Fifty years after the Berlin airlift signaled the opening of the Cold War, President Clinton is commemorating that heroic effort while setting "new directions" for a peaceful and secure Europe.
Flying into Tegel airport, built during the 1948-49 Soviet blockade expressly for the airlift, Clinton's itinerary Wednesday called for a mixture of politics and pomp.Ambassador to Germany John Kornblum said the president intended to use the trip not only to recall the historic ties between Berlin and America, but "to set new directions" for Europe almost a decade after the Berlin Wall fell.
The trip comes just weeks after the Senate approved the first wave of NATO expansion and the European Union ratified plans for a single currency.
"We've built a pretty strong framework," Knblum said. "Now the question is: What comes next?"
After meetings Wednesday with Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Clinton's itinerary called for lunch at the 18th century Sans Souci palace outside Berlin - former home to Prussia's Frederick the Great, who signed the first friendship treaty with the new United States in the early 1780s.
Clinton also was to meet with Gerhard Schroeder, the opposition Social Democrat who hopes to unseat Kohl in this fall's parliamentary elections. Schroeder has been compared to Clinton for his efforts to move his traditionally leftist party to the center to attract middle-of-the-road voters.
On Thursday, Clinton will speak at Tempelhof airport with airlift veterans and christen an Air Force DC-7 as the "Spirit of the City of Berlin."
He then goes to Eisenach, in the former communist east Germany, to tour a car factory bought after German unification by Opel, the German operating unit of General Motors Corp. Kornblum said Clinton wanted to stress the importance of U.S. investment in the region.