It looks like Donald Trump’s choice to be ambassador to Germany has got off to a great start, peremptorily telling his host nation that they had better get in line or else. As Robert Mackey writes, Richard Grenell took up his post on Tuesday, the day that Trump announced his withdrawal from the Iran deal, and immediately sent out a tweet saying ” As @realDonaldTrump said, US sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran’s economy. German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately.”
Mackey writes that this did not go down well in Germany.
Grenell’s comments sparked anger across the political spectrum. Fabio De Masi of Die Linke, a far-left opposition party, called on the German foreign ministry to make it clear to Grenell that his threats on behalf of “the arsonist in the White House” were inappropriate.
Germany’s finance minister, Olaf Scholz, reportedly pledged on Wednesday to protect German businesses working with Iran from potential U.S. sanctions.
A former German ambassador to the US gave Grenell the following advice: “Ric: my advice, after a long ambassadorial career: explain your own country’s policies, and lobby the host country – but never tell the host country what to do, if you want to stay out of trouble. Germans are eager to listen, but they will resent instructions.”
Whether they resent such orders or not, Grenell and Trump’s policies in general are not that different from the past. The US has always felt that it has the right to order its supposed allies to do its bidding. But they usually did it more discreetly, to allow the allies to save face. The Trump administration makes no effort to hide that arrogance and is happy to reveal it in the most crass form. You can be sure that the German government will make public protestations but will not protect German companies and they will do what Grenell ordered them to do. The German government will have to find new way to explain away its subservience in order to placate the wounded pride of its own people.