And it truly was one. I was living in Paris at the time, and was still young and foolish enough to think there was something redeemable about communism. Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall I travelled through Eastern Europe and began to see how terribly misguided I had been. I also began to see how lucky we all were that the revolution had unfolded peacefully.
Some think that the momentous change that began in 1989 was inevitable. They would do well to remember that in June of the same year, China’s elderly rulers had deployed tanks to crush (literally) the peaceful freedom movement in Tiananmen Square. And there were plenty of communist leaders urging a “Chinese solution” for the demonstrations of 1989. In fact, at the Soviet command post just south of Berlin (which had served as command center for the German Army during World War II, and which had been seized from Hitler decades earlier), Red Army marshals were awaiting orders to march in and save the empire by whatever means necessary.
No one can know what would have happened if more conservative forces within the Kremlin had prevailed. Most likely, there would have been widespread disorder and violence across much of the region, which would have put the West under substantial pressure to intervene. Open war would have been a distinct possibility. After all, large empires throughout history have generally gone out with a bang. If anything, the Soviet experience was an exception.
Read the rest of this analysis from Carl Bildt, Sweden’s former Foreign Minister and Prime Minister.