Uncommon Knowledge and the Hoover Institution Commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

interview with George P. Shultz
Monday, December 2, 2019

To watch the video click here.


Peter Robinson: Hello, I'm Peter Robinson. On this special edition of "Uncommon Knowledge" we mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which took place in the autumn of 1989. November 9th, 1989 to be exact. First you'll see a video in which we ask a number of Hoover Institution scholars and Stanford historians several of the same questions, including, "Where were you when you heard "that the Wall had fallen?" and "Why did it take us all by surprise?" After that video, which we showed at a small dinner here at the Hoover Institution, you'll see me interview former Secretary of State, George Shultz. It's a remarkable thing to interview a man just a couple of weeks short of his 99th birthday, whose recall of events 30 years ago, in which he himself played a central role, is total. After my interview with George Shultz, you'll see a few questions and answers from the audience at the Hoover Institution. You may recognize a couple of the people who ask questions, including the last questioner who, as you'll see, is hungry. And now, a celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

As the Soviets impose a communist regime on them, East Germans respond by fleeing to West Germany in the thousands. 1952, the East German regime seals the border between East Germany and West Germany, but not between East and West Berlin. Berlin, of course, lies deep inside East Germany itself, and about half of the city remains under the control of American, British, and French military forces. Now East Germans who wanted to leave East Germany for the West, had only one place in which they could do so, the city of Berlin. And they began to do just that, simply taking the subway or underground from East Berlin to West Berlin, or simply walking through the checkpoints from East Berlin to West Berlin. Once in West Berlin, they could climb aboard a train, travel across East Germany to West Germany, and freedom. By 1960, the number of East Germans who had fled to West Germany reaches some 3 1/2 million, or one-fifth of the entire population of East Germany. Working with the Soviets, on the night of August 12th, 1961, a Saturday, the East German regime begins laying barbed wire around West Berlin. By the following morning, they have surrounded the city completely, sealing West Berlin off, a day that is still known in Germany as Barbed Wire Sunday. Over the following days, they replaced the barbed wire with cinder blocks. And in the following weeks and months, the cinder blocks with concrete slabs some 13 feet tall, in effect sentencing the people of East Germany to imprisonment. Those concrete slabs, the Berlin Wall, would remain standing for more than 28 years.

Condoleezza Rice: The Berlin Wall was a symbol of the compete breakdown of the alliance between the Soviet Union and the United States after World War II ended. And all hope, then, that perhaps Eastern Europe would be a place the people could be free, that they could travel to the West, that they could see family. Particularly if you were German, families got separated by this wall. And so it was, to me, the end of hope.

Stephen Kotkin: The Wall was about the fear that these systems had of their own people. They were afraid that their own people would run away. They were afraid that their own people would prefer the West. They would prefer that their own people weren't going to be duped by their own propaganda.

David Holloway: It became a symbol, right at the heart of Berlin, of the failure of the experiment in East Germany to create a viable state that would enjoy the support of the people there.

Timothy Garton Ash: I, of course, lived behind the Berlin Wall in East Germany, and therefore got to know it firsthand, what it felt like for people to be imprisoned for nearly three decades.

Norman Maimar: Many of these people were friends of mine, and I remember to this day, the tears, the frustration, and how difficult it was for them to live behind that wall and, quite simply, not be free.

Niall Ferguson: I remember it hit me that time had stood still. This Germany looked essentially like the Germany of the late 1940s.

Robert Service: Berlin became the epicenter of the East West geopolitical tussle, between communism and democracy and capitalism.

Victor Davis Hanson: Walls usually keep people out, and this was a unique wall, it kept people in. This came after World War II, with the spread of communism in Southeast Asia and Africa and the Middle East. And everybody thought this was the dogma of the future. And suddenly they have to build a wall to keep people in? So it marked a turning point, I think, in the early '60s where people felt that the dynamism, and there was never a dynamism, but the professed dynamism of communism is a sham. Any system, any ideology, that has to build a wall to keep people in, is inherently bankrupt. 

