Gerhard Wettig: How the Conditions for the GDR to Collapse Were Created


In: Jahrbuch für Historische Kommunismusforschung 2009. Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag, S. 229–250

The collapse of the SED regime resulted from a number of developments which culminated in the fall 1989. During the seventies and eighties, the GDR depended increasingly on economic support provided by West Germany. This was the first factor in loosening the regime’s ties to the USSR on which its very existence was based. When Gorbachev set out to change the political system, Honecker rejected this and thus widened the gap between them. Open conflict with the Soviet Union made leading circles within the SED feel that Honecker must be ousted. Gorbachev, however, stuck to the principle of strict non-intervention, and the adversaries of the SED boss, who were used to receiving guidance from Moscow, failed to act on their own. As a result, the regime as a whole was losing authority, and dissidence was increasing. The GDR headed for disaster when Gorbachev decided that he was more interested in the Federal Republic than in his East German client state, and revoked protection under the Brezhnev Doctrine in a manner allowing policy to be guided by economic rather than political interests. In addition to all this, when opponents in the SED leadership determined to oust Honecker, Soviet troops left the East German security forces alone in their confrontation with mass protest in the streets; and, it became clear that West Germany was the only candidate to save the GDR from bankruptcy. At this point, the SED regime was no longer willing to defend itself.

Über den Autor

Gerhard Wettig, Dr. phil., geb. 1934 in Gelnhausen. 1966–1999 zunächst Referent, dann Leiter des Forschungsbereichs Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik am Bundesinstitut für ostwissenschaftliche und internationale Studien in Köln, 1990–1999 Herausgeber und Chefredakteur der Zeitschrift Außenpolitik, 1998–2003 Mitglied der Gemeinsamen Kommission zur Erforschung der jüngeren Geschichte der deutsch-russischen Beziehungen. Zahlreiche Veröffentlichungen über die sowjetische Deutschlandpolitik seit dem Zweiten Weltkrieg, über die innerdeutschen Beziehungen in der Zeit der nationalen Spaltung und über Probleme des Kalten Kriegs in Europa. Jüngste Veröffentlichungen: Bereitschaft zu Einheit in Freiheit? Die sowjetische Deutschland-Politik 1945 bis 1955, München 1999; Chruschtschows Berlin-Krise 1958–1963. Drohpolitik und Mauerbau, München 2006.