Berlin, a city torn apart by war, is the perfect setting for an American president preaching peace. Ronald Reagan famously stood metres away from the Brandenburg Gate and called on the Soviet Union to tear down the Wall dividing Europe. And President Kennedy used a Cold War visit to the once and future German capital to declare: “ich bin ein Berliner!”
Now Barack Obama, the presidential candidate, wants to grandstand there too. But a simmering row between the German Government and the local Berlin authorities could rob the Democratic politician of a photogenic moment at the Brandenburg Gate and derail his flagship tour of Europe this month.
The plan, Obama advisers have told Der Spiegel magazine, is to use the visit on July 24 to signal an imminent improvement in the transatlantic relationship.
“The Senator was criticised in the primaries for showing insufficient interest in Europe,” said the unnamed adviser. “This visit is an answer to this criticism … the memories of John F. Kennedy’s 1963 speech are still very fresh — Berlin is a bridge between East and West.”