Stephen Kotkin: So when the wall came down, it was absolutely breathtaking. It was just flabbergasting.

[News Announcer]: Hopes they had of stopping the West Berliners destroying the Wall were soon dashed. As dozens of young men pulled on a rope and chains, the chant went up, "Down with the wall."

Michael McFaul: The symbolism of seeing it crumbling, for me, was not just about Germany. But it was about maybe the entire Soviet empire will collapse, and sure enough, two years later it did.

Amir Weiner: How on earth did it happen peacefully? The fact that it was peaceful, that was my main reaction of surprise.

Stephen Kotkin: I suppose some people expected the Wall to fall. And let's remember that Ronald Reagan made a speech imploring Gorbachev to tear down the Wall. But for me, it was shocking at the time it happened. And of course we were surprised, because we didn't understand that the communist elites would capitulate.

Condoleezza Rice: By 1989, the Soviet Union had become a shell of itself. It was a country that really had no technology future, its economy was in shambles. That had brought to power a man, Mikhail Gorbachev, who understood that the Soviet Union was a shell of itself.

Timothy Garton Ash: It was in the context of the detente, Which the second term of the Reagan Administration had introduced, and seized the opportunity, including of course, our Hoover Distinguished Fellow, George Shultz, that Gorbachev felt comfortable letting this happen.

Niall Ferguson: Reagan was extremely confrontational by comparison with his predecessor, Jimmy Carter. But when it came to the crunch, Reagan did detente, too, with Gorbachev, and ultimately did more radical disarmament than had been done by any previous president.

Ronald Reagan: We're not through.

Robert Service: Gorbachev played a very big part in changing Soviet policy, and making it more possible for East Europeans to choose their own destiny. One of the reasons he did this was that he had an idea that communism could turn itself into something freer than it had ever been in history. So to that extent, he was misguided. Thankfully, he was doing what he did, but he was misguided in thinking that communism could reform itself.

Michael McFaul: By the way, if they had intervened, I'm not sure they could have preserved those regimes at that time.

Victor Davis Hanson: The system didn't work. And once the people who perpetuate the system know that it doesn't work, it's gonna be very hard to implement it abroad. It's sort of like an octopus. Before, they were cutting off the tentacles. But when you cut the head off, then it's not going to be able to have any command or control over its periphery.

Niall Ferguson: There's a fashionable argument nowadays that, of course, the fall of the Soviet Empire had nothing to do with what Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher did, or for that matter, Pope John Paul II. That these things were entirely indigenous consequences of bungled reform, the loss of legitimacy of the party, and so forth. This is a great error. The United States and its allies won the Cold War.

Condoleezza Rice: The fulfillment of Kennan's vision was really a long project. It was a project of 45 years. Sometimes we get very impatient today and we say, "Oh, we've been doing that "18 years or 20 years." For 45 years, they stuck with it. Then, of course, Reagan who basically said this is a weak system, not a strong one. And we can, indeed, as Kennan would have put it, make it have to deal with its own internal contradictions. And that's why it fell.

Robert Service: When Ronald Reagan came to office in the 1980s, this pressure on Moscow was increased. And this was one of the reasons why Gorbachev persuaded and was able to persuade the Soviet policy to change. And was allowed by the Politburo to go ahead and seek an accommodation with the Reagan White House. Without this pressure, it's unlikely that this would ever have happened.

Amir Weiner: It paid off in a way that makes us long for these days of cooperation, collaboration, diplomacy. We had the muscle, but we used diplomacy, and that's, I think, one of the greatest message of that time.

Stephen Kotkin: Standing up on behalf of freedom doesn't mean starting wars in places that are not necessarily strategic from an American point of view. But it does mean standing up to adversaries who are threats to freedom.

Timothy Garton Ash: We in the West as a whole, United States, Britain, West Germany, all of us did, was to keep our own societies strong, prosperous, dynamic, open, and attractive. The poster that the "Pole Solidarite" used, it was entitled "High Noon". Fourth of June, 1989, and it was a picture of Gary Cooper in "High Noon" wearing the solidarite badge. And that's an amazing tribute to the soft partner of the United States.

