Trump’s envoy in trouble
June 6, 2018 | Expert Insights
Richard A Grenell, the US Ambassador to Germany, has incurred severe criticism after he said in an interview that he wanted to “empower” conservative forces in Europe. Politicians in Germany have begun calling for his expulsion from the nation on fears that he isn’t representative of a nation but a political movement.
Richard A Grenell is Republican politician. In 2001, he was appointed by then President George W. Bush as Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy for the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations. He served in this capacity until 2008. He became the longest serving American who has held in the position in the nation’s history. He came into public prominence in 2012. He served as national security spokesman for Mitt Romney in his 2012 campaign. However, he resigned after pressure from social conservatives as he was the first openly gay spokesperson for a Republican presidential candidate.
In September 2017, President Donald Trump nominated Grenell as US Ambassador to Germany. On 26th April 2018, he was confirmed by US lawmakers and he presented his credentials to the President of Germany on May 8th, 2018 and began his tenure.
In the past, President Donald Trump’s envoys to other nations have been criticized. Peter Hoekstra, the United States Ambassador to the Netherlands, was severely scrutinized for some his remarks. In the past, he had made controversial remarks about Muslim violence in Netherlands and this was proven to be a falsehood. In January 2018, the Dutch press pushed him on whether Hoekstra still stood by his claims. When he refused to answer questions regarding the matter, one reporter boldly noted, “This is the Netherlands, you have to answer questions.”
US President Donald Trump himself is a polarizing figure in international politics. He has been criticized by politicians in nations like Britain for his remarks on women and Muslims. International leaders have also criticized him for his position on protectionist trade.
During an interview with conservative right-wing media outlet, Breitbart, Grenell reportedly stated, “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.” In addition, during the interview, he described Germany's NATO spending as "woeful" and criticized Chancellor Angela Merkel's immigration policy. He also added, “There are a lot of conservatives throughout Europe who have contacted me to say they are feeling there is a resurgence going on."
Grenell’s remarks were met with swift backlash. Sahra Wagenknecht, the co-chair of left-wing party Die Linke, called for the envoy to be recalled to the US. “If people like US ambassador Richard Grenell believe they can dictate like a lord of the manor who rules in Europe and who doesn’t, they can no longer remain in Germany as a diplomat,” Wagenknecht told Die Welt. “If the federal government is serious about the democratic sovereignty of our country, it should not invite Grenell for a chat over coffee, but expel him immediately,” the opposition politician added.
Martin Schulz, the former leader of the Social Democratic party, told German news agency dpa international that he also criticized Grenell for crossing the line when it comes to international diplomacy. “What this man is doing is unheard of in international diplomacy,” said the former leader of the European parliament.
Grenell, meanwhile, has maintained that his comments have been misinterpreted. "The idea that I'd endorse candidates/parties is ridiculous," he wrote on Twitter early Monday.
A State Department official, speaking on background, said, "Ambassador 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."
Our assessment is that it is unlikely that Grenell would be recalled from his position by the US authorities. However, this episode is indicative of European leaders becoming bold enough to denounce actions and words of American representatives across the world. It also signals a fear among a section of lawmakers regarding the growing influence of right-wing politics.