SPIEGEL: The Reagan administration, where you served as secretary of the treasury, was more of a stranger to this kind of restraint. "Tear down this Wall, Mr. Gorbachev," Ronald Reagan called out at the Brandenburg Gate.
Baker: That was correct at the time. Reagan's determination, part of which was the decision to start SDI, the ballistic missile defense system, formed the basis for the events that led to reunification. But as events happened in rapid succession and history sped up dramatically, any triumphalism would have been misplaced. You could not do business with Gorbachev and simultaneously stab him in the eyes.
SPIEGEL: And that clearly was not the nature of the 41st President. "I am not an emotional kind of guy," he once famously said about himself.
Baker: George Bush was a wise president. History will duly respect him for his restraint.
SPIEGEL: Were you ever in the GDR?
Baker: I was the first and the last US Secretary of State who visited that state. Shortly after the Wall opened, at Christmas time 1989, I drove across the Glienicker Bridge to the Potsdam Inter-Hotel to meet Hans Modrow, the hope of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany. That was a surreal experience for me.
Baker: It was as if someone had switched the world from color to black and white. Everything was gray, the clothes, the houses, the people, the atmosphere. On the streets these small Trabbies could be seen, but not even many of them.
SPIEGEL: What was your impression of Modrow?
Baker: The only thing I can recall is that we spoke about free elections, which then were not actually guaranteed, when suddenly a man entered the room. He looked like Egon Krenz, the former head of the Party. Now we are going to have problems, I thought. Only when he asked me if I wanted a mineral water I realized that he was not Krenz, but the waiter.
SPIEGEL: Hans Modrow lost the first free elections and from then on you had to deal with the Christian Democrat Lothar DeMaiziere.
Baker: I remember he was the GDR representative facing us at the Two-Plus-Four talks. I am proud of that format of negotiations -- where both German states and the four World War II victory powers met to discuss a path to German unity. We accomplished it despite all sorts if resistance and it brought the desired goal: Unification of the two German states, NATO membership for Germany and the withdrawal of the Red Army from the former GDR.
SPIEGEL: Not everybody supported your diplomatic approach. Prior to this interview, you granted SPIEGEL access to your personal papers. It emerged that just at the moment of a great diplomatic triumph there was still some debate inside the US government about which direction to take. What exactly had happened?
Baker: It happened in Ottawa in February 1990 at the joint conference of the NATO and Warsaw Pact states. I had just won agreement from the British, the French, the Russians and the Germans for the Two-Plus-Four process. But when I called President Bush and gave him the good news in the presence of his national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft, there was hesitation. "I am not sure if that is a good idea," Scowcroft said. "We are moving too fast." I replied that everybody had agreed. Not everybody, Scowcroft insisted: "Not Kohl." Now the President said: "We really need to make sure Kohl agrees with this."
SPIEGEL: Why these doubts about the Two-Plus-Four format?