Obama Deceived Europe

Nobel Peace Prize laureate and U.S. President Barack Obama cannot be trusted.

Even if this judgment has not yet been spoken aloud, the leaders of many countries, caught up in a scandal involving the wiretapping of their phones by the U.S. National Security Agency, are thinking just that. After information about the NSA bugging or trying to bug the personal phones of a minimum of 35 heads of state — a significant number of whom are among America’s strategic partners — appeared in fugitive CIA employee Edward Snowden’s documents, a deficit of trust has arisen in the world. Not a day goes by that President Obama is not explaining himself to foreign leaders who have found out that they were under the watchful eye of American intelligence services.

The geographic distribution of the American intelligence community’s interests was vast: the countries of Latin America, European institutions, heads of key EU states, Russia, China — the list goes on.

However, coming from the primary “global policeman,” a role which the White House is hoping to reprise in the future (recall Obama’s remarks about the exceptionalism of the American nation, its special mission), the NSA’s actions appear valid. To spy, to eavesdrop, to provoke — was this not the task of the czarist secret police in Russia before the revolution? So in the best traditions of these pre-revolutionary “freaks,” the United States intelligence services conducted their unsightly activity on a global scale.

Neither German Chancellor Angela Merkel nor French President Francois Hollande believed that the American president did not know the details of the NSA’s spy operations. In principle it is no secret that the intelligence services of every government, without exception, obtain information about what is happening in vital regions of their countries. But the fact that without good reason the American agency invaded the personal lives of politicians, businessmen and heads of state from countries that have cooperated with the U.S. and have been the White House’s closest allies has perturbed many in the Old World. It turns out the White House did not trust even its most loyal NATO partners!

Merkel called the widening scandal “a serious breach of trust” on Washington’s part and questioned future cooperation with the U.S. at the EU summit. But nothing should be expected to come of it besides general declarations condemning the practice of spying on European citizens. Europe is not in a position where it can raise its voice at the White House. So Obama can rest easy — the scandal involving the wiretapping of European leaders and their associates will eventually subside.

But the bitter aftertaste of such transatlantic “friendship” will linger for a long time. The German chancellor has already indicated that she did not believe the American president’s assurances that the NSA did not eavesdrop on her personal phones. In the latest round of Edward Snowden’s revelations, information has appeared about the details of how European leaders were “eared in on.” A document in the possession of the British newspaper The Guardian states that the NSA turned to employees of U.S. offices and departments such as the White House, State Department and Pentagon with a request to provide them with telephone numbers of influential foreign political figures. In the end, only one of the American officials handed over about 200 numbers to the intelligence agency, including personal phone numbers belonging to the leaders of 35 governments. And how many such numbers did other participants of the “survey” hand over? It is obvious that none of the officials could refuse to comply with this request, which looks more like an order, without repercussions for their careers.

But was it merely the lack of trust that offended European leaders and heads of European institutions, who on all levels are wondering whether their “Big Brother” across the ocean is still listening in on them? In what other offices will bugs put in place by the intelligence services of Europe’s main ally be detected? And most importantly, what does the surveillance of trustworthy European citizens have to do with the mission before the NSA — the fight against terrorism?

After Snowden’s revelations, the White House overnight ended up in a role to which it is unaccustomed, that of “world’s villain.” And not only because, as it turned out, it spied on its closest allies. The wiretapping scandal made public the double standard flourishing in the New World. Verbally, American politicians of every level advocate for privacy and consider such a state of affairs a most important component of democracy, but at the same time they authorize intelligence agencies to intrude on the private lives of hundreds of millions of European citizens without the slightest grounds. Or are Europeans to them second-class citizens with whom one need not stand on ceremony?

The double standard of the primary champion of democratic values, as the United States has declared itself, has dealt a blow to the inhabitants of the Old World. They believed that, as allies of the White House, they were above suspicion. Just this summer, German Chancellor Angela Merkel proudly assured her compatriots that German technology protects her private conversations from unauthorized intrusion. Imagine the head of the German government finding out that the content of her conversations became known to the White House. Or did President Obama, receiving reports from his aides based on NSA intelligence, not know the maleficent means by which the intelligence was obtained?

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About Jeffrey Fredrich 199 Articles
Jeffrey studied Russian language at Northwestern University and at the Russian State University for the Humanities. He spent one year in Moscow doing independent research as a Fulbright fellow from 2007 to 2008.

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