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Bush, at Site of Potsdam Conference, Warns Against American Isolationism

July 24, 1995

POTSDAM, Germany (AP) _ George Bush, whose presidency witnessed the end of the Cold War, warned Americans today against a ``new, selfish isolationism″ in a speech at the Potsdam palace where the Cold War began 50 years ago.

Bush’s speech focused on the role the United States played in defeating Nazism and rebuilding Germany. The United States, he stressed, must remain a European power.

``Throughout our history, trouble in Europe has meant trouble in America. I hope today my own countrymen do not forget this lesson,″ Bush said. ``I must admit I do worry about a new, selfish isolationism in some quarters of America.″

Earlier, Brandenburg Gov. Manfred Stolpe took Bush on a tour of the red-carpeted, red-curtained room in the Cecelienhof where U.S., Russian and British leaders met around a big red-draped table for two weeks in the summer of 1945.

On July 24, 1945, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Truman reached a key impasse in their discussions on postwar Europe. Stalin unsuccessfully demanded recognition of the Soviet-installed governments of Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania, and Churchill used the expression ``iron fence″ to describe Soviet control over eastern Europe.

It was also the day Truman gave the order to drop the atomic bomb on Japan. Hiding his cards from Stalin, Truman told the Soviet leader only that he planned to use a weapon of ``unusually destructive force.″

That night Stalin, whose spies in the Manhattan Project already knew about the bomb, ordered his aides to accelerate the Soviet nuclear program.

Thus, the Cold War arms race was born. It was cemented Aug. 2 when the Big Three, unable to agree on a security architecture for Europe, ended the conference signing a memorandum essentially recognizing the status quo: the Soviets would control the lands occupied by the Red Army.

Germany did not organize any official commemoration of the Potsdam conference. A symposium of top historians and politicians from Germany, Russia, Britain and the United States was cancelled for lack of interest.

Bush’s visit to Potsdam was suggested by two American businessmen who are developing contracts to clean up and develop some of the 423 former Soviet military bases in Brandenburg state, one of the businessmen said.

Stolpe then invited Bush to come to Potsdam, about 20 miles southwest of Berlin, said R. William Mengel of Abingdon, Md.-based R&D Tec, Inc.

A few left-wing demonstrators heckled Bush as he spoke to about 120 guests in the courtyard of the Cecelienhof. Three were arrested.

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