There was—and still is—a tendency to regard the ‘German problem’ as something too delicate for well-brought-up politicians to discuss. This always seemed to me a mistake. The problem had several elements which could only be addressed if non-Germans considered them openly and constructively. I do not believe in collective guilt: it is individuals who are morally accountable for their actions. But I do believe in national character, which is moulded by a range of complex factors: the fact that national caricatures are often absurd and inaccurate does not detract from that. Since the unification of Germany under Bismarck—perhaps partly because national unification came so late—Germany has veered unpredictably between aggression and self-doubt. Germany’s immediate neighbours, such as the French and the Poles, are more deeply aware of this than the British, let alone the Americans; though the same concern often leads Germany’s immediate neighbours to refrain from comments which might appear insensitive. The Russians are acutely conscious of all this too, though in their case the need for German credit and investment has so far had a quiescent effect. But perhaps the first people to recognize the ‘German problem’ are the modern Germans, the vast majority of whom are determined that Germany should not be a great power able to exert itself at others’ expense. The true origin of German angst is the agony of self-knowledge.
As I have already argued, that is one reason why so many Germans genuinely—I believe wrongly—want to see Germany locked in to a federal Europe. In fact, Germany is more rather than less likely to dominate within that framework; for a reunited Germany is simply too big and powerful to be just another player within Europe. Moreover, Germany has always looked east as well as west, though it is economic expansion rather than territorial aggression which is the modern manifestation of this tendency. Germany is thus by its very nature a destabilizing rather than a stabilizing force in Europe. Only the military and political engagement of the United States in Europe and close relations between the other two strongest sovereign states in Europe—Britain and France—are sufficient to balance German power: and nothing of the sort would be possible within a European super-state.
She goes on explaining her stance against the German reunification after the cold war. Among other arguments she says she “did not want East Germans—any more than I would have wanted anyone else—to have to live under communism. But it seemed to me that a truly democratic East Germany would soon emerge and that the question of reunification was a separate one, on which the wishes and interests of Germany’s neighbours and other powers must be fully taken into account.”
While I strongly believe in the right of self-determination, as well as I can see every possible reason for the German reunification (it’d be economically and practically stupid to have two Germanys), I do see a valid point in Baroness Thatcher’s account. She has been long accused for opposing the German reunification, but only in recent years we are actually seeing her prophecy come true.