Film – Griff nach der Freiheit – Der Aufstand vom 17 Juni 1953

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17 Miraculous Israeli Military Victories

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The Battle of Mishmar HaEmek

On April 4th 1948, the odds were not in Israel’s favor. Outnumbered ten to three and with artillery shells raining down on them, a few hundred Jewish residents and soldiers managed to hold off about one thousand troops of the Arab Liberation Army. The Arabs had attacked the kibbutz, Mishmar Haemek, with the intent of taking it for the strategic location in between Jenin and Haifa. All hope seemed lost, yet surrender was not acceptable. Miraculously, the highly outnumbered Jewish forces managed to go on the offensive, successfully taking over the Arab villages surrounding the kibbutz. This attack led to the Arab Liberation Army’s retreat and was the last significant stand of the Arab Liberation Front in the Israeli War of Independence.

The Battle for Katamon

During the Independence War, Israeli forces reentered Katamon which was a key strategic position inJerusalem that Israel had failed to retake from the  Arab forces controlling it, just two days earlier. This time, the Israeli troops quickly captured the monastery that was being used as the Arab forces’ base of operations and that was the end of the fighting, or so they thought… After a few quiet hours, a fierce counter-attack began. Although they managed to hold off the Arabs, the Palmach began to run low on supplies. Additionally, they suffered countless injuries including Platoon Commander Raful Eitan who was shot in the head. They needed to retreat, but no soldier could be left behind for torture and mutilation. It was decided that those wounded who could not make it out would be put in a room rigged with explosives. Two soldiers would stay behind and detonate the explosives when the Iraqi forces reached the monastery. In the meantime, the enemy forces had also suffered many casualties and were out of Ammo. Their surrender was near, but the Israeli Forces in the monastery had no way of knowing this. The Israeli soldiers were on their way out the door, when suddenly the words “don’t retreat” echoed from a radio that was thought to be broken. The Arabs retreated. The Israelis stayed and reinforcements arrived to treat the wounded. Raful, the platoon commander, survived what should have been a fatal bullet wound to the head and was back in action, half an hour later! This, along with the battle being won, was nothing short of miraculous.

The Battle of Safed

In 1948, as their sovereignty over Palestine was coming to an end, the British were handing over the strategic high points of the city to the heavily armed Arab troops. Outnumbered and outgunned, the Israeli forces struggled battling over Safed for months. In late April, an artillery piece nicknamed “The Davidka” was delivered to the Jews. Surprisingly ineffective, the most notable feature of the Davidka was the tremendous noise it produced. A rumor quickly spread through the Arab ranks that the Jews had acquired an atom bomb, and the entire Arab community left that night. With their exit, morale deteriorated among the Arab troops, and the Haganah was able to secure the city.

Taking Back Mount Zion

During the Independence War, Ira Rappaport’s Israeli platoon fought the Jordanian military for Mount Zionand found themselves surrounded by hundreds with only twenty five bullets left. With a sad end seemingly near, the men agreed to go out with a bang and readied themselves to make good use of every last bullet. Then, just when the small platoon were about to face the inevitable, something incredible happened. The Jordanian soldiers dropped their weapons and began suddenly running away, screaming “ABRAHAM!”. Several years later, Ira would come across a familiar face with an unlikely answer, as to what had actually occurred on that miraculous day. This was a former Jordanian soldier who had fought against Ira on Mount Zion. According to him, his army all witnessed a vision of Abraham defending the Jews in the sky above the Israeli platoon and had no choice, but to drop their weapons.

Saving the Kibbutz

During the War of Independence, twenty-four homemade Israeli armored trucks and cars took a wrong turn on the way to aid a besieged Kibbutz, and crossed and accidentally entered Lebanon. They realized their mistake, when they ran into twenty brand new Syrian armored cars traveling with dozens of Syrian supplies trucks carrying ammunition and artillery. The Israelis immediately fired at the first Syrian truck and amazingly hit a tank loaded with gasoline, causing an explosion, which set fire to the following truck full of hand grenades. One by one, each truck in the Syrian convoy exploded. The loud booms could be heard for miles and the scared surviving Syrians abandoned their cargo. The Israelis had just enough people to drive the captured armored vehicles and Syrian weapons back. By the time they finally reached the Kibbutz, the Arab besiegers had already left. Apparently, after they heard rumors that the Israeli forces invaded Lebanon, they fled back toSyria. And that’s how one wrong turn saved an entire kibbutz. The skeptical may write it off as accidental, but when it comes to Israel there are no accidents.

The Attack on Degania

Shortly after the Independence War, nearly all of the Syrian forces stationed at Tel al-Qasr used two hundred armored Syrian vehicles including forty-five tanks to attack Israel’s oldest kibbutzim; Degania Alef (“A”) and Degania Bet (“B”). With no artillery, about seventy Israelis (most of them were kibbutz members which means they were not regular fighters) had virtually no chance of blocking a Syrian advance, but they wouldn’t go down without a fight.  When the tanks approached Degania Aleph, the minimal Israeli forces began to throw molotov cocktails and behold, an Israeli soldier made a direct hit on the first approaching Syrian tank. Suddenly, the entire Syrian column was turning around and fleeing, possibly believing that Israel had a large multitude of anti-tank weapons. When the Syrians hit Degania Bet, the Israelis were incredibly low on weapons, but quickly assembled two ancient French cannons and used them well against the Syrians’ 75 mm cannons, and 60 and 81 mm mortars. The use of Israel’s little artillery must have really taken the Syrians by great surprise. Why else would they retreat when they had Israel outgunned and outnumbered? Sometimes, the best explanation is the simplest one. Miracles really do happen.

The Preemptive Strike

In 1967, Egypt began moving large forces and heavy artillery to the Sinai desert. Next, Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli ships and anyone bringing any military equipment to Israel. This was an act of war. WhenEgypt, Syria and Jordan formed a pact and placed their militaries on high alert for war, it became clear that conflict was inevitable. Israel had horrible odds. However, the Rebbe confidently declared, “G-d is guarding them (the people of Israel)” and “The people of Israel will emerge from the current situation with remarkable success.” And sure enough their success was more than remarkable, it was miraculous. Two hundred Israeli Air Force planes were heading towards Egyptian air bases and should have been shot down. Though flying very low to avoid being detected by Arab radar sites, a Jordanian radar facility was able to detect the unusual amount of aircrafts approaching the sea. Jordan quickly sent out the message, “Inab” (a code for war) to Egypt. Miraculously, however, the Egyptian coding frequencies were changed the very day before and Jordan was not yet updated. Still, the miracle of surprise was not enough. Egypt’s anti-aircraft ammunition was sufficient enough to destroy all the Israeli planes attacking. Miraculously, the order was not given to launch any of those missiles on the Israeli crafts. Israel accomplished her mission and took down half the Egyptian air force: two hundred and four Egyptian planes, the majority of which were in the Sinai Desert readying to attack Israel. With this battle, the Six Day War began.

The Battle of Ammunition Hill

This battle for an extremely fortified Jordanian military post in East Jerusalem was arguably the most furious battle of the Six Day War ‘67. Instead of an air strike that would ensure an israeli victory, they opted for a ground attack, using paratroopers, to minimize the risk of civilian casualties. However, the Israeli forces had incorrect intelligence suggesting the hill was being defended by a single Jordanian platoon, not accounting for the numerous underground bunkers throughout Ammunition Hill that made this battle so incredibly difficult. They sent a third of the amount they should have. This is the kind of serious mistake that should cost the military a battle and possibly the war, but not Israel. Despite their misinformation, Israel miraculously won this battle in the incredible time of just four hours! Ammunition Hill is currently a national memorial site.


To win the Six Day War, Israel needed to retake the Egyptians’ heavily fortified Kusseima outpost. The Egyptians were in control of powerful forces capable of a great counterattack, while the Israelis were weary from a full day of battle. As the Israeli Defence Forces drew near, they heard massive explosions. When they arrived they saw that the Egyptians had destroyed their equipment and abandoned the base, for no apparent reason! As the day continued, it became clear that the Egyptians were hastily abandoning many of their outposts and their supplies along with them. One mysterious report of the battle was from Egyptian soldiers who, when approaching the Israeli border, saw a gigantic hand come out from the sky.  Immediately terrified, they turned around and ran the other way, unable to deny that they were witness to a supernatural event.

Taking Back Jerusalem

Starting June 5th, days of violent battling ensued throughout the old city of East Jerusalem. On June 7th, an eerie silence befell the city when Jordanian firing stopped.  It was too quiet and so Israeli troops were dispatched to check for a trap.  However, their report was of no trap, but of a miracle. The city was empty, save for all the equipment that the Jordanian army left behind.  The Israeli forces entered East Jerusalem, and took the Temple Mount, reaching the Western Wall without even firing a single shot. The people of Israel had returned to the land again and again, but they never retook all of Jerusalem… not until June 8th, 1967.  On this day, Israel not only had the land, but had her holiest city of Jerusalem, for the first time in almost 2000 years. “The Lord says: I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem,” -Zechariah 8:3

The Golan Heights Attack

At the end of the 6 Day War, to retake the Golan Heights, Israel had to win an uphill battle against a heavily entrenched and well fortified  Syrian army, consisting of seventy-five thousand troops. It was estimated that thirty thousand Israeli lives would be lost. Yet on June 9th, after just seven hours of heavy fighting, Israel had miraculously gained control of the main sectors. The next morning, the Israeli forces still expected another day of fierce fighting. The Syrians, however, had other plans. Before the Israelis even got to them, they pulled out of the Golan, fleeing frantically and leaving weapons behind. The mountains, which were once strategically used to murder Jews had fallen into the hands of the Jews. Having completed the final offensive, they signed a ceasefire.

Taking Tel Fakhr

Due to great casualties, an Israeli platoon was left with only twenty-five men. Nonetheless, what was left of the platoon continued to charge Tel Fakhr, in the Golan Heights. Little did they know, Tel Fakhr was maybe the most heavily fortified position Syria had. It had trenches, bunkers, and heavy wiring, machine guns, anti-tank guns, and mortars. Those Israeli soldiers did not stand a chance. That was until a miracle occurred. For no reason that makes any sense, a Syrian captain instructed his men not to fire on the Israelis until they reached the wiring. Before the Syrians knew it, they were too late. “The Jews are already inside, and we’ve taken heavy casualties,” they reported to their captain. Those who remained of the Israeli platoon were victorious, and continued up the Heights.

The result of the miracles of this war was the recapturing of the Western Wall and much of the land Israel has today; an Israeli victory in just six days.

Yom Kippur War

In 1973, while the entire country of Israel fasted for Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), one hundred thousand Egyptians invaded Israel from the south and over 1,400 Syrian tanks invaded Israel from the north. Although one can say that every war is a miracle, Israel surviving, let alone winning this war, is arguably more miraculous than most of her other war victories. With a significant portion of the Israeli military either in their homes or synagogues, Israel was nearly defenseless. Not only was Israel caught completely off guard and outnumbered, now the vast majority of her soldiers were at their weakest. Initially Syria was gaining territory and logic dictates that Israel should have lost this war, but by the end of the the Yom Kippur War, Israelsomehow managed to come out on top and her weakened troops managed to reach 20 kilometers into Syria!

