American Ambassador To Germany Raising Concerns About Interference In European Politics

The new American Ambassador to Germany is making what clearly seem to be inappropriate statements about domestic politics in Europe.

Richard Grenell, the former Republican political operative who was recently confirmed as the new U.S. Ambassador to Germany, is causing controversy in Europe due to his comments that suggest that he intends to interfere in the internal politics of his host country and other nations Europe:

BERLIN — Richard Grenell is the United States’ top diplomat in Berlin, but Germans were questioning his diplomatic skills on Monday, after he said that he wanted to empower conservative leaders in Europe who dared to challenge what he called “the failed policies of the left.”

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Monday that the ministry had requested a clarification of remarks by Mr. Grenell, the new American ambassador to Germany, which were condemned on both sides of the Atlantic as lacking the neutrality expected of a diplomat. His statements came at a time when Berlin and Washington are at odds over President Trump’s moves to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate accord — both of which Berlin supports — and to raise tariffs on steel and imports from Europe.

In a wide-ranging interview with Breitbart London that was released over the weekend, Mr. Grenell, who assumed his post just last month, said, “There are a lot of conservatives throughout Europe who have contacted me to say they are feeling there is a resurgence going on.”

“I absolutely want to empower other conservatives throughout Europe,” he said. “I think there is a groundswell of conservative policies that are taking hold because of the failed policies of the left.”

Germany’s coordinator for trans-Atlantic affairs, Peter Beyer, said he was looking forward to meeting Mr. Grenell on Wednesday.

“I hope he will explain what he actually said in the Breitbart interview and what he meant by it,” Mr. Beyer said. “In challenging times like these, the U.S.A. and Europe need to firmly stand together to defend common values and interests.”

Mr. Grenell’s criticism of the 2015 deal brokered between Iran and world powers was evident in his first days on the job, when he took to Twitter to warn German businesses that they “should wind down operations immediately” in Iran, or face American sanctions. That was taken as an affront by many in Germany, where traditions run deep and where ambassadors are viewed as guests who are expected to follow protocol.

“I know you are still quite new at your post, but it is not part of the job description of an ambassador to interfere in the politics of his guest country,” Lars Klingbeil, head of the center-left Social Democrats, replied in a Twitter post addressed directly to Mr. Grenell.

Other members of his party, which is in a governing coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats, were less diplomatic. Martin Schulz, the former president of the European Parliament and former leader of the Social Democrats, insisted that an ambassador’s job was to represent his country, not other nations’ political movements. Mr. Grenell’s behavior was not that of a diplomat, he told the German news agency DPA, but more like “a far-right colonial officer.”

In Washington, Senator Christopher S. Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, called the interview “awful,” insisting that Mr. Grenell had pledged that he would “stay out of politics” once he was appointed. “Ambassadors aren’t supposed to ’empower’ any political party overseas,” Mr. Murphy said on Twitter.

Ms. Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said the German chancellor had taken note of Mr. Grenell’s interview, but he declined to comment.

On Monday, Mr. Grenell sought to walk back his comments, though only up to a point.

While I’m generally loathe to link to a source such as Breitbart, I think it’s important in this case to see Grenell’s comments in their full context:

Trumpian U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell has expressed great excitement over the wave of conservatism in Europe, saying he wants to “empower” leaders of the movement.

At a sit-down interview at his official residence in Berlin with Breitbart London, Ambassador Grenell said: “There are a lot of conservatives throughout Europe who have contacted me to say they are feeling there is a resurgence going on.”

“I absolutely want to empower other conservatives throughout Europe, other leaders. I think there is a groundswell of conservative policies that are taking hold because of the failed policies of the left,” he added.

“There’s no question about that and it’s an exciting time for me. I look across the landscape and we’ve got a lot of work to do but I think the election of Donald Trump has empowered individuals and people to say that they can’t just allow the political class to determine before an election takes place, who’s going to win and who should run.”

