- President Donald Trump’s new ambassador to Germany has caused an international incident after telling Breitbart that he wants to “empower” conservatives in Europe.
- Germany’s foreign ministry is now demanding Grenell clarify his comments in a meeting set for later this week, and German politicians have accused him of violating diplomatic protocol.
- In a tweet on Sunday, Grenell defended his comments, stating it was “ridiculous” to say he’d endorse specific candidates or parties.
President Donald Trump’s new ambassador to Germany has caused an international incident after telling Breitbart that he wants to “empower” conservatives in Europe.
“I absolutely want to empower other conservatives throughout Europe, other leaders,” Ric Grenell told Breitbart over the weekend. “I think there is a groundswell of conservative policies that are taking hold because of the failed policies of the left.”
Germany’s foreign ministry is now demanding that Grenell clarify his comments in a meeting set for later this week, and German politicians have accused him of violating diplomatic protocol.
Diplomats are generally expected to avoid partisan politics as be seen as neutral, amicable representatives of a foreign country. Grenell’s comments seem to have been interpreted as plans to interfere in the internal politics of Germany and other European countries.
Metin Hakverdi, a Social Democrat delegate and member of the German-US parliamentary friendship group, told The Guardian, “In the past, Germany was fortunate to have had great US ambassadors who built bridges and did not do party politics.”
“As a member of the SPD, a left party with a long proud legacy of fighting, together with the United States, both Nazis and communists, I am irritated to hear from ambassador Grenell about our allegedly failed policies,” Hakverdi stated.
Grenell’s remarks were also criticized by politicians back in the US.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a tweet that Grenell’s interview with Breitbart was “awful,” adding, “Ambassadors aren’t supposed to ’empower’ any political party overseas.”
In a tweet on Sunday, Grenell defended his comments, stating it was “ridiculous” to say he’d endorse specific candidates or parties.
“I stand by my comments that we are experiencing an awakening from the silent – those who reject the elites & their bubble. Led by Trump,” Grenell added.
There were also reports on Monday that Grenell had invited Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz to lunch, after describing him as a “rock star” in the Breitbart interview. Kurz is a staunch conservative with hardline stances on immigration and refugees.
Grenell has had a fairly rocky start to his ambassadorship in Germany thus far.
On his first day on the job in May, Grenell ignited criticism after he appeared to threaten German businesses operating in Iran following Trump’s decision to pull the US from the Iranian nuclear deal.
“As [Trump] said, US sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran’s economy. German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately,” Grenell tweeted at the time.
In the wake of this tweet, Andrea Nahles, the leader of Germany’s Social Democratic party, suggested Grenell could use some “tutoring” in the “fine art of diplomacy.”
All of this occurs at a relatively tough time for US-German relations as Trump’s policies and rhetoric on an array of issues have often put him at odds with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.