1980s

Potsdam Revisited - 1988

The Seventh Annual Conference for what was then IEWSS took place in Potsdam, the historic suburb of Berlin where Truman first hinted to Stalin about a potential new super-weapon called the atomic bomb, and where the victorious Allies conferred over the fate of a devastated Europe. Remarkably, within a year and a half of EWI's own "Potsdam Conference," the representatives of the East German government would watch in disbelief as the Berlin Wall was torn asunder.

 

The EWI Potsdam Conference was comprised of a series of working groups for political relations, military security and increased economic cooperation. It included more than 200 international officials from the United States, Western Europe and numerous representatives from the former Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries. Among the attendees were U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Verity and Deputy Secretary of State John Whitehead (both of whom later became EWI Directors), the future U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen, George Soros, then Ambassador to the USSR Jack F. Matlock, columnist Flora Lewis, James Eberle, and the prominent German Christian Democratic politician Volker Ruehe (who later became Minister of Defense of the Federal Republic of Germany).

 

With threats of canceling the high profile meeting at the last minute, the EWI leadership negotiated with Politburo members to adhere to an agreement that the conference be broadcast live on East German media with all speakers, including those Western leaders critical of the regime. The "second Potsdam conference" was one in a series of EWI actions that helped facilitate the conditions that transformed East-West relations.

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