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Freelance journalist currently based in Berlin, chronicling the effects of populism on elections in Europe. Former Washington-based political reporter for CBS News, Politico and National Journal.
Since his arrival in Berlin last spring, U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell has rubbed quite literally everyone in German politics the wrong way — and represents, for many here, a personification of the policies and tactics of the president he serves. Grenell has been an outspoken critic of Germany's business dealings with Iran; he's frequently called for Germany to fulfill its financial commitments to NATO; and he's firmly against Germany's Nord Stream 2 pipeline project.
Days after the Munich Security Conference, Grenell sat down with Politico's weekly politics podcast to explain his and his government's thinking on these issues — a revealing conversation which helps explain his insistence on certain issues and the tension between the Trump administration and Germany. He speaks about the reasons why the U.S. and Europe are using "different tactics" when it comes to the issues facing allies both sides of the Atlantic, noting that the U.S. is pushing Germany (on NATO commitments, for example) because it trusts Germany. In his opinion, the crowd of security and foreign policy experts in Munich was a "bubble crowd" that doesn't necessarily represent the way the German people feel about such issues. At the same time, Grenell strikes a conciliatory tone on the overall relationship, noting the Europeans are "wildly important" to the U.S. goals and plans on the world stage.
At a time when the transatlantic relationship seems increasingly frayed, hearing Grenell's take on things helps shed some light on the Trump administration's thinking — and the interview is well worth the listen for those interested in transatlantic and German politics.