Niall Ferguson: And the idea this would all have happened in 1989 to '91 if we'd done nothing. If Ronald Reagan had given a speech which said, "Mr. Gorbachev, you can just leave the Wall "right there, it's fine with us." That's not plausible. The external pressure was crucial and it gave encouragement to those enduring persecution behind the Iron Curtain.

Norman Maimar: The Cold War, I think, brought out, in some ways, the better angels, as I said, of the American people in defending the right of people to choose their own governments.

David Holloway: If we look at the values of the United States and of the West European democracies, prove to be much more attractive than the values and the practices of communist rule.

Amir Weiner: We were preaching to the rest of the world. But we had something to show inside. We had the functioning institutions, democratic institutions, and we had something to be proud of. People revolted in the name of dignity and morality. They had enough. They were looking to the United States in time. Not necessarily to mimic it and copy its system, but as a guide, as a power that stood by them.

Stephen Kotkin: So let's remember. This was a multi-generational test. This was both sides of the political spectrum. There was a consensus in the United States that the Cold War was necessary. That consensus was correct. The Cold War was not a mistake. The Cold War was an achievement by the United States. It was a necessary challenge that didn't mean we would rise to the occasion, but we did.

Condoleezza Rice: I would say that the United States and its democratic allies passed the test that was put before them when the Soviet Union was astride half of Europe, to make sure that one day Europe would return to a Europe that was democratic and peaceful and prosperous. The challenges remain and they're different today, but we could learn a lot from those people who created the circumstances that led to that extraordinary day when the Berlin Wall fell, peacefully.

Robert Service: Well, I think in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan showed all the qualities necessary for bringing about de-communization in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. He did this by showing firmness. He never gave up on his basic objectives. But at the same time, he had the diplomatic skills and the self-confidence, and the ability to impress upon Gorbachev that he could be trusted. If they could do a deal, he would stick to the deal. That enabled the world to come out of the Cold War without a hot war. This was a stupendous achievement. And it wasn't just Reagan. It was also George Shultz, it was a whole posse of American politicians and diplomatists who were supplying the necessary support to Ronald Reagan, who had the necessary vision.

Ronald Reagan: And now, now the Soviets themselves may, in a limited way, be coming to understand the importance of freedom. We hear much from Moscow about a new policy of reform and openness. Some political prisoners have been released. Certain foreign news broadcasts are no longer being jammed. Some economic enterprises have been permitted to operate with greater freedom from state control. Are these the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state? Or are they token gestures intended to raise false hopes in the West, or to strengthen the Soviet's system without changing it? We welcome change and openness, for we believe that freedom and security go together. That the advance of human liberty. The advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign that the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable. That would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

Timothy Garton Ash: When is this being shown, by the way? But let me just try one more time. Let me just try on more, ah there we are. There we are. No, that's it. So what I wanted to show you out of my hotel window is Unterlinden looking from the east towards the Brandenburg Gate, as we prepare for the great celebrations here in Berlin. If you look in the distance there, you can see the Brandenburg Gate all lit up, and they're preparing for the great party on Saturday evening. I have to say, I find this very moving, having lived here 40 years ago, and knowing what a grim and repressive place it was.

Peter Robinson: A member of the Princeton class of '42, George Shultz served in the United States Marine Corps From 1942 to 1945.

George Shultz: Semper fi.

 [Audience Member]: Oorah!

George Shultz: Oorah.

Peter Robinson: He earned his doctorate in economics from MIT in 1949. In 1955, he joined the staff of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Eisenhower. Let me repeat that, George Shultz first served in the White House under President Eisenhower. Under President Nixon, he served as Secretary of Labor, Director of the Office of Management and the Budget, and as Secretary of the Treasury. Which brings me to he aspect of his career that we'll be discussing this evening. From 1982 until the end of the Administration, Mr. Shultz served under President Reagan as Secretary of State. The Wall. August 1961 the Berlin Wall goes up. Do you recall how you yourself responded? Do you recall what it was like to hear that news?

