Monday, June 4, 2018

(a) Should Germany expel American ambassador Richard Grenell? (b) Who is Grenell, the US ambassador to Berlin?

Jacob Heilbrunn, See also (1)

Does Richard Grenell, the American ambassador to Germany, want to carry out another round of regime change in Deutschland? This is the construction that is being placed upon his temerarious remarks to Breitbart by many German politicians about his desire to support the populist right across Europe: “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 his view, the avatars of a new Europe are figures such as the young prime minister of Austria Sebastian Kurz, who ran on a strongly anti-immigrant platform.

The outrage was instant, partly because Grenell’s comments came right on the heels of some flippant remarks by Alexander Gauland, a leader of the right-wing Alternative for Germany party, that dismissed the Nazi era as mere “birdshit” in the longer sweep of German history. Gauland was addressing a youth congress of the AfD in the state of Thuringia. He paid homage to the great Jewish historian Ernst Kantorowicz, a notorious nationalist in the 1920s who ended up in exile in the United States, and noted, “We have a glorious history — and that, dear friends, lasted longer than those damn 12 years.” Glorious or not, those 12 years can’t be delicately extracted with tweezers from the rest of German history. Was Hitler really a Betriebsunfall, or mere traffic accident, or did he represent older, illiberal and anti-Semitic traditions?

After Grenell waded into these murky waters with his comments tacitly supporting the German far right, former Social Democratic leader Martin Schulz, who ran and lost against chancellor Angela Merkel in the 2017 federal election, complained, “Grenell isn’t behaving like a diplomat, but instead like a right-wing colonial officer. Ambassadors are representatives of their states and not of political movements.” In Washington, Senator Chris Murphy stated on Twitter, “When I raised concerns to Grenell about politicizing this post, he personally assured me that once he became Ambassador he would stay out of politics. This interview is awful – Ambassadors aren’t supposed to ‘empower’ any political party overseas.” And writing in the Washington Post, Anne Applebaum indicted Grenell for his support for dubious elements in Germany and elsewhere. She essentially accused him of being a political arsonist: “Grenell’s hints were intended for Breitbart’s readers: They know this game, and they know that when Grenell says ‘empowering other conservatives throughout Europe,’ he doesn’t mean that he supports the ruling coalition in the country where he is serving as U.S. ambassador. I repeat: It means that he supports their opponents.”

But Grenell’s comments are only novel in the sense that they are directed at western Europe. Ostensibly, Germany is an ally of America, though Trump’s actions will inevitably prompt it to ponder whether it should begin to regard Washington as an adversary. It would be well within its rights to expel Grenell. Previous American ambassadors, whether in the Soviet Union, Middle East or Soviet Union, have sought to influence the direction of the government’s policies, sometimes by employing what is euphemistically called “public diplomacy. [JB emphasis] After George F. Kennan, who was ambassador to Moscow, made some truthful, if intemperate, remarks about the odiousness of living in the Soviet Union to reporters in Berlin, Stalin expelled him in 1952. In his new memoir From Cold War to Hot Peace, former ambassador Michael McFaul recounts how he became persona non grata in Putin’s Russia, a convenient foil for the regime in its crusade against western influence, wherever and whenever it might manifest itself.

Now Grenell seems to have struck a nerve in Germany, where he is rapidly becoming Public Enemy No 1. That an American ambassador, who represents a country that fought to topple the Nazis, would become a water carrier for some of the most retrograde forces in contemporary Europe defies credulity.

Deutsche Welle, "Who is Who is Richard Grenell, the US ambassador to Berlin?"

Grenell image from article

The United States Embassy in Berlin stands in a prime location just next to the Brandenburg Gate, reflecting the country’s role as one of the four powers considered to have liberated Germany at the end of World War II.
In September 2017 US President Donald Trump nominated Richard “Ric” Grenell, a former Bush administration diplomatic aide and frequent commentator on the conservative news broadcaster Fox News,to the post.
Grenell’s nomination came at a tricky time: Trump is looking to show signs of action on any political front as his domestic policies stall, and the relationship between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Trump is decidedly cool.
A ‘foothold’ in diplomacy
Under the Bush administration, Grenell was the Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy [JB emphasis] on the diplomatic team of four different US Ambassadors to the United Nations (UN) at a time when the US pursued a military-friendly “cowboy diplomacy” foreign policy. Key topics over the course of Grenell’s tenure there included US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iranian and North Korean nuclear policy and the alleged involvement of Syria in Lebanese politics.
Image from article: Grenell was a spokesman for hawkish US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton

That Trump did not nominate a political donor or business leader and that Grenell “at least has some footing” in the diplomatic community, was intitially seen positively throughout Berlin, said Jan Techau, director of the Richard C. Holbrooke Forum for the Study of Diplomacy and Governance at the American Academy in Berlin. However, Techau pointed out he cannot speak in particular for the German government or diplomatic network.
A master of media
Grenell served as a political advisor and media spokesman for various Republican politicians and campaigns, including John McCain’s 2000 bid for the presidency. In 2009, Grenell founded Capital Media Partners, a strategic international communications firm. He continues to be a frequent media commentator.
The communication skillset that Grenell has amassed will aide him immensely, Techau said, though he pointed out that Grenell will need to learn to navigate the unique German media landscape.
“The German media works slightly different than the American media. It is a very different culture. Different outlets matter here,” explained Techau.
Much like his boss, Grenell often takes to Twitter to pour criticism on media outlets and individual journalists, while occasionally adding a splash of praise – sometimes for the same outlet.
However, Grenell’s Twitter trajectory has sometimes proven problematic. In 2012, Grenell’s free-wheeling Twitter tendencies led to his resignation as the campaign foreign policy spokesman for then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney just weeks after being named the position. However, some media attributed the firing to pressure from socially conservative Republicans who objected to Grenell as the first openly-gay spokesman on a Republican presidential campaign.
Transatlantic challenges
When he stepped down from his role in the Romney campaign in 2012, Grenell’s resignation message expressed his sadness at not being able to “confront President [Barack] Obama’s foreign policy failures and weak leadership on the world stage.” One of Obama’s foreign policy legacies was a close relationship with Merkel, even in spite of the NSA spying scandal.
The Trump presidency, however, has left Germany with both the feeling that it can no longer rely on the former solidity of the trans-Atlantic relationship and what Techau described as “a new wave of anti-Americanism in German public sentiment and publications.”
A major challenge for the US ambassador will be “representing a president here [in Germany] who is so unpopular,” Techau said.
Beyond the image challenge, Techau thinks that, “Trade is the big issue that has the most potential to sour the relationship.”
President Trump has accused Germany of unfairly running a trade surplus, thereby disadvantaging American industry and exports. The White House is pursuing protectionist or retaliatory measures, such as increasing tariffs on imported goods, America’s trade policy has become a key issue in Grenell’s meetings with German officials and industry representatives. And it is an issue that Grenell has little expertise in, Techau pointed out.

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