The Valley of Tears

During the Yom Kippur War, a small impossibly outnumbered Israeli force held back a large portion of the Syrian army, for four days in the Golan Heights. The Syrians were armed with hundreds of tanks, but gave the Israeli forces a false sense of security revealing only a few of their tanks in battle formation for months before the massive attack they had planned. If this attack was successful they could have taken Israel. They had three infantry divisions and over a thousand tanks. At one point, it was said to be just three Israeli tanks against one hundred and fifty Syrian tanks. A sergeant, out of shells wanted to leave his position, but was ordered to stay put. With no ammo, he was up against impossible odds. It would take a miracle to save him; to save Israel, and that’s just what happened.  The Syrians retreated, just when the Israeli force was on the verge of collapse! It has been theorized that the Syrians didn’t know the tanks were out of shells and seeing only a few tanks changing positions, they may have believed that Israel had more tanks than they actually did. However, a Syrian soldier swears an army of Angels surrounded those few tanks Israel had and considering the rate of miracles surrounding the small country of Israel, that could truly be what happened in what is now known as, the Valley of Tears.

The Gas Attack That Never Was

During the Gulf War in 1991, Iraq threatened to use chemical weapons on Israel, a country which was not actively participating in the conflict. As Iraq bombarded Israel with rockets, the country prepared for the likely possibility of a chemical attack. However, one never occurred. Why? Strangely enough, wind patterns changed from the normal directions to blow East from Israel going directly towards Iraq. The U.S. military theorized that the odd weather changes likely served as the major cause for Iraq’s decision not to employ chemical warfare, since the winds would have caused any gas attacks on Israel to harm Iraq as well.

Thirty-Nine Rockets

In 1991, without any Israeli instigation, Iraq tried to provoke Israel into retaliating by firing 39 missiles intoIsrael. Despite this, Israel did not retaliate and miraculously managed to stay out of the Gulf War, much due toU.S. encouragement. Many Iraqi scud missiles were intercepted by Patriot missiles from the U.S, but not all of them.  Still, throughout all of the numerous strikes on the West Bank, there was not a single death. Two missiles disappeared. To this day, nobody has taken credit for preventing their strikes and they have never been found. Another missile struck a garbage dump and for some reason did not explode.  One missile landed just several feet away from a gas station, which could have caused devastation, but incredibly it also did not explode.  Multiple missiles missed Iraq’s intended targets, instead landing in the Mediterranean Sea. One of which had gotten thrown off course by some inexplicable strong winds. There were other missiles that did hit and did actually explode. One of these exploded between two buildings and completely destroyed both of them, but somehow not a single soul was lost in this strike.

Not everyone realized the magnitude of this miracle until tragedy struck when over 40 were killed in a single missile strike on a U.S. marine bunker in Saudi Arabia. Even today, there are sadly parts of Israel that are being hit by terrorist rockets and while miracles do not occur for everyone, the rate of miracles for this country is undoubtedly exceptionally high.

Massacre Averted

During summer 2015, it was discovered that Hamas had been using supplies given by Israel for civil projects, to build tunnels that would enable them to transport weapons and invade Israel. In the weeks before July 17th,Hamas terrorists scouted out the area which one of their tunnels would potentially end, near the farming village of Sufa. It was perfect. At the time, this was a populated area of farmers concealed by tall wheat. Israelwouldn’t stand a chance.  However, the terrorists didn’t count on the apparent power of faith. According to Jewish customs, there is a biblical mandate that requires farmers to harvest before taking a sabbatical year, in which it is forbidden to harvest in Israel. On July 17th, terrorists exited their completed tunnel only to find an empty open land. This attempted attack happen to occur just after the sabbatical year had begun and so, the religious farmers were no longer harvesting. Without the tall wheat for cover, the terrorists were quickly spotted and intercepted by the Israeli Defense Forces. A potential massacre was avoided because of this miracle. And looking at the history of Israel, it seems there are always greater miracles to come.

Source: “Top 17 miraculous Israeli military victories,” Israel Video Network, (May 20, 2015)

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SECRET – FBI Finds “Minimal Correlation” Between Suicide Vests Used in Middle East and Europe

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Images of suicide vests and belts from an FBI’s intelligence note released after the November 2013 .

An analysis of recent suicide bombings throughout the Middle East, Europe and Africa by the FBI Terrorism Explosive Device Analytical Center (TEDAC) that was released after the terrorist attacks in Paris, France last month states that “suicide vest and belt improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the Middle Eastern, African, and European regions likely . . . have minimal correlation” and do not indicate tactical migration.

Following the attacks in Paris, which featured seven separate suicide bombings, media coverage has focused on the prominent use of suicide vests as indicative a tactical shift for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).  Though there are past examples of suicide attacks inside Europe, such as the 2005 London bombings, the use of suicide vests in the Paris attacks has been said to represent an entirely new type of threat, a tactic once relegated to the battlefields of Iraq and Syria now appearing in European cities.  However, an External Intelligence Note issued by TEDAC on November 17 titled “Suicide Vest and Belt Improvised Explosive Device Tactics in the Middle Eastern, African, and European Regions Show Minimal Signs of Tactic Migration” and obtained by Public Intelligence presents a different view, attributing the tactical similarities to factors such as “available materials, training, and local or national counter-IED policies.”

While TEDAC would normally assume that “similarities between suicide vests and belts from different regions likely indicate common training or common IED facilitators,” the intelligence note states that these similarities “may be a product of independent open source research, thus resulting in a false link between devices and subjects.”  Moreover, the similarities may “indicate tactic or construction influences” based on the nature of the devices and access to required materials.  Similarities can include everything from “overall IED construction, wiring techniques, common explosives, initiators, switches, electronic diagrams, enhancements, and employment.”

When broadly examined, the types of “suicide vests and belt IEDs observed in each region” covered in the intelligence note “differ broadly in many characteristics, resulting in an inconclusive determination that the suicide vest and belt IEDs prevalent in any one area translate to tactic migration.”