George Shultz: Well, I responded with a kind of horror. But nevertheless it seemed to me, you know, this is what you expect these people to do. They have to keep people in. And I had an occasion when Helmut Schmidt, when I was Secretary of Treasury, Helmut was Finance Minister in Germany. We became very good friends, and he later became Chancellor in Germany. And he came and visited me here at my home on Stanford campus one summer. And I knew he loved Bach. So there was a Bach festival down in Carmel. We went down. And in the intermission, being a head of they set aside a room for him. Some of the musicians came. One of them was a violinist, who was a wonderful person in the thing. This violinist was from East Germany. So he and Helmut talked a little, and Helmut came and said, "You suppose "we could invite him over to the house "where we're staying after the concert?" I said, "Well, probably we could, "but we'd have to find a few other people "so it'd give some cover." So we invited and they came. So I entertained the other people, and Helmut and the East German violinist sat by themselves. And I watched them. Pretty soon they were crying. The Chancellor of Germany crying. The violinist was very talented and he was sent all over the world by the regime, but they never would let his family out because they were hostages. They were talking about the artificiality of deriding the German people. And I watched that and I said, you know something has got to happen. This is so artificial and wrong. But it made a big impact on me.

Peter Robinson: George, soon after you become Secretary of State there was a snowstorm in Washington, and you received an invitation from Nancy Reagan. Tell us what followed.

George Shultz: Well, I had been in China and my plane was lucky to land at Andrews Air Force Base. Then it snowed all day Friday, it snowed Friday night, it snowed Saturday morning. Phone rings, it's Nancy. She says, "How 'bout you and your wife "coming over and have supper with us at the White House?" So we go over. I might say at this time, you remember when we came into office, Jimmy Carter had shut down all contacts with the Soviet Union. They invaded Afghanistan and with the concept of linkage, everything stopped. There were no contacts. The Cold War was as cold as it could get. Anyway, we're invited over, and he starts asking me about the Chinese leaders. What are they like? Do they have a sense of humor? Can you find the bottom line? And so on. Then he knew I'd dealt with the Soviets when I was Secretary of Treasury, so he started asking me about it, and what are they like, and so on. I'm sitting there, I'm saying to myself, you know, this guy has never had a real conversation with a big time communist leader and he's dying to have one. So I said to him, I had arranged, it was really hard to do, but I had arranged to have weekly meetings with Ambassador Dobrynin. The idea was, and we stuck to it, that if we see a little weed, let's get it out before it grows. We don't need any more problems than we've already got. So I said, "He's coming over Tuesday "at five o'clock in the afternoon. "Why not bring him over here and you can talk to him?" He said, "That's a good idea." Then he said, "It will only take about 10 minutes. "All I want to tell him is, if his new leader," Andropov had just succeeded Brezhnev, "If his new leader is ready "for a constructive conversation I'm ready." That was a bolt out of the blue. It was totally different from the whole psychology of the time. So Dobrynin comes over, we bring him over. We were there for at least an hour and a half. President Reagan talked a lot about Soviet Jewry. It wasn't generalizations. He had incidents, people, things that happened. It was very impressive. They talked about the Pentecostals who had rushed into our embassy during the Carter Administration. They were still there. It was awkward because you couldn't expel them, because they'd probably be killed. And they weren't going anywhere. He talked about that. He said, "It's a big neon sign you've got "in Moscow saying, 'We don't treat people right. "'We don't let 'em worship they way they want. "'Don't let 'em emigrate.' "Gotta do something about it." So on the way back, depending on how you say, let's make a special project out of that. So we worked on it and finally I got a piece of paper I thought was pretty good. So I took it over to the President and I said, "Please don't call your lawyer. "He'd tell you you could drive a truck "through the holes in this memo. "But I have to believe, with all the background, "if we get them out, "they'll be allowed to emigrate "and eventually go home and emigrate." So we rolled the dice, we got them out, they were allowed to go home. Then not only were they allowed to emigrate, all their families, about 50 or 60 people, it was a giant event. Reagan had said all along with Dobrynin, "I just want something to happen. "I won't say a word, I just want it to happen." Well, Reagan never said a word. Press went crazy. How the hell did this happen? He never said a word. And I always thought there was a little bit of significance to that event. Because he saw you could make a deal with these people and they'd carry it out. And they saw the same thing. They saw he said he wouldn't say anything, he didn't. So that built a little trust and was a start.

