Before setting foot on Germany for his first official visit, Barack Obama had been already challenged. “The Lost Friend”, titled the German magazine Der Spiegel above the US president’s picture. The op-ed went further: “We no longer have a shining American hero (…) to rely on (…) since the United States can no longer play this role (…) even if it wanted to.”
The mood in Germany, an American key ally, was cold, many German commentators say. Fifty years before, president John F. Kennedy had thrilled the country with his well-known sentence: “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner) at the height of the Cold War.
But things have changed in the last half century. Although they have found common ground on a free trade pact between the EU and the US, both countries clash on a basic economic issue: Obama has been long advocating for public stimulus while conservative Angela Merkel insists on austerity being the best medicine for the crisis.
The German Chancellor asked him about the US National Security Agency’s surveillance programs and their military’s use of German bases for foreign drone strikes.
Obama gave a speech at the iconic Brandenburg Gate in front of 4,000 invited guests, unveiling a proposal for new talks with Russia on slashing nuclear arms arsenals. He also stressed what he called common values of openness and tolerance. Yet in a country where the secret police eavesdropping memories are still fresh, he couldn’t avoid being questioned by several dozens of protesters with placards taunting: “Yes, we scan” and “I have a drone.”