"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" thirty one years later
June 12th, 1987. Thirty-one years ago today US President Ronald Reagan stood in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate and demanded, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” The Berlin Wall had stood for almost four decades as a stark visual reminder of the difference and division between East and West Germany. As many as two hundred people had died trying to cross the heavily-guarded barrier to escape from Communist East into the West. Indeed, the Berlin Wall was a concrete symbol of the broader militarized division between the two Cold War camps of NATO and the Warsaw Pact. Bart spent time in his career with the Canadian Army peering through binos across the Inter-German Border as a young artillery officer.
Reagan’s demand was born out of anger and frustration. He had just flown to Germany from a summit with Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland, where the two leaders had come tantalizingly close to an agreement to eliminate both countries’ nuclear arsenals. However, the promising talks collapsed at the last second on Reagan’s refusal to limit research into ballistic missile defense, the famed Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). Instead of signing an accord to eliminate nuclear weapons, Reagan flew to Berlin, where he battered against the Berlin Wall in a cultural assault that would culminate finally with the dissolution of the Soviet Union after the failed August Coup of 1991.
The Wall’s fall was a historic, emotional moment. I (Joel) know from first-hand experience; my dad, who had travelled as a missionary behind the Iron Curtain, drove up to Berlin with a sledge hammer and brought back a chunk of the Wall’s concrete. In fact, I’m looking at a piece of it as I write this).
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the fall of the Berlin Wall was how easily the Soviets acceded to it, and to the reunification of Germany. After all, less than five decades had passed since a united Germany had launched an unprovoked invasion of the Soviet Union that killed more than 20 million Soviet citizens and left much of Russia’s heartland in ruins. Given this, one can perhaps understand if the Russians were not entirely happy about seeing their old nemesis reunite behind the aegis of an ascendant NATO alliance and the American strategic arsenal.
In the alternate history of Northern Fury, we posit a world in which the Soviets did not accede so easily to the collapse of their power in Central Europe. In our story, the Berlin Wall still falls as it did historically and Germany still reunifies, but these facts spur the USSR to rouse itself against the renewed threat from the West.