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NEWS | Nov. 7, 2014

Historians' corner - Berlin Wall's 1989 destruction helped usher in National Guard's State Partnership Program

By Bill Boehm National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. - The Western world reeled from shock and surprise on Nov. 9,1989, when communist East Germany, known as the German Democratic Republic (GDR) announced that it would allow free movement by East German citizens to West Germany and West Berlin.

Though the political division in Germany took place for over 40 years after World War II as Soviet troops remained in the occupied zone, Berlin was divided since 1961 to maintain order after large-scale emigration from the communist sector of East Berlin to into West Berlin. The boundary symbolized the larger gulf between communist and capitalist systems.

These 1989 changes brought about a large contingent of peaceful demonstrators from both sides of Berlin, and the following days brought about the eventual destruction of the Wall itself, completed as Germany reunified in October 1990. The fall of the Wall signaled the beginning of a large independence movement in Europe and eventual dissolution of the Soviet Union by the end of 1991.

To the National Guard, this political earthquake jolted apart progress made in recent years’ training exercises on the European continent to support all service branches in the relatively new Total Force defense concept. Yet it eventually brought forth the ascension of another program that would demonstrate the utility of American government and defense.

This was the establishment of the State Partnership Program. Founded in 1993, it first paired states and countries with similar cultural, geographic, economic, and other commonalities. The SPP’s principles also encouraged the model of civilian rule keeping balanced relationships with military in a democratic model of government. As the Program has evolved and expanded, it has forged strong friendships and alliances that benefit both the United States and its partner countries, and serves as a model for future defense strategies.

Through today’s contemporary State Partnerships, former adversaries on the world stage have now joined the United States and Western allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Here and in other multinational arrangements, our allied partners have stood up to fight against world terrorism and to train side-by-side, honing their skills as closely as brothers. Though much of the promise of these events 25 years ago did not necessarily improve world conditions, a brighter coexistence among Allied nations has found a place through the State Partnership Program.