Copenhagen Nato commemoration scrapped after US embassy bars Trump critic

A Copenhagen conference arranged to mark the 70-year anniversary of the founding of Nato has been cancelled after the US Embassy reportedly blocked a critic of President Donald Trump from participating. The move brought stinging criticism from former US envoy to Denmark Rufus Gifford.

Copenhagen Nato commemoration scrapped after US embassy bars Trump critic
Former US ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen / Ritzau Scanpix

The event was organized by the Danish Atlantic Council in cooperation with the US embassy.

But it was cancelled by the thinktank after Carla Sands, the United States ambassador to Denmark, refused to allow a speaker critical of President Donald Trump to take part, Danish and US media have reported.

“The process has become too problematic, and we can’t stand by in this situation, let alone ask our speakers to do so,” Danish Atlantic Council general secretary Lars Bangert Struwert said in a press statement.

Sands informed the council that she did not agree with the participation of American academic Stanley Sloan and asked for his presentation to be cancelled, Ekstra Bladet reports.

Sloan is a visiting professor at Middlebury College, fellow at the Atlantic Council and former CIA analyst.

“We were never in doubt that Stanley Sloan would have provided an apolitical and objective contribution to our conference. Stanley Sloan promised us this,” Struwe told TV2.

“That’s why we stood by Stanley Sloan as a speaker until the American ambassador demanded that (Sloan’s) participation be cancelled,” he added.

Although Sands has not made any official comment on the matter, the Danish Atlantic Council has said that the order to cancel his participation came directly from the ambassador.

“[T]he Danish Atlantic Council via the official channels became instructed that Ambassador Carla Sands does not want (your) presence at the Conference,” Struwe wrote in an email to Sloan according to Buzzfeed.

The US embassy in Denmark tweeted on Sunday that Sloan’s invite “did not follow the same deliberative process of joint decision-making and agreement that we followed when recruiting all other speakers.”

The embassy “supports freedom of speech as enshrined in the First Amendment to the US Constitution. It’s unfortunate that (the Danish Atlantic Council) decided to cancel the Nato 70th Anniversary Seminar,” another tweet read.

Sloan has previously criticized Trump’s management of trans-Atlantic relations. He was invited to the Copenhagen event around ten days ago, Ekstra Bladet writes.

The matter provoked an angry riposte against Sands by her Obama-era predecessor, Rufus Gifford, who called the embassy’s conduct “profoundly disappointing, shocking and unAmerican”.

“…now we see the Embassy is blocking the speech of an expert in his field, a transatlanticist who happens to be a Trump critic,” Gifford wrote in a series of tweets.

“Well, there are a lot of us. The moment you block our speech is the moment you realize you are losing. And it only proves the point we make,” he added.

Sands, a former chiropractor, board chairperson and actress, took over from Gifford in 2017 as US ambassador to Denmark.

She had no previous diplomatic experience prior to the posting.

The ambassador’s personal Twitter account often retweets articles from far-right outlets and commentators including Breitbart, Prager and Fox News host Sean Hannity.

READ ALSO: US ambassador criticises Denmark’s military budget, despite increase

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Trump’s ambassador to Denmark leaves country as president’s term ends

After three years as United States Ambassador to Denmark, Carla Sands has stepped down from the post and left Copenhagen.

Trump’s ambassador to Denmark leaves country as president’s term ends
Outgoing United States Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

The now-former ambassador confirmed she had taken leave of the Danish capital via Twitter.

US president Donald Trump’s term ends on Wednesday, with President-elect Joe Biden to be inaugurated at 6pm Danish time.

“It's been a privilege serving the Trump Administration for over 3 years as U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Denmark. I’ve enjoyed promoting USA-Denmark-Faroe Islands-Greenland relations,” Sands tweeted.

“I have departed Copenhagen,” she added in a follow-up tweet.

In a video included in the tweets, Sands mentions her highlights of her time as ambassador. These include the re-opening of the US consulate in Greenland capital Nuuk alongside US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Sands, who took over as ambassador in 2017 after being appointed by Trump, is likely to be remembered as the incumbent at the time of Trump’s overtures towards purchasing Greenland, an autonomous territory within the Danish kingdom.

After Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen dismissed Trump’s suggestion that the United States could buy the Arctic territory from Denmark, the US president promptly cancelled an official visit to Denmark scheduled for September 2019.

Sands met with the Danish government on several occasions in an attempt to take the heat out of a potential diplomatic dispute.

READ ALSO: Danes pour scorn on Trump after state visit postponement

More recently, Sands was criticised for tweeting an incorrect claim that her own vote had not been counted in the country's general election.

The ambassador posted on her personal Twitter account a screenshot which she claimed showed her absentee ballot in the state of Pennsylvania had not been registered. She also made several other posts on the site following the US election in support of Trump's baseless claims of election fraud.

Several other Twitter users – as well as the New York Times – looked up Sands' vote on the Pennsylvania state government website and found it was in fact registered.

READ ALSO: US ambassador to Denmark makes incorrect Twitter claim about own vote

After a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building in Washington DC on January 6th, Sands was officially contacted by foreign minister Jeppe Kofod. The minister called for Trump to concede defeat in the election and ensure a peaceful transition of power.

Newspaper Berlingske reported that this was the first time in history that a Danish foreign minister had officially protested over internal affairs in the United States.