German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged the United States to be a "mutually respectful partner" and reject nationalism, in a clear swipe aimed at US leader Donald Trump as Germany marked 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Recalling the United States' key role in helping to bring down the hated Wall separating communist East from capitalist West, Steinmeier said he still hears the late American president Ronald Reagan's cry of "tear down this wall" at the iconic Brandenburg Gate. But in a jibe against at Trump's America First policy and his insistence on building a wall on the southern border with Mexico, Steinmeier underlined the yearning for a return of the transatlantic partner of the past.
"This America as a mutually respectful partner, as a partner for democracy and freedom, against national egoism -- that is what I hope for in the future too," said Steinmeier, as he opened festivities at the spot where Reagan once stood. Steinmeier's sharp words at the festivities underlined growing tensions between the traditional allies after Germany was rattled by Trump's go-it-alone attitude on issues ranging from Iranian nuclear policy to trade with Europe to climate change.
Unlike the optimism at previous commemorations of the epochal event on November 9, 1989 that brought the communist regime crashing down, the mood has soured as the Western alliance that helped secure the liberal democracy is riddled with divisions. Within Germany too, a chasm had opened up with the far-right gaining a strong foothold in the former communist east on the back of its nationalist and anti-immigration message.
For Steinmeier, "New walls have arisen that cut through our country - walls built of frustration, walls built of anger and hate." "Walls that are invisible but which divide. Walls that stand in the way of our cohesion" he warned, as he urged Germans to "tear down these walls, at long last."