MEN AND POWERS: A Political Retrospective by Helmut Schmidt

MEN AND POWERS: A Political Retrospective

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KIRKUS REVIEW

West Germany's chancellor from 1974 to 1982 and before that its minister of defense as well as finance, Schmidt is an old geopolitical hand. Here, he offers pointed recollections and analyses of his relations with the world's three superpowers--the US, USSR, and China. Although his audit has to some extent been overtaken by recent events in Eastern Europe, it still affords a wealth of valuable perspectives on the Old World and the New. As a practical matter, Schmidt's reminiscences may strike many American readers as somewhat patronizing. He laments, for instance, that the never-occupied US does not fully appreciate the conciliatory approach adopted by NATO members in their post-WW II dealings with the Soviet Union. While harboring few illusions about Moscow's expansionist past, Schmidt (a Wehrmacht veteran) purposefully notes he swapped war stories with Brezhnev. In like vein, the author lauds America's moral idealism, generosity, and can-do spirit, but he deplores the putative lack of continuity in its diplomacy. In brief, Schmidt submits, the world was a better, safer place when the Council on Foreign Relations exercised de facto control over US policy. At any rate, he makes no secret of his concert that Bohemian Grove denizens and their anti-establishment allies were ascendant during the 1980's. For all his thinly veiled condescension, Schmidt (who sets great store by consultation and personal contact) offers judicious appraisals of contemporary political figures. Among US presidents he has known, the author accords Ford highest marks; at the bottom of his list is Carter, and Reagan is damned with faint praise. Not too surprisingly, Kissinger rates near slavish praise, and Schmidt has high hopes for Gorbachev. He presciently dismisses as ""visionary foolishness,"" however, the notion that Deng Xiaoping and his comrades are moving toward western concepts of freedom; rather, the so-called reformers are casting about for means to strengthen Communism and the party. Nor, in assessing the Pacific Basin, does Schmidt believe that Japan (despite its economic might) will play a leading global role, any time soon at least. Worldly-wise commentary from an elder statesman who has the courage of his convictions. The text, published in West Germany in 1987, includes 16 pages of photographs, plus maps (not seen).

Pub Date: Feb. 23rd, 1989
Publisher: Random House