Berlin - President Joe Biden will nominate University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann, 71, for the post of US ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany. She would be the first woman in the job. The news was broken by Der Spiegel, which cited German and American government sources. Gutmann's appointment has to be approved by both the US Senate and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
As ambassador, she would likely take a radically different approach to that of Trump appointee Richard Grenell, who bailed on Berlin in June 2020 to become Trump's director of national intelligence. He was notorious for his undiplomatic, even offensive statements about Germany. The US has been without an ambassador in Berlin ever since. Charge d'Affaires Robin Quinville has been holding the fort.
"With Amy Gutmann, Joe Biden is relying on an experienced bridge builder. She is taking on a difficult legacy after Richard Grenell," Johann Wadephul, deputy leader of the CDU/CSU group in the Bundestag, told Reuters newswire.
Amy Gutmann holds a PhD in political science from Harvard and has been president of Ivy League college UPenn in Philadelphia since 2004.
Her father, Kurt Gutmann (1910-1964), was a Jewish German from a merchant family in Feuchtwangen, Franconia. He left Germany for India in 1934 to escape the Nazis and later headed to New York. Gutmann has called her father a profound influence and a model of courage and integrity. She praised his foresight when he persuaded his entire family to flee the Third Reich.
Her mother Abigail Gutmann Doyle was a professor of chemistry at Princeton.
As ambassador, Gutmann's main task will be to patch up frayed ties between Washington and Berlin. Relations deteriorated rapidly during Donald Trump's term in office - with the US president regularly taking pot shots at Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel - whether it was on spending too little on defense or Germany's gigantic trade imbalance with the US.