The Gorbachev Files: Secret Papers Reveal Truth Behind Soviet Collapse

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At the meeting in Kiev, he berated a man in Kohl's entourage who would become one of his key contacts in the coming weeks: Horst Kohler, the later German president, who was then a state secretary at the German Finance Ministry and Kohl's "sherpa" (personal representative) at the G-7 summit.

When Kohler called upon the Soviets to submit to the rules of the International Monetary Fund, the Kremlin leader snapped: "The USSR isn't Costa Rica. The direction that history now takes will depend on how you configure your relations to us."

As for the idea of a Marshall Plan for the Soviet Union, Gorbachev described it as a "return to the old arrogance, according to which the Soviet economic train cannot be pulled up the mountain without the capitalist locomotive."

In reality, this locomotive was the Soviets' only remaining option. Their confidence in Kohl during those weeks was unlimited. In fact, they were practically euphoric, believing that things would improve for the Soviets in the slipstream of the powerful chancellor. In Kiev, Gorbachev adviser Chernyaev noted:

The new friendship with the Germans has been given yet another large scoop of cement. If all goes well with the Soviet-German factor, it will determine the fate of both Europe and global politics.

On the flight back to Moscow, Gorbachev said:

Kohl ... will do everything to help us rise up again and become a modern superpower. Well, he is very anxious about Ukraine (Kohl also met with the Ukrainian leadership in Kiev ). But for him it's no longer Hitler's Lebensraum.

By early September, about three weeks after the August coup, the financial situation in the USSR was so precarious that Gorbachev took then German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher aside while Genscher was visiting Moscow and, abandoning any sense of pride, said:

Gorbachev: We need money for current expenses, so that we can continue to live and maintain imports while the negotiations on the restructuring of our short-term debts are underway. I plan to discuss this with Kohl on the phone today.

Genscher: I don't know if you should address such a delicate matter on the telephone. I can send the chancellor an encrypted telegram right away, so that only he can read it.

Gorbachev: We need two billion dollars. Perhaps you advance half a billion from the payments we are to receive from you in October, and we'll take another half out of our reserves. We hope to obtain the second billion in the Middle East . I have sent (the deputy head of the KGB) Primakov there with this mission.

Genscher: I don't have the authority to respond to that. But I will convey everything to the chancellor right away.

Kohl sent Kohler to Moscow. Gorbachev, who was already predicting horrific scenarios in light of the hesitant support from the West, met with Kohler on Sept. 12.

Gorbachev: What is happening with the assistance for the USSR ? We are negotiating, weighing the options and doing the calculations. This is simply inexcusable. It's reminiscent of the Weimar Republic in Germany . While the democrats argued with each other, Hitler came to power without any particular effort. Foreign countries owe us about $86 billion, which is roughly the sum we need now. I hope you will draw the necessary conclusions from what I have said.

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