EXCLUSIVE: President Biden’s government has been outmaneuvered by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on critical security fronts, Richard Grenell, the former acting director of national intelligence for the Trump administration, told Fox News.
“You have to give it to Chancellor Merkel: She outmaneuvered Joe Biden in just three weeks. Merkel made it clear she would not take sides between communist China and capitalist America, reversed the 10,000 U.S. troop withdrawal that Trump previously announced and got the Biden administration to stop enforcing Nord Stream 2 sanctions,” Grenell said.
Last week, Biden froze the plan to withdraw American troops from Germany. In December, Congress passed legislation — the National Defense Authorization Act — that contains sanctions targeting companies and individuals involved in the Nord Stream 2 project.
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The Nord Stream 2 deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime will transfer Russian gas to Germany via a pipeline running under the Baltic Sea. Critics say the project will ensure that Germany becomes dependent for its energy needs on Russia—a major adversary of the US and Europe.
For Grenell, who was the first openly gay person to hold a U.S. Cabinet-level position and who also served as ambassador to Berlin from 2018 to 2020, the “message is you can have a ‘Germany First’ policy, have your businesses totally engaged with China, and you do not need to take sides between Communist China and America.
“Merkel always wanted to return to the table where she sits across from a weak U.S. president,” he continued, adding that she did not like the Trump administration’s “transactional diplomacy.”
According to Grenell, then-President Donald Trump told Merkel: “I do not blame you for wanting policies that benefit Germany, but you can’t blame me for sticking up for America.”
Merkel’s government faced intense criticism during Trump’s tenure for allegedly freeloading on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) by failing to honor its pledge to spend 2% of GDP on defense.
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“From the German perspective, they get the pipeline [to import Russian natural gas] and do not have to pay their NATO commitment,” Grenell said. “Europe wants a U.S. president who won’t demand that they pay their bills.”
For security and intelligence experts like Grenell, the Merkel administration’s addiction to Russian gas, its policy of neutrality toward the Chinese Communist Party and its abandonment of its NATO obligations mean that “Merkel takes a quick step away from the West under Biden.”
He warned against returning to business as usual with Europe: “Europeans want to go back to the days when Americans nicely ask for something, the Europeans ignore the request, and everyone goes for dinner with a fancy bottle of wine.”
“The Germans got a free pass from the Biden administration to not join the West if it doesn’t help them personally,” he said.
Grenell said Berlin is eager to “start normalized trade with Iran.” Germany is the Iranian regime’s biggest European trade partner. In 2019, Merkel’s government celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Iranian regime’s Islamic Revolution at Tehran’s embassy in Berlin.
Germany’s cordial relations with Iran’s government, the leading state-sponsor of international terrorism according to both the Obama and Trump administrations, raises questions about Merkel’s relations with China’s Communist Party, particularly in light of the allegations of Beijing’s genocidal actions against Muslims.
In a Jan. 26 Politico article titled “Merkel sides with Xi on avoiding Cold War blocs,” the journalists wrote, “Merkel on Tuesday rejected calls for Europe to pick sides between the U.S. and China, in a nod to the plea made by Chinese President Xi Jinping a day earlier.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government has been accused by both former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and current U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken of carrying out genocide against China’s Muslim Uighur minority population.
Germany has not designated the Chinese Communist Party’s persecution of the Uighur community a genocide.
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When asked about Grenell’s criticisms and whether Germany agrees with Blinken statement that China is engaged in a genocide targeting its Uighur citizens, a spokesperson for Merkel wrote Fox News by email, “We will not comment on the statements.”
Dolkun Isa, who is president of the World Uyghur Congress, said: “Merkel has avoided discussing this issue publicly for some time — a fact that hasn’t escaped the attention of the Chinese propaganda machine.”
A spokesperson for the German foreign ministry declined to provide explicit answers to Fox News’ questions about Grenell’s criticism and referenced comments foreign minister Heiko Maas has made to German outlets and on social media. He declined to call China’s conduct against the Uighur population a genocide.
Maas wrote on Twitter “In order to deal with the challenge of China for fair competition, especially for human rights, we need a union with the USA. We can achieve a lot more when the U.S. and Europe are on the same side of the field.”
Both Merkel’s office and Maas declined to answer Fox News’ questions with respect to calls for Germany to cancel the Nord Stream 2 project.
Maas has stressed ongoing talks with Russia rather than robust economic sanctions against the Russian government for its human rights abuses. He told the Funke-Mediengruppe in early February: “Close coordination between the partners is important. President Biden’s announcement that the approach to Russia will again be closely coordinated with the allies is therefore an important signal.”
The largest-circulation paper in Germany, Bild, in 2019 revealed Emily Haber, Germany’s ambassador to Washington, for aggressively lobbying Congress in favor of Russian President Putin’s Nord Stream 2 project.
According to Bild, a congressional staffer said that people were “shocked” at Haber’s conduct because she “unambiguously sides with Russia.”
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Haber declined to answer a Fox News inquiry.
During Grenell’s time in Berlin, he accomplished what previous ambassadors could not, according to long-term observers of European power politics. “The way we got a Hezbollah ban in Germany was two years of constant pressure and prioritization of issue. That was the only way the Germans moved. The momentum will not continue throughout Europe unless Biden’s administration does more than render lip service and uses its leverage, and let’s be honest, that will make some people scream, ‘You are being mean,’” he said.
France opposes an EU-wide ban on the entirety of the Hezbollah organization while Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Latvia, Slovenia, Serbia, Estonia and Lithuania have outlawed the Lebanese Shi’ite militia.
In addition to Israel, the United States and Canada, Muslim-majority countries such as Sudan and Bahrain, along with the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council, classify the entirety of Hezbollah as a terrorist entity.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson told Fox News on Tuesday that “the United States is committed to the U.S.-Germany relationship and the need for coordinated action to overcome global challenges.”
“The Biden administration is putting alliances at the center of U.S. foreign policy, and we will work to tailor them to the world we face, making us stronger and safer,” the spokesperson said. “The Biden administration has made it clear that we need the support of strong and capable allies like Germany, and that mending and modernizing alliances also means that we will continue to ask our allies to share more of the global burden as well as to meet their NATO capability targets. When we work cooperatively with other nations that share our values and goals, we make ourselves and our Allies more secure.”
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“As Spokesperson [Edward] Price has said, Nord Stream 2 is designed to increase Russia’s leverage over allies and partners, and it undermines transatlantic security. The United States will continue to work with our allies and our partners to ensure Europe has a reliable, diversified energy supply that does not undermine collective security. As President Biden made clear, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is a bad deal,” they added.
Benjamin Weinthal reports on human rights in the Middle East and is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal