But Grenell’s comments are only novel in the sense that they are directed at western Europe. Ostensibly, Germany is an ally of America, though Trump’s actions will inevitably prompt it to ponder whether it should begin to regard Washington as an adversary. It would be well within its rights to expel Grenell. Previous American ambassadors, whether in the Soviet Union, Middle East or Soviet Union, have sought to influence the direction of the government’s policies, sometimes by employing what is euphemistically called “public diplomacy.” After George F. Kennan, who was ambassador to Moscow, made some truthful, if intemperate, remarks about the odiousness of living in the Soviet Union to reporters in Berlin, Stalin expelled him in 1952. In his new memoir From Cold War to Hot Peace, former ambassador Michael McFaul recounts how he became persona non grata in Putin’s Russia, a convenient foil for the regime in its crusade against western influence, wherever and whenever it might manifest itself.
Now Grenell seems to have struck a nerve in Germany, where he is rapidly becoming Public Enemy No 1. That an American ambassador, who represents a country that fought to topple the Nazis, would become a water carrier for some of the most retrograde forces in contemporary Europe defies credulity.