Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor Angela Merkel have honored George H. W. Bush as the „true friend“ of the Germans. The former US president died Friday night at the age of 94 at his home in Houston, Texas. What he meant for Germany is explained by a look back:
The Rheingoldhalle in Mainz, regardless of its name a sober concrete building from the 60s, is filled to the last seat. There is a tense expectation over the expansive room. About 2,000 people want to experience this May 31, 1989, the new American president, who came to Germany for a short visit. George Bush has announced a foreign policy keynote speech. These are exciting times in Europe. Mikhail Gorbachev tries to reform the Soviet Union, in Hungary and Poland the power of the communists is crumbling, in the GDR thousands of people are fleeing. The Soviet powerhouse created after the Second World War is no longer as firmly established as it used to be. What is the West doing, what are the US doing?
George Bush is in the best of moods for a NATO summit, Helmut and Hannelore Kohl pick him and Barbara Bush in Mainz by helicopter. It will show in the following years how well the two couples understand each other. With his hand in his pocket, Bush enters the hall with great applause. It is less than two years since his predecessor Ronald Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin has demanded that Gorbachev tear down the wall. Since then, nothing has happened on this issue, that wants to change Bush. He was Vice President of Reagan, he feels committed to its policy. So he says that the division of Europe should be put to the test after Hungary has already begun to dismantle its border fences. „Let Berlin be the next stop,“ Bush demands. „The wall must fall.“ He reaps friendly applause, nothing more.
Open Gallery George Bush died
Later in the speech he offers the Federal Republic of „partnership in leadership“, the Germans should be partners of the Americans in the leadership of the Western world. This triggers much more interest, as shown in the media echo on the speech. At this point nobody can guess how significant this offer will be a year later when it comes to German unity. And how much the German question would shape Bush’s presidency.
His security adviser Bent Scowcroft wonders about the slow reaction to the passage through the Berlin Wall. Later, during a voyage by the delegations on the Main, he asks German Defense Minister Gerhard Stoltenberg whether the Germans are not so interested in reunification. The CDU politician politely responds that this issue should be pursued in peace, but it is not really on the agenda. „The Federal Government estimates for the union periods, with which otherwise geologists count,“ notes Scowcroft in his diary. It will soon become apparent that Bush and his people have recognized the dynamics of the East-West issue much more clearly than Kohl and his advisors. In the summer of 1989, they still consider all ideas of overcoming German division unrealistic.
The economic success is not enough
In the 2016 US election campaign, it was often said that no candidate was better prepared for the presidency than Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady, Senator and Foreign Minister. In fact, that’s even more true for George Herbert Walker Bush. Born in Massachusetts in 1924, the budding family of a banker family is a model for the political and social elite of the United States in the last century. He is the son of long-time Republican Senator Republican Prescott Bush. After finishing school at the fine boarding school of Andover, he volunteered in 1942 for military service in the Air Force and is just under 19 the youngest pilot in the US Navy. He flies numerous combat missions in the war against Japan and receives many awards. After the war, he studies economics at Yale and then moves to the thriving oil industry of Texas, where he becomes self-employed in the 1950s.