Peter Robinson: Incident from Ronald Reagan's life. Discussion in 1977 he's having with Dick Allen. And he asks Dick, then one of his foreign policy advisors, if Dick would like to hear his view of the Cold War. And Dick Allen said, "Of course, Governor," as he was then. And this is the quotation. "Some people think I'm simplistic," Reagan said. "But there's a difference between being "simplistic and being simple. "My theory of the Cold War is that "we win and they lose." You served three Presidents. What set Reagan apart?

George Shultz: Well, he had great values and he had great strength of purpose. Milton Friedman writes and he said, "I knew both Reagan and Nixon. "Nixon was smarter but he didn't have "that core of values. "Whereas Reagan was smart enough to see "what was going on, but the big thing was "he had this sense of values. "It was very deep. "And he would mean what he said, "and said what he mean. "So it was different with Reagan." Reagan was fun to serve with. He'd bring acorns down from Camp David and feed 'em to the squirrels on the White House lawn. He had that kind of instinct.

Peter Robinson: Turning point. In the 1970s and the early 1980s, the Soviets deployed some 600 intermediate-range nuclear missiles, or INFs, in Eastern Europe. Missiles that were capable of striking targets all over Western Europe. And in 1983, you were Secretary of State, the Reagan Administration countered the Soviets, by deploying Pershing missiles, again, INFs, in Western Europe. And I've heard you say that that was a turning point. Explain that.

George Shultz: Well, the Soviet deployment of the intermediate-range missiles was a diplomatic ploy in a way. They said would we risk retaliation with their intercontinental ballistic missiles using ours to defend our allies. So we developed a deal in NATO that we tried to have a negotiation with the Soviets, and if we couldn't get anywhere, we'd deploy our own intermediate nuclear missiles. So we got nowhere, and so we deployed cruise missiles in Britain with Margaret Thatcher's help. We deployed cruise missiles in Italy with Andreotti's help. Then, in Germany, ballistic missiles. They were called Pershings. And it was hell. Soviets withdrew from negotiations. They fanned war talk, they did everything they could to prevent that deployment. But we got it deployed. And after that, it was all downhill in the Cold War. That sort of show of strength, not a shot was fired, but it was an immense show of strength, of the Alliance that was impressive.

Peter Robinson: Brezhnev dies in '85. You fly to the funeral, and you meet for the first time, a man called Mikhail Gorbachev. Your impressions of Gorbachev.

George Shultz: Well, Gorbachev was the new leader of the Soviet Union. I had met with quite a number of Soviet leaders and done business with them. When I was Secretary of Treasury I was in charge of economic relations with the Soviet Union so I knew them. He came and we met. We were one of the last delegations he met with. Here he had managed this funeral, met with all these people, and he came to us, he was fresh as a daisy. He had a few cards that he got from the Politburo I suppose, and he shuffled them around, never even looked at 'em. But he was a conversation. He would listen to you and respond to you and expected you to respond to him. Always before you have a meeting with Brezhnev, you say something, goes by his ear, he says it goes by your ear. That's not a conversation. But you could have a conversation with Gorbachev. I could see that he was very wide-ranging. So I went back to the embassy and I told our delegation this is a very different guy from any other Soviet leader we've dealt with before. He listens, he's smart, he's well-informed. He's gonna be a tough adversary, but you can talk to him. So I had that impression. I relayed that to President Reagan.