The U.S. ambassador spoke of the small circle of political and media elites saying, “That’s a very powerful moment when you can grasp the ability to see past the group-think of a very small elitist crowd telling you you have no chance to win or you’ll never win, or they mock you early on.”

(…)

Unafraid to name names, Mr Grenell expressed a deep respect and admiration for the young Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz saying, “Look, I think Sebastian Kurz is a rockstar. I’m a big fan.”

Chancellor Kurz, leader of the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), formed a coalition with the populist Freedom Party (FPÖ) earlier this year, and has been one of the strongest advocates for securing the European Union’s external border.

Not long after the formation of the coalition, Kurz stood up to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, rejecting the controversial European Union migrant quota system.

He was also been a leading conservative on the topic of counter-Islamisation while Foreign Minister in the previous coalition government, advocating and helping to pass a ban on the full-face Islamic veil.

Grenell, for his own part, has responded and insists that he did not say that he intends to endorse candidates:

Early last month before the Breitbart interview, Grenell did get some advice from the former German Ambassador to the United States after Grenell had posted on Twitter regarding sanctions against Iran:

At least one Senator is calling for Grenell to be recalled if he continues making comments like this:

A Democratic senator said Monday that U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell should be recalled if he cannot “refrain from political statements,” after he took aim at the political and media establishment in an interview published this weekend.

“[Ambassadors] should not meddle in local or regional politics by backing political parties, candidates or causes,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said in a statement. “If Ambassador Grenell is unwilling to refrain from political statements, he should be recalled immediately. The United States does not accept foreign meddling in our elections, and we shouldn’t have an ambassador attempting to intrude in another country’s political affairs.”

The statement comes after Grenell said in an interview with Breitbart London Sunday that he wants to “empower other conservatives” to rise up against “elites.”

The comments caught the attention of leaders in Europe and the U.S. On Sunday afternoon, Sen. Chris Murphy tweeted that he “raised concerns” to Grenell in the past about politicizing his ambassador post.

A State Department spokesperson later added: “Amb. Grenell clarified his comments via Twitter and noted it is not US policy to endorse candidates or parties. He was making general observations in the interview.

Daniel Larison, meanwhile, thinks Grenell should be recalled immediately:

Trump is already deeply unpopular in Germany, not least because of the disagreements that the president has had with the German government and our other allies over the nuclear deal and trade. That makes it all the more important that the U.S. has an ambassador there capable of repairing frayed ties and reassuring frustrated allies. Grenell clearly is not and never was capable of that. Who would have guessed that a former spokesman for John Bolton would not make a good diplomat?

Grenell’s remarks in the Breitbart interview did not explicitly endorse any parties out of power. He praised the current Austrian chancellor by name. That said, the implication of his remarks was that he was interested in bringing to power parties that were not currently in government. What else could he have meant by saying that he wanted to “empower” them? That could easily be interpreted as a challenge to the current governing coalition in Germany, and it has certainly been interpreted as unwarranted meddling in internal German affairs.

(…)

Whatever Grenell’s intentions may have been, he has already poisoned the atmosphere with one of the governing coalition’s main partners and it is difficult to see how he can function effectively in Berlin after this. If Trump valued the relationship with Germany, he would recall Grenell now.

To be fair to Grenell, it is true that in the interview in question he didn’t explicitly endorse any candidates for office either in Germany or in another country. Of course, the issue of endorsement or denunciation of specific candidates isn’t really the central issue that his comments in the Breitbart interview have raised. Instead, the problem obviously arises from statements such as Grenell’s statements that he intends to “empower other conservatives throughout Europe, other leaders” that are raising concerns among German officials and others who are obviously not very inclined to be taking advice about their internal politics from an American Ambassador, especially under the current circumstances. Beyond the reaction of these individual leaders, one also has to wonder what impact Grenell’s statements are having with the general public in Germany and other parts of Europe.

