“Once I happened to be in the house of the former captain of the National People’s Army (NNA) GDR. He graduated from our higher military school, a good programmer, but for three years now he has been without work. And on the neck of the family: a wife, two kids.
From him for the first time I heard what was destined to be heard many times.
“You betrayed us ...” the former captain will say. Say calmly, without anguish, gathering the will in a fist.
No, he was not a “political commissar,” he did not cooperate with the Stasi and nevertheless lost everything. ”
These are lines from the book of Col. Mikhail Boltunov “ZGV: The Bitter Road to Home”.
And then the author turns to himself and to all of us: “So, it is. We betrayed the GDR, the NNA, this captain? Or are these just the emotions of an offended person? ”
The problem, however, is much deeper: having abandoned the soldiers and officers to the mercy of the army we created, haven't we also betrayed ourselves? And was it possible to keep the NNA, even under a different name and with a changed organizational structure, but as a faithful ally of Moscow?
We will try to understand, of course, as far as possible, in a small article, especially since these issues have not lost their relevance to this day, especially against the background of NATO expansion to the east and the spread of US military-political influence in the post-Soviet space.
Disappointment and humiliation
So, in the 1990 year, the unification of Germany occurred, which caused euphoria from both Western and Eastern Germans. It is finished! The great nation regained its unity, at last the hated Berlin Wall finally collapsed. However, as often happens, unbridled joy was replaced by bitter disappointment. Of course, not for all people in Germany, no. According to opinion polls, most of them do not regret uniting the country.
The disappointment affected mainly some of the inhabitants of the submerged GDR. Pretty quickly, they realized: in essence, the Anschluss took place - the absorption of their homeland by their western neighbor.
The most severely affected were the officers and noncommissioned officers of the former NNA. He did not become part of the Bundeswehr, and was simply dissolved. Most former GDR troops, including generals and colonels, were fired. At the same time, service in the NNA did not qualify for either military or civil employment history. Those lucky enough to put on the form of recent opponents were demoted.
As a result, East German officers were forced to stand for hours in queues at the labor exchange and destitute in search of work - often low paid and unskilled.
And worse than that. In his book, Mikhail Boltunov quotes the words of the last Minister of Defense of the GDR, Admiral Theodor Hoffman: “With the unification of Germany, the NNA was dissolved. Many professional military personnel have been discriminated against. ”
Discrimination, simply put - humiliation. But it could not be otherwise, for the well-known Latin proverb says: "Woe to the vanquished!" And woe is doubly, if the army was not crushed in battle, but simply betrayed by both its own and the Soviet leadership.
The former commander-in-chief of the ZGV, General Matvey Burlakov, spoke directly about this in an interview: "Gorbachev and the others betrayed the Union." And did this betrayal begin with the betrayal of his faithful allies, who ensured, among other things, the geopolitical security of the USSR in the western direction?
However, many will find the last statement controversial and will note the irreversibility and even the spontaneity of the process of unification of the two Germaniums. But the point is not that the FRG and the GDR were to unite in the inevitable way, but how this could have happened. And the absorption of the eastern neighbor by West Germany was not the only way.
What was the alternative that would allow the NNA officer corps to occupy a worthy position in the new Germany and remain loyal to the USSR? And what is more important for us: did the Soviet Union have real opportunities to maintain its military-political presence in Germany, not allowing NATO to expand east? To answer these questions we need to make a small historical excursion.
In 1949, a new republic appeared on the map - the GDR. It was created as a response to education in the American, British and French occupation zones of Germany. Interestingly, Joseph Stalin did not seek to create the GDR, having initiated the unification of Germany, but on the condition that it would not join NATO.
However, the former allies refused. Proposals for the construction of the Berlin Wall came to Stalin even at the end of 40, but the Soviet leader rejected this idea, considering it to be a disreputable USSR in the eyes of the world community.
Recalling the history of the birth of the GDR, one should also take into account the personality of the first Chancellor of the West German state, Konrad Adenauer, who, according to former Soviet ambassador to Germany Vladimir Semenov, “cannot be considered only a political opponent of Russia. He had an irrational hatred of the Russians. ”
Birth and formation of NNA
Under these conditions, and with the direct participation of the USSR 18, January 1956 was created by the NNA, which quickly turned into a powerful force. In turn, the GDR navy became the most efficient along with the Soviet in the Warsaw Pact.
This is not an exaggeration, because the Prussian and Saxon lands, which were once the most militant German states and had strong armies, became part of the GDR. This is especially true, of course, the Prussians. It was the Prussians and Saxons who formed the basis of the officer corps of the first German Empire, then the Reichswehr, then the Wehrmacht, and finally the NNA.
The traditional German discipline and love of military affairs, the strong military traditions of the Prussian officers, the rich combat experience of previous generations, multiplied by advanced military equipment and the achievements of Soviet military thought, made the GDR army an indestructible force in Europe.
It is noteworthy that in some way the dreams of the most far-sighted German and Russian statesmen at the turn of the XIX – XX centuries, who dreamed of a military alliance of the Russian and German empires, were embodied in the NNA.
