Friday, July 12, 2024
 
 

US envoy to Serbia-Kosovo talks to become Acting Director of National Intelligence

Two Serbia-Kosovo agreements signed in five months, but neither actually in force

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President Donald Trump has named Richard Grenell, the US Ambassador to Germany and concurrently Special Envoy to Serbia and Kosovo, to become the acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI), an election-year organisational realignment which instantly drew criticism.
“Rick has represented our country exceedingly well and I look forward to working with him,” Trump tweeted on February 19 about one of his most energetic supporters.
His name is likely better known in Germany and Southeast Europe than it is back home.  Last October, Trump named Grenell to become Washington’s Special Envoy for negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo, acting in the role concurrently with his post as Ambassador to Berlin. Under Grenell, two agreements between Serbia and Kosovo have been forged, one to reopen air links and the other to reopen rail and road links.  Although signed this year, neither agreement has concrete timelines attached and none have yet come into force.
Critics see inexperience
Grenell, a vocal supporter of Trump’s policies, is set to replace Joseph Maguire, who has been serving as acting DNI since August. Maguire was named to the post following Dan Coats’ resignation as director.
Immediate criticism was heaped on Grenell’s appointment as an “acting director” meaning he will not require Senate approval, and for a perception in Washington that he lacked experience in intelligence matters.
The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Mark Warner, described Trump’s manoeuvre as “an effort to sidestep the Senate’s constitutional authority to advise and consent on such critical national security positions.”
Warner added that “the president has selected an individual without any intelligence experience to serve as the leader of the nation’s intelligence community in an acting capacity.”
Does Grenell need a replacement?
There has been no comment from Washington yet on who will replace Grenell as Special Envoy to the Serbia-Kosovo talks which had been frozen since the government in Pristina imposed 100% tariffs on Serbia goods in 2018, although the existing State Department team retains the expertise – since Grenell was actually a newcomer when appointed in October 2019 – to take things forward.  Optimists have been expecting progress on this front shortly and key analysts understand Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Palmer, also carrying a designation of Special Envoy, has been the key driver on these issues for several years.

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CEO/Editor-in-Chief.  Former US diplomat with previous assignments in Eastern Europe, the UN, SE Asia, Greece, across the Balkans, as well as Washington DC.

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