The ambassador of any nation is not just the highest-ranking diplomatic representative of their country in a foreign state or an international organization, not simply a spokesperson of their country’s government and their interests, who is obliged to act in line with their diplomatic status. As a country representative, an ambassador is closely associated with their homeland in the eyes of foreigners. An ambassador’s conduct forms the impression of their country and its citizens, determining their level of prestige.
In recent years, international media outlets have shared countless stories about American ambassadors, who are, unfortunately, not usually praised for their humanitarian deeds. They are rather known for their true aggressive nature, which no diplomatic status can conceal.
Today, a number of circumstances contribute to the growing discontent in many parts of the world not only with Washington’s foreign policy, but with American ambassadors as well. The main reason for this is their blatant disregard for the citizens of the countries where they serve, coupled with their arrogance and unwillingness to take into account international norms of conduct, including those of diplomatic etiquette.
Thus, in South Korea, even among supporters of President Moon Jae-in, the US Ambassador Harry Harris has recently become the object of fierce hatred. As Japanese media say, ever since December 12, 2019 daily rallies against the American ambassador have been held near the US Embassy in Korea, the participants assimilating him to a ‘governor of a Japanese colony.’ Members of left-leaning political parties and civil society organizations who take part in the rallies even go as far as to stage overly extreme ‘contests’ to decapitate a stuffed puppet of the ambassador or burn his image and chant about torturing ‘him with chopsticks.’ According to reporters, Ambassador Harris is obediently pursuing his country’s political course with the straightforwardness typical for a former member of the armed forces. This is most likely the cause of the dislike South Korean political community harbors for him, the Japanese newspaper JB Press writes.
For months now, the German government and population have been openly expressing their disapproval of the actions of US ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell. According to the Spiegel magazine, he has been politically isolated by Germany’s ruling elite since early 2019.
In January 2019, the German news outlet Bild published excerpts from Ambassador Richard Grenell’s notorious letters, in which he openly threatened a number of German companies with sanctions for their participation in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, demanding that Germany withdraw from the project. This interference into the country’s affairs was considered by the German Foreign Office to be unacceptable. Wolfgang Kubicki, Vice-President of the Bundestag, called on the foreign minister to expel Grenell because of his intervention into ‘the political affairs of sovereign Germany.’
On June 6, Grennell was invited to the German Foreign Office for a lecture behind closed doors on what exactly appropriate conduct entails. His expulsion was once more openly demanded by the Bundestag, in particular, by the leader of the left-wing faction Sahra Wagenknecht. She was outraged by Ambassador Grenell’s public statement of support for conservative forces in Europe, which was perceived as meddling in Germany’s political life.
In August, yet again, Ambassador Grenell found himself at the center of another scandal after relaying and sharing his personal interpretation of yet another ‘anti-German’ statement of the American President.
After Washington had imposed broad sanctions against the gas pipeline Nord Stream 2, Ambassador Grenell had to face another wave of outrage on December, 22 as he declared to German media that these sanctions were allegedly adopted in the interests of Europe and in answer to the Europeans’ requests. Meanwhile, the ambassador completely ignored the German government’s official statement that the new US sanctions against Nord Stream 2 and the Turkish Stream pipelines are an unacceptable intrusion into European affairs.
Even Georgia, which is trying to demonstrate its commitment to the United States, criticized the ambassador of the ‘undemocratic state’ of America. Namely, Georgia’s former State Minister for Conflict Resolution and renowned film director Georgi Khaindrava called on Western politicians to treat his homeland with the utmost respect. He also advised them to deal with problems in their own nations first before railing at the missteps of Georgian democracy. He specifically emphasized that, “The international community must respect any nation, no matter its size. Some embassies here do not defend the interests of the countries they represent in Georgia, for example, the acting US envoy to Georgia, Elizabeth Rood.”
The US was forced to recall their ambassador to Zambia, Daniel Foote, on December, 23 after the southern African nation’s refusal to continue working with him due to his fairly active defense of members of the LGBT community. Zambia’s Foreign Minister Joseph Malanji said these actions amounted to an attack on the country’s constitution and were considered as ‘interference into Zambia’s domestic affairs.’ Earlier, Zambian President Edgar Lungu had declared the country’s citizens would not make concessions on homosexuality even in exchange for humanitarian aid: “If this is the way you wish to help, I’m afraid the West had better leave us in poverty. We’ll struggle and survive just like we used to.”
Criticism of US ambassadors is rife even within the US itself. For one, in an interview with the New York magazine on December 8, Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani criticized the flawed system of political lobbying used for appointing US envoys. He said that, for example, investor George Soros used the services of the FBI to appoint four US ambassadors to Ukraine.
Even these examples show that the decidedly undiplomatic behavior of several US ambassadors forms quite a negative perception of the ‘faces of Washington’. Consequently, considering the much-criticized foreign policy of the United States, this fuels the aversion to the USA itself.
Vladimir Platov, Middle East expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”