BERLIN: The new US ambassador in Berlin has sparked controversy by openly criticizing the Merkel government and announcing support for anti-establishment populist movements across Europe.
Ambassador Richard Grenell, known as President Donald Trump’s right-hand man in Europe, heavily criticized Angela Merkel’s liberal refugee policy, in an interview with news outlet Breitbart.
“Many migrants have been allowed to come in, that was the policy of Chancellor Merkel, I think she has suffered politically by not having a plan that was implemented properly and you saw a lot of political concern in the campaign about chain migration,” he said.
Grenell, who took office only last month, vowed to empower anti-establishment, right-wing political parties across Europe.
“There are a lot of conservatives throughout Europe who have contacted me to say they are feeling there is a resurgence going on,” he said, arguing that Donald Trump’s victory also encouraged anti-establishment conservatives.
“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,” he said.
The 51-year-old American diplomat, sharpened criticism towards Merkel government, for its reluctance to increase Germany’s defense spending.
“It is woeful; Germany is the largest economy in Europe. They made a commitment to NATO, and they should be serious about that commitment,” he said, referring to 2014 agreement of NATO allies to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense.
– ‘No working submarines’
Ambassador Grenell said so far German government failed to come up with a serious plan as to how they get to that two percent of GDP.
He argued that German army Bundeswehr faced serious problems and equipment shortages, as there were “no working submarines” or fighter jets to support US-led international operations.
Grenell suggested publicly “shaming” Germany, to increase pressure over German politicians to spend more on defense, and contribute to international operations.
“Whenever we have allied operations, we must go through a formal process of asking the Germans to participate, and letting them go through their process with their public and political leaders to come to a thoughtful answer,” he said.
“We have to be able to highlight, so the public and political class can understand the seriousness to which the readiness issue is a problem. They made the commitment to NATO,” he added.
Merkel’s coalition partner Social Democratic Party (SPD) had long been critical of plans to increase the country’s defense budget, and disputed NATO’s goal that each member should spend 2 percent of its national output on defense.
Germany is currently spending 1.24 percent of its GDP for defense. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has recently suggested gradually increasing military spending and reaching to 1.5 percent by 2025.
– Berlin seeks clarification
Meanwhile, German Foreign Ministry has sought clarification from the U.S. ambassador following his interview with Breitbart website, officials said on Monday.
Speaking at a news conference in Berlin, Christofer Burger, Foreign Ministry’s deputy spokesman, said they have asked the U.S. side to clarify whether the ambassador actually made the comments attributed to him on the website.
He also noted that the ambassador will be at the German Foreign Ministry on Wednesday for an inaugural visit and will meet state secretary Andreas Michaelis.
“Of course this would be an opportunity for him to explain his comments,” Burger noted. (AA)