Russia’s Lowest Point: USSR Betrayal of East Germans to the West Remembered to This Day
Last Sunday, we recalled a disgraceful page of our history. When the last leader of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev was discussing the reunification of East and West Germany with Chancellor Helmut Kohl and didn't bother to arrange guarantees for the 16,000,000 GDR Germans. As a result, they became second-class citizens in their new extended country. And remained them, bearing a degrading name «Ossi» meaning «Easterners». Moscow betrayed those people by surrendering their land.
The reason we recalled this episode was last Wednesday, October 3 the 28th anniversary of the reunification of the Federal Republic, the West and the Democratic Republic, the East the ally and loyal friend of the USSR. The subject appeared to be so acute that it found immediate resonance among our audience both in Russia and in Germany. Perhaps, it's because neither our history books nor official speeches say anything about the USSR betraying East Germany.
In fact, the German Democratic Republic was one of our most loyal allies in post-war Eastern Europe for a long time, one generation after another. On the one hand, we have the USSR. By 1990, it was running on fumes both in terms of economy and ideology. On the other hand, we have the new Russia that was supposed to begin with something good demonstrating moral superiority of the new ways. But no. Replacing Gorbachev with Yeltsin didn't change our attitude towards East Germany. I understand that the young post-Soviet Russia was weak if not helpless. But we didn't even take measures that would've cost us nothing.
After the collapse of the USSR, a terminally ill man was taking refuge in Moscow from political persecution in Germany. His name was Erich Honecker. Erich Honecker was a significant figure. He led the GDR for 13 years, until October 1989. In 1992, the 80-year-old Honecker, who had liver cancer, was forced to board an Aeroflot airplane and extradited to Berlin. There, he was immediately arrested and thrown into the Moabit Prison. The cruel irony is that he had spent 10 years in the same penitentiary imprisoned by the Nazis for opposing the Nazis before the beginning of the Second World War. This time, the Yeltsin Russia was responsible for Honecker being imprisoned. It's an awkward episode to remember. But it's a fact.
Markus Wolf is another example. For 30 years, he was in charge of the GDR intelligence, the Stasi, until 1987. The importance of the Intel it used to acquire and the professionalism of its agents made the West fear the Stasi even more than the KGB or the GRU. All thanks to Markus Wolf. The KGB and GRU received all Intel Stasi managed to acquire. Markus Wolf's service was working for the whole Soviet bloc. And the Kremlin was the common center.
Markus Wolf, head of Stasi 1958-1968: «When we started working in West Germany we were basically amateurs. The Western intelligence had some seasoned veterans from the Nazi times who defected to the USA when the war ended. However, we managed to recruit one American who gave us — and therefore Moscow — an accurate picture of what their intelligence was planning. I'm talking about the National Security Agency».
One detail: When Markus Wolf was building his agent network, it was impossible to work under а diplomatic cover. The reason might be that the process of recognizing the GDR as a state began in the West only in 1973. Before that, the unrecognized state couldn't have embassies. However, Markus Wolf found another, much more efficient resource. He dispatched thousands of his agents, who were later called Romeos, to the West. They initiated affairs with those who could be a source of valuable information. Naturally, Markus Wolf also had Juliettes in his arsenal. Of course, Markus Wolf always denied that sex was the main weapon of the Stasi. But tell me, has any intelligence officer ever admitted anything? We're not talking about traitors here. Markus Wolf never was a traitor. Anyway, Markus Wolf is considered the pioneer of the professional seducer industry. The West, albeit late, decided to copy the strategy of Stasi.
It might look cute in the movies with James Bond being an example. But in reality, their methods are still obscenely crude. Recently, there was a scandal in the UK when documents compromising the British intelligence were revealed during a court trial.
Last Wednesday, Spokesperson of the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova commented on the situation.
Maria Zakharova: «The published documents were in the form of a secret letter dating back to the year 2012, which is quite up-to-date, was signed by the then-Prime Minister Cameron and a service instruction that has been seriously censored. They made it clear that agents are allowed to commit crimes up to murder and rape if this, I quote, is in the interest of the nation. Have you ever heard anything like this? Once again, this is not Russian propaganda or the Russian information machine as all of us are called there. These are declassified documents that give British secret agents the right to rape if it serves to protect national interests. What's that all about? Indicatively, according to this instruction, — Imagine, a whole instruction on rape for promoting national interests! — MI5 informers are not formally guaranteed against persecution for crimes committed in their line of work. A decision to turn a blind eye to their crimes is made by a supervising employee.»
They wanted to learn from the Stasi but vulgarized it all with rape. Back then, there were Romeos. And everything was consensual. The first Romeo codenamed Felix was dispatched to the West by Markus Wolf in 1952. The mission was possible. Felix found a lonely secretary named Gudrun in the West German administration of Konrad Adenauer She had another heart cracker hat was her type codenamed Astor. Thanks to the latter, Gudrun served as a valuable source of information for the Stasi and the Soviet intelligence for several years. No idea how, but Gabriele Gast, the main USSR analyst of the Western BND also became a Stasi agent.
Another colossal success: Stasi officer Günter Guillaume was operating in West Germany for almost 20 years and managed to become the personal aide of Chancellor Willy Brandt. An invaluable asset: All documents from Chancellor's desk went straight to Markus Wolf as well as the recordings of all conversations Willy Brandt had.
After resigning in late 80's Markus Wolf moved to neutral Austria. From there, on October 22, 1990, he sent a letter to the President of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev.
“Dear Mr. Gorbachev The GDR agents did a lot for the security of the USSR and its intelligence. The agents who are now being arrested and publicly persecuted used to provide a constant stream of reliable and valuable information. They call me a «symbol „or a “synonym» of successful intelligence work. Apparently, our former opponents want to punish me, crucify me for my success. You see, Mr. Gorbachev, I plead not only for myself but for many for whom my heart aches for whom I still feel responsible.”
In the same letter, Markus Wolf asked Gorbachev to defend the Stasi agents and their informants during his upcoming visit to West Germany. In German prisons, they were treated worse than prisoners of war. Markus Wolf also wrote that, regardless of any political changes, one can't abandon those who were the loyal allies of the USSR for decades. Defending his wards was a personal matter for the former head of the Stasi. Markus Wolf took advantage of the fact that no one knew what he looked like and would pay personal visits to the workplaces of his agents.
The «dear» Gorbachev didn't lift a finger to help Markus Wolf. He didn't even reply to his letter. From Austria that denied him asylum the former head of the Stasi personally traveled to Moscow. After failing to obtain protection from Gorbachev and his successor Yeltsin, Markus Wolf flew to Germany with his mask lifted. He was welcomed by a prison sentence and a series of trials during which he didn't name a single Stasi agent refusing all alluring offers of citizenship and protection by the US. Russia wasn't going to help him.
Makes you think about the value of one's word when international relations are always human relations. And the relations between people at the top are basically international relations.