The US ambassador to Denmark, Carla Sands, a donor to President Donald Trump’s first presidential campaign, has banned a NATO expert who has been critical of the president from speaking at an event in Copenhagen celebrating NATO’s 70th anniversary.
Stanley Sloan, a visiting professor at Middlebury College, a fellow at the Atlantic Council, and a former CIA analyst, was abruptly disinvited from the event by the Danish Atlantic Council, which said the US Embassy had communicated its displeasure. Sloan tweeted that it was because of his “critical evaluation of Trump’s impact on transatlantic relations.”
“[T]he Danish Atlantic Council via the official channels became instructed that Ambassador Carla Sands does not want presence at the Conference,” Lars Bangert Struwe, the head of the Danish Atlantic Council, which organized the event in cooperation with the US Embassy, wrote in an email to Sloan.
Sands, who is a former actor and chiropractor and a board member of major California institutions, was confirmed to her post in 2017 after making contributions to Trump’s campaign and inauguration and, according to ProPublica, being recommended by Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy. Her official Twitter account looks much like any other ambassador’s, while her personal account is often retweets of articles from far-right outlets like Breitbart and PragerU.
“The US embassy demanded that he be removed as a speaker,” Struwe said in an email to BuzzFeed News. The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Sunday, Struwe tweeted that the entire event had been canceled, saying that “the process has become too problematic.” The US Embassy in Denmark also issued a series of tweets Sunday trying to explain its move, saying Sloan’s last-minute invite “did not follow the same deliberative process of joint decision-making and agreement that we followed when recruiting all other speakers.”
In the email to Sloan, Struwe wrote that the embassy’s actions were “in total disharmony with the way, the Danish Atlantic Council want to act.”
“Thus knowing that you do criticise the President of the United States, we believe that Freedom of Speech is paramount in every democracy, and we do not see a conflict between the Freedom of Speech and participating as a Speaker at an international conference,” Struwe wrote. “Having said that, the Danish Atlantic Council is not in a position, where we can ignore the given instructions by the Embassy of the United States, when the instructions are clear and specific.”
“They and I basically got caught in this web of Trumpism, which is destructive of our democracy,” Sloan said. “And the fact that I feel that way is one reason they don't want me talking.”
In notes from his talk shared with BuzzFeed News, titled “Crisis in Transatlantic Relations: What Future Will We Choose?,” Sloan discussed internal and external challenges to NATO and noted that the reelection of Trump could further degrade the strength of the transatlantic alliance. Trump, who has fought often with allies, focused his energies within NATO on trying to get other alliance members to increase their spending. A NATO meeting in London last week was marred by the release of a video showing international leaders laughing at Trump behind his back.
Sloan told BuzzFeed News he was invited to speak at the conference around 10 days ago and had recently been told he would speak after the ambassador. This morning he got the email saying his invitation was being withdrawn upon prompting from the embassy. “I've done public diplomacy stuff for 30 or 40 years, and frankly I've always taken the liberty to be critical of whatever government was about if I had different ideas. I've criticized Republican and Democratic administrations,” he said.
“I always admired the State Department for sponsoring people like me who went out and told what they thought was the truth and the facts and didn't pull their punches. I bragged to American and European audiences about how this shows the strength of our democracy. But it also now shows how our democracy is threatened.”
The incident comes amid increasing attention to Trump’s political appointees, including Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU, who is at the center of the impeachment inquiry because of his actions in Ukraine.