New U.S. embassy: symbol of U.S.-German relations

July 3, 2008

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.

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.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

I have failed to pick up on the “chill” the columnist describes during my visits to Germany. If there has been any chill, it existed during the Gerhard Schroeder administration. The relationship between the U.S. and Germany has improved during the tenure of Chancellor Merkel. Go back in the history books and you will see pictures of protest demonstrations in Germany during the Viet Nam war (Johnson administration) and the late 70’s when Jimmy Carter authorized production of the neutron bomb.

Posted by Kevin | Report as abusive

[…] – or just another Bunker? 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 July 4th, strikes me as a reflection of […]

Posted by » U.S. opens new embassy in Berlin Dvorak Uncensored: General interest observations and true web-log. | Report as abusive

Perhaps the Americans are just fast-forwarding to 2050 when Germany will be a majority Muslim country?
For the time being relations between the US and Germany seem much better than in the 1980’s when Reagan was busy draining the USSR’s coffers in fighting the Afghan War and Star Wars program.

Posted by Doug Petersen | Report as abusive