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US Berlin post vacant since June

November 12, 2020

"Maverick" retired colonel Douglas Macgregor was foreseen as US ambassador to Berlin by Donald Trump. Instead, says the Pentagon, he's to become a key adviser to the incumbent president's replacement defense secretary.

Douglas Macgregor designierter US-Botschafter in Berlin
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/U.S. Army/D. Neal

Douglas Macgregor's posting switch, confirmed by the Pentagon, prompted speculation Wednesday that the long-time critic of US foreign forays would advise new acting US defense secretary Chris Miller on accelerated troop withdrawals wanted by Trump.    

The Virginia-based news website Axios said Macgregor's appointment as Miller's "senior adviser" was part of a White House scenario of "getting out of Afghanistan by the end of the year," and the wider Middle East by the end of his presidency in January.

Trump currently remains locked in refusal to acknowledge defeat since last week's US presidential election widely awarded to Democrat Joe Biden. 

Read more: Trump: US Defense Secretary Mark Esper 'terminated'

A tight-lipped Pentagon on Wednesday said only Macgregor would bring "decades of military experience" to continue "implementation of the President's national security priorities." 

Trump loyalist 

Deutschland Robin Quinville
Robin Quinville, the USA's acting ambassador to Berlin since Richard Grenell's departureImage: picture-alliance/dpa/W. Kumm

Macgregor, who quit active service in 2004 to become a military commentator on US media, including conservative Fox News television, had been named by Trump last July to become US ambassador to Berlin — pending US Senate approval, which did not transpire.

Filling that post in Berlin, vacant since the departure of Trump loyalist Richard Grenell in June, has been acting ambassador Robin Quinvillelikewise vocal in opposing Europe's near-complete Nord Stream 2 pipeline to deliver Russian national gas. 

Had he taken office in Berlin, Macgregor would have overseen Trump's plan to extract some 9,500 US troops from Germany and relocate some to Poland as well as advocating Trump's accusation that Germany NATO spending was insufficient. 

Macgregor, who commanded 1991 Gulf War tanks and was a NATO planner during the 1999 Kosovo war, drew harsh criticism in August from Jewish advocacy groups over his alleged "bigotry." 

And, The Washington Post in an August commentary described him as a "maverick" within US military circles and an "outspoken critic" of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government. 

NATO a 'zombie' 

As the author of five books, Macgregor's early 1997 work "Breaking the Phalanx" posited a major reorganization of American ground forces in the 21st century. 

And, writing in The National Interest, a US magazine, in March last year, he said: "NATO is simply a zombie periodically reanimated through various methods, usually voodoo magic." 

NATO had expired "with the demise of the Soviet threat," he asserted. 

'Passed over' by Esper 

Macgregor as senior adviser to new acting defense secretary Chris Miller, follows President Donald Trump's sacking of Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Monday and the appointments of Trump loyalists after parallel resignations of three top officials during Esper's tenure. 

Mark Esper | US Verteidigungsminister
Strains: Mark Esper with Donald Trump in March 2020Image: Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS

Axios said Macgregor has been "passed over earlier this year for the Pentagon's top policy job amid reports that Esper had concerns about him." 

Defense officials cited by Associated Press said the new appointee Miller, previously a counterterrorism director, was holding meetings with staff and "becoming familiar with the Pentagon." 

ipj/rc (dpa, Reuters, AFP, AP) 

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