"Hello Börlin. Thank you, Chancellor Mörkel." Obama charmed the crowd and gave an emotional boost to German-American relations, but I think his political message to Germany was too subtle and has not convinced politicians and citizens.
President Obama said that "freedom won here in Berlin", while he stood behind bullet-proof glass in a sort of aquarium... More than anything he said, it is this level of protection that convinced me that we live in a dangerous world and that we cannot take security for granted and that freedom is precious.
My video is shaky, but I think you will see that the crowd was in a great mood. Yes, it was by invitation only, but still pretty diverse:
Continue reading "Obama Criticizes Complacency in the "City of Hope""
Berlin is excited about President Obama's upcoming visit and his speech at the Brandenburg Gate. Can he coin a memorable phrase like Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner" fifty years ago? Or Reagan's "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall"? Will he offer Germany a different version of Bush senior's "partnership in leadership", but this time with more impact? I doubt it.
I have high hopes, but not high expectations. Yes, Obama will ask Germany to lead in Europe and beyond. He'll appeal to our responsibility, to our shared values and to the trust that has been built over six decades of transatlantic cooperation and how fundamental it is to freedom (and to all the other buzzwords). He will - hopefully - say a few nice words about our troops in Kosovo and Afghanistan, but probably ignore (or gloss over) PRISM and other controversial issues. Instead he will talk about the wonderful possibilities of the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) and how it will lead to growth, strengthen our bonds and global influence and reinforce our values etc.
Obama will reassure Germany of America's continued support and solidarity, because he knows that Germans are concerned about America's pivot (balancing) to Asia and have complained that he has not visited us in his first term. [Oh, we crave so much attention and ignore that Obama has been to Europe eleven times since assuming the presidency, incl. three times to Germany. It has been my long position that Obama would have come to Berlin earlier and worked more with us, if we had make concrete suggestions for revitalized transatlantic cooperation rather than just photo-ops at various summits.]
Instead of turning his speech into a love fest for German-American relations, he should give some tough love. German citizens and politicians need a dose to understand where the United States is headed and what responsibilities Europe now has in its neighborhood.
Continue reading "Germany Needs Tough Love from Obama"
It seems that Germany has become super important for the United States. At least I got the impression that the NYT is featuring my country more prominently these days. Alas, not in foreign policy. Rather on sexism, swabian separatists, comedians, and "creative types":
1. Today: "Germany's Sexism Provokes Backlash" by Melissa Eddy and Chris Cottrell. A serious topic, which is very popular on Twitter at the moment.
2. Eleven days ago: "Swabian Separatists Fling Spätzle to Make a Point" by Nicholas Kulish:
Continue reading "Why is the NY Times so interested in Berlin?"
I was not that impressed by Obama's speech yesterday, but I strongly believe that Europe can learn a lot from the inauguration. Take for instance today's German/French celebrations of the Elysée Treaty.
The French parliamentarians and many ministers commemorated the 50th anniversary with their German counterparts in the Bundestag. That's a great gesture. I listened to Lammert and Hollande during my lunch break. It was okay, but rhetorically far from the level of Obama. And I missed the hope and vision thing. My main criticism, however, is the lack of big public celebrations.
Continue reading "A Tale of Two Cities"
"There's been a lot of love for the 40th president of the United States these past few days in Europe," writes Robert Zeliger in Foreign Policy. Ronald Reagan got a street named for for him, was honored with statues in Budapest and London and with a Catholic Mass in Krakow.
I remember that there was a short debate in Berlin about a memorial or street for President Reagan, but the leftist government does not like him. It's all politics and ideology. Even a small memorial plaque in the ground at the Brandenburger Gate was rejected, as Majjid Sattar wrote in the German FAZ newspaper in February.
Instead of honoring the US president who urged the General Secretary Gorbachev to "Tear down this wall," the square next to the Brandenburg Gate hosts the The Kennedys Museum, even though President John F. Kennedy acquiesced to the communist construction of the Berlin Wall.
The German fans of JFK should read Fred Kempe's new book "Berlin 1961". Kempe is the president and CEO of the Atlantic Council and argues in the Amazon Q&A:
Continue reading "Ronald Reagan Love-Fest in Europe, but not in Germany"
Who says Germans are not grateful to the United States anymore? Currently there is an architectural photo exhibition in Berlin featuring cultural buildings financed by the United States during the Cold War. The exhibition and website is called Geschenke der Amerikaner ("Gifts from the Americans"), which is in German, but includes a few good photos.
This is a guest post by the US journalist David Francis:
As a journalist who covers U.S-European relations and as a U.S. citizen who hopes for better relations with Europe in the next administration, it was quite gratifying to see so many Berliners waving American flags to greet U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in Tiergarten yesterday.
Too often in the last eight years, Germany has greeted American politicians with disinterest, disdain or worse. The images of Obama standing in front of hundreds of thousands of cheering Germans are spectacular and a reminder that an American politician is still welcome on foreign shores. Many believe Obama's German reception is a harbinger of things to come.
Continue reading "By Giving a Speech in Berlin, Obama is Playing with Fire"
Wow, the German press, incl. the pro-American Die Welt, is very critical of the US embassy, which was reopened on July 4th. Gregory Rodriguez writes in the Los Angeles Times:
The daily Süddeutsche Zeitung called it "Ft. Knox at the Brandenburg Gate." Der Tagesspiegel pronounced it a "triumph of banality." Particularly offended by the embassy's windows, the critic at the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung contended that they "look as if a bankrupt homeowner had bought them in a home-improvement store near Fargo in order to get his house ready for winter." Die Welt, meanwhile, stated simply that "only the Chinese Embassy is uglier."
While some Americans consider this criticism as part of the Anti-Americanism, I would like to point out that none of the German government buildings garned any approval from architectural critics, when they opened in Berlin. The chancellery is still called "the federal washing machine" by many Berliners. And the beautiful glass dome of the Reichstag was not appreciated in the beginning either.
More important than the architecture of the embassy is its outreach to the policy community, the media and the wider public. Many ambassadors are described as more active than the US ambassador.