Opinion: Transatlantic trust only goes so far | World | Breaking news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 22.10.2014

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Opinion: Transatlantic trust only goes so far

John Kerry’s visit to Berlin 25 years after the Wall fell highlighted the crucial role transatlantic ties played earlier and can still play today. But to fulfill that promise, controversial issues can't be glossed over.

If you expected headline grabbing global news from US Secretary of State John Kerry's trip to Berlin you were bound to be disappointed. (The only - rather colorful - news nugget was the fact that John Kerry delivered the few sentences he spoke in German with a French accent.)

Instead, the goal of Kerry's stopover in the German capital could be billed as a mission of remembrance and recommitment to transatlantic ties. While that may not be newsworthy, it is certainly noteworthy, particularly when German-American relations are still reeling from the fallout of the NSA scandal, while both countries must tackle a whole host of global crises.

History lesson

Deutsche Welle Michael Knigge

DW's Michael Knigge

The 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall then offered both sides the perfect historic backdrop to remember what can be achieved when the two governments work together.

Through visiting a Wall memorial, speaking with students and reminiscing about his years spent in a divided Berlin as a child, Kerry harked back not only to the time of the Cold War, but also connected the past to the present conflict with Russia over Ukraine vowing to not let Europe be divided again.

His German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier praised the indispensible role played by the United States to make German unification possible, promising that Germans would not forget that. He also lauded Kerry personally for his tireless work on behalf of the Israel-Palestinian peace process, promising German support for any new effort.

Other than that, Washington's top diplomat and his German hosts briefly crisscrossed some of the most pressing global issues - the Ukraine crisis, the fight against the "Islamic State," Iran's nuclear program, the battle against the spread of Ebola - and reiterated in their public remarks that the United States and Germany are essentially on the same page on all of them.

Praising Germany

In his remarks, Kerry - as has become almost customary for US officials since the NSA scandal - heaped plenty of praise on his German hosts. He extolled Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Steinmeier for their leadership not only in the Ukraine crisis and within NATO, but also for their role in all other major global issues mentioned above.

To be sure, it is essential to keep the example of the successful and historic transatlantic cooperation that culminated in the fall of the Wall 25 years ago alive for a younger generation that did not experience it. And it is also important that the United States and Germany work together closely and responsibly on today's global crises despite the still remaining underlying tensions over the fallout from the NSA scandal and disagreements over the transatlantic trade deal TTIP.

Root causes

That's why it is justifiable this time around that neither of these transatlantic hot button issues featured prominently in the public remarks by Secretary Kerry or his German hosts.

But it also essential to note that in order to truly repair the transatlantic relationship, both topics can't be glossed over, but must be addressed head on, as they are some of the root causes of the loss in transatlantic trust.