Admiral James Stavridis, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and General Stephane Abrial, the Supreme Commander Allied Command Transformation, co-authored an OpEd reflecting on the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall gives us an opportunity to reflect on the tremendous impact this historical event and its implications had on Germany, the NATO Alliance, and the world.
Fundamentally, this is a celebration of the power of peoples' desire for freedom and the power of rebirth—rebirth of a nation made whole again; rebirth of a strong trans-Atlantic partnership ready to face an uncertain future and new challenges in Europe and beyond; and rebirth of a modern Europe collectively endeavouring to preserve peace, stability, and rule of law.
As the concrete slabs crumbled, the human spirit soared buoyed by the triumph of freedom over tyranny in the face of seemingly insurmountable adversity. The collapse of the Berlin Wall physically represented the fall of Communism and Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and was one of the defining moments of the twentieth century—clearly a cause for celebration.
For Germany, a staunch ally and strong advocate of the Alliance, the collapse of the Berlin Wall cauterized the wounds of the past and catalyzed reunification to a nation whole and free again after more than four decades of division. Germany is now thriving and making significant contributions to alliance operations and plays an enormously constructive role around the globe.
Even as the dust settled where the ideological and physically divisive wall once stood, many questioned the future relevance of NATO without a formidable and well-defined threat. Critics felt NATO would, and perhaps should, wither on the vine and quietly retire to history because NATO had fulfilled its purpose.
However, those critics greatly underestimated the durability and flexibility of the then-forty year old Alliance. Perhaps, they also misread the strength behind the fundamental premise on which the trans-Atlantic Alliance is founded--the common desire to safeguard freedom and promote stability and well-being through democratic institutions and collective security based on shared values.
These fundamental principles and the Alliance's commitment to its Article V obligations have not changed in the last sixty years, and the trans-Atlantic Alliance remains vibrant, relevant, and ready to meet twenty-first Century challenges and threats.