MATTHIAS RUST--A MAN WHO FULFILLED HIS DESTINY AND HELPED END THE COLD WAR
By Kevin Stoda, American Educator for Peace
I was living in West Germany the month that a 19-year from the city state of Hamburg almost single-handedly toppled the Soviet Union--and he did it without firing a weapon. The young hero of the Cold War was Mathias Rust.
Naturally, many people in Europe and I at the time felt that the young man was wacky--an out-of-control idealist. On the other hand, at other times, we also suspected that this young pilot, who flew a plane from Germany (via Finland) and on to Moscow's Red Square back in May 1968, must have been paid by the West and its secret agencies to push the envelope into.
We misjudged the young man.
THE BIG STORY YOU NEED IN YOUR HISTORY BOOK
On May 28, 1987, according to Wikipedia, "an amateur aviator, " [Mathias Rust] flew from Finland to Moscow, being tracked several times by Soviet air defence and interceptors. The Soviet fighters never received permission to shoot him down, and several times he was mistaken for a friendly aircraft. He landed on Vasilevski Spusk next to Red Square near the Kremlin in the capital of the USSR."
In his Soviet-era trial, Rust's intentions were describe as an attempt "to create an "imaginary bridge' to the East, and he " claimed that his flight was intended to reduce tension and suspicion between the two Cold War sides. Rust's successful flight through a supposedly impregnable air defense system had a great impact on the Soviet military and led to the firing of many senior officers, including Defence Minister Marshal of the Soviet Union Sergei Sokolov and the head of the Soviet Air Defense, former WWII fighter ace pilot Chief Marshal Alexander Koldunov. The incident aided Mikhail Gorbachev in the implementation of his reforms (by removing numerous military officials opposed to him), and reduced the prestige of the Soviet military among the population, thus helping bring an end to the Cold War."
One of the best summaries of Rust's flight is from Air & Space magazine (2005) in an article by Tom LeCompte.
"As a child in Hamburg, Rust had been preoccupied by two things: flying and nuclear Armageddon. Belligerence and distrust marked East-West relations of the time. U.S. President Ronald Reagan seemed to be on a personal crusade against the Soviet Union. Many Germans were on edge. "There was a real sense of fear,' Rust says, "because if there was a conflict, we all knew we would be the first to be hit.'"
I do recall beginning to feel that the whole Iron Curtain thing was a joke about the time that Rust made his flight. You see, I had made my first two visits to East Germany that very month of May 1987 and had come to see that the drive in Europe to get to know the other side of the fence (East to West or West to East) was very strong.
"To many Europeans, Mikhail Gorbachev's ascendancy to the Soviet leadership in 1985 offered a glimmer of hope. Glasnost, his policy of transparency in government, and perestroika, economic reforms at home, were radical departures from the policies of his predecessors. So when the U.S.-Soviet summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, in October 1986 ended without an arms reduction deal, Rust felt despair. He was particularly angered by Reagan's reflexive mistrust of the Soviet Union, which Rust felt had blinded the president to the historic opportunity Gorbachev presented."
Yes, back in the 1980s many of us felt that Reagan was quite blind most of his years in office. Ronald Reagan never seemed to realize that his spending spree on militarization had helped almost break the USA economy in the 1980s. (That should be a lesson to all high-military-spending-proponents today.)