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DIPLOMACY

Members’ debate: should Germany expel the US ambassador?

The new US ambassador to Germany has proved so unpopular in his first few weeks in the job that some politicians have called for him to be expelled from the country. Would this be the right move? Share your opinions below.

Members’ debate: should Germany expel the US ambassador?
Richard Grenell. Photo: DPA

Richard Grenell was first rumoured to be Donald Trump’s preferred pick as ambassador to Berlin back in July last year.

But, the warning signs were already there when Washington politicians held up his nomination over a period of months. Democrats in the US Senate objected to his allegedly disparaging tweets on female politicians and apparent refusal to take seriously claims of Russian meddling in the US election.

Almost a year later, in early May, he finally took up the role – but it took him less than 24 hours to stir up controversy. As Trump pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal, the new ambassador tweeted that “German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately.”

Andrea Nahles, leader of the Social Democrats pointedly responded that, while it wasn't her role to tell diplomats how to do their jobs, “he seems to need a little bit of tutoring.”

Clearly though, Grenell never asked the SPD leader for some Nachhilfe.

At the weekend he gave an interview to the far-right news site Breitbart in which he admitted to seeing it as his goal to “empower” conservative movements in Europe. And, showing that he meant business, he invited the arch-conservative Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz to dinner at his Berlin residence.

Former SPD leader Martin Schulz was the most high-profile politician to publicly say that the ambassador had crossed a red line.

Schulz claimed somewhat melodramatically that “what this man is doing is unique in the history of diplomacy.”

“If the German ambassador in Washington would say that he is there to strengthen the Democrats, he would be expelled straight away,” he added.

At the same time, the US state department has backed Grenell.

A State Department spokeswoman said on Tuesday that it was not unusual for ambassadors to speak their minds.

“They're sometimes opinions that people may or may not like. And there is the right to free speech as well,” she said.

What do you think? Were Grenell's remarks a breach of diplomatic protocol the likes of which have never been seen before, or can you remember other occasions when ambassadors have spoken up on domestic politics in their host country? 

And aside from the principle of it, is it really a good idea for Berlin to expel the new US envoy at a time when transatlantic ties are at their most delicate in perhaps decades?

Member comments

  1. Expel him, he has no right to interfere with another countries politics. He is only a diplomat and American a that.

  2. He is doing what CIA is known for. Destabilize and interfere in countries who refuses to follow their agenda and interest.

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DIPLOMACY

Berlin police investigate ‘Havana syndrome’ sicknesses at US embassy

Police in Berlin have opened an investigation into unexplained sicknesses that have been affecting staff at the US embassy in the German capital.

The US embassy in Berlin.
The US embassy in Berlin. Photo: dpa-Zentralbild | Jens Kalaene

The investigation, which Berlin’s city authorities confirmed to Der Spiegel last week, comes after at least two members of staff at the embassy reported symptoms that correspond to the so-called Havana syndrome, an unexplained sickness that has been affecting US diplomats and spies across the globe since 2016.

The US embassy has reportedly handed over evidence to Berlin’s state detective agency.

The first cases were reported in Havana, the Cuban capital, where dozens of diplomats reported suffering nausea and headaches. There have since been cases reported in Vienna, Moscow and Singapore.

US authorities suspect that the condition is caused by a sophisticated attack using concentrated microwaves.

The fact that many of the diplomats and CIA agents affected were working on Russian affairs has led them to believe that Moscow is somehow involved – a charge that the Kremlin denies.

As far as this so-called ‘syndrome’ is concerned, US President Joe Biden has vowed to find out “the cause and who is responsible.”

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