John C. Kornblum

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from John Kornblum)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

John Christian Kornblum
John Kornblum, KAS Berlin, 2014.jpg
United States Ambassador to Germany
In office
September 10, 1997 – January 16, 2001
PresidentBill Clinton
Preceded byCharles E. Redman
Succeeded byDaniel R. Coats
Personal details
Born (1943-02-06) February 6, 1943 (age 77)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.

John Christian Kornblum (born February 6, 1943, Detroit, Michigan) is an American diplomat and businessman.[1] He entered the American Foreign Service in 1964. Over the next thirty five years, he served in Europe and at the State Department in Washington. Since 2001, he has established himself as an investment banker and international business consultant. He lives in Berlin.

Kornblum is one of the leading experts on transatlantic economic and political affairs and on the evolving role of the Atlantic community in a multipolar world [unsubstantiated statement]. He lectures and writes widely in both German and English and is known especially for his press and television commentaries on the implications of globalization on both sides of the Atlantic.

Diplomatic service[edit]

During his foreign service career, Kornblum specialized in European and East-West relations and played a defining role in many of the important events leading up to the end of the Cold War. These included the Quadripartite negotiations on Berlin (1970–1973), the Helsinki Final Act (1973–1975), the Belgrade Conference of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) from 1977 to 1978, the stationing of [intermediate] nuclear weapons in Europe (INF) in the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan's historic 1987 appearance at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, German reunification (1990), the Helsinki Summit Conference of the OSCE (1992), the Dayton Agreement on the Balkans (1995), enlargement of NATO (1997), the post-Cold War security settlement with Russia and Ukraine and the agreement on compensation of slave laborers and establishment of the Reconciliation Foundation of German Industry (2000). Kornblum also served as US Special Envoy to the Balkans (1995–1997) and directed two dramatic prisoner and spy exchanges on the Glienicke Bridge in Berlin in 1985 and 1986. The latter featured the release of Soviet dissident Anatoli Scharanskiy.

Kornblum was a member of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff under Henry Kissinger (1973–1975), Director of the State Department's Office of Central European Affairs (1981–1985), United States Minister and Deputy Commandant in Berlin (1985–1987), Deputy Ambassador to NATO (1987–1991), Ambassador and head of the U.S. Mission to the OSCE in Vienna (1991–1994) and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs and Special Envoy to the Balkans (1995–1997). He served as the Ambassador to Germany from 1997 to 2001.

Ambassador to Germany[edit]

Kornblum's tenure as Ambassador to Germany was highlighted by the move of the German government from the West German capital in Bonn on the Rhine to reunified Berlin. In 1999, he reopened the Embassy of the United States in Berlin for the first time since December 8, 1941. The embassy was first housed in the building formerly used as the American Embassy to the German Democratic Republic. Constructing a new chancery on the site of the prewar building at the Brandenburg Gate turned out to be a difficult undertaking. Heightened United States security requirements led to a long and at times bitter dispute with Berlin authorities during which Kornblum became the target of repeated political and public criticism. Shortly before leaving office in 2001, Kornblum negotiated a settlement which was ultimately confirmed by Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2003. The new embassy opened on July 4, 2008.

Kornblum's more than forty years of active presence in Europe have made him one of the most experienced and effective American practitioners on Europe and Atlantic relations. Sometimes by chance, often by design, he was often at the center of dramatic events. A highpoint of his efforts was the June 1987 speech by President Ronald Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Kornblum conceived and organized the event and worked for more than a year to gain acceptance for political initiatives which included the famous "tear down this wall" phrase in the President's speech. His service at NATO included helping prepare the new Alliance strategy after 1990 and negotiation of NATO's position for the conventional forces negotiations with the Soviet Union. Kornblum was present from the beginning of negotiation of the Helsinki Final Act in 1973 and contributed several times to its implementation in the following years. He played a leading role in negotiating the Helsinki Summit Declaration, the "Challenges of Change" which devised a new operational role for the then Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and from 1992 to 1994 opened and headed the first American Mission to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). Returning to Washington in 1994, he oversaw development of a post-Cold War Atlantic security strategy, including the enlargement of NATO in 1997, the NATO-Russia Council, the NATO-Ukraine Council and the expansion, renaming and reorganization of the CSCE to OSCE. In 1995 Kornblum was one of the main architects of the Dayton Peace Agreement, and he later served for two years as United States Special Envoy to the Balkans.