A study by the Institute of National Security Studies found that there were approximately 370 suicide bombings in the Middle East region in 2014 claiming the lives of over 2,700 victims.  Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Libya all saw a significant increase in the use of the tactic over the previous year.  Prior to the attacks in Paris, suicide bombings in Europe have been primarily limited to Turkey and Russia.

  Middle East Europe Africa
Common explosives used in suicide vests/belts triacetone triperoxide (TATP), trinitrotoluene (TNT), Semtex, C4, Research Development Formula X (RDX), and pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) TNT and C4 RDX, Ammonium Nitrate, and Urea Nitrate

The intelligence note takes several quotes from an interview conducted by Der Spiegel with a captured ISIL leader named Abu Abdullah discussing the group’s target selection process and methods for constructing suicide vests.  He describes how he used “explosive fill removed from artillery shells for car bombs” and “drilled open the shells of anti-aircraft guns to construct suicide belts because he believed the effect of the powder was more intense.”  According to the interview, he would receive a potential bombers’ measurements in “advance from the leadership in order to be able to make a well-fitting belt” and “always had belts in different sizes prepared.”

Explosive vests in Yemen have also included similar design elements.  A suicide bomber tied to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was killed in July 2015 by Houthi forces prior to detonating his vest, allowing for forensic analysis.  The device featured “dual grenade-pin detonators, a main charge wrapped with sheets of ball bearings, and detonation cord that was placed inside a pouch around the bomber’s waist.”

Similar to the Middle East, bombings in Turkey have often used either C4 or trinitrotoluene (TNT) in suicide vests.  Vests used in the Middle East often included other high-powered explosives such as Semtex or Research Development Formula X (RDX) or triacetone triperoxide (TATP), the explosive that was reportedly used in the vests detonated during the Paris attacks.



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Revealed – The Gorbachev File by the NSA – TOP SECRET

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(L to R) Vice President George H. W. Bush, President Ronald Reagan and President Mikhail Gorbachev during the Governor’s Island summit, December 1988. (Credit: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library)

Marking the 85thbirthday of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the National Security Archive at George Washington University ( today posted a series of previously classified British and American documents containing Western assessments of Gorbachev starting before he took office in March 1985, and continuing through the end of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The documents show that conservative British politicians were ahead of the curve predicting great things for rising Soviet star Gorbachev in 1984 and 1985, but the CIA soon caught on, describing the new Soviet leader only three months into his tenure as “the new broom,” while Ronald Reagan greeted Gorbachev’s ascension with an immediate invitation for a summit. The documents posted today include positive early assessments by Margaret Thatcher and MP John Browne, CIA intelligence reports that bookend Gorbachev’s tenure from 1985 to 1991, the first letters exchanged by Reagan and Gorbachev, the American versions of key conversations with Gorbachev at the Geneva, Reykjavik and Malta summits, German chancellor Helmut Kohl’s credit to Gorbachev in 1989 for the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, and the U.S. transcript of the G-7 summit in 1990 that turned down Gorbachev’s request for financial aid.

The Archive gathered the Gorbachev documentation for two books, the Link-Kuehl-Award-winning “Masterpieces of History”: The Peaceful End of the Cold War in Europe 1989 (Central European University Press, 2010), and the forthcoming Last Superpower Summits: Gorbachev, Reagan and Bush (CEU Press, 2016). The sources include the Margaret Thatcher Foundation, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library, and Freedom of Information and Mandatory Declassification Review requests to the CIA and the State Department.

Leading today’s Gorbachev briefing book is British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s “discovery” of Gorbachev in December 1984 during his trip to Britain as head of a Soviet parliamentary delegation. In contrast to his elderly and infirm predecessors who slowly read dry notes prepared for them, Gorbachev launched into animated free discussion and left an indelible impression on Lady Thatcher. The Prime Minister, charmed by the Soviet leader, quickly shared her impressions with her closest ally and friend, Ronald Reagan. She commented famously, “I like Mr. Gorbachev. We can do business together.”

Alexander Yakovlev, Mikhail Gorbachev, Eduard Shevardnadze walking in the Kremlin, 1989 (personal archive of Anatoly Chernyaev)

Soon after Gorbachev became the Soviet General Secretary, a Conservative member of the British parliament, John Browne, who observed Gorbachev during his visit to Britain and then followed information on Gorbachev’s every early step, compared him to “Kennedy in the Kremlin” in terms of his charisma. By June 1985, the CIA told senior U.S. officials in a classified assessment that Gorbachev was “the new broom” that was attempting to clean up the years of debris that accumulated in the Soviet Union during the era of stagnation.

But Reagan had to see for himself. For four years before Gorbachev, as the American president complained in his diary, he had been trying to meet with a Soviet leader face to face, but “they keep dying on me.” In his first letter to Gorbachev, which Vice President George H.W. Bush carried to Moscow for the funeral of Gorbachev’s predecessor, Reagan invited Gorbachev to meet. Gorbachev and Reagan became pen-pals who wrote long letters – sometimes personally dictated, even handwritten – explaining their positions on arms control, strategic defenses, and the need for nuclear abolition.

Their first meeting took place in Geneva in November 1985, where in an informal atmosphere of “fireside chats” they began realizing that the other was not a warmonger but a human being with a very similar dream—to rid the world of nuclear weapons. That dream came very close to a breakthrough during Gorbachev and Reagan’s summit in Reykjavik; but Reagan’s stubborn insistence on SDI and Gorbachev’s stubborn unwillingness to take Reagan at his word on technology sharing prevented them from reaching their common goal.