Peter Robinson: Reykjavik. They meet first in Geneva, then they meet in Reykjavik. Day one of a two-day summit, Gorbachev presents proposals for sweeping reductions in nuclear arms, including the elimination of Soviet and American nuclear stockpiles, by 2000. Dramatic proposal. Day two, after your team, the diplomats, stayed up all night ironing out details of an agreement, day two, Gorbachev makes it all conditional on a ban of tests of the strategic defense initiative. He, in effect, demands that Reagan surrender SDI. Reagan refused, the summit ended in what seemed like failure. As the meeting broke up, photographers captured Reagan and Gorbachev alike looking angry and disappointed. And one member of the American delegation insisted, to the press, quite soon after the summit, that Reykjavik had not been a failure, but a break-through. And that member of the American delegation was George Shultz. What did you see that others did not?

George Shultz: Well, I saw that in our overnight negotiations, between the first and second day, with leadership from Paul Nitze, we had established the framework for the INF Treaty and the START Treaty. But then there was something else very significant that has been overlooked completely. I had an Assistant Secretary for European Affairs that dealt with the Soviet Union, named Rozanne Ridgeway. She was terrific. She had a negotiation with her opposite number. They agreed, and this was put into effect, that human rights would be a regular, recognized item on our agenda. Always before that, the Soviets took the position it's none of your business what we do inside. But they agreed to do it. And I said, boy that is a big marker. It shows that something is going on inside the Soviet Union with Gorbachev that's profound.

Peter Robinson: Gorbachev pursues glasnost and perestroika. And toward the end of the Reagan Administration, when all kinds of events are taking place in Europe, Gorbachev begins asking you how capitalism works.

George Shultz: Yeah, he did. He knew the Soviet economy wasn't going anywhere. He asked me to talk to his Minister of Economy, I forget his name. Anyway, he said, "You know, here when I make a plan for how every drug store in the Soviet Union operates," he says, "it's impossible." I said, "Of course it's impossible. "The market can solve these problems for you." And we talked back and forth but I could see he didn't get it. He and Gorbachev both thought the market is chaos and you gotta manage everything. They never could get it through their heads how it worked.

Peter Robinson: George, one last time, the Wall. Just 10 months after you left office, November 9th, 1989, and the Wall falls. Where were you, what did you think, what was your response?

George Shultz: I was here. When I left office, I came here. That's where I was. When I saw that it had come down, I said to myself, well it's about time. It was a good thing. But I think when people look at the coming down of the Wall, the significance of that is what came before it that caused it to happen. Right now, in my opinion anyway, we are in an even more tense situation with Russia than we were at the time of the Cold War. We both have nuclear weapons. The arms control things that we did are being cast aside. INF Treaty gone. Probably the Open Skies Treaty is going. The New START Treaty is being threatened. It's a catastrophe. There are all kinds of new weaponry and we have no talk going on between Russia and the United States. It's very, very dangerous. So I worry about it, and I look back and say what can we learn? Because back then we had nuclear weapons, and we had total Cold War, and so it was tough, but it moved. I had an opposite number named Patolichev. He was a tough old guy. After one of our sessions, he suggested we go to Leningrad for the weekend, so we went. I was surprised he took a ride on my plane. But anyway, he said, "Where do you wanna go?" I said, "I want to go to the same place "everybody else wants to go. "I want to go to Hermitage, I wanna go to "the Summer Palace." He said, "No, first we go to the cemetery." So that's where we went. I don't know how many of you've been to the cemetery there. It's a big platform and there's row after row after row of mass graves. Big mass graves. So we walked down the center aisle. I'm supposed to lay a wreath at the end. Funeral music is playing, and he's telling me about the Battle of Leningrad. And he starts crying. The woman who is our regular interpreter in these meetings dropped out and looked around. She was totally collapsed. Everybody was very weepy. And he said to me, "There isn't a family "in the Soviet Union that wasn't touched "by the Battle of Leningrad." Anyway we come back, and I said to him, "I have a great respect for the people who are here, "because I also fought in World War II. "I also had comrades shot down beside me, "and furthermore, these are the people "who stopped Hitler." And I walked up to the front of the platform and I got myself in the best Marine Corps straight back as I could, then I gave a long salute. I came back and he said, "Thank you, George. "That shows respect." I was fascinated. When I came back years later as Secretary of State, I found that people knew about that incident. It taught me something. If you show respect for something that deserves respect, when you criticize something else, it carries more weight for that reason. I thought, and President Reagan thought, we're here, they're there, but they're weak. And if we play our cards right and we have strength and we show an ability to deal with them, we can get somewhere. So I think that lesson is very applicable right now. We just have to have some way of talking with Putin. I know it's hard, Jim Mattis has told me how difficult it is, but we've gotta figure out how to do it. So I hope that we can somehow figure out how to get Ronald Reagan back and get us together.

