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Wednesday, 22 May, 2002, 21:11 GMT 22:11 UK
On tour with President Bush - Day One
The BBC's Nick Bryant is travelling with US President George W Bush on his European tour. He is sending us regular e-mails charting the president's progress around the continent.


Day One - Dateline: Berlin
22 May

In the days when Berlin was a divided city, straddling the ideological fault line between East and West, it lent the backdrop for some of the most memorable presidential speeches of the Cold War era.

John F Kennedy, as bellicose an anti-Communist as any of the post-war presidents, came here in June 1963 to proclaim, "Ich bin ein Berliner" (I am a Berliner) - the cry, he said, of freedom-loving democrats around the world.

President John F. Kennedy in Berlin, June 1963
1963: JFK got a rapturous welcome in Berlin
Then, in 1987, with the Berlin Wall at his back, Ronald Reagan delivered what was arguably the finest speech of his presidency, exhorting Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear town this wall". Two years later, the Soviet leader obliged.

When Jack Kennedy arrived in West Berlin, schools and factories were shut for the day, and its boulevards lined with thousands of well-wishers waving tiny American flags.

By contrast, George W Bush will witness the biggest security operation that the Germans have ever mounted in post-war history, with some 10,000 police officers sealing off a 14-block area around the Brandenburg Gate, the very spot where Ronald Reagan received such a rapturous ovation.

Thousands of protesters have been taking to the streets, many carrying signs reading: "Yankee go home".

Partly as a result, Mr Bush will spend less than 20 hours in the re-united city. The rich irony, of course, is that he is likely to receive a much warmer welcome in Moscow and St Petersburg.

Challenge

President Bush will deliver his remarks in the German Bundestag, the first American president to speak in the newly-refurbished Reichstag.

A demonstration in Berlin against the visit of President Bush on Wednesday
Today, many Berliners are hostile to the US
Even there, he is likely to receive a hostile reaction from leaders in Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's centre-left government, who have long accused America of unilateralist bloody-mindedness.

One has even promised to take Mr Bush to task over his plans for the expansion of the war on terrorism into Iraq.

American presidents used to come to Berlin to be reminded of the moral and ideological certainties of their Cold War mission, and to rededicate themselves to the global battle for freedom.

How Mr Bush, a man of such rigid convictions and spiritual self-confidence, would have loved such a visit.

Instead, he will face a hostile "Berlin Street" and a deeply suspicious parliament - as clear a sign as any that the legacy of the cold war had truly been liquidated.

"Ich bin ein Berliner"? Not, it seems, any more.


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See also:

22 May 02 | Americas
14 May 02 | In Depth
14 May 02 | In Depth
20 Apr 02 | Business
06 Mar 02 | Business
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