As the former German Ambassador notes, the proper role for an Ambassador is to represent his country with government officials and others in their host country and, in appropriate circumstances, to lobby the government of the host country as instructed by the State Department. In more recent years, the role has also expanded to include being something of a cheerleader for the United States with the business community and general public of the host country. Beyond that, though, an Ambassador ought to be circumspect about what they say and do in public and should, in all cases, refrain from intervening in the internal politics of either his host country or other nations in the same region. Grenell’s comments in the interview at the very least come very close to crossing that line, and his comments praising one side of the political equation in neighboring Austria seem to me to be entirely inappropriate given that the nation isn’t even part of his diplomatic profile. It’s not within Grenell’s job description to be taking political sides in Germany, Austria, or anywhere else and he deserves to be reprimanded for doing so.

As a general rule, Europeans don’t like American intervention in their internal politics any more than Americans would appreciate similar intervention from the German Ambassador or an Ambassador from any other nation for that matter. For example, what if an Ambassador to the United States from Europe or elsewhere spoke about his or her desire to “empower” progressive or left-wing activists in the United States? Quite obviously, American conservatives would be outraged as would, I suspect, many average Americans. It could even result in the American government insisting that said Ambassador be recalled and replaced due to his inappropriate intervention in internal American politics. Grenell’s comments fall into a similar category, I think, and even if nothing comes from this Breitbart London interview, Grenell needs to be reminded by both the Trump White House and the State Department that interfering in the domestic policies and politics of other nations is both a breach of diplomatic protocol and not a part of his job description. The odds that this will actually happen, of course, are somewhere between slim and none.

 

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Europe, National Security, Politicians, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Mu says:

    With his open support for AfD, FPOe and other shunned parties he won’t last long. When’s the last time Germany asked an US ambassador to leave?

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  2. TM01 says:

    Are we going to talk about how Obama’s State Department funneled money to a group, run by his old campaign adviser, in Israel working against Netanyahu’s reelection?

    Beyond the reaction of these individual leaders, one also has to wonder what impact Grenell’s statements are having with the general public in Germany and other parts of Europe

    I’m going to guess that the reaction depends on who you talk to and where they fall politically. I’m guessing that the non-elites welcome, at least to some extent, some support, even just rhetorical, from this guy. I’m guessing that the people who are sick and tired of The Norms welcome this.

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  3. Kathy says:

    Expelling an ambassador or other diplomats is a hostile act, but so is interference by the ambassador in the internal politics of other countries, especially your allies.

    Of course he won’t be recalled. He won’t even get a slap in the wrist and be told to behave. So the real question is what will the Germans do about it?

    One possibility is this guy gets to be all talk and no action, in which case perhaps nothing needs to be done. At the other extreme, he can be declared persona non grata and expelled. Far more likely, Germany’s government, including their ambassador to the US will complain and try to get the US ambassador to Germany recalled; when they fail, they will eventually cave.

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  4. Mikey says:

    @TM01:

    Are we going to talk about how Obama’s State Department

    Butwhataboutbutwhataboutbutwhataboutbutwhataboutbutwhataboutbutwhataboutbutwhataboutbutwhataboutbutwhataboutbutwhataboutbutwhataboutbutwhataboutbutwhataboutbutwhataboutbutwhataboutbutwhataboutbutwhataboutbutwhataboutbutwhataboutbutwhataboutbutwhataboutbutwhataboutbutwhataboutbutwhatabout!

    Boring, boring, boring. Bo. Ring.

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  5. Hal_10000 says:

    Encouraging the rise of far right parties in Germany … what could possibly go wrong?

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  6. PJ says:

    @TM01:

    I’m going to guess that the reaction depends on who you talk to and where they fall politically. I’m guessing that the non-elites welcome, at least to some extent, some support, even just rhetorical, from this guy. I’m guessing that the people who are sick and tired of The Norms welcome this.

    Keep guessing. Keep being wrong.
    The truth is that in Germany the confidence in the US president has cratered. I would ask you to guess why, but I’m certain you’d be wrong, so why bother.

