I am delighted to join the Atlantic Council in commemorating the 60th Anniversary of NATO and the 20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. The Fall of the Wall was first and foremost a testament to the spirit of the German people.
As I said in 1990, the fall of that “stark and searing symbol of conflict and cold war” was “proof that no wall is ever strong enough to strangle the human spirit, that no wall can ever crush a nation’s soul.” It was also a historic moment for the United States and the entire Atlantic Alliance, which had remained steadfast for over 40 years in support of free Germany, resolutely working toward a world without the Wall.
The international scene has changed enormously in the last two decades, in large measure because there is no more superpower confrontation. That is the enduring historical legacy of the Fall of the Wall: it set in motion those events that would lead to the reunification of Germany less than one year later – a day that marks, in my mind, the day the Cold War ended.
The events of 1989 began a new era in the history of Germany, Europe, the Atlantic Alliance, and indeed, the entire world. To be sure, new challenges and responsibilities have emerged. But from my vantage point – as someone who lived through 45 years of East-West conflict – this remains, as I said at the time of German reunification, “a new world of hope.” It is a world that is all the more hopeful because over the last two decades, a united Germany has taken its place as a force for peace and stability in world affairs, NATO has renewed its purpose, and the members of the Atlantic Alliance have become even more vital partners in leadership.
As we celebrate this year’s historic anniversaries and look forward to a shared future of hope and promise, may God continue to bless the people of Germany and the entire Transatlantic Community.
George H.W. Bush was the 41st President of the United States. This piece is selected from Freedom’s Challenge, an Atlantic Council publication commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.