The post of US ambassador to Germany has become vacant after Daniel Coats left the position in February. A German-American academic is one of the most likely candidates to become the US's next top diplomat in Germany.
Coats has already left, but a new ambassador has not been named
The new ambassador will have to know Germany well, he or she should speak the language and have good connections in Washington -- these are some of the requirements experts in Berlin and the US capital mention when asked about necessary qualifications for the job.
This says a lot as Coats, a former Republican US senator from Indiana, was friendly with the White House but didn't know that much about Germany when he arrived in 2001. The latter especially became a problem during the rift between the US and Germany over the war in Iraq: Coats was unable to be as involved as his predecessor because he lacked the language skills to do so.
Art rendering of the new US Embassy at the Paris square next to the Brandenburg gate, left, in Berlin. Construction is currently under way, with completion scheduled for spring 2008
But after US President George W. Bush's friendly praise during his visit to Germany on Feb. 23, it seems like "old Europe" might regain importance on Washington's political radar screen.
Professional or buddy?
That's why the selection of a new ambassador will be an indicator for foreign policy plans during Bush's second term.
After all, there's two ways diplomatic posts are filled by countries around the world: Picking a professional or rewarding a buddy, sending an experienced career diplomat from within the foreign ministry or installing a party member and friend. Coats fit the latter category while his predecessor, John Kornblum (photo), came from within the US state department.
The choice will also show the extent of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's influence. The president usually picks ambassadors, but as Rice has a very close relationship with Bush, the appointment of a Rice confidant could serve as a signal for her strong position of power within the administration.
An academic ambassador?
So far, the White House has not nominated anyone as Coat's successor. But one name that keeps coming up is that of Gerhard Casper, the Hamburg-born former president of Stanford University. Casper (photo), who emigrated to the US in 1964, could be an ideal candidate: He knows Germany and has a personal connection with Rice. As Stanford president, he named her the university's dean, the institution's No. 2 job.
Along with Casper, Elizabeth Jones (photo) and Richard Burt (photo, below) are also mentioned as potential ambassadors. Jones, the assistant secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs in the state department, had already been nominated by former President Bill Clinton to succeed Kornblum as ambassador to Germany. But after Bush's election, the new president decided to send Coats instead.
Burt already served as US ambassador to Germany from 1985 to 1989 after he occupied Jones' current position. While Jones probably lacks the necessary ties to the White House and Rice, Burt's disadvantage is that he was already in Germany during the last phase of the Cold War and could hardly be presented as a signal for a fresh start in US-German relations.