciple of history. Mrs. Thatcher’s viewpoint on the “German question,” as it was known then, was informed by a firm grasp on both history and the human mind.
“I do not believe in collective guilt,” she explained in The Downing Street Years, “it is individuals who are morally accountable for their actions.” Contrary to what some believe, Mrs. Thatcher blamed Hitler primarily for World War ii, not the collective German people. “But I do believe in national character,” she continued, “which is molded by a range of complex factors, [and] the fact that national caricatures are often absurd and inaccurate does not detract from that.”
Mrs. Thatcher opposed German reunification because she understood German history and the national character of the German people. “Since the unification of Germany under Bismarck,” she wrote, “Germany has veered unpredictably between aggression and self-doubt.” Study German history since the mid-19th century; it’s impossible to argue with the facts on this point.
The documents released in September also recount remarks Mrs. Thatcher made during meetings with French President François Mitterrand. Mrs. Thatcher had already recalled some of these meetings (and remarks) in her 1993 book. In one meeting in France in 1989, she writes, Mitterrand was “more concerned” about German reunification than she was. The reason for his concern?
“He observed that in history the Germans were a people in constant movement and flux.” Mitterrand’s concern, as well as Thatcher’s—as well as the recorded concerns of other historians, politicians and journalists—shows that, at the time, astute observers were leery of a repeat of German dominance in Europe.
Now notice Thatcher’s reaction to Mitterrand’s anxiety. At that moment, she writes, “I produced from my handbag a map showing the various configurations of Germany in the past, which were not altogether reassuring about the future.” Thatcher was so devoted to history as her tutor, she actually carried it around with her in her purse.
That’s what informed her opposition to German reunification!
Because she was familiar with Germany’s historical proclivity to dominate Europe, Mrs. Thatcher warned often that it would be dangerous to lock a reunited Germany into a federal Europe. “Germany is more rather than less likely to dominate within that framework,” she explained, “for a reunited Germany is simply too big and powerful to be just another player with Europe.”
Thatcher feared German reunification because she knew it would wreak havoc on Europe’s political landscape. “Germany is … by its very nature a destabilizing rather than a stabilizing force in Europe,” she wrote. This reasoning underpinned Thatcher’s remark to Gorbachev that “Britain did not want a united Germany.”
In her book, Mrs. Thatcher explains the apprehensions she had about German unification in three succinct points. First, a united Germany would rush Europe toward becoming a dominant federalist power. Second, although Europe might at first be led by a Franco-German axis, Germany would in time marginalize French leadership and become the unchecked leader of Europe. Third, a united Germany would facilitate the decline of America’s presence and influence in Europe.
The British press failed to do this in reporting this story, but you can: Consider the past 20 years of European history, and specifically that of the EU. Has Germany emerged at the vanguard of efforts to forge the European Union as a federalist superpower? Indisputably. Has Germany overpowered and outmaneuvered France to become the predominant, unbridled leader of Europe? Without doubt. And has America’s presence and influence in Europe deteriorated in the shadow of Germany’s mounting and formidable presence? Undeniably.
Historical fact refutes the Times’ assertion that Thatcher’s “apprehensions about a united Germany were misguided and have clearly been refuted.” In fact, Britain’s “Iron Lady” was spot on!
If we view them objectively, the documents released in September vindicate more than condemn Mrs. Thatcher. That vindication, at least partially, comes with the knowledge that fellow world leaders had similar fears and opinions about German reunification.
The documents reveal President Mitterrand telling Thatcher that a united Germany could “make even more ground than had Hitler.” If Germany expanded, he said, then Europe would be in the same position that it had been in before World War i. He also said that reunification could turn Germans into the “bad” people they used to be.
They also show Nikolai Ryzhkov, the premier of the Soviet Union, telling Gorbachev that if Germany was allowed to reunify on its own terms, “then in 20 or 30 years Germany will start another world war.”
Jacques Attali, adviser to the French president, was equally concerned. He told a Gorbachev aide that French leaders questioned whether Russia’s lack of interference in the fall of the Berlin Wall meant that “the ussr has made peace with the prospect of a united Germany and will not take any steps to prevent it.” He said, “This has caused a fear approaching panic.” Attali later told Mitterrand that he was so fearful of a united Germany that, should it come to pass, he would “fly off to live on Mars.”
These documents reveal that Mrs. Thatcher was far from alone in her apprehensions; they actually justify her concerns as legitimate. It is true that these leaders mostly gave up their concerns after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Courageously, Britain’s Iron Lady didn’t. “You have not anchored Germany to Europe,” she warned America during a conference in Colorado Springs in October 1995. “You have anchored Europe to a newly dominant, unified Germany. In the end, my friends, you’ll find it will not work.”
As the Trumpet has explained extensively in recent issues, the “end” that Mrs. Thatcher mentioned is very nearly here. Germany is united and strong, and has cemented itself as the most powerful and dominant force, politically, economically and militarily, on the Continent. Soon, perhaps in a matter of months, Germany will impose its authority and power over Europe beyond what most people can readily imagine.
Prophecies in Daniel chapters 8 and 11 reveal that, in addition to revolving around Germany, end-time events in Europe will be heavily dominated by a single individual, and a man of German descent. This man will have a “fierce countenance,” which means he will be unyielding and merciless. The Bible says he will understand “dark sentences,” which, most commentaries agree, means he will conceal his true motives.
He will be skilled in intrigues, deceit, double-talk and double-dealing. He will rule with terrifying cruelty, just like his predecessor Antiochus Epiphanies, the second-century b.c. Greek king who slashed and slaughtered his way into Jerusalem before ransacking the Jewish temple and murdering Jews.
“Through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand,” Daniel writes, “and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand” (Daniel 8:25). The word craft means fraud. The expression “by peace he shall destroy many,” wrote Gerald Flurry, “means he is pretending ‘peace’ and friendship. Then suddenly comes the malignant shock! He destroys suddenly while his enemy is in this state of mind. This illustrates the deceitful malice practiced by this political tyrant” (Trumpet, June 1999).
Don’t be too quick to discount that forecast. It is rooted in historical fact and biblical prophecy. It will—together with Margaret Thatcher’s spirited warnings—be vindicated by the blood, sweat and tears caused by the soon-coming emergence of a German-led European empire.