As leaders and revelers celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago, President Barack Obama's absence is one of several diplomatic wrinkles marring the event.
BERLIN – The celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall started off well enough – former President George H.W. Bush, ex-Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, and former West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl gathered in front of nearly 2,000 dignitaries in Berlin last week to celebrate their role in bringing about the end of the Cold War.
It was a happy affair, with Mr. Bush and Mr. Gorbachev exchanging laughs and smiles as they recalled Nov. 9, 1989, a day that all agreed advanced world freedom and ended the looming threat of the cold war.
But in the week since, as leaders have gathered here to mark the anniversary, agreement has been tough to come by and fractures between allies have shown themselves in what has been billed as an event to celebrate unity. One of these signs was the absence of US President Barack Obama as other heads of state gathered underneath the Brandenburg Gate Monday night to make a symbolic journey from the old East Berlin to West Berlin. They group then toppled a wall of dominoes along the path of the Berlin Wall.
But President Obama sent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is his place, infuriating many Germans, as the US president is beloved here. Some in Berlin asked if this snub indicated that the alliance between the US and Germans is strained.