Reagan - Germany

By Tom Raum
The Associated Press

June 12, 1987

Standing under iron-gray skies at the Berlin Wall dividing East and West, President Reagan on Friday challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev - if he truly seeks peace, prosperity and liberalization - to "come here to this gate ... tear down this wall."

Reagan's emotional declaration that "there is only one Berlin," spoken in German, was greeted with roars of approval from more than 20,000 flag-waving spectators, and was carried by loudspeakers to several hundred East Berliners trying to listen from beyond the Brandenburg Gate, on the other side of the concrete and barbed wire barricade.

"This wall will fall," Reagan declared in the speech, broadcast to Eastern Europe as well as Western Europe and North America. "For it cannot withstand faith. It cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom."

The president and Nancy Reagan returned to the White House at 9:45 p.m. EDT, where the family dog, Rex, scampered out the door to greet them. Mrs. Reagan scooped the spaniel up in her arms and carried him inside.

Nearing the end of a 10-day, 10,135-mile journey that took him to Venice for the annual economic summit of seven major industrial democracies, the president challenged Gorbachev to extend his liberalizing domestic policy of "glasnost" to ending East-West divisions symbolized by the Berlin Wall.

"We hear much from Moscow about a new policy of reform and openness," he said, citing the release of political prisoners, the end of jamming of some foreign news broadcasts and the start of economic ventures relatively free of state control.

"Are these the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state?" Reagan asked. "Or are they token gestures, intended to raise false hopes in the West or to strengthen the Soviet system without changing it?

"We welcome change and openness. For we believe freedom and security go together - that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace."

Then Reagan declared:

"There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.

"General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here, to this gate.

"Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate.

"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.''

Barricades kept anti-American demonstrators from getting any closer than one mile from the speech site.

But before Reagan arrived from Venice, thousands of protesters had marched through West Berlin chanting anti-American slogans, smashing windows, looting stores and battling with riot police. Fifty-nine demonstrators were arrested and 67 policemen were injured.

In an impromptu reference to those who demonstrated against his Berlin appearance, Reagan said, "I wonder if they have ever asked themselves that if they should have the kind of government they apparently seek, no one would ever be able to do what they're doing again."

Accompanied by West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Reagan stood behind a bulletproof glass shield on a raised platform and gazed over the wall at the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag, the former German parliament building. The two leaders stood directly opposite an East German guard tower.

Asked by reporters if he thought Gorbachev would accept his challenge to tear down the wall, Reagan replied, "Well, Jericho didn't last forever."

Two East German guards took photographs of the president and others watched with binoculars as he spoke. Later, asked if he was nervous, Reagan said, "I have great faith in our security."

The wall behind the platform where Reagan spoke had been whitewashed during the night to remove graffiti reading, "Ronald Reagan Go Home." By the time he arrived Friday, the wall bore a fresh slogan, "Hello World, Welcome Reagan 1987," which was thought to have been painted by a few of the 250,000 U.S. Army troops stationed in West Germany.

"Let me make one thing clear, our troops will remain here as long as they're wanted and needed ... to show the other side that force and coercion cannot succeed," Reagan told a cheering American audience at West Berlin's Tempelhof Airport before he flew to the West German capital of Bonn.

East German soldiers and militiamen began erecting the wall around the western perimeters of Berlin after midnight on Aug. 13, 1961, to prevent people from fleeing communist-controlled territory to the West.

The wall stretches for 103 miles around Berlin, its barriers reinforced by electrified fences, attack dogs, trenches and guard towers.

Reagan's speech was applauded heavily by his cheering audience, composed mostly of U.S. military and diplomatic officers stationed in West Berlin.

But it was greeted in sullen silence by between 200 and 400 East Berliners and tourists who lined street corners under the gaze of policemen behind the towering Brandenburg Gate, the revered landmark of this divided city which is celebrating its 750th anniversary.

From the western side of the wall, the loudspeakers' volume seemed high enough to carry Reagan's words to listeners in East Berlin. But Associated Press correspondent Ingomar Schwelz, stationed at the beginning of the city's famed Unter den Linden Boulevard, a long city block from Reagan, reported that his speech was mostly unintelligible.

Reagan sought to stir hope in his speech with a reference to the prospects of a Soviet-American agreement to dismantle hundreds of intermediate-range missiles from Europe and Soviet Asia. And he sought to strike an emotional chord among his German listeners with brief sayings in German reminiscent of President Kennedy's famous declaration that "Ich bin ein Berliner" (``I am a Berliner'') in a Berlin speech on June 26, 1963.

At one point, Reagan said, "I join you as I join our belief: Es gibt nur ein Berlin." ("There is only one Berlin.") The president also said that "like so many presidents before me, I come here today because wherever I go, whatever I do: Ich habe noch einen Koffer in Berlin. (I still have a suitcase in Berlin)," a line from a popular song.

The president suggested specifically to Gorbachev that if the wall were destroyed and East and West Germany reunited, commercial airline service to Berlin could be expanded and the city could host United Nations conferences on human rights, arms control and other issues, or serve as the site for some future Olympic Games.

Kohl joined Reagan in calling for the Berlin Wall to be torn down. "No one in Europe has more interest in the reduction of East-West conflict than we Germans, and among us, the Berliners," Kohl said. "A wall, a barbed wire and orders to shoot are not the answer of history to the German question."

Reagan later met with Kohl for 45 minutes at the Bonn-Cologne airport before the president flew home to Washington. He plans to deliver a broadcast address to the nation Monday night from the White House.

Presidential spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said the speech will include a recap of the Venice summit, prospects for an arms control agreement and "a good part will be on the budget and the budget reform process." Reagan's summit allies in Venice had urged him to take stronger steps to reduce massive U.S. budget deficits.

Reagan told reporters he had talked by telephone Thursday with Secretary of State George P. Shultz, meeting with NATO foreign ministers in Reykjavik, Iceland, and that Shultz reported "things are going very well among the allies."

On Friday, Shultz reported "a very clear consensus" in two days of NATO talks in support of the first U.S.-Soviet nuclear pact since 1979. The NATO allies backed the superpower deal to remove medium-range and shorter range missiles, subject to verification, and invited the Warsaw Pact to join a new round of negotiations on controlling conventional arms.

Copyright 1987. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.