Although protests raging in Washington and across the United States did not show up at the meeting, one of those survivors, Henry Li, told CNN they were concerned.
“The United States is the leader of the world. Americans are very tough right now,” he said on Tuesday, a day after President Donald Trump called on state governors to continue “complete domination” amid violent attacks on protesters and journalists in cities across America.
Current and former diplomats tell CNN that the events at home are “scary” and “heartfelt” to watch – and also undermine their mission.
Former US Ambassador to Bulgaria Nancy McEldowney noted that “under any other circumstances, the US Secretary of State would be wonderful to meet with the survivors of the Tiananmen Square massacre, as the US advocates.”
“We supported those protesters then. We supported the Maidan protesters in Ukraine, Tehran and Hong Kong. But how can we do that now?” she said.
The rains of the assassination of George Floyd in Minneapolis have spread across U.S. borders, and solidarity indicators have spread across European capitals and even the ruins of the ruins of Idlib in Syria. Allies and opponents have decided, and some international officials – such as Hong Kong CEO Carrie Lam – are using the response to accuse the U.S. of a double standard.
“Trump’s rhetoric and his unprofessional and extreme response have made it much harder for American diplomats around the world. In the past, the United States was perceived as a standard bearer of human rights, light, a call for restraint, a call for reasonable compromise. Instead, we are now subject to great anxiety , and in the worst case, mockery and contempt, ”McEldowney said.
She said that if a diplomat is in the country where this is happening, he will give her instructions to go in and meet with the president, meet with the cabinet, tell them to stop using extreme force, to refrain, to call for political dialogue. “
“Instead, our diplomats are being asked to defend what Trump is doing, when it’s real, I think it’s indescribable,” she said.
“We spent a lot of money trying to do that,” the first case officer of Armenia said. “We showed them how they do it and we told them that they can’t respond violently to peaceful protests even if they destabilize, you have to react calmly. How can we tell people with a flat face now?”
John Heffern, who served as U.S. ambassador to Armenia from 2011 to 2014, said what was happening now that he was stationed there, his usual contact point in the previous Armenian government, would “literally smile in his face. “
“We wouldn’t have the credibility to talk to him about it,” said Heffern, who has served in the foreign service for more than three decades. He called the situation “untold territory”.
The current foreign service officer described the situation to CNN as “heartfelt”.
“Many of us have taken this job believing that the United States, no matter how imperfect, could serve as a city on a hill and that our work has been strengthened. Now – for us, for our colleagues and friends in color – it feels like a betrayal “We hope to calm down, and many of us use it as a chance to actively address the complex issues of race and privilege and America’s unfinished business. But it’s brutal, lonely and many of us feel lost,” the person said.
“There is no doubt that the world is watching”
Rob Berschinski, a former deputy assistant secretary of state at the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor during the Obama administration, said “there is no doubt that the world is watching what is happening in the U.S., and our allies and repressive governments around the world are noticing that the government which seemingly supports freedom of speech and assembly and peaceful protests and free media do not currently act that way ”.
“There is no doubt that this will diminish the work of our diplomats,” he added.
International allies have issued statements condemning Floyd’s death. EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell called it an “abuse of power”.
“They attach great importance to their country’s national security, but look at our national security biased, especially the current situation in Hong Kong. Everyone can see the double standard clearly,” she said this week.
Already traditional U.S. opponents like Iran and Russia have captured events in America to try to undermine U.S. credibility.
Heffern, who also headed the State Department’s Office of European and Eurasian Affairs under Trump for nine months, said the administration’s response was a “gift from heaven” to authoritarian governments around the world.
McEldowney also noted that “the greater Trump’s incompetence – his misconduct in this situation – the more he sows unrest and instability throughout our society, the more he makes our opponents happy.”
“When America ties in with internal divisions, we can’t lead, we can’t be an effective player internationally,” she said.