The US ambassador's house in Berlin has been empty for almost five months but a new inhabitant is scheduled to move in soon. William Robert Timken will take over as US ambassador to Germany.
William Robert Timken is the new US ambassador to Germany
Former US ambassador to Germany, Daniel Coats, left Berlin in the cold of winter, also leaving behind some very frosty relations between his homeland and host country. Not known for mincing words in his three-and-a-half year term that started in August 2001, the former US senator saw the close friendship between the US and Germany dissolve into bitter differences over how to lead the fight against terrorism.
His departing words were that relations between the two nations suffered "serious injuries and strains."
Former US ambassador Daniel Coats (left) and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder
To fill Coats' shoes, US President George W. Bush is turning to an industrialist whose campaign donations played a decisive role in the key state of the 2004 elections, Ohio.
William Robert Timken is his name and beyond a simple "Guten Tag" and "Danke schön," his German is said to be very limited. Nor is he experienced in the world of international politics and diplomacy.
Yet in the distribution of high-profile US embassies around the world, language competency and a diplomatic career is not necessarily the priority, but rather connections to the president as was the case with appointments to London, Paris and Rome.
He might not be very familiar with the detailed interworkings of German politics, but William Robert Timken, or "Tim" to Bush, can at least turn to his genealogical tree should he need some basic information about his new host country. In 1838, his great-grandfather, Henry Timken, emigrated from the northern port city of Bremen with his parents. At that time he was seven years old.
US President George W. Bush
Fifty-nine years later, Henry Timken would patent a ball-bearing and found the Timken Company. A century later, the ball-bearing business had sales of $4.5 billion (3.8 billlion euros). With his status as a "Ranger" of the Republican Party, a title that goes to those who donate at least $200,000, Henry Timken's great-grandson will be returning to Germany while enjoying close access to the US president.
William Robert Timken's assignment, however prestigious it may be, will be an uncomfortable one after the difficult years Coats endured. Like his predecessor, Timken is known to be a vocal critic of Germany's refusal to support the US in its war on Iraq. He is also not in favor of granting Germany, Brazil, Japan and India permanent seats on the UN Security Council, an initiative launched by the so-called G-4 countries.
His job of bringing Germany and the US closer could be eased considerably, though, if Angela Merkel takes the reins in Berlin following general elections widely expected to take place in September.
The candidate for the opposition Christian Democrats, unlike current Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, has been a frequent guest in Washington and is said to seek more direct relations with the United States. If that is indeed the case and Merkel win's the election, Timken's stint in Berlin could get off on a more positive one than his predecessor.