Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Germany this week to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall – and on Thursday the trip was personal.
Pompeo visited the US Army Garrison in Bavaria, where the West Point graduate was in his early 20s as a tank commander during the Cold War.
The now 55-year-old Secretary of State served in the 2nd Army Cavalry Regiment, which is still in the Bavarian garrison, and also spent time patrolling the Berlin Wall before collapsing in 1989, according to a report by Stars and Stripes. .
The visit to the garrison opened Pompeo's two-day trip to Germany, where he will deliver a speech on Friday commemorating the fall of communist and Soviet rule over Eastern Europe near Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.
A senior State Department official said in the background that the speech "will highlight the continuing commitment of the United States to uphold the fundamental rights of liberty and human dignity."
A State Department press release said the purpose of Pompeo's trip is "to highlight the vital role the United States has played in helping people in Central and Eastern Europe to break the yoke of communism."
"The US-Germany relationship is in many ways the basis of the transatlantic relationship and, of course, the NATO alliance, built on shared values - freedom, democracy, human rights, rule of law," said the senior official of the Department. State Reporters informed earlier this week. "These are the kinds of things we will celebrate as we celebrate this 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and that is at least the focus of this trip."
The Associated Press reported that Pompeo, whose US Army service in Germany was spent on the border with Czechoslovakia and East Germany in the 1980s, spoke with US troops in a live-fire exercise on Thursday before heading to a meeting with the German foreign minister. Heiko Maas in the city of Moedlareuth.
During the Cold War, Moedlareuth was split between the border between East and West Germany, with southern Bavaria and northern Thuringia, a partition that gave rise to its nickname "Little Berlin."
Hundreds of thousands of Americans were stationed in West Germany during the Cold War, and the country was one of America's closest allies. This relationship continued after the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 and the collapse of communism, but ties have recently strained under the presidency of Donald Trump for a number of issues.
Pompeo is expected to discuss US growing concerns about economic and strategic threats from Russia, China and Iran during talks Thursday and Friday with Maas and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The Associated Press quoted US officials as saying the Secretary of State must reiterate US opposition to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was firmly supported by Germany and Russia.
The Nord Stream 2 project got a boost last week when Danish regulators rejected environmental objections to a party that would pass through its waters. The plan to transport natural gas about 750 miles from Russia's Baltic Sea to Europe has been criticized by the Trump government and several European countries, who argue that this will increase Russia's dependence on energy.
• This article is based in part on wired service reports.