Updated: 17-Mar-2008 1988

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In July 1988, at the beginning of a significant new era in East-West relations and the evolution of the Alliance, former German Defence Minister Manfred W├Ârner takes up his duties as NATO Secretary General. During the next six years, the long-standing division of Europe comes to an end, the Berlin Wall falls, and a new climate of cooperation between former adversaries becomes a reality. Manfred Wrner plays a prominent role in developing the Alliance's response to these new opportunities. He dies prematurely in August 1994, having stamped his name indelibly on the Organisation he served.

The Soviet leader had earlier explained the results of 'new thinking' in his country's military doctrine. Soviet forces would be reduced in size and restructured to a purely defensive configuration, based on the principle of 'reasonable sufficiency'. Addressing the United Nations in New York on 7 December 1988, he fleshes out this concept by announcing that the armed forces are to be reduced by half a million troops. In addition, he intends to withdraw 50,000 Soviet troops from Eastern Europe, including East Germany, and will assign a defensive role to the remainder. A total of 10,000 tanks, 8,500 artillery pieces and 800 fighter aircraft are to be withdrawn from Eastern Europe. Shortly after his UN speech, several other East European governments announce their own cuts.


22 Jan

Establishment of a Joint Security Council by the Governments of the Federal Republic of Germany and of France. The two Governments also sign an agreement relating to the formation of a joint Franco-German Army Brigade.

2-3 Mar

Summit meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels emphasises Allied unity and reasserts the common objectives and principles and the continuing validity of Alliance policies. A Statement on Conventional Arms Control is issued calling for significant steps to bring about progress in eliminating conventional force disparities through negotiations on conventional stability.

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15 May

Beginning of Soviet troop withdrawals from Afghanistan.

26-27 May

NATO Defence Ministers commission the Executive Working Group to conduct a review of roles, risks and responsibilities shared by member nations in the context of their efforts to sustain the credibility and effectiveness of collective security and defence.

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31 May

During a five-day Summit meeting in Moscow, President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev exchange documents implementing the recently ratified December 1987 INF Treaty and sign bilateral agreements on nuclear testing and in other fields.

9-10 June

At the first Ministerial meeting of the North Atlantic Council to be held in Madrid, Foreign Ministers review the positive progress in East-West relations registered at the Moscow Summit meeting, and welcome the evolution of the Spanish contribution to the common defence.

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24 June

Announcement of the formation of a NATO Composite Force to reinforce Northern Norway in periods of tension or hostility, to replace the Canadian CAST Brigade which will be reassigned to the Central Region in accordance with the plans of the Canadian Government.

28 June-1 July

The 19th CPSU Conference in Moscow sets in train a programme of political, constitutional and legal reforms.

1 July

Manfred Woerner, former Minister of Defence of the Federal Republic of Germany, succeeds Lord Carrington as Secretary General of NATO.

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20 Aug

Entry into force of a ceasefire in the Gulf War between Iran and Iraq, in the framework of UN Security Council Resolution 598.

14 Nov

Portugal and Spain sign the Treaty of Accession to the Western European Union.

5 Dec

Paul Nitze, Special Adviser on Arms Control to President Reagan, receives the 1988 Atlantic Award.

7 Dec

President Gorbachev, in the course of a major address to the UN General Assembly, announces unilateral Soviet conventional force reductions. A major earthquake in Armenia devastates several cities and causes massive loss of life.

8 Dec

Alliance Foreign Ministers welcome Soviet reductions in conventional forces and publish a statement outlining the Alliances proposals for forthcoming negotiations on conventional stability and further confidence and security building measures.

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