Peter Robinson: George, a last question, and then I think we'll have a moment or two for comments or questions from the audience. I was struck during the film, that Condi said, and Stephen Kotkin said, this was an intergenerational effort, the Cold War. George Kennan, once again, in 1951, writes this, "Surely, there was never a fairer test "of national quality than this. "The thoughtful observer will experience "a certain gratitude to a Providence which, "by providing the American people with this "implacable challenge, has made their entire "security as a nation dependent on their "accepting the responsibilities of "moral and political leadership that history "plainly intended them to bear." Close quote. How well did we stand up? How well did the country do across those 45 years?

George Shultz: Well, I think people stood up very well under those years. I went around the country quite a bit. I gave a talk here at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco that was a tough talk but was well-received. But I think people are also looking for somebody who would solve problems. It was obvious to me in that dinner in the White House with the President and Nancy, that I talked about earlier, that they had talked it over and it was clear that Reagan didn't wanna be a guy that promoted conflict, he wanted to be a guy that solved problems. So that's where he was coming from.

Peter Robinson: Questions, comments? Mike McFaul? Yes you, Mike. What did you think about the Secretary's comments about Russia today? Not to put you on the spot. If anybody doesn't know Mike--

Michael McFaul: Thanks Peter, for putting me on the spot. I appreciate that.

Peter Robinson: Former Ambassador to Russia. So if I could put anybody on the spot, I figure Mike ought to be the man.

Michael McFaul: So George, you didn't mention that when you came to Moscow in 1985 you met Gorbachev but you also met me. I was there as a student and it was a thrill of a life. You were there with the Vice President. You came to that compound, what was it called? It was the bar in the embassy. You came and talked to us. I remember vividly, and I write about it in my new book, that you said there was something different about this guy, even in your first meeting. I remember walking back to my dorm, walking back to my Metro for my hour ride, back to my dorm thinking, this is a big time. And that was just two days after Gorbachev had taken over. I agree. I think you can walk and chew gum at the same time. I think you can have disagreements about values, as you talk about in your book, and still negotiate about things that really matter. To me, if there was just one message I would like to give to the Administration, there's some people here that know the Administration a lot better than I do, if you want just one low-hanging fruit, there's one thing you can do between now and the next 12 months and that's to extend the New START Treaty. There is just no strategic rationale for not extending that treaty that you talked about in your remarks. That is just a no-brainer. So I implore anybody that knows anybody in the Trump Administration, extend the New START Treaty, and maybe that becomes a place and a basis of which we begin the rapport with Mr. Putin.

George Shultz: Rose Gottemoeller, who helped negotiate it, is coming here to FSI and together, and she wrote a wonderful piece last week on this very subject, explaining how important it is to keep the New START Treaty alive.

Peter Robinson: John Taylor, would you mind coming to the mic, John? And I may call on Jim Mattis. I'm told that he knows some people in Washington.

John Taylor: We heard on the films, "Mr. Gorbachev, "tear down this Wall." And someone said, well it wouldn't have been so great to say, hey if you feel like it, do it. So it was pretty demonstrative. And I understand you had something to do with that, Peter. Maybe you were there listening at the time, since you were Secretary. Any thoughts about the significance? It seems quite significant to us as we look back in time. But a little thoughts on that very significant line which we all remember?