Through a series of unprecedented superpower summits, Gorbachev made Reagan and Bush understand that the Soviet leader was serious about transforming his country not to threaten others, but to help its own citizens live fuller and happier lives, and to be fully integrated into the “family of nations.” Gorbachev also learned from his foreign counterparts, establishing a kind of peer group with France’s Mitterrand, Germany’s Kohl, Britain’s Thatcher, and Spain’s Gonzalez, which developed his reformist positions further and further. By the time George H.W. Bush as president finally met Gorbachev in Malta, the Soviet Union was having free elections, freedom of speech was blossoming, velvet revolutions had brought reformers to power in Eastern Europe, and the Berlin Wall had fallen to cheers of citizens but severe anxieties in other world capitals.

German Chancellor Helmut Kohl wrote in his letter to Bush at the end of November 1989: “Regarding the reform process in Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, the CSSR [Czechoslovakia], and not least the GDR [East Germany], we have General Secretary Gorbachev’s policies to thank. His perestroika has let loose, made easier, or accelerated these reforms. He pushed governments unwilling to make reforms toward openness and toward acceptance of the people’s wishes; and he accepted developments that in some instances far surpassed the Soviet Union’s own standards.”

In 1989, the dream of what Gorbachev called “the common European home” was in the air and Gorbachev was the most popular politician in the world. When he was faced with discontent and opposition in his country, he refused to use force, like his Chinese neighbors did at Tiananmen Square. And yet, the West consistently applied harsher standards to Gorbachev’s Soviet Union than to China, resulting in feet dragging on financial aid, credits, and trade. As Francois Mitterrand pointed out during the G-7 summit in Houston in 1990: “the argument put forth for helping China is just the reverse when we are dealing with the USSR. We are too timid […] regarding aid to the USSR. […].”

What Gorbachev started in March 1985 made his country and the world better. In cooperation with Reagan and Bush, he ended the Cold War, pulled Soviet troops out of Afghanistan, helped resolve local conflicts around the globe, and gave Russia the hope and the opportunity to develop as a normal democratic country. As with many great reformers, he did not achieve everything he was striving for – he certainly never intended for the Soviet Union to collapse – but his glasnost, his non-violence, and his “new thinking” for an interdependent world created a legacy that few statesmen or women can match. Happy birthday, Mikhail Sergeyevich!


