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Donald Trump is not the president and “envoy ambassadors” are not a real thing

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If history has taught us anything, it’s that the nexus of “Donald Trump” and “foreign policy” is almost always a source of some serious fuckery. And like Karl Marx once famously noted: History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.

This is why I can’t help but appreciate the grim humor inherent in the former president’s claim this week that he’d dispatched a “envoy ambassador” to visit the border between mutual antagonists Serbia and Kosovo on his behalf. Here, in full, is the press release Trump sent out Thursday, with the relevant part highlighted by me:

The great people of Serbia and Kosovo have overcome tremendous obstacles in their pursuit of economic normalization. The agreements my administration brokered are historic and should not be abandoned, many lives are at stake. The region is too important and the people have waited too long for this work to be cast aside. Today, my Envoy Ambassador Ric Grenell visited the Kosovo-Serbia border to highlight this important agreement. Just like we proved in the Middle East with the Abraham Accords, peace and economic normalization is possible, but it takes a sincere effort and unwavering leadership. Peace is possible, don’t give up — long-term prosperity for those two nations is at stake!

“His huh?” you ask? “A whatvoy whobassador?” These are good questions. Because much as Trump would love for the general public to interpret this pair of impressive-sounding nouns as a very serious, very authoritative position, the truth is this isn’t a real thing. At all. It’s just a guy on a work trip, with no actual power or leverage to speak of. In fact, it’s straight up illegal under the Logan Act for a private citizen to run a shadow foreign policy op without, y’know, actually representing the current administration.

Thats almost beside the point, though, because like most things Trump, what matters most is the style, not the substance. Who cares if his fancy-titled-but-actually-powerless “envoy ambassador” doesn’t actually have any real authority? That the empty suit in question just so happens to be longtime MAGA-addled Trump sycophant Ric Grenell, who like so many in the Trump administration was elevated well beyond his actual skill set, serving at various times as either ambassador to Germany, and acting director of national intelligence, makes the statement all the more laughable, too. (Grenell also kinda-sorta used to work for a corrupt Moldovan politician — a fact he only kinda-sorta fessed up to, after his undisclosed payments for the job were made public.)

But what Trump cares about more than anything else is projecting the image of someone with his finger on the pulse of global politics — an image, he hopes, his true believers will take as proof that he’s not just a sad old man shuffling around his big empty mansion.

Reactions to Trump’s unprompted foray, such as it was, into the delicate dance of geopolitics were largely split between outright mockery from some people serving under the actual current president, Joe Biden, and creeping horror from professional diplomats who worry about the effect an essentially rogue player running around pretending to have some sort of authority could cause. “The reason that diplomatic and intelligence communication use such specific and vetted language isn’t pedantic for its own reasons, it’s to prevent actors from reading between the lines in official statements,” a NATO intelligence official stationed in Brussels told Vice. “So now Grenell is walking around telling small-time Balkan politicians not to listen to Biden because Trump will return to power, and the danger is some of them might believe him.”

“The problem of course is that Grenell is a mendacious idiot, and this is in all likelihood illegal under U.S. law,” another NATO diplomat told the site. Unlike Grenell’s made-up role, that’s true.