Peter Robinson: I can tell a little anecdote, I'm happy to go on that one. I have wondered for 32 years, since he delivered that speech, what effect it had? It's very hard to trace the actions that follow from words, if, indeed, any actions did. This last week, during the lead-up to the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Wall, there were, I noticed in my Twitter feed, people were saying Reagan ended the Cold War with that speech. That's ridiculous. That's ridiculous, you can't. As a matter of fact, I asked Gorbachev about this at one point. He listened to the interpreter say, Robinson's the one who drafted that speech, and Gorbachev laughed, and he said, I was the playwright. But on Saturday evening, the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Wall itself, I found myself seated across from a man called Joachim Gauck. He went on to become President of a reunited Germany under Angela Merkel. But 30 years ago, he was a Luthern pastor in Rostock. And those protests that spread across East Germany beginning in October, and that led to the fall of the Wall, were organized originally around regular prayer meetings in Lutheran churches. And 30 years ago, Joachim Gauck was on the other side of the wall helping to organize the protests. And he had no idea that I had anything to do with Ronald Reagan. It was a dinner of 30 or so people. And Gauck said that that speech meant a great deal to the people on the other side of the Wall. And he said, "Ronald Reagan said the right thing "at the right time, in the right place." And I almost leapt across the table to kiss him because it relieved me of worries I've had for more than three decades. So I feel, as of Saturday night, the speech had some effect.

George Shultz: You know, the speechwriter who wrote those lines? He remembers them well. But let me make a comment about Gorbachev. I don't know how you interpret this with Putin. But Gorbachev was the first Soviet leader who lived in the Soviet Union. He grew up there. He saw the cruelty, he saw the terrible mistakes that were made. All of his predecessors lived in special . Their wives shopped in special stores. They didn't live in the country. They didn't really understand it. Gorbachev did and Shevardnadze did. Putin, he didn't grow up in the Soviet Union, in Russia either. He was out around as a spy and what not. So we need to have somebody experience the depravity of what Russia is really like. Russia is a basket case. It's economy is small and shrinking. They have historically produced good researchers and so on. A lot of them are here in Silicon Valley that are emigrating. One thing they have is a powerful military. But other than that, they don't. I think that in some points there is gonna be a need in Russia to stop putting all their funds in the military and do something for their people. It reminds me of a time during the Cold War, we got Saudi Arabia to pump a lot of oil. So for a long period, the price of oil was very low. So that, of course, hit the Soviet economy hard. At one of our meetings, Ronald Reagan says to Gorbachev, "Why aren't you "buying more wheat?" And Gorbachev says, "We don't have any money."

Peter Robinson: Ladies and gentlemen, we are celebrating the fall of the Wall, but. What a magnificent life this man has led. Thank you, George. If there's time for one more? Jim, you get to say whatever you want to say, as long as you say something.

Jim Mattis: Mr. Secretary, let's eat.

George Shultz: He's got to be careful, because Charlotte has been made an honorary Marine, and she wants to be the Commandant. And he turned down an invitation from her. You know that's gonna be bad news, Jim.

Jim Mattis: I'll be doing push-ups, I'm sure.

Peter Robinson: Ladies and gentlemen, George Shultz. Join me in thanking him. Thank you. 

The fall of the Berlin Wall, an even three decades ago. One final thought. Throughout the Cold War, the 45-year conflict that ended, in effect, with the fall of the Wall, one nation proved indispensable. The United States. This country had its allies, important allies, of course. But only one nation, ours, possessed the military might to offset the Soviet Union, and the will to deploy it. For four and a half decades, under Presidents of both parties, the Cold War was our conflict. The United States made its mistakes. Think of the Vietnam War. And yet, throughout those four and a half decades, it did its duty. The United States conducted itself with determination and foresight and selflessness. Whatever mistakes we may yet make, whatever ills may befall this country, for four and half decades, this country stood for one cause, liberty. And we won. I'm Peter Robinson, for "Uncommon Knowledge," the Hoover Institution, and Fox Nation.