Reagan's Berlin speech[edit]

Kornblum elaborated on the complex diplomacy which preceded President Reagan's speech at the Brandenburg Gate in an article entitled "Reagan's Brandenburg Concerto" (an allusion to the complex work of the Brandenburg concertos by Bach), which appeared in the May/June 2007 issue of The American Interest and was reprinted in the German newspaper Die Welt on June 12, 2007. Kornblum disclosed that Reagan's delivery of the speech at the most dramatic site along the Berlin Wall was planned for more than a year in advance by U.S. diplomats in Germany and Washington as a counterweight to the growing sentiment within Germany for an arrangement with the new, liberal Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Many Germans had begun to hope that in exchange for legal acceptance of the sovereignty of East Germany, the West could obtain the inclusion of West Berlin into West Germany and a gradual opening of the Wall. Any such deal with Gorbachev would have undermined hopes for a speedy German reunification and the liberation of Eastern Europe. Reagan's dramatic challenge to Gorbachev to "tear down this wall" was anything but an ad hoc remark. It was conceived by Kornblum and his team as a memorable slogan for a broader American initiative to remind both East and West that the United States was not willing to accept an undemocratic status quo in the center of Europe. The speech included a number of proposals to accelerate democratic change by making the wall more porous, and thus helped Gorbachev to open it. Kornblum's article goes on to describe the many political pressures exerted in Germany and Washington as this initiative was being implemented and concludes with reflections on the significance of the speech from a perspective 20 years later.

Later activities[edit]

John C. Kornblum (2008)

Since leaving diplomatic service, Kornblum has pursued parallel career tracks in business, consulting and political commentary in Europe and the United States. From 2001 to 2009, Kornblum served as Chairman of the investment bank Lazard Freres Germany, which he helped build into one of the leading investment banks in Central Europe. He has also been a member of the supervisory boards of Bayer AG, Thyssen-Krupp Technologies, and Motorola Europe. He is a member of the advisory councils of Russell Reynolds[2] and Consultum AG,[3] and an advisor to the Finnish Innovation Fund SITRA and to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. Kornblum serves on numerous non-profit boards including the American Academy in Berlin, the German Institute for Community Organizing (DICO)[4] and the Deutsche Oper in Berlin. He currently serves as adviser to a number of transatlantic companies including the international law firm Noerr[5] and Pfizer.[6] Since July 2010, Kornblum has also been a member of the German Government Council for Immigration and Integration.

During the past ten years, Kornblum has established a strong public voice defining the implications for Europe and the United States of the new era in global politics which followed the end of the Cold War. He has built on both his diplomatic and business experience to focus particularly on the issues connected with the rapidly changing relationships between government and the private sector in a globally integrated world. He speaks and writes regularly in Europe and the United States on economic, security and political issues. Kornblum does regular commentary for several European and American networks on American politics and foreign policy. Also, he is on the advisory board of OMFIF where he is regularly involved in meetings regarding the financial and monetary system.

Looking to the future of the Atlantic world, Kornblum presented his vision for the evolution of Germany and Europe in an article published in the November/December 2009 issue of the conservative political journal The American Interest. Here he argued that the end of Cold War confrontation and spread of free market systems made possible the establishment of a tight web of open sourced networks which overcome traditional geography and create new patterns of culture and trade. Kornblum suggested that increasing global integration would gradually reduce Germany's fear of being caught in the middle of big power confrontation and give it a new sense of confidence. He concluded, "With its deepening sense of being at the center of a newly integrated world will come a growing sense of responsibility that will cause the ghosts of the past to gradually recede. Germany will not answer lingering questions about its normalcy; it will transcend them. By our lights today, Germany will not be normal, but nothing else will be either." A German translation of this article appeared in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on November 6, 2009.

Kornblum expanded his commentary on the Obama era in the book Mission Amerika (2009), written in German together with well-known television commentator Dieter Kronzucker. Here the authors argued that the basis for the vision of change proclaimed by President Obama was created by wide-ranging social and demographic changes that had taken place in the United States during the preceding thirty years. They suggested that Obama's victory was a result of both a skillful campaign and a dramatic evolution of American society, which delivered a ready audience for Obama's ideas. They warned, however, that Obama's program of transformation was likely to encounter heavy resistance in the wake of the financial crisis of 2007–08.

In addition to his business activities, John Kornblum has served on a number of private and public boards including Bayer AG, Thyssen Krupp Technologies, Motorola Europe and Russell Reynolds Inc. He is a Trustee of several organizations, including the American chamber of Commerce in Germany, the American Academy in Berlin and a member of the Board of the Deutsche Oper in Berlin and of DICO, Deutsches Institut for Community Organizing.

