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



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. 

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Chemistry Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

English Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

English Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: [ Megan Smith 22/09/2014 17:00:...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments