Montag, 2. Dezember 2013

A New Cold War? How Snowden is dividing Europe. By Christian Dominik Heinz

The NSA surveillance scandal is simultaneously dividing and confusing Europe, a dangerous combination. The continuous increase of intriguing details made public about the NSA surveillance programs is, without a doubt, unsettling. It undermines the self-conception of Europe identifying itself as a Western entity. 

The long-term leitmotiv of European integration has historically depended on the condition that European states would always lean towards the West. In a bipolar world, Europe as the “middle power” was the focus of geopolitics and security policy. The creation of the EU and NATO were based on this premise. These political alliances were ultimately proven a success, as seen by the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. NATO’s founding was a direct response to the Cold War’s first conflict, the Berlin Blockade. More recently, one of the core responsibilities of the EU is a common foreign and security policy, as dictated by the Maastricht Treaty.

Political activist or double agent?
Dealing with the blatant behavior of the USA (and the NSA) is a question of confidence of paramount importance. The situation is not made easier as more information is being disclosed from Moscow. It could very well be that Snowden involuntarily ended up in his position led by good intentions, but it was obvious that the content of the information could potentially lead to the current situation. Having an intelligence background, Snowden should have anticipated this. Putin knows how to use Snowden’s information and utilizes it tactically. Details emerge one piece at a time. The pinnacle of this tactic was the “Merkelphone” scandal that surfaced during Germany’s formation of government shortly after elections, and Christian Ströbele’s (Member of the German Bundestag/Green Party) subsequent trip to Moscow. The intent is to wear down those affected and not to reveal everything at once. It is a slow ascend and we find ourselves asking what revelations will follow.

Generally speaking, we are dealing with an attempt to sabotage Western cohesion. However, Snowden is in a country not known as a model for human rights, especially those rights Snowden wants to defend. Nevertheless, he is strengthening Russia’s position, which is a cause for concern. In this respect, it is unclear if Snowden is acting as a political activist or as a double agent. His motives are deeply suspicious, in a best case scenario, uncouth. He was formerly an advocate of a state security architecture that aggressively defended the classification of information according to the level of secrecy and the prevention of threats to the state, while subjecting violations to sanctionsSince then, he must have had a change of heart. This could mean that someone helped him out. Putin needed to catch up with recruiting American agents. Too many Russian agents have defected in the past few years, increasing resentment. Is Snowden actually aware of Putin’s handling of double agents? The scandal concerning poisoned double agents in London and Berlin has faded after brief public outrage.

The old calculus of power: why we are still reminded of Soviet times
One mustbe cautious. Gregor Gysi’s (Member of the German Bundestag/The Left Party) allegation of moral cowardice remains somewhat simple.

Perhaps the chancellor has her reasons for not commenting on this subject. Intelligence agencies are known for trading information, so nobody can really throw the first stone. Perhaps she could be considered as breaking her oath, if she did not use a secure phone while discussing official matters. How one looks at the situation is of course relative, which further distorts everything. Yet, by tactically infringing from outside, global politics is playing a dangerous game by trying to exert pressure on Germany. It would be wise not to flee to the reemerging fringes of anti-Americanism just because one is indignant, and thereby risking a new Cold War. That is more dangerous than the NSA. The East-West divide has already deepened due to Putin’s support for the Syrian regime. Germany should not allow itself to be tossed about as this political situation is growing riskier by the day.

By associating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the surveillance scandal, the malign effects of outside infringement have already been proven. The TTIP would allow for the world’s largest free trade zone, which of course makes it the ideal strategic target. Free trade cannot be equated to "Free trade only in exchange for good behaviour". That would curb trade on a massive scaleCommon interest in trade overcomes boundaries. Free trade is the best guarantee for civil liberties by increasing prosperity and limiting despotism.

Attempting to divide EU foreign trade in Russia’s favor
Furthermore, we cannot leave out Russia’s dealings with Ukraine. Ukraine’s association agreement with the EU has failed. Russia’s influence has become insuperable, in spite of mass protests and former Prime Minister Timoshenko’s hunger strikeEven if the medium-term GDP were to increase by twelve percent, looming threats of economic sanctions and penalties for unpaid gas bills are enough to persuade President Janukowitsch to invite Russia to the tableApart from the immense opportunities that the EU can give the Ukraine, EU foreign policy is not of Putin’s caliber, making serious bilateral negotiations unlikely. One can only hope that this does not serve as an example for free trade negotiations with the US. Trilateral talks would be a damning indictment for the EU.

It is difficult to discern who the real victim is in this situation and who is to blame for trying to influence the other’s power structure by tactically utilizing information. This political confrontation of world heavyweights is happening now, because the most important event since the fall of the Berlin Wall is going to take place, the TTIP. One cannot stress the historical significance of this.The world’s biggest free trade zone will be decisive for the future of industrial development (standardization, etc.). Putin is setting the EU a trap. It is a challenge to Europe‘s political sovereignty. Fiscal sovereignty has already suffered from speculation against the Euro (or government bonds).

Europe now faces attack from the outside, threatening to erode its geopolitical standing. A lot of Western politicians will be embarrassed if it is revealed that Putin is pulling the strings, in which case Europe has already fallen victim to a deceitful weakening of its remaining sovereignty. 

Translated by James Christopher Alford. Thanks!

1 Kommentar:

  1. Around 1900, the US government created its first bureau of cryptography, rather behind most of the European powers. Shortly thereafter, the Secretary of State was brought a decrypted telegraphic despatch shedding light on some ongoing negotiations. He refused to read it, uttering the famous words "Gentlemen do not read each other's mail".
    It has taken 100+ years, but Europe has now surpassed the United States in naiveté. Of course America spies on Europe. And as a European, I sincerely hope Europe spies on America. This is how the game is played. To expect anything else is so naive on the part of an adult as to be morally culpable in itself.
    Alan Kahan