The United States Embassy in Berlin stands in a prime location just next to the Brandenburg Gate, reflecting the country’s role as one of the four powers considered to have liberated Germany at the end of World War II.
Security guards are ever-present at the building’s entrance, yet since John B. Emerson departed in January 2017, a new US ambassador to Germany has been missing.
That may be due to change now that US President Donald Trump has reportedly offered the post to Richard “Ric” Grenell, a 50-year-old former Bush administration diplomatic aide and frequent commentator on the conservative news broadcaster Fox News.
Grenell met with Trump on July 12 at the White House, and though his nomination has yet to be formally announced, various anonymous administration officials have confirmed the offer, according to press reports.
Grenell’s nomination comes at a tricky time: Trump is looking to show signs of action on any political front as his domestic policies stall, and the relationship between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Trump is decidedly cool.
A ‘foothold’ in diplomacy
Under the Bush administration, Grenell was the Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy on the diplomatic team of four different US Ambassadors to the United Nations (UN) at a time when the US pursued a military-friendly “cowboy diplomacy” foreign policy.
Key topics over the course of Grenell’s tenure there included US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iranian and North Korean nuclear policy and the alleged involvement of Syria in Lebanese politics.Grenell was a spokesman for hawkish US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton (pictured below right).
That Trump did not nominate a political donor or business leader and that Grenell “at least has some footing” in the diplomatic community, even if he is not a career diplomat, is seen positively throughout Berlin, said Jan Techau, director of the Richard C. Holbrooke Forum for the Study of Diplomacy and Governance at the American Academy in Berlin.
However, Techau pointed out he cannot speak in particular for the German government or diplomatic network.
A master of media
Grenell served as a political advisor and media spokesman for various Republican politicians and campaigns, including John McCain’s 2000 bid for the presidency. In 2009, Grenell founded Capital Media Partners, a strategic international communications firm. He continues to be a frequent media commentator.
The communication skillset that Grenell has amassed will aide him immensely, Techau said, though he pointed out that Grenell will need to learn to navigate the unique German media landscape.
“The German media works slightly different than the American media. It is a very different culture. Different outlets matter here,” explained Techau.
Much like his potential future boss, Grenell often takes to Twitter to pour criticism on media outlets and individual journalists, while occasionally adding a splash of praise – sometimes for the same outlet.
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