Top US diplomat Mike Pompeo arrived Thursday at the former border village of Mödlareuth in eastern Germany to meet with his German counterpart, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. Pompeo’s two-day trip in Germany coincides with a week of events to mark to 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989.
During the Cold War, Mödlareuth was divided between East and West Germany, with one of the most heavily guarded borders in the world running through it for 28 years. Today, the town lies between the states of Thuringia and Bavaria.
Pompeo’s visit to Germany is his second since taking office in 2018, but Germany is far from unfamilar territory to the 70th US secretary of state. In the 1980s, Pompeo patrolled the Berlin Wall before serving as a tank commander at Bavarian base in what was then West Germany.
Later on Thursday, Pompeo is due to meet with former East German opposition activists in Leipzig, whose protest helped lead to the fall of the Wall. He will end the day in Halle, where he will visit the site of the recent anti-Semitic attack, where a gunman killed two people in October after attempting and failing to enter a synagogue.
Max Privorozki, leader of the Jewish community in Halle, said Thursday that he had mixed feelings about Pompeo’s visit.
“We are tired,” Privorozki told German media. “Our job is actually to organize religious life and not to receive presidents and ministers,” he said, adding that Pompeo’s visit is “a great challenge, but also a great honor.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (right) met with US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell upon his arrival in Nuremberg late on Wednesday.
Thorny issues in tense times
During his visit to Germany, Pompeo is expected raise several contentious issues, particularly during Friday’s meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz.
Disagreements over defence spending, 5G technology and the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline have soured relations between the two NATO allies. The US is also threatening the EU with punitive tariffs, which could hit the German carmaking industry especially hard.
In a speech Thursday at the Bundeswehr University in Munich, Kramp-Karrenbauer noted that allies are increasingly asking for Berlin to play an active role in global security and pushed for Germany to do so.
“A country of our size, with our economic and technological power, our geostrategic position and global interests, cannot just stand on the sidelines and watch,” she said in Munich. “Germany must participate in international debates and drive them forward.”
Following talks with German leaders on Friday, Pompeo plans to leave Germany just before the actual anniversary of the fall of the Wall, but not before unveiling a new 7-foot (2.1-meter) statue of the late US President Ronald Reagan on the balcony of the US Embassy in Berlin.