Berlin Wall fell because Communism fell in Poland: Former US Ambassador

During his Wednesday speech at the US Capitol on the 30th anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall that took place on November 9, 1989, former US Ambassador to Poland Daniel Fried said that "Berlin Wall fell because Communism fell in Poland first."

Following the ceremony, Mr Fried told the US think-tank Atlantic Council that “the fall of the Berlin Wall followed the establishment of non-communist government in Poland, the Poles were first. Poles were the first out of the box in 1989 and the Polish success triggered the Hungarian communists to quickly negotiate a surrender of power. That, in turn, helped trigger the Velvet Revolution and all of this brought an end of the Berlin Wall.”

“The failure of communism was the underlying factor in all of this,” said the former US Ambassador, adding that when Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev came into power in 1985 he tried to reform the Soviet Union – something that Mr Fried called "an impossible task."

"To attempt it, he needed a better relationship with the West, so the option of another Martial Law in Poland or another Czechoslovak invasion… were possible… but it would"ve been costly. So Gorbachev is trying to reform [the USSR] and the Poles, the Solidarity people, Lech Wałęsa, they realised that the bars on that jail were rusty. One big shove and we"re out," said Mr Fried.

The diplomat went on to stress that "no one in Washington believed it was possible... I know because at the time I was the Polish desk officer, I was reading all the reports from the US Embassy in Warsaw, which nailed it. They absolutely nailed it and I believed it partly because my own sense told me that the Polish communists lost control of the politics in the country."

"[The communists] were about to ask the Poles for what amounted to a referendum on communism, with a Polish Pope in Rome. Like, are you serious?... But it didn’t matter what Washington felt. The Poles grabbed history and ran with it," said Mr Fried, adding that Condoleeza Rice was responsible for convincing "George H.W. Bush to put his weight behind the Polish negotiations between the Solidarity and the communists."

But to Mr Fried the most difficult part of the democratic transformation in Poland came after the fall of communism. "Until then, there was no one who has ever taken down communism, there was no manual… on how to do it because no one expected it to ever happen."

He also said that whoever visited Warsaw recently must admit that the fall of communism in Poland brought about good results – "a miracle of the Vistula".

Daniel Fried, one of the architects of US policy in Poland during its transformation from communism to democracy, was the US Ambassador to Poland from 1997 to 2000. Fried was a prime figure in developing the first Bush Administration’s response to the transition from communist Poland to a free Poland, a precursor to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the transformation of Central Europe.

The ceremony at the Capitol was attended by Poland’s former President Lech Wałęsa and former Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz.