Critical Analysis of a Geopolitical Text: “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” by John F. Kennedy

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  • Topic: Cold War, Eastern Bloc, East Germany
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  • Published : January 22, 2011
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“Ich bin ein Berliner,” or “I am a Berliner” is the unforgettable speech that was delivered by John F. Kennedy in front of hundreds of Berliners on the balcony of the Schoeneberg Rathaus (city hall) in West Berlin on June 26, 1963. It is considered one of the best rhetorical speeches ever given. My aim here is to provide a deep analysis of its significance and influence on the local and global political arena of that time in the context of the Cold War. For better understanding of significance of the speech we will firstly introduce events proceeding it and briefly explain the Cold War.

Germany no longer existed as a sovereign state once it surrendered at the end of the Second World War because the Allies wanted to avoid another post-war resolution that would once again allow Germany to become a global threat. Instead, military and political representatives of the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain and France ruled there and policy was coordinated in the Allied Control Council. The Four Powers established four zones of military occupation in Germany and also in Berlin. Britain, France and the United States’ zones of the country were later consolidated into one zone for reconstruction. Democracy and capitalism were encouraged in the Western zones of Germany with multi political parties’ system whereas socialism took over all aspects of life in the Soviet zone. Both, West and East sought to make their part of Berlin a ‘show window’ for their system and aimed to make it alluring to people on the other side. The Powers wanted to maintain the status quo in Berlin but….Berlin was located at the front line of the Cold War between USA and USSR and it became a focus of Cold War tensions between communism and democracy in the 1960’s. Since Berlin, the capital, was located deep in the Soviet Zone and divided into four parts, it was a big threat for the East because democratic West Berlin was a way more attractive for people due to the freedoms and economic prosperity. This presented also an economic threat to East Berlin as lots of the refugees who left for West were skilled and educated people what resulted in an economic ‘brain drain’. That unusual geopolitical situation became difficult to handle.

Khrushchev unable to compete with and outmaneuver the capitalist West aimed to force the Allies out of West Berlin and to bring them to recognize the existence of the communist East German state. Khrushchev met Kennedy at the summit in Vienna in June 1961, but Kennedy refused to leave and abandon West Berlin arguing that the East German government had not been freely elected. The U.S. leaders feel even more committed to to preserving Western access to West Berlin after The Soviet threats. The Soviets built the Berlin Wall, a tangible manifestation of the Iron Curtain. It was officially called the anti-fascist protective barrier and should also serve to prevent spies and agents of West Germany from crossing into their territory. However everybody knew the Wall served to prevent the massive emigration and defection. As Kennedy in his speech said “we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us.“

This left West Berlin a vulnerable outpost due to its location 177 kilometers from West Germany’ border. The West, particularly the USA, was accused of failing to respond rigorously to the building of the Wall. Citizens and the mayor of West Berlin, Willy Brandt felt betrayed by the US, Britain, and France after they informed they would not challenge it by force. West Berliners trapped inside the Iron Curtain, feared an invasion from East Germany.

All this proceeded the John F. Kennedy visit to West Berlin and his speech ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ in which he presented his stance and made it clear what his action would be if the East Germany would have invaded West Berlin. Speech was given in during the time we could consider the peak of the Cold War.Geopolitics in this...
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