John Kerry's Berlin visit is a chance to reminisce... and look ahead

 

Berlin

The first time John Kerry was in Berlin, he was a boisterous boy of 10 risking his father’s diplomatic standing with clandestine bicycle rides into the Russian sector of the Cold War city.

Today he returned as America’s top diplomat, but it was still the Russians providing the challenges for the newly appointed US Secretary  of State.

“It is wonderful to be back in Berlin,” Mr Kerry said after meeting his German counterpart, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. Later, he was due to meet his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, to discuss the civil war in Syria.  Mr Kerry has used the promise of more American aid to persuade the Syrian opposition to drop its boycott and attend a meeting on the crisis in Rome tomorrow. But prior to his departure to Berlin, Mr Lavrov accused the Syrian opposition of harbouring “extremists” who were blocking a solution, signalling that the Kremlin remained firm in its support for President Bashar al-Assad.

But there was more of a meeting of minds with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Mr Kerry indicated that a free-trade agreement with the European Union could be up and running within two years. Both sides agreed that a free-trade deal would boost economic growth without incurring new debt and provide fresh impetus for Europe’s ailing economies.

“Germany is without doubt one of our strongest allies worldwide,” Mr Kerry said.

Ms Merkel said she attached “more than great importance to the transatlantic relationship” between the two countries.

The EU estimates that the removal of customs barriers resulting from a free-trade arrangement could create tens of thousands of jobs in Europe.

Mr Kerry lived with his parents in the then Cold War capital when his father, Richard, served as a legal advisor to the American high commissioner in 1954. It was before the Berlin Wall was built and tensions between the West and the Soviet Union were running high.

Mr Kerry recalled cycling off into the forbidden Russian sector of the city past bombed-out apartment blocks and checkpoints. His father was furious when he found out. When he returned home, Mr Kerry said, his father “got very upset with me and said, ‘You could have created an international incident. I could have lost my job’. So I lost my passport and I was grounded and I never made another trip like that.” Mr Kerry recalled how on another occasion, a family sailing excursion on Berlin’s Havel river ended in panic after their boat started drifting towards the shore in the Soviet sector, which was patrolled by armed border guards. “It was a triggering period in my life. I became profoundly intrigued by global confrontation,” he said.

In Berlin, Mr Kerry spent part of his visit talking to young Germans in a packed internet café. He said his Cold War experiences had made him acutely aware of the need for tolerance. 

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
news
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor