shuttle diplomacy

Germany’s new envoy to US has her work cut out for her

Fachtagung Cybercrime Conference C³
Source: DPA.

Germany’s new ambassador to the United States, Emily Haber, is the very antithesis of her counterpart, US Ambassador Richard Grenell, who arrived in Berlin in May like a bull in a china shop. Mr. Grenell, like his boss, lashed out on Twitter with warnings to German companies about dealing with Iran and publicly endorsing right-wing politicians in Europe.

Ms. Haber, the first woman to head the Washington embassy, is not only a seasoned diplomat and government official, she is the daughter of a diplomat and grew up in various places around the world. When she presents her credentials to President Donald Trump on Friday she will doubtless be at her diplomatic best.

She will have to be. Just this week, Mr. Trump took to Twitter to claim that Germans are turning against their leaders on the migration issue after they allowed so many into their country “who have so strongly and violently changed their culture.” It is only the latest gambit by Mr. Trump that is fraying the once-solid trans-Atlantic alliance.

Europe: One for all and all for one

But there’s no question Ms. Haber has the chops for the job. She headed the German delegation in the early talks over Iran’s nuclear program and then served as deputy foreign minister. Most recently, she worked in the interior ministry and was instrumental in formulating Germany’s policy on migration.

The Iran treaty is one of four major issues where she sees the US pressuring Germany, and one where it’s important for Europe to present a united front. Likewise, on trade issues and the surpluses run by the EU, Ms. Haber believes it’s important to coordinate with other EU members to have a common position. She plans to keep in close touch with her ambassador colleagues in Washington.

Slo-mo on NATO defense spending

On two other issues — the low spending on defense and the controversy over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia — she feels there is some sympathy in Europe for Mr. Trump’s criticism. Chancellor Angela Merkel keeps saying she’s committed to reaching the 2-percent of GDP target set by NATO for defense spending, but her government is moving only very slowly in that direction. Nord Stream 2 is controversial because it makes Germany more dependent than ever on Russian gas.

Ms. Haber’s long involvement in government means Berlin will still have some hold on her. She has been called to testify before the parliamentary committee investigating the immigration fraud scandal. Also, ironically, she wrote a paper while at the interior ministry saying that it was permissible to turn back refugees registered in another EU country even though that was not the current practice. This is precisely the issue in the confrontation between Ms. Merkel and the current interior minister, Horst Seehofer.

Mr. Grenell, a former communications expert for Republican politicians and longtime spokesman for the US mission at the United Nations, became the first openly gay US ambassador last month after his nomination languished for several months awaiting Senate confirmation. After his controversial debut in Germany, he has toned down his act.

Moritz Koch, a former Washington correspondent for Handelsblatt, now covers politics in Berlin. Darrell Delamaide is a writer and editor for Handelsblatt Global in Washington, DC. To contact the authors: koch@handelsblatt.com and d.delamaide@extern.handelsblatt.com.

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