The strength of the army of the GDR was in combat training of its personnel, because the number of the NNA always remained relatively low: in the 1987 year it numbered thousands of soldiers and officers in the 120, second to, say, the Polish Army, the second largest army in the Warsaw Pact .
However, in the event of a military conflict with NATO, the Poles were supposed to fight in minor areas of the front - in Austria and Denmark. In turn, the NNA was given more serious tasks: to fight on the main line - against the troops operating from the territory of Germany, where the first echelon of the NATO ground forces was deployed, that is, the Bundeswehr itself, as well as the most efficient divisions of Americans, British and French.
The Soviet leadership was trusted by the German brothers in arms. And not in vain. The commander of the 3 armies of the ZGV in the GDR and later the deputy chief of staff of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany, General Valentin Varennikov, wrote in his memoirs: “The national people's army of the GDR actually grew before my eyes from zero to a formidable modern army equipped with everything necessary and capable of acting no worse than the Soviet troops. "
Эту точку зрения в сущности подтверждает и Матвей Бурлаков: «Пик холодной войны был в начале 80-х. Оставалось дать сигнал – и все бы ринулось. Все боеготово, снаряды в tanks, осталось в ствол засунуть – и вперед. Все бы сожгли, все бы разрушили там у них. Военные объекты я имею в виду – не города. Я часто встречался с председателем военного комитета НАТО Клаусом Науманном. Он меня как-то спрашивает: «Я видел планы армии ГДР, которые вы утверждали. Почему вы не начали наступление?». Мы пытались эти планы собрать, но кто-то утаил, снял копии. И Науманн согласился с нашим расчетом, что мы должны быть на Ла-Манше в течение недели. Я говорю: «Мы же не агрессоры, зачем мы пойдем на вас? Мы всегда ждали, что вы первые начнете». Так объясняли им. Мы же не можем сказать, что мы первые должны были начать».
Note: Naumann saw the plans of the army of the GDR, whose tanks were among the first to reach the English Channel and, according to his confession, no one could effectively prevent them.
From the point of view of intellectual training, the NNA also stood at a high level: by the middle of the 80s, in its ranks 95 percent of the officer corps had higher or secondary specialized education, about 30 percent of officers graduated from military academies, 35 percent - higher military schools.
In short, at the end of 80's, the army of the GDR was ready for any ordeal, but the country was not. Unfortunately, the combat power of the armed forces could not compensate for the socio-economic problems faced by the GDRs by the beginning of the last quarter of the 20th century. Erich Honecker, who headed the country in 1971, was guided by the Soviet model of building socialism, which essentially distinguished him from many leaders of other Eastern European countries.
Honecker's key goal in the socio-economic sphere is to improve the well-being of the people, in particular, through the development of housing construction and an increase in pensions.
Alas, good undertakings in this area led to a decrease in investment in the development of production and renovation of obsolete equipment, the depreciation of which was 50 percent in industry and 65 percent in agriculture. In general, the East German economy, like the Soviet one, developed along an extensive path.
Defeat without a shot
The arrival of Mikhail Gorbachev to power in 1985 year complicated the relationship between the two countries - Honecker, being a conservative, reacted negatively to the restructuring. And this is against the background of the fact that in the GDR the attitude towards Gorbachev as the initiator of the reforms was enthusiastic. In addition, at the end of 80-x began a massive departure of citizens of the GDR in Germany. Gorbachev made it clear to his East German colleague that the Soviet assistance of the GDR directly depended on the implementation of reforms by Berlin.
The rest is well known: in 1989, Honecker was removed from all his posts, a year later the GDR was absorbed by West Germany, and a year later the Soviet Union ceased to exist. The Russian leadership hastened to withdraw from Germany almost half a millionth group, equipped with thousands of tanks and armored vehicles 12, which became an unconditional geopolitical and geostrategic defeat and accelerated the entry of yesterday's allies of the USSR under the Warsaw Pact in NATO.
But all these are dry lines about relatively recently past events, followed by the drama of thousands of NNA officers and their families. With sadness in their eyes and pain in their hearts, they looked at the last parade of Russian troops 31 on August 1994 of the year in Berlin. Devoted, humiliated, useless to anyone, they witnessed the departure of the once allied army, which, without a single shot, lost the Cold War with them.
And after all, just five years before, Gorbachev had promised not to leave the GDR to the mercy of fate. Did the Soviet leader have grounds for such statements? On the one hand, it would seem, no. As we have already noted, at the end of 80's the flow of refugees from the GDR to the FRG increased. After Honecker was dismissed, the leadership of the GDR did not demonstrate either the will or the determination to save the country and to take truly effective measures to this end that would allow Germany to be reunited on an equal footing. Declarative statements, not supported by practical steps, in this case do not count.
But there is another side to the coin. According to Boltunov, neither France nor the United Kingdom did not consider the question of the reunification of Germany relevant. This is understandable: in Paris, they feared a strong and united Germany, in less than a century twice crushing the military power of France. And of course, it was not in the geopolitical interests of the Fifth Republic to see a united and strong Germany at its borders.
