Diplomacy, Trump style

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.


  1. Acolyte of Sagan says

    Would ‘the arsonist in the White House’ be a non-too subtle comparison of Trump with Hitler, referencing the fortuitous (for Adolf) burning of the Reichstag a month after he came to power as chancellor in 1933?
    It was this that gave Hitler the excuse he needed to suspend civil liberties and have the Nazi party take full control of government.

  2. says

    I think you’re a little too confident that other countries will do whatever “America” wants. Trump has changed that, too, and other countries aren’t bowing to the Tiny Tyrant and his corrupt regime.

  3. jrkrideau says

    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.

    Quite likely but even Angela Merkel is sounding a bit testy now-a-days. See a couple of her statements below.

    I think that Trump has really shaken the Europeans trust that the USA is a reliable ally, or even an ally at all.

    The rejection of the JCPOA with Iran seems a betrayal to the other signatories of whom three are European countries and all of whom are permanent Security Council members.

    Internally, in the USA, since the JCPOA was an executive order and not a treaty ratified by Congress, the rationale seems to be that it was not a treaty so if the President is well within his rights to rescind US participation. Well, legally, he is.

    The rest of the world could care less about the these niceties . They see a USA that has capriciously abandoned a smoothly functioning international agreement, achieved with a lot of time and effort and concessions. Is there any reason to trust any other US agreement?

    Trump’s actions in the Middle East look to be more destabilizing than ever as shooting war with Iran seems to to be increasing so we can probably expect the refugee flow to Europe to continue or increase. And, that is the least Europe has to worry about.

    Starting a trade war with one of your closest allies and major trading partner for no good reason does not build trust. The crazy Trump tariffs, if they come to effect on the EU on June 1st, will be damaging to Europe as a whole but especially to Germany.

    US sanctions against Russia are hurting European industries, probably Germany’s most, the proposed sanctions against Iran will increase the hurt.

    Much, perhaps most, of the EU’s oil and natural gas come from Russia. I don’t know how Russian–EU fuel pricing is set but the Iran withdrawal has just raised the cost of a barrel of oil to around 100 $US. This could even out and oil prices may drop but Trump’s actions may have just cost Europe billions of euros while dumping that money into Russia, not even into US coffers. Of course this windfall is a blessing to friends and opponents alike. Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E will benefit as will Venezela.

    As the old saying goes, “With friends like this who needs enemies.

    Merkel’s statements, roughly a year apart. [1] 2017-05-28

    “I have experienced this in the last few days,” she said. “And that is why I can only say that we Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands – of course in friendship with the United States of America, in friendship with Great Britain and as good neighbours wherever that is possible also with other countries, even with Russia.”

    “But we have to know that we must fight for our future on our own, for our destiny as Europeans

    [1] 2018-05-10

    “It’s no longer the case that the United States will simply just protect us, “Rather, Europe needs to take its fate into its own hands. That’s the task for the future.”

    1) https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/angela-merkel-says-europe-must-take-fate-into-own-hands-1.3099384

    2) https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-05-10/merkel-says-europe-can-t-count-on-u-s-military-umbrella-anymore

  4. Kimpatsu101 says

    When the US passed laws saying it would sanction EU companies that do business with Cuba, the EU passed a counter-law enabling EU companies to sue in Europe to recover any lost monies. Nothing was ever heard about the issue ever again.

  5. jrkrideau says

    @ Kimpatsu101
    I had forgotten all about that. Was that back when Maggie Thatcher was also on the war-path?

  6. jrkrideau says

    @ Mano
    While this is no real indication of how the German Gov’t will jump, it may be an indication of the feelings of some Germans.

    The accompanying editorial is not exactly supportive of Trump or the USA.

  7. mnb0 says

    Good job demonstrating again that you know and understand very little about European politics. You can look it up -- the last time the USA won a trade war with the EU (ie achieved its goals) was during Nixon’s presidency.
    Already immediately after Donald the Clown started it by introducing import tariffs on steel the EU, under the explicit leadership of Germany and France, announced countermeasures. See, nothing unites the EU better than a common external opponent threatening her interests. The news is even better: since a couple of weeks both countries (aka the axis of the EU) have involved Great Britain as well. Yup, Donald the Clown might have forced the three countries to make the first step turning back the brexit.

    “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 last time you were sure was regarding the Cypriote bank crisis several years ago. When within two years your analysis appeared to be completely incorrect (the economy of the country went upward again that fast, without many repercussions for the common people of the Island -- a stark contrast with the Greek failure) you preferred to remain silent. So by now I’m sure you will remain silent as well when this prediction of yours appears equally incorrect.


    My prediction: trade between the EU, China, Japan and possibly other countries will intensify. It’s the American common who’s going to pay for the acrobatics of Donald the Clown -- if he persists, because it’s still totally possible that he will back down. He already has postponed the introduction of import tariffs on steel. Again. This time until june.
    When it comes to protect the interests of her companies the European will form a united front in the same way. Officials of the EU (Donald Tusk from Poland, Mogherini from Italy) already have confirmed this. Donald the Clown and his cronies are trying to attack the EU at its strongest point as she’s an economic superpower. Her GNP is larger than the American one; when China and Japan join as well the three GNP’s combined are twice as large. Putin understands far better how to exploit her weaknesses.

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