Memorandum of Conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher. December 16, 1984, Chequers.
This face-to-face encounter between British Prime Minister and the leader of a Soviet parliamentary delegation produced a conversation that both Thatcher and Gorbachev would refer to many times in the future. Gorbachev engaged Thatcher on all the issues that she raised, did not duck hard questions, but did not appear combative. He spoke about the low point then evident in East-West relations and the need to stop the arms race before it was too late. He especially expressed himself strongly against the Strategic Defense Initiative promoted by the Reagan administration. Soon after this conversation Thatcher flew to Washington to share her enthusiastic assessment with Gorbachev with Reagan and encourage him to engage the Soviet leader in trying to lower the East-West tensions. She told her friend and ally what she had told the BBC, “I like Mr. Gorbachev. We can do business together” – and described him to Reagan as an “unusual Russian…. [m]uch less constrained, more charming,” and not defensive in the usual Soviet way about human rights.
Letter from Reagan to Gorbachev. March 11, 1985
Vice President George H.W. Bush hand delivered this first letter from President Reagan to the new leader of the Soviet Union, after the state funeral for Konstantin Chernenko in March 1985 (“you die, I fly” as Bush memorably remarked about his job as the ceremonial U.S. mourner for world leaders). The letter contains two especially noteworthy passages, one inviting Mikhail Gorbachev to come to Washington for a summit, and the second expressing Reagan’s hope that arms control negotiations “provide us with a genuine chance to make progress toward our common ultimate goal of eliminating nuclear weapons.” Reagan is reaching for a pen-pal, just as he did as early as 1981, when he hand-wrote a heartfelt letter during his recovery from an assassination attempt, to then-General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev suggesting face-to-face meetings and referring to the existential danger of nuclear weapons – only to get a formalistic reply. Subsequent letters between Reagan and the whole series of Soviet leaders (“they keep dying on me,” Reagan complained) contain extensive language on many of the themes – such as the ultimate threat of nuclear annihilation – that would come up over and over again when Reagan finally found a partner on the Soviet side in Gorbachev. Even Chernenko had received a hand-written add-on by Reagan appreciating Soviet losses in World War II and crediting Moscow with a consequent aversion to war.
Gorbachev Letter to Reagan, March 24, 1985
This lengthy first letter from the new Soviet General Secretary to the U.S. President displays Gorbachev’s characteristic verbal style with an emphasis on persuasion. The Soviet leader eagerly takes on the new mode of communication proposed by Reagan in his March 11 letter, and plunges into a voluminous and wide-ranging correspondence between the two leaders – often quite formal and stiff, occasionally very personal and expressive, and always designed for effect, such as when Reagan would laboriously copy out by hand his official texts. Here Gorbachev emphasizes the need to improve relations between the two countries on the basis of peaceful competition and respect for each other’s economic and social choices. He notes the responsibility of the two superpowers for world peace, and their common interest “not to let things come to the outbreak of nuclear war, which would inevitably have catastrophic consequences for both sides.” Underscoring the importance of building trust, the Soviet leader accepts Reagan’s invitation in the March 11 letter to visit at the highest level and proposes that such a visit should “not necessarily be concluded by signing some major documents.” Rather, “it should be a meeting to search for mutual understanding.”
Reagan Letter to Gorbachev. April 30, 1985
Perhaps as a reflection of the internal debates in Washington (and even in Reagan’s own head), it would take more than a month for the administration to produce a detailed response to Gorbachev’s March 24 letter. The first two pages rehash the issues around the tragic killing of American Major Arthur Nicholson by a Soviet guard, before moving to the sore subject of Afghanistan. Reagan vows, “I am prepared to work with you to move the region toward peace, if you desire”; at the same time, U.S. and Saudi aid to the mujahedin fighting the Soviets was rapidly expanding. Reagan objects to Gorbachev’s unilateral April 7 announcement of a moratorium on deployment of intermediate-range missiles in Europe, since the Soviet deployment was largely complete while NATO’s was still underway. The heart of the letter addresses Gorbachev’s objections to SDI, and Reagan mentions that he was struck by Gorbachev’s characterization of SDI as having “an offensive purpose for an attack on the Soviet Union. I can assure you that you are profoundly mistaken on this point.” Interestingly, the Reagan letter tries to reassure Gorbachev by citing the necessity of “some years of further research” and “further years” before deployment (Reagan could not have suspected decades rather than years). This back-and-forth on SDI would be a constant in the two leaders’ correspondence and conversations at the summits to come, but the consistency of Reagan’s position on this (in contrast to that of Pentagon advocates of “space dominance”), not only to Gorbachev but to Thatcher and to his own staff, suggests some room for Gorbachev to take up the President on his assurances – which never happened.
“Mr. Gorbachev-a Kennedy in the Kremlin?” By John Browne (Member of Parliament from Winchester, England). Impressions of the Man, His Style and his Likely Impact Upon East West Relations. May 20, 1985.
British MP John Browne, member of the Conservative party, was part of the Receiving Committee for Gorbachev’s visit to London in December 1984 and spend considerable time with him during his trips (including to the Lenin museum). This long essay, sent to President Reagan, and summarized for him by his National Security Adviser, describes Gorbachev as an unusual Soviet politician-“intelligent, alert and inquisitive.” Browne notes “that Gorbachev’s charisma was so striking that, if permitted by the Communist Party system, Mr. and Mrs. Gorbachev could well become the Soviet equivalent of the Jack and Jacqueline Kennedy team.” On the basis of his observations in 1984 and after Gorbachev was elected General Secretary, Browne concludes that politicians of Western democracies are likely to face an increasingly sophisticated political challenge from Mr. Gorbachev both at home and abroad.
Letter from Gorbachev to Reagan. June 10, 1985
In this long and wide-ranging response to Reagan’s letter of April 30, the Soviet leader makes a real push for improvement of relations on numerous issues. The date June 10 is significant because on this day in Washington Reagan finally took the action (deactivating a Poseidon submarine) necessary to keep the U.S. in compliance with the unratified (but observed by both sides) SALT II treaty. Here Gorbachev raises the issue of equality and reciprocity in U.S.-Soviet relations, noting that it is the Soviet Union that is “surrounded by American military bases stuffed also by nuclear weapons, rather than the U.S. – by Soviet bases.” He suggests that all previous important treaties between the United States and the Soviet Union were possible on the assumption of parity, and that Reagan’s recent focus on SDI threatens to destabilize the strategic balance – yet again demonstrating Gorbachev’s deep apprehension about Reagan’s position on strategic defenses. The Soviet leader believes that the development of ABM systems would lead to a radical destabilization of the situation and the militarization of space. At the heart of the Soviet visceral rejection of SDI is the image of “attack space weapons capable of performing purely offensive missions.” Gorbachev proposes energizing negotiations on conventional weapons in Europe, chemical weapons, the nuclear test ban, and regional issues, especially Afghanistan. He calls for a moratorium on nuclear tests “as soon as possible” – the Soviets would end up doing this unilaterally, never understanding that the issue is a non-starter in Reagan’s eyes. Here, the Soviet leader also welcomes horizontal exchanges between government ministers and even members of legislatures. However, Gorbachev’s position on human rights remains quite rigid-“we do not intend and will not conduct any negotiations relating to human rights in the Soviet Union.” That would change.
Dinner Hosted by the Gorbachevs in Geneva. November 19, 1985.
In their first face-to-face meeting at Geneva, which both of them anticipated eagerly, Reagan and Gorbachev both spoke about the mistrust and suspicions of the past and of the need to begin a new stage in U.S.-Soviet relations. Gorbachev described his view of the international situation to Reagan, stressing the need to end the arms race. Reagan expressed his concern with Soviet activity in the third world–helping the socialist revolutions in the developing countries. They both spoke about their aversion to nuclear weapons. During this first dinner of the Geneva summit, Gorbachev used a quote from the Bible that there was a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones which have been cast in the past to indicate that now the President and he should move to resolve their practical disagreements in the last day of meetings remaining. In response, Reagan remarked that “if the people of the world were to find out that there was some alien life form that was going to attack the Earth approaching on Halley’s Comet, then that knowledge would unite all peoples of the world.” The aliens had landed, in Reagan’s view, in the form of nuclear weapons; and Gorbachev would remember this phrase, quoting it directly in his famous “new thinking” speech at the 27th Party Congress in February 1986.
Last Session of the Reykjavik Summit. October 12, 1986.
The last session at Reykjavik is the one that inspires Gorbachev’s comment in his memoirs about “Shakespearean passions.” The transcript shows lots of confusion between just proposals on reducing ballistic missiles versus those reducing all nuclear weapons, but finally Reagan says, as he always wanted, nuclear abolition. “We can do that. Let’s eliminate them,” says Gorbachev, and Secretary of State George Shultz reinforces, “Let’s do it.” But then they circle back around to SDI and the ABM Treaty issue, and Gorbachev insists on the word “laboratory” as in testing confined there, and Reagan, already hostile to the ABM Treaty, keeps seeing that as giving up SDI. Gorbachev says he cannot go back to Moscow to say he let testing go on outside the lab, which could lead to a functioning system in the future. The transcript shows Reagan asking Gorbachev for agreement as a personal favor, and Gorbachev saying well if that was about agriculture, maybe, but this is fundamental national security. Finally at around 6:30 p.m. Reagan closes his briefing book and stands up. The American and the Russian transcripts differ on the last words, the Russian version has more detail [see the forthcoming book, Last Superpower Summits], but the sense is the same. Their faces reflect the disappointment, Gorbachev had helped Reagan to say nyet, but Gorbachev probably lost more from the failure.
Letter to Reagan from Thatcher About Her Meetings with Gorbachev in Moscow. April 1, 1987
Again, Margaret Thatcher informs her ally Reagan about her conversations with Gorbachev. The cover note from National Security Advisor Carlucci (prepared by NSC staffer Fritz Ermarth) states that “she has been greatly impressed by Gorbachev personally.” Thatcher describes Gorbachev as “fully in charge,” “determined to press ahead with his internal reform,” and “talk[ing] about his aims with almost messianic fervor.” She believes in the seriousness of his reformist thinking and wants to support him. However, they differ on one most crucial issue, which actually unites Gorbachev and Reagan-nuclear abolition. Thatcher writes, “[h]is aim is patently the denuclearization of Europe. I left him with no doubt that I would never accept that.”
Letter to Bush from Chancellor Helmut Kohl. November 28, 1989.
This remarkable letter arrives at the White House at the very moment when Kohl is presenting his “10 points” speech to the Bundestag about future German unification, much to the surprise of the White House, the Kremlin, and even Kohl’s own coalition partners in Germany (such as his foreign minister). Here, just weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the German leader encourages Bush to engage with Gorbachev across the board and to contribute to peaceful change in Europe. Kohl points that Gorbachev “wants to continue his policies resolutely, consistently and dynamically, but is meeting internal resistance and is dependent on external support.” He hopes Bush’s upcoming meeting with Gorbachev in Malta will “give strong stimulus to the arms control negotiations.” Kohl also reminds Bush that “regarding the reform process in Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, the CSSR [Czechoslovakia], and not least the GDR [East Germany], we have General Secretary Gorbachev’s policies to thank. His perestroika has let loose, made easier, or accelerated these reforms. He pushed governments unwilling to make reforms toward openness and toward acceptance of the people’s wishes; and he accepted developments that in some instances far surpassed the Soviet Union’s own standards.”
Malta First Expanded Bilateral with George Bush. December 2, 1989.
Being rocked by the waves on the Soviet ship Maxim Gorky, President Bush greets his Russian counterpart for the first time as President. A lot has changed in the world since they last saw each other on Governor’s Island in December 1988-elections had been held in the Soviet Union and in Poland, where a non-communist government came to power, and the Iron Curtain fell together with the Berlin Wall. After Bush’s initial presentation from notes, Gorbachev remarks almost bemusedly that now he sees the American administration has made up its mind (finally) what to do, and that includes “specific steps” or at least “plans for such steps” to support perestroika, not to doubt it. Gorbachev compliments Bush for not sharing the old Cold War thinking that “The only thing the U.S. needs to do is to keep its baskets ready to gather the fruit” from the changes in Eastern Europe and the USSR. Bush responds, “I have been called cautious or timid. I am cautious, but not timid. But I have conducted myself in ways not to complicate your life. That’s why I have not jumped up and down on the Berlin Wall.” Gorbachev says, “Yes, we have seen that, and appreciate that.” The Soviet leader goes on to welcome Bush’s economic and trade points as a “signal of a new U.S. policy” that U.S. business was waiting for. Gorbachev responds positively to each of Bush’s overtures on arms control, chemical weapons, conventional forces, next summits and so forth, but pushes back on Bush’s Cuba and Central America obsessions.
First Main Plenary of the G-7 Summit in Houston. July 10, 1990.
The bulk of discussion at this first session of the summit of the industrialized nations is devoted to the issue of how the club of the rich countries should react to the events unfolding in the Soviet Union and how much aid and investment could be directed to the support of perestroika. The summit is taking place at the time when Gorbachev is engaged in an increasingly desperate search for scenarios for radical economic reform, and fast political democratization, but he needs external financial support and integration into global financial institutions in order to succeed – or even to survive, as the events of August 1991 would show. Just before this 1990 G-7, Gorbachev wrote in a letter to George Bush that he needs “long-term credit assistance, attraction of foreign capital, transfer of managerial experience and personnel training” to create a competitive economy. Yet, the U.S. president throws only a bone or two, like “step up the pace of our negotiations with the Soviets on the Tsarist and Kerensky debts [!] to the U.S. government” (instead of forgiving or at least restructuring the debt), and “expand our existing technical cooperation.” Bush concludes his speech by stating flatly “It is impossible for the U.S. to loan money to the USSR at this time. I know, however, that others won’t agree.” The leaders who do not agree are Helmut Kohl (in the middle of providing billions of deutschmarks to the USSR to lubricate German unification) and Francois Mitterrand. The latter decries the double standards being applied to the Soviet Union and China, even after the Tiananmen massacre. Mitterrand criticizes the proposed political declaration of the G-7 as “timid” and “hesitant,” imposing “harsh political conditions as a preliminary to extending aid.” He believes the EC countries are in favor of contributing aid to the USSR but that other members, like the U.S. and Japan, have effectively vetoed such assistance.
CIA Memorandum, The Gorbachev Succession. April 1991.
On April 10, 1991, the National Security Council staff asked the CIA for an analysis of the Gorbachev succession, who the main actors would be, and the likely scenarios. The assessment opens quite drastically: “The Gorbachev era is effectively over.” The scenarios offered have an eerie resemblance to the actual coup that would come in August 1991. This might be the most prescient of all the CIA analyses of the perestroika years. The report finds that Gorbachev is likely to be replaced either by the reformers or the hard-liners, with the latter being more likely. The authors point out that “there is no love between Gorbachev and his current allies and they could well move to try to dump him.” They then list possible conspirators for such a move– Vice President Yanaev, KGB Chief Kryuchkov, and Defense Minister Yazov, among others, all of whom whom participate in the August coup. The report predicts that the “traditionalists” are likely to find a “legal veneer” for removing Gorbachev: “most likely they would present Gorbachev with an ultimatum to comply or face arrest or death.” If he agreed, Yanaev would step in as president, the conspirators would declare a state of emergency and install “some kind of a National Salvation Committee.” However, the memo concludes that “time is working against the traditionalists.” This turned out to be both prescient and correct – the August coup followed the process outlined in this document and the plot foundered because the security forces themselves were fractured and the democratic movements were gaining strength. But indeed, the coup, the resurgence of Boris Yeltsin as leader of the Russian republic, and the secession of Russia from the Soviet Union during the fall of 1991 did mark the end of the Gorbachev era.