In 2011, John Kornblum was appointed to the German Chancellor's Advisory Board on Immigration and Integration.

During 2012 and 2013, Ambassador Kornblum served as a campaign advisor to the Georgian Dream party of Bidzina Ivanishvili. Ivanishvili credited him in playing an important role in Georgian Dream's 2012 victory, the first peaceful transfer of power in recent Georgian history.

In June 2013 John Kornblum became the founding chairman of the John F. Kennedy Atlantic Forum which was established to apply the principles of risk and reward culture to the growing trans-Atlantic entrepreneurial culture in Germany and Berlin.

Since February 2015 John Kornblum was appointed as a senior counsellor for the international market for the Berliner real estate project developer BEWOCON.


Großes Verdienstkreuz mit Stern (Germany), 1990

Verdienstkreuz, Republic of Austria, 1994

Distinguished Honor Award, Department of State, 1996

Honorary Citizenship, Sarajevo, 1997

Distinguished Alumnus, Michigan State University, 1999

Ritter wider den tierischen Ernst, Aachen, 1999 (Aachen Carnival Award)

Secretary's Award, US Department of State, 2000

Silver Medal, American Chamber of Commerce in Germany, 2000

Several Superior Honor Awards, Department of State, 1964–2001

Medal of Honor, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, 2013

Board Memberships[edit]

Bayer AG (2002–2007)

Thyssen-Krupp Technologies (2001–2006)

Motorola GmbH, Germany (2005–2008) Advisory Board Consultum AG. Berlin (2006–2012)

Advisory Board Russell Reynolds (since 2008)

Advisory Board chairman, Management Circle (since 2008)

Non-profit boards:

  • American Chamber of Commerce in Germany (AmCham Germany), Member of the board of directors[7]
  • American Academy in Berlin, Secretary
  • American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS)
  • American Council on Germany
  • John F. Kennedy Atlantic Forum, Berlin, Chairman
  • Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Washington
  • Deutsche Oper Berlin
  • Internationale Martin Luther Stiftung, Erfurt
  • German Historical Museum, Berlin
  • Friends of NPR Berlin, Chairman
  • John F. Kennedy Institute, Free University of Berlin
  • Deutsches Institut für Community Organizing, Berlin

Personal life[edit]

John Kornblum has been married to Helen Sen Kornblum since 1987. They have two sons, Alexander (born 1988) and Stephen (born 1990). John Kornblum was first married to Birgit Hannah Schonefeld for 25 years. They divorced in 1984.

Selected works[edit]

  • "The World Looks Up to the Germans". American Institute For Contemporary German Studies. 2006. Retrieved September 26, 2007.
  • "Frei sein oder gleich sein?". Die Welt (in German). November 19, 2006. Retrieved September 26, 2007.
  • "Remapping the World," Die Welt, July 2, 2008.
  • The German Element, 2003
  • "Reagan's Brandenburg Concerto", The American Interest, May/June 2007
  • "Dialogue on the Expansion of NATO" (with Michael Mandelbaum), The American Interest, March/April 2008
  • "Governing by Network," Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, January 10, 2009
  • Mission Amerika. Weltmacht am Wendepunkt (with Dieter Kronzucker and Redline Verlag), Gebundene Ausgabe, April 17, 2009
  • "From the Middle to the Center: German Normality in an Integrated World", The American Interest, November/December 2009, pp. 68–70.
  • "Zentrum einer integrierten Welt," Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, November 6, 2009, p. 8.
  • "Germany in Need of a Dream," International Herald Tribune, April 23, 2010, page 6.
  • " Germany at 65, A New Chapter Begins," p. 23 Reflections on 20 Years of German Reunification American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, Washington, 2010.
  • "We Need a New Atlanticism," published in German in "Handelsblatt," April 15, 2011, p. 9.


  1. ^ Ambassador John Kornblum (2006). "The World Looks Up to the Germans". American Institute For Contemporary German Studies. Retrieved September 26, 2007.
  2. ^ source? no evidence found on
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 25, 2011. Retrieved October 23, 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ source? no evidence found on
  6. ^ source? no evidence found on
  7. ^ Board of Directors American Chamber of Commerce in Germany (AmCham Germany).

External links[edit]

Media related to John C. Kornblum at Wikimedia Commons

Government offices
Preceded by
Richard Holbrooke
Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs
July 3, 1996 – July 1, 1997
Succeeded by
Marc Grossman
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
James D. Bindenagel (as Chargé d'Affaires)
United States Ambassador to Germany
Succeeded by
Daniel R. Coats