The US embassy in Berlin has unveiled a statue of Ronald Reagan at a site overlooking the location of the former president’s landmark speech urging the Soviet Union to remove the Berlin Wall.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo called the inauguration a “monumental moment” before helping remove the cover from the larger-than-life statue on the embassy’s terrace, at eye-level with the top of the Brandenburg Gate.
Saturday marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Mr Pompeo was winding up a two-day trip to multiple cities and towns for commemorations.
The gate, which was just on the East German side of the Wall, was the backdrop for Mr Reagan’s 1987 speech in which he challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to go further with the reforms he was instituting.
The US president said: “If you seek liberalisation, come here to this gate. Mr Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
My German counterpart @HeikoMaas and I visited historical sites in Leipzig and along the former no-man’s land between West and East Germany. This was a reminder of the country’s division under Communism and freedom’s triumphant victory in #1989. Our shared values unite us. pic.twitter.com/Oa8JrPGq0C— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) November 8, 2019
Mr Pompeo praised Mr Reagan for his defence of freedom, telling a gathering of politicians, diplomats, donors and others that the former president “courageously denounced the greatest threat to that freedom, the Soviet Empire, the Evil Empire”.
German foreign minister Heiko Maas drew domestic and international criticism recently for failing to mention Mr Reagan — or any other American — in an article published in 26 European newspapers focused on the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of communism.
He sought to defuse the criticism on Thursday at an event with Mr Pompeo, saying: “We owe you our freedom and unity to a decisive degree,” singling out contributions from Mr Reagan and former president George HW Bush.
US ambassador Richard Grenell earlier this year opened a multimedia exhibit on the same terrace focusing on Mr Reagan’s Brandenburg Gate speech, and said the statue was a tribute to a president whose “willingness to defend people seeking greater freedom around the world remains an inspiration today to Germans, Americans and every human being”.
Several American presidents visited Berlin during the Cold War to express their solidarity with those in the democratic West of the city that was divided by the Wall from August 13 1961 to November 9 1989.