Quotations: the end of the Cold War

This page contains a collection of Cold War quotations, made by political leaders, notable figures and historians, pertaining to the end of the Cold War. These quotations have been researched and compiled by Alpha History authors. We welcome contributions and suggestions for these pages. If you would like to submit a quote, please contact Alpha History.

“The Soviet people want full-blooded and unconditional democracy.”
Mikhail Gorbachev, Soviet leader, 1988

“I am not for or against any government. I have come here to play rock and roll for you East Berliners in the hope that one day all barriers can be torn down.”
Bruce Springsteen, American singer performing in East Berlin, July 1988

“Private travel into foreign countries can be requested without conditions… Permission will be granted instantly. Permanent relocations can be done through all border checkpoints between East Germany into West Germany or West Berlin.”
Günter Schabowski, East German politician, November 9th 1989

“Now we are in a situation where that which belongs together will grow back together.”
Willy Brandt, West German leader, November 10th 1989

“It is very difficult to predict with certainty what is going to happen. I am convinced, given not just the events of yesterday but the cumulative set of events that have taken place, that this change is real… The rapidity of change is mind-boggling. The quest for freedom is stronger than steel, more permanent than concrete.”
George Bush, US president, November 12th 1989

“Today we are coming to realise that an epoch in history is over…For more than 40 years that Iron Curtain remained in place. Few of us expected to see it lifted in our lifetime. Yet with great suddenness, the impossible has happened. Communism is broken, utterly broken… We do not see this new Soviet Union as an enemy but as a country groping its way towards freedom. We no longer have to view the world through a prism of East-West relations. The Cold War is over.”
Margaret Thatcher, British prime minister, August 1990

“General Secretary Gorbachev’s policy of perestroika brings with it, for the first time since the end of World War II, a justifiable hope of overcoming the conflict between East and West.”
Helmut Kohl, West German leader, September 1990

“The toppling of the Berlin Wall. The overthrow of Ceausescu by the people he had so brutally oppressed. The first free elections in Eastern Europe for a generation. The spread of the ideas of market freedom and independence to the very heart of the Soviet Leviathan… Our friends from Eastern Europe reminded us that no force of arms, no walls, no barbed wire can forever suppress the longing of the human heart for liberty and independence… Their victory came about because for 40 long, cold years, the West stood firm against the military threat from the East. Free enterprise overwhelmed socialism.”
Margaret Thatcher, October 1990

“The threat of a world war is no more.”
Mikhail Gorbachev, December 1991

“Walls in the mind often stand longer than those built of concrete blocks.”
Willy Brandt, December 1991

“He [Ronald Reagan] won the Cold War without firing a shot.”
Margaret Thatcher, 1991

“When I came to Germany in 1990, I thought our relations would be more difficult. During the Cold War years, we were taught that this country was an enemy and that our job was to fight the enemy. I came here still holding this Cold War mentality. I think I made a great mistake, and that all Soviet citizens were wrong as far as Germany is concerned. The Germans made the same mistake about the Soviets. I think both sides now realise this.”
Matvei Burlakov, Russian general and politician, 1994

“To visualise [the demise of the Soviet Union], imagine a troubled triceratops. From the outside, as rivals contemplated its sheer size, tough skin, bristling armament and aggressive posturing, the beast looked sufficiently formidable that none dared tangle with it. Appearances deceived though, for within, its digestive, circulatory and respiratory systems were slowly clogging up, then shutting down. There were few external signs of this until the day the creature was found with all four feet in the air… The moral of the fable is that armaments make impressive exoskeletons but a shell alone ensures the survival of no animal and no state.”
John Lewis Gaddis, American historian, 2002

“To some, the GDR [East Germany] appears in a backwards-looking, bleary-eyed view as a citadel of social security. In truth, the GDR collapsed because, being economically inefficient, it could not finance its social promises.”
Günter Schabowski, East German politician, 2004

“Anyone who doesn’t regret the passing of the Soviet Union has no heart. Anyone who wants it restored has no brains.”
Vladimir Putin, Russian leader, May 2005

“The upheavals of 1989 caught everyone by surprise. What no one understood at the beginning of 1989 was that the Soviet Union, its empire, its ideology – and therefore the Cold War itself – was a sand pile ready to slide. All it took to make that happen were a few more grains of sand. The people who dropped them were not in charge of superpowers or movements: they were ordinary people with simple priorities who saw, seized, and sometimes stumbled into opportunities. In doing so, they caused a collapse no one could stop. Their leaders had little choice but to follow.”
John Lewis Gaddis, 2005

“The first wall to fall was pushed over in 1980 in the Polish shipyards. Later, other symbolic walls came down, and the Germans, of course, tore down the literal wall in Berlin. The fall of the Berlin Wall makes for nice pictures. But it all started in the shipyards.”
Lech Walesa, Polish activist and politician, speaking in 2009

“[The Berlin Wall] was torn down not by leaders, not by from on high, not by military might. This wall was torn down by the greatest force of all – the unbreakable spirit of the men and women of Berlin. You dared to dream in the darkness. You knew that while force has the temporary power to dominate, it can never ultimately decide.”
Gordon Brown, British prime minister, 2009