Criticism mounts in Germany over latest revelations showing how German intelligence spied for the U.S.
The year 2015 has seen Angela Merkel under pressure as never before.
The year began with the election of Syriza in Greece, mounting the first sustained challenge to her bailout policies. Then followed Ukraine’s military defeat, which forced Merkel to agree the Minsk Memorandum.
Latest reports (see for example this report from Der Spiegel) suggest she is now coming under pressure on another front, this time in connection with the NSA spy allegations.
The issue was thrown open in 2013 by the revelations of Edward Snowden.
The problem for Merkel is that this story refuses to go away. It turns out that not only is the US conducting a high proportion of its drone operations from Germany, but that Germany’s own intelligence service, the BND, has been spying for the US through its monitoring station at Bad Aibling on the French foreign ministry and presidential palace as well as the European Commission and Airbus group. There are even suggestions it might have spied on German industrial groups.
Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel is demanding “a thorough inquiry” and has said a list of "selectors" — mobile phone numbers and IP addresses handed by the NSA to German intelligence — should be made available to parliamentary committees investigating the affair. SPD deputy chairman Ralf Stegner has gone further, telling Suddeutsche Zeitung that "the game" of saying the latest revelations were “nothing to do” with Merkel was up and that her chief of staff, Peter Altmeier, must now give evidence.
Merkel is not a CIA asset as some are saying. She has acted too often against US wishes (eg. over the Opel sale) for this to be so. She is simply a weak and indecisive leader, focused on preserving her position.
The result is she takes the line of least resistance, whether over bailout negotiations, or in relation to the Ukrainian conflict, or in connection to the spy allegations. Above all she strives to avoid a public row with the U.S. and the powerful Atlanticist faction within the German establishment.
The danger of this approach is that it is causing problems to accumulate. In place of strong leadership, Merