THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
Globalization and digitalization present as fundamental a challenge to the
U.S.-European alliance as the task of rebuilding after World War II.
THE UNITED STATES AND EUROPE:
TOWARD A GLOBAL
John Christian Kornblum served as U.S. ambassador to Germany from 1997 to 2001, when he retired after 30 years in the Foreign
Service. As a Europe specialist, he was also posted to Austria, Belgium and Finland in addition to Washington, D.C. High-level
diplomatic positions included service as minister and deputy commandant in Berlin, deputy U.S. permanent representative to
NATO, ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, assistant secretary for European and Canadian
Affairs, deputy head of U.S. Delegation to the Dayton Balkan Peace Talks and special envoy to the Balkans.
Amb. Kornblum is now an international business adviser and commentator, living in Berlin. He currently serves as senior counselor to the
German law firm Nörr LLP. He is also a senior adviser for the Europe Program of CSIS, founding chairman of the John F. Kennedy Atlantic
Forum and chairman of NPR Berlin. In addition, he serves on numerous nonprofit boards and committees, including the American Academy
in Berlin, the Deutsche Oper in Berlin and the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany.
uring my first weeks in the
Foreign Service in 1964, I told
the chairman of my A-100 course
that I wanted to specialize in
European affairs. His reaction
was to suggest that my plan was
at best misguided and at worst
suicidal. Europe was no longer a
problem, he told me. No careers
were to be made in Europe. The European Economic Commu-
nity and the Berlin Wall had defined Europe into two parts, and
the Western part would soon be able to stand on its own.
Over the dramatic years which followed, I thought back to this
conversation from time to time, because it revealed one of the
basic dilemmas of American diplomacy. Even at the peak of the
Cold War, senior State Department officers preferred hands-on
ON U.S. – EUROPE RELATIONS
jobs in theThird World to the geopolitics of Europe and Russia.
Assuming that our vision of American particularism was all
the strategy we needed, American leaders have from the earliest
days of our republic, chosen short-term, “transactional” diplo-
macy over longer-term strategies. President Donald J. Trump’s
preference for dramatic deals rather than careful tending of a
strong Atlantic community is only somewhat more pronounced
than that of his two immediate predecessors. The great American
commentator Walter Lippman noted that this predilection often
led to the “insolvency” of American foreign policy.
Needless to say, my career did not suffer from toiling
for many years in the European vineyard. There were great
moments and more than enough tragedy. Along the way I also
came to understand how central the task of rebuilding Europe
had been to the success of the great Pax Americana that stabi-
lized the postwar world.
BY JOHN CHR I ST I AN KORNBLUM