U.S. Ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell: "Makes Sense" To Sit Down And Talk With Putin


Ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell joins 'Sunday Morning Futures' to discuss President Trump's upcoming summits with NATO and President Putin, with Blake Burman.

RICHARD GRENELL, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO GERMANY: Thanks, Blake. Thanks for having me.

BURMAN: So, there's the NATO summit coming up in Brussels. The president has talked about wanting to extract more defense spending.

Specifically, the country that you are in right now, Germany, he talks about how they only spend 1 percent of their GDP on defense. Is the president going to continue to push for that? And, more so, specifically, what exactly can he do about it, considering it is the other nations who have to up their defense spending?

GRENELL: Well, look, this is a very important issue for the readiness of NATO, for the readiness of Europe. It is a very pro-Europe position to ask countries in Europe, specifically Germany, to increase their defense spending.

This is going to create a stronger transatlantic alliance. This is very pro-Europe. And, currently, the Germans don't spend enough. As you know, they made this commitment -- it's called the Wales pledge -- back in 2014, and they made a commitment that it would take 10 years to get their defense spending up to 2 percent of their GDP by the year 2024.

Currently, there's a plan on the table to get defense spending up to 1.5 percent by 2024. And so what we are doing is urging the Germans to keep their commitment and other countries to keep their commitments to that NATO pledge, increase NATO spending by 2024.

That's the commitment that they made. And although steps have been made, more needs to be done to keep that 2 percent commitment.

BURMAN: Let's go around the world for a second, because, afterwards, the president from NATO then goes over to the U.K., as we spelled out, and then it's over to Finland to meet with Vladimir Putin.

Where you're sitting right now, in Germany, there are many who are saying that they are a bit uneasy that, after meeting with allies, the president is then going to go sit down with Vladimir Putin.

To those who have concerns in part of the world -- in the part of the world where you are right now, should they be concerned?

GRENELL: Look, I see a lot of people here in Germany that are very pleased with the United States' sanctions on Russia.

We have held the Russians and President Putin accountable for their malign activities. I think people see the facts. And it just makes sense to have a meeting and sit down to talk about issues where the president is going to be defending Americans' national security.

But make no mistake about it. We have large sanctions on Russia, and those will continue.

BURMAN: Want to talk about something that you are very close to, which is the trade imbalance with the European Union.

The president spoke to Maria Bartiromo about this eight, nine, 10 days ago.

Listen here to what he said, and I will get your reaction.


TRUMP: I love those counties, Germany and all of the countries.


TRUMP: Scotland. You know, you have Scotland. They're still in there. They're still hanging in there, right? We will see what happens with Brexit, but they treat us very badly.

They treat us very unfairly.


BURMAN: So, the president says they treat us unfairly. The E.U. has already retaliated with tariffs.

One of the things I know you are involved with is the possibility of the president deciding, hey, we need to put a 20 percent tariff on cars.

Could be zero, if walked back. Could be 20. What is the likely scenario, as you see it right now, on car imports into the U.S. from the E.U.?

GRENELL: Look, I think the likely scenario is unknown.

But the facts are that we inherited a broken trade policy. It's -- it's just not fair. I think the president is exactly right, and I'm pleased that he's focused on it.

Just take the car situation, the car tariffs. The facts are, Blake, that the E.U. puts 10 percent tariffs on us. And we have a 2.5 percent tariff on them when it comes to autos. So, of course they want to continue this process. They want the status quo.

But the president has been committed. He, in the campaign, committed to defend Americans' interests. And the auto industry is one of those. So, what we're trying to do is create some momentum. We're talking to the government of Germany and the auto industry in Germany to try to see if there's a path forward for zero percent tariffs.

We don't know if there is. But what we're trying to do is get the facts, talk to the industry, talk to the German government, which, obviously, this issue is all about the E.U. But what we're trying to do here in Berlin is create some momentum, create some good news that could surround this E.U. trade deal.

And we think that the car industries are a huge part of this. I'm working very closely with Secretary Ross and those at the White House, Peter Navarro and others, to try to make sure that we get as much information from these industries to see if we can create a little momentum for the E.U. trade deal.

BURMAN: So, a TBD, I take it.

Let's move on to Iran, because the U.S. government had said, as they stepped away from the nuclear deal, hey, to all the businesses in Europe, you shouldn't be doing business with Iran. And I know this is something that you are in the middle of right now, trying to get businesses not to work with Iran, but to try to get them to pull back and to do business with the U.S.

What are the incentives right now for these companies in Germany to do this?

GRENELL: Look, to be honest, it is an easy sell.

When I talk to CEOs of large companies, they say, you know, there really isn't a difference between the U.S. market or the Iranian market. And, again, they get to choose. They can either choose to do business in Iran, or they can choose to do business with the United States.

But we have made it clear that you're not going to be able to do both. And so what I hear from large companies is, is that it's a no-brainer. They are immediately choosing the United States and are walking that back within the time frame that they have been given.

What we're trying to do in Berlin, though, is talk to the medium-sized and the small companies in Germany that are doing business in Iran. What we'd like to do is give them an incentive, give them a new market, like the United States' market, get them to turn away automatically.

The small and medium-sized companies, just it makes sense that it is more difficult for them to turn away if they have contracts. And so what we're trying to do is aggressively reach out to these companies to say, hey, what we would like to do is help you have access to a larger market in the United States. What -- what can we do to help?

And we're getting a pretty good response.

BURMAN: A lot going on, on that side of the Atlantic. And in the middle of it is all the U.S. ambassador to Germany, Ric Grenell.

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