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US surveillance program clouds US-European ties

(People's Daily Online)

08:38, July 18, 2013

Last Friday U.S. and EU negotiators concluded their first round of talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Shortly before, the German weekly Der Spiegel revealed that the U.S. had long been engaged in monitoring the EU member states via the Internet, and penetrating their online security. This news came as a shock to Germany and France, which demanded that the U.S. provide an explanation.

The truth is that this is not the first time that the U.S. has abused the goodwill of its European allies. It is reported that during the Cold War, the U.S. was already engaged in such activity. History provides other examples where the U.S. has taken advantage of its friends to serve its own interests. During the Second Middle East Crisis, the U.S. forced the U.K. and France to withdraw from Egypt in order to maintain the strategic balance with Soviet Union. In 1985, in order to outflank its largest creditor, the U.S. urged the G5 to sign the Plaza Accord which caused serious damage to the economy of Japan.

America’s willingness to betray its allies in order to further its own interests indicates quite clearly that there is no such thing as permanent friends in the world, only perpetual interests.

The U.S. has still resisted offering any apology to its European allies for its surveillance program. Instead, it repeatedly finds excuses for its conduct, leading to questions about the real purpose of US monitoring of its allies.

Firstly, the U.S. doesn’t trust its allies. As Europe develops and integrates, the U.S. asks itself whether these integrated allies will remain obedient to the will of the U.S.

Secondly, not all EU countries invariably stand with the U.S. on international and regional issues. Therefore the U.S. sees it as important to know what its European allies are really thinking. As the Chinese strategist Sun Tzu said, “Know yourself and know your enemy, and you will win every war.”

Commercial conflicts and competition between the U.S. and Europe add complexity to the matter. Monitoring its allies and collecting and analyzing business intelligence from EU member states as well as European firms can improve the odds of success where the U.S. finds itself in direct competition with Europe on matters involving trade.

The US surveillance program will certainly cast a cloud over US-European ties, and damage its European allies’ trust. The U.S. has always emphasized its commitments and responsibility to its allies, but in the light of these new revelations EU member states would be entitled to ask whether there is any substance to its words.

But although US-European ties will be affected by the US intelligence monitoring program, it may be too pessimistic to say that the episode will cause any major breach. As traditional allies the two sides share common interests whose roots go much deeper than this dispute, and a broad range of advanced dialogues and cooperation mechanisms help to enhance their partnership. The success of the first round of talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) demonstrates their solid ties.

Edited and Translated by Yao Chun, People's Daily Online

Read the Chinese version: “棱镜门”带给美欧关系:是痒还是痛, source: PLA Daily

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