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ENTTARNT – Anetta Kahane, Stasi-Spitzel mit Decknamen „IM Victoria“ „Amadeu Antonio Stiftung“

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Spätestens seit Beginn der Flüchtlingskrise sind Hasskommentare in den Sozialen Medien selbst zum medialen Thema geworden. Wie soll mit Aufrufen zu Gewalt und Beleidigungen umgegangen werden, ohne dabei in den Zensurwahn zu verfallen? Die EU hat mit den großen Internet-Konzernen nun ein Regelpaket beschlossen. Der Bundesregierung gehen die Maßnahmen jedoch nicht weit genug.

Besonders bei kontroversen Themen fluten teils Unmengen von hasserfüllten Kommentaren die Sozialen Medien wie Facebook und Twitter. Nicht selten kommt es dabei auch zu Gewaltaufrufen und Verletzungen des Persönlichkeitsrechts. Klarer Fall: Das sollte nicht stehen bleiben.

Auf der anderen Seite sind besonders linksdogmatischen Kreise dafür bekannt, in jeder eigentlich noch so harmlosen Aussage Sexismus, Rassismus, Antisemitismus oder derlei sonstiges zu wittern. Auch hier erfordert dann in der Regel ohne große Umschweife die Forderung nach Zensur.

Dass die Bundesregierung nicht wirklich bereit ist zwischen beiden Problemen zu trennen, bewies zuletzt Justizminister Heiko Maas mit der Einrichtung seiner „Taskforce gegen Hassreden im Internet.“ Ausgerechnet Anetta Kahane, ehemals Stasi-Spitzel mit dem Decknamen „IM Victoria“, soll in dieser Arbeitsgruppe mit ihrer „Amadeu Antonio Stiftung“ für die Expertise sorgen. Die Stiftung gehört zum „antideutschen“ Milieu, welches jüngst durch den Tortenangriff auf Sahra Wagenknecht größere Bekanntheit erlangte. Bei diesem politischen Spektrum handelt es sich in der Regel um extremistische Wirrköpfe, für die schon das reine Thematisieren von Problemen im Zuge der Flüchtlingsbewegungen als zu bekämpfender Rassismus gilt. Die Weigerung mit Gendergaps, Binnen-I oder Sternchen das Schriftbild zu verhunzen, gilt in diesen Kreisen als sexistisch.

Dass mit solchen Akteuren Hass und Hetze im Netz nicht sinnvoll eingedämmt werden können, liegt auf der Hand. Eher ist davon auszugehen, dass unter der Ägide solcher Meinungskommissare jedwede politische Debatte im Internet zu Tode zensiert wird.

So wundert es auch nicht, dass aus Berlin nun Kritik gegen eine Vereinbarung laut wird, welche die EU nun mit Vertretern der großen Internetkonzerne getroffen hat. Binnen 24 Stunden sollen Google, Facebook, Twitter und Co. künftig Hasskommentare auf ihren Plattformen untersuchen und dann gegebenenfalls auch löschen, heißt es in der Einigung. Wieviel Zeit bis zu dieser Löschung verstreichen darf, wurde allerdings nicht festgelegt. Konkret heißt es, die Unternehmen verpflichten sich:

“klare und wirksame Verfahren für die Prüfung von Meldungen über illegale Hassreden in ihren Diensten einführen, um solche Inhalte zu entfernen oder den Zugang dazu zu sperren.”

Darüber hinaus verpflichteten sich die Internet-Riesen aus Silicon Valley gegenüber Brüssel darauf, entsprechende Arbeitsgruppen einzurichten und die Überprüfungsteams in aktuellen Entwicklungen zu schulen.

Heiko Maas, der deutsche Justizminister.

Auch die „Taskforce“ von Heiko Maas hatte zuvor Facebook-Vertreter vorgeladen und übte Druck auf diese aus, die künftige Löschpolitik der Plattform den Berliner Erwartungen gemäß anzupassen. Durch die Selbstverpflichtung der Konzerne gegenüber Brüssel muss die dogmatisch durchsetzte Arbeitsgruppe des Justizministers allerdings befürchten, dass nun ein weicherer Kompromiss gefunden wurde.

Für den Nutzer ist dies zunächst erfreulich. Möglicherweise ist es so doch noch möglich, dass die Sozialen Netzwerke nicht zunehmend zu Hass-Maschinen verkommen, anderseits aber auch nicht einem extremistischen Zensurregime zum Opfer fallen. Die sonst oft gescholtenen Internetgiganten sind es, die am ehesten ein Interesse daran haben, dass ihre Plattformen weiter zum kommunikativen Austausch genutzt werden.

Wenn man beim Schutz der Meinungsfreiheit allerdings schon auf monopolistische Großkonzerne aus Übersee setzen muss, die selbst für ihre Manipulationen bekannt sind, zeigt dies auch, dass mit der Netzpolitik in diesem Land so einiges ganz und gar nicht stimmt.

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