Berlin sheds a tear for postwar order as Trump tenure looms

By Deborah Cole, AFP

BERLIN — U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel may have got off to a rocky start but his impending departure has sparked a wave of nostalgia and trepidation in Berlin. As Donald Trump threatens to upend the pillars of the postwar order, few cities have historically symbolized the strength of the transatlantic bond more than the reunified German capital, where Obama held the biggest rally of his 2008 watershed campaign. Although Merkel barred him from speaking at the Brandenburg Gate, deeming the landmark of German unity too presumptuous a backdrop for the young senator, Obama drew 200,000 cheering fans to the nearby Victory Column monument for a speech about ripping down walls of division. Now, as Berliners prepare to bid him goodbye, many say Obama left relations far better than he found them, making the impending presidency of Trump who is sworn in Friday a source of widespread anxiety. “Merkel and Obama are both 21st century leaders, not only because she was the first woman as chancellor and he was the first black president, but because of their modern, intelligent, farsighted approach,” said Antje Pohle, a 33-year-old public relations executive. “Obama wasn’t perfect but he will be missed in Berlin, especially when you look at the Trump insanity.” Clemens Doepgen, 50, who works at U.S. automaker Ford’s German unit, predicted “very tough” negotiations on trade, dismissing Trump’s protectionist rhetoric as “crude and simplistic.” “America under Obama was a reliable partner — Trump’s erratic approach could be very bad for business.”