Primary Sources

President Bush and Chancellor Kohl Make Remarks on German Unification


West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and U.S. President George H. W. Bush kept in close contact throughout the period between the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and Germany's unification on October 3, 1990. The process of German unification was complicated by the fact that there was never an official treaty ending World War II. Thus, the four victorious powers (France, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and the U.S.) all had a say in any change of status for the two German states. Public opinion, especially in France and in the U.K., was divided over whether a unified Germany would be potentially too powerful and could quickly establish itself as the dominant economic, military, and political power in Europe. A series of meetings, known as the Two-Plus-Four talks, regarding the return of full sovereignty to a unified Germany took place in Ottowa, Canada. In this joint statement by Kohl and Bush, both reiterated their convictions that a unified Germany should be part of NATO and remain deeply rooted in western institutions.


George H. W. Bush, "Remarks Following Discussions With Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the Federal Republic of Germany," speech, The White House, Washington, D.C., May 16, 1990, Bush Presidential Library, Documents and Papers, Bush Library (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

The President....

What's clear from all our discussion over the past months, including our extensive talks today, is that the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany share the same approach and have the same goals regarding German unification. We both want a united Germany which enjoys full sovereignty; a united Germany which is a full member of the Western community and of the NATO alliance, including participation in its integrated military structures; a united Germany which is, as the Federal Republic has been for over 40 years, a model of freedom, tolerance, and friendly relations with its neighbors.

During our discussion today, we reviewed the talks in Bonn on May 5th among Foreign Ministers of the two German States, the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union—those are the two-plus-four talks. Chancellor Kohl and I agreed that these talks should terminate all Four Power rights and responsibilities at the time of German unification. A united Germany should have full control over all of its territory, without any new discriminatory constraints on German sovereignty. Forty-five years after the end of the war, there is no reason that a unified democratic Germany should be in any way singled out for some special status. In keeping with the Helsinki Final Act, Germany should be fully sovereign, free to choose its own alliances and security arrangements. And we agree that U.S. military forces should remain stationed in the united Germany and elsewhere in Europe to continue to promote stability and security.


The Chancellor. Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to thank you, first of all, very warmly for the warm hospitality with which you have received me here today—me and the members of my delegation. We had intensive discussions in a very warm and friendly atmosphere.

Allow me to summarize my message in three points. First of all, on behalf of all Germans, I express sincere thanks to the American people, and especially to you, President Bush, for the magnificent support that you have granted from the outset and continue to grant to us Germans during this decade on our path to German unity. The Americans and Germans stood side by side at the time of the Berlin blockade and the erection of the Berlin Wall. And together we championed, not least in the difficult days of the Cold War, our vision of freedom, democracy, and human rights. Now that this vision is becoming a reality in the whole of Europe, that the Berlin Wall is being torn down and sold as souvenirs, that Germany and its former capital, Berlin, are becoming reunited, there is something that is all the more true: The friendship and partnership with the United States continue to be vital to us Germans. Naturally, this also applies to a united Germany.

A united Germany will remain a member of the North Atlantic alliance. But in view of the change occurring in Europe, in view of the triumph of human rights, democracy, pluralism, and a social market economy in the whole of Europe, the alliance must concentrate more on its traditional political role. As the threat is decreasing appreciably, the alliance must keep the initiative in the field of disarmament and arms control and review its strategy and structure accordingly.


You, Mr. President, and I agreed in our talks that in order to achieve this the three anchorages must be strengthened. That means NATO as an indispensable transatlantic security link between the European and North American democracies. Cooperation between the United States and the European Community—this is going to be of ever-growing importance in view of the completion of the internal market within the European Community by 1992 and also in view of the ever-closer political union within the European Community. What is also important is the expansion of the CSCE into a system of assured human rights, guaranteed security, and comprehensive cooperation for all 35 member countries. We continue to strive for a just and lasting peaceful order in Europe, in which the division of Europe, also as regards the date, is overcome together with the division of Germany.


How to Cite this Source

President George H. W. Bush, "President Bush and Chancellor Kohl Make Remarks on German Unification," Making the History of 1989, Item #37, (accessed May 28 2021, 3:26 pm).

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