New U.S. embassy: symbol of U.S.-German relations
The ferocity of the reaction in the German media to the fortress-like new U.S. embassy in Berlin, which former U.S. President George Bush will inaugurate on Friday, strikes me as a reflection of the strains in German-U.S. relations since 2003’s Iraq conflict.
It underlines just how long gone the days of the Cold War really are. Then, when Berlin was the front line in the Cold War, America was West Germany’s best friend and U.S. soldiers were welcome across the country.
Architectural crticis in Germany have slammed the boxy building with narrow windows as being reminiscent of Baghdad’s Green Zone.http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3746008653241641987
The embassy is a picture of a country traumatised by 9/11 and by the consequences of globalisation, of a nation with such heavy armour that it can no longer see the world,” wrote conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung earlier this year.
Other critics have been just as hostile, deriding it as a discount supermarket, a prison, a bunker and like Fort Knox.
Admittedly, the beige building — in the heart of the city next to the Brandenburg Gate and just metres from where the Berlin Wall used to stand — looks rather bland and the metal bollards emphasise the barrier between the embassy and Berlin’s residents and tourists. But it isn’t so different from U.S. embassies in other European capitals which have boosted security.
Germans who fondly remember former U.S. President John F. Kennedy declaring “Ich bin ein Berliner” in 1963 and former President Ronald Reagan calling on the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” in 1987 long for an improvement in trans-Atlantic relations.
U.S. officials hope the new building will show America’s “warmer, fuzzier” side, although whether either the embassy building or November’s U.S. election will herald a significant improvement in ties is another matter.
And as if the embassy, which cost about 80 million euros and only went ahead after a protracted and ugly public dispute with Berlin officials about how to make the embassy secure without moving two busy nearby streets 30 metres away, hasn’t courted enough controversy, Michael Reagan, son of the former president, was this week reported as saying Berlin should commemorate his father’s contribution to bringing down the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall. Here’s the piece from Der Tagesspiegel.
The Cold War is over. There is a chill in German-U.S. relations.