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  7. MBunge says:

    I have to admit, dismissing factual evidence as “boring” when it contradicts what you want to believe is a fairly effective strategy. I mean, trying to argue with it is like trying to argue with a child having a temper tantrum.

    Oh, and “Barack Obama urging Britons to vote against Brexit” says “Hi!”

    Mike

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  8. Mikey says:

    @MBunge: The “evidence” isn’t boring, it’s just bullshit. It’s the lame, dopey whataboutism that’s boring.

    Speaking of which…you can take your whataboutism and stick it, too.

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  9. Mikey says:

    @PJ:

    The truth is that in Germany the confidence in the US president has cratered.

    I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: in over 30 years of family and business connections to Germany, I have never seen an American President so soundly despised, nor have I seen German confidence in American leadership at such a low ebb. It’s astonishing, actually, how much damage Trump and his lickspittles have done to America’s reputation around the world.

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  10. MarkedMan says:

    This isn’t just a Trump thing. Years ago, when the Republican Party had reached a point where their world view no longer synced with reality they had two choices: modify their world view and change their goals (screw the poor and fluff the rich) or toss reality out the door. They chose the latter and started a policy of being funded almost entirely by Libertarian billionaire hobbyists. Libertarianism is the perfect “ism” for swaggering louts who have no wish to derail the gravy train but still want to be able to bloviate at the end of the bar. It basically consists of “Everyone in charge is an idiot, when we get to be in charge we will replace all the idiots…. Profit!” The purist form of this particularly Republican derangement came in the aftermath of Baby Bush’s Iraq war. In the rebuilding effort they pissed all over the State Department efforts and put recent graduates from religious conservative universities in charge of agencies, sending 28 year old political blowhards with zero experience to oversee rebuilding efforts in a literal war zone full of people who could rob these bozos blind and then torture them to death if they got cocky and set one toe over the green line. (Needless to say, these tough talkers never set foot outside an area guarded by real soldiers.)

    So people like this clown are only different from the usual festering sore of a Republican appointee in that he adds overt racism to his blithering, because Trump.

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  11. MarkedMan says:

    @Mikey: Mikey, you are arguing facts and making sense, but you are doing it against people who have no interest in those things but instead derive all their satisfaction from “heading over to OTB and poking the libruls with a stick and watch ’em get all worked up”.

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  12. Franklin says:

    @TM01: Politifact rates that “mostly false”.

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  13. gVOR08 says:

    @MarkedMan:

    They chose the latter (tossing reality out the door) and started a policy of being funded almost entirely by Libertarian billionaire hobbyists.

    In that context, Betty Cracker at Balloon Juice notes that yesterday Charles Koch announced that for health reasons David Koch will no longer be involved in “business and other organizational activities.”

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  14. Mikey says:

    @MarkedMan: What gets me is how satisfied they are with an argument that basically boils down to “see, my guy is just as shitty as your guy was!”

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  15. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Okay, this is weird. I’m looking at comments and I’m being invited to edit or request deletion of gVOR08’s comment above. I clicked on the edit button to see if it would allow me to do anything, and it did! I hit cancel instead. That’s never happened on this site to me before!

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  16. Mikey says:

    A poll of Germans taken last month indicates only 14% consider America a reliable partner in political cooperation.

    I’d lay a fair wager that will have gone lower after Grenell’s remarks.

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  17. JKB says:

    Well, European leaders made what were clearly statements designed to interfere with US politics. Not to mention the recently confirmed actions by Merkel, and others to conspire with the outgoing US president to interfere with the duly elected President’s policies.

    So, who cares. Europe is well on its way to becoming an Islamic backwater.

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  18. Just another interested outsider says:

    Since yesterday the #GrenellRaus is been trending in Twitter here in Germany. People are upset that a Foreign Ambassador has implied getting involved in national politics and demand he is sent back home.

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  19. Mister Bluster says:

    @Not the IT Dept.:..I’m being invited to edit or request deletion of gVOR08’s comment above. I clicked on the edit button to see if it would allow me to do anything, and it did! I hit cancel instead.

