Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
One of the most amazing aspects about the Berlin Wall’s sudden collapse 20 years ago was that no one lost their nerve. Not a single shot was fired. The Cold War ended with the biggest street party Berlin, or any city anywhere, has ever seen.
Who would have thought that’s how the Berlin Wall would go out? Berlin’s long division was the result of World War Two. The Wall was the focal point of the Cold War — Soviet and American tanks faced off almost barrel-to-barrel at Checkpoint Charlie. Not surprisingly, many people thought that the stalemate would only be changed by another war. But instead on Nov. 9, 1989 there was no bang, no blood. Just a lot of celebrating. And a lot of tears.
That’s for me probably the most fascinating thing about the sudden implosion of the Communist East German regime — it went out so peacefully. And that’s one of the themes that has been touched upon in the myriad of German media accounts in recent weeks ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Wall’s fall on Nov. 9.
It’s also an issue that’s been explored by Reuters correspondents in Berlin past and present — in a series of stories that you can read on this special page .
The thought of Russian warships cruising the waters of the Caribbean instinctively revives memories of such Cold War episodes as the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
Russia is sending a heavily armed nuclear-powered cruiser and other ships, aircraft and troops for a joint naval exercise with Venezuela, its first big manoeuvres in the United States’ self-declared backyard since the end of the Cold War.
The people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia were celebrating on Tuesday after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree recognising the independence of the two regions.
Western leaders responded with harsh words. U.S. President George W. Bush said it increased world tensions and Britain called for “the widest possible coalition against Russian aggression in Georgia,” where the two regions lie.
The temperature at the United Nations Security Council hasn’t been this high in years — and it’s not because the U.N. management raised the thermostat slightly to cut electricity costs. It’s due to the heated exchange of insults and accusations between Russia and the United States, which has reached a fever pitch reminiscent of the Cold War years.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad accused Russia on Sunday of using the Georgian incursion into Georgia’s breakaway enclave of South Ossetia as an excuse for a massive military assault against its tiny pro-Western neighbor whose ultimate goal is “regime change” in Tbilisi. He also assailed Moscow for waging a “campaign of terror” against the civilian population of Georgia, a former Soviet republic.
Russia’s angry response to an accord between Washington and Prague on building part of a U.S. missile defence shield in the Czech Republic is reminiscent of the rhetoric of the Cold War. Although Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says Moscow still wants talks on the missile shield, his Foreign Ministry has threatened a “military-technical” response if the shield is deployed.
That phrase could have come straight out of the Soviet lexicon and seems more at home in the second half of the last century than now. Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer called it psychological pressure to try to encourage opposition to the missile system among Europeans, and described it as “the same sort that was used in the 1980s by the Soviet Union when the United States deployed cruise missiles in Europe.”
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.
It should all be music to the ears of top military brass in Brussels, Washington and at the United Nations, who have long been struggling to fill gaps in under-resourced peacekeeping missions from Africa to Afghanistan.
Although the total number of mission-fit French forces will fall to 30,000 from 50,000 under the plans, the idea is that they will be better equipped, more mobile and better able to respond to everything from terrorism to cyber-attacks.