Bicycle Diaries: Es gibt nur ein Berlin

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12.6.07

Es gibt nur ein Berlin

there is only one Berlin

20 years ago today, Ronald Reagan gave his now famous speech at the Brandenburg Gate in the western zone of Berlin. While it was delivered to the people of West Berlin, the speech was also heard in the eastern zone on the other side of the Berlin Wall.

Not that I'm a big fan of his presidency: I lived through it as a young adult. But his speech, especially the quote below, is one of the great Cold War phrases. It ranks right up there with Kennedy's infamous I am a jelly donut, spoken not very far from the site of Reagan's speech 26 years earlier.
General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

What makes this phrase significant is not that, as conservatives believe, it single-handedly ended the Cold War. Nor is it, as liberals assert, merely the empty rhetoric of an anti-communist rant. Rather, Reagan uttered it to solidify wanning conservative support for his foreign policy. It gave him the creds necessary for negotiating much need arms controls agreements with the Soviet Union. These efforts, in turn, created the vastly more relaxed climate in which the Soviets sat on their hands when the wall came down two years later.

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