The new US ambassador to Germany has made a highly unusual intervention in his host country’s domestic politics, saying in an interview with rightwing website Breitbart that he wants to help “empower other conservatives throughout Europe”.
Richard Grenell, a Donald Trump loyalist who took up his post as ambassador to Germany less than a month ago, said he considered the new Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz to be “a rock star”, with the Breitbart report noting that Mr Kurz has been a “leading conservative on the topic of counter-Islamisation”.
Mr Grenell did not specify what particular brand of conservatism he would support, or by what means, but he said:
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.
Ambassadors and diplomats normally refrain from taking a position on the party politics of the countries they serve in, especially when that country is a close ally.
Mr Grenell’s comments sparked an immediate backlash on social media both in Germany and in the US.
Chris Murphy, US Senator from Connecticut, said in a tweet: “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.”
Mr Grenell has recent form for risking irritation in Germany. In May, he demanded on Twitter that the country’s companies stop doing business in Iran in the wake of US president Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iranian nuclear deal.
The German government has left no doubt that it intends to stand by the Iran nuclear deal — and that there is no reason for German businesses to pull out of the country.
On Monday, Mr Grenell denied on his Twitter feed that he was seeking to endorse particular candidates or parties. But he added: “I stand by my comments that we are experiencing an awakening from the silent majority — those who reject the elites & their bubble. Led by Trump.”
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