In turn, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher adhered to a political line aimed at preserving the balance of power between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, as well as respecting the conditions of the Final Act in Helsinki, the rights and responsibilities of four states for post-war Germany.
Against this background, London’s desire to develop cultural and economic ties with the GDRs in the second half of 80 does not seem accidental, and when it became clear that German unification was inevitable, the British leadership suggested extending this process by 10 – 15 years.
And perhaps the most important thing: in the matter of containing the processes aimed at uniting Germany, the British leadership relied on the support of Moscow and Paris. And even more: the German Chancellor Helmut Kohl himself was not the first to initiate the absorption of his eastern neighbor by West Germany, but he advocated the creation of a confederation, putting forward a ten-point program to implement his idea.
Thus, in 1990, the Kremlin and Berlin had every chance to realize the idea that was once proposed by Stalin: the creation of a united, but neutral and non-NATO member Germany.
Preservation of a limited contingent of Soviet, American, British and French troops on the territory of united Germany would be the guarantor of German neutrality, and the German armed forces created on an equal basis would not allow the spread of pro-Western sentiments in the army and would not turn former NNA officers into rogue states.
All this was quite realizable in practice and met the foreign policy interests of both London and Paris, Moscow and Berlin. So why did Gorbachev and his entourage, who had the opportunity to rely on the support of France and England to defend the GDRs, did not do this and easily decided to absorb their eastern neighbor to West Germany, eventually changing the balance of power in Europe in favor of NATO?
From the point of view of Boltunov, the determining factor in this case was played by the personality factor: “... Events took an off-design turn after a meeting of foreign ministers, at which E. A. Shevardnadze (USSR Minister of Foreign Affairs - Avt.) Went into direct violation of the Gorbachev directive.
One thing is the reunification of two independent German states, the other is the Anschluss, that is, the absorption of the GDR by the Federal Republic. It is one thing to overcome the division of Germany as a cardinal step towards eliminating the division of Europe. The other is the transfer of the leading edge of the split of the continent from the Elbe to the Oder or farther to the east.
Shevardnadze gave an explanation of his behavior very simple - I learned this from the presidential aide (USSR. - Auth.) Anatoly Chernyaev: “Genscher asked for this. And Genscher is a good man. ”
Perhaps this explanation too simplifies the picture associated with the unification of the country, but it is obvious that such a rapid absorption of the GDR by West Germany is a direct consequence of the short-sightedness and weakness of the Soviet political leadership, based on the logic of its decisions, more on the positive image of the USSR in the Western the world, rather than the interests of their own state.
Ultimately, the collapse of both the GDR and the socialist camp as a whole, as well as the collapse of the Soviet Union, provides a vivid example of the fact that the determining factor in history is not some objective processes, but the role of the personality. The entire past of mankind testifies to this indisputably.
After all, there were no socio-economic prerequisites for entering the historical arena of the ancient Macedonians, if not for the outstanding personal qualities of the kings Philip and Alexander.
The French would never have brought much of Europe to their knees if they were not Emperor Napoleon. And in Russia there would not have been an October revolution in Russia, the most disgraceful in the history of the country of Brest Peace, just as the Bolsheviks would not have won the Civil War, if not the personality of Vladimir Lenin.
All these are only the most vivid examples, which undeniably testify to the determining role of the individual in history.
There is no doubt that nothing like the events of the early 90s could have happened in Eastern Europe if Yury Andropov were at the head of the Soviet Union. A man of strong will, in the field of foreign policy, he invariably proceeded from the country's geopolitical interests, and they demanded the preservation of the military presence in Central Europe and the comprehensive strengthening of the military power of the NNA, regardless of the attitude of the Americans and their allies.
The scale of Gorbachev’s personality, as well as his closest associates, objectively did not correspond to the complex of complex domestic and foreign policy problems that the Soviet Union faced.
The same can be said about Egon Krenz, who replaced Honecker as SED Secretary General and was not a strong and strong-willed person. This is the opinion of Krentz, General Marcus Wolf, who led the foreign intelligence of the GDR.
One of the properties of weak politicians is the inconsistency in following the chosen course. So it was with Gorbachev: in December 1989 of the year at the Plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU, he unequivocally stated that the Soviet Union would not abandon the GDR to its fate. A year later, the Kremlin allowed West Germany to implement the Anschluss of its eastern neighbor.
Kohl felt the political weakness of the Soviet leadership during his visit to Moscow in February 1990, because it was after this that he began to more vigorously pursue the course of reunification of Germany and, most importantly, he began to insist on maintaining her membership in NATO.
And as a result: in modern Germany, the number of American troops exceeds the 50 of thousands of soldiers and officers stationed, including on the territory of the former GDR, and the NATO military machine is deployed near Russian borders. And in the event of a military conflict, the well-trained and trained officers of the former National Independent Unable Party would no longer be able to help us. And they are unlikely to want ...
As for England and France, their fears of German unification were not in vain: the latter rather quickly took leading positions in the European Union, strengthened its strategic and economic position in Central and Eastern Europe, gradually ousting British capital from there.