    Lucky You!

    I don’t see these functions.
    So anyone can change our posts! I don’t see this working very well.
    I have to assume anything I write can be altered?
    Can I take credit for Reynold’s prose and collect his checks?

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  20. gVOR08 says:

    @Not the IT Dept.:

    I’m being invited to edit or request deletion of gVOR08’s comment above.

    Well thank you for refraining.

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  21. An Interested Party says:

    Well, this administration didn’t mind taking help from the Russians to help win the election, so of course they would want to do the same thing to European countries…

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  22. Mikey says:

    @JKB:

    Europe is well on its way to becoming an Islamic backwater.

    Having actually been to Europe many times, and fairly recently, I can say with total confidence that you are completely full of shit.

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  23. TM01 says:

    @Mikey:
    It’s not “whataboutism” you dolt.

    It’s about you fools acting as if everything Trump does is Brand New That No Other President Ever Did Before!

    You think Trump is breaking The Norms only because you never paid attention to anything pre Trump.

    You don’t care that Trump is doing no more than previous Presidents, you just don’t like Trump.

    The FACT that other administrations “interfered” in other countries means nothing to you. Hell, you celebrated Obama when he tried to influence elections in other countries.

    All you have is “I hate Trump.”

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  24. Jen says:

    @Mikey: Same here. We were in Europe in April, and go to the UK at least once a year, and yep, @JKB’s statement is a load of horse manure.

    And I can also second your comment about our allies’ faith in US leadership being at a low. Most of the questions we get when we go over fall in the “what on earth is going on in the US that this clueless train wreck was elected?”

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  25. Mikey says:

    @TM01:

    The FACT that other administrations “interfered” in other countries means nothing to you. Hell, you celebrated Obama when he tried to influence elections in other countries.

    This is the tell, this right here. Nobody has said fuck-all about Trump interfering in other countries’ elections.

    Yet here you are, throwing around whataboutism about Obama supposedly “influencing” other countries’ elections.

    Now why would you do that?

    Never mind, we already know.

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  26. KM says:

    @TM01:

    It’s not “whataboutism” you dolt.

    It’s absolutely whataboutism. From the wiki:

    Whataboutism (also known as whataboutery) is a variant of the tu quoque logical fallacy that attempts to discredit an opponent’s position by charging them with hypocrisy without directly refuting or disproving their argument

    At no point in org point did you address the point of Doug’s article but immediately brought up Obama and a perceived sin like it somehow justifies the problem at hand. You didn’t mention Grenell at all. Not only that, it’s an apples and oranges comparison since one is inflammatory, unethical and borderline illegal comments made by a sitting ambassador while in country and the other is you accusing them of funding a group.

    Little children do this: “Why am I being punished for breaking the vase? Johnny skipped naptime and didn’t get in trouble!!” Another’s sins don’t exonerate your own, TM01, not in any moral or legal system on earth. You don’t get a pass on bad behavior by trying to cite someone else’s, true or not. It’s pre-conventional stage one moral logic. The worse the “punishment” or judgement for the act is, the more “bad” the act is perceived to be so there’s often a desperate appeal to “fairness” or “whataboutism” to avoid punishment. That is the ESSENCE of whatboutism – you know you are wrong but because somebody somewhere sometime on earth did something bad, everyone should focus on them and not you.

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  27. al Ameda says:

    @JKB:

    So, who cares. Europe is well on its way to becoming an Islamic backwater.

    I have friends and relatives who have lived in Europe (in France, Netherlands, Belgium, the UK, Finland and Switzerland) for decades.

    To be sure, no one is saying that it is Nirvana, their struggles with immigration in general are well publicized, but really, try to get informed by way of sources outside of the Mainstream Conservative Media Complex.

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  28. Tired of all this shit says:

    Sounds like a call to arms for any Nazi’s / white supremacists left out there since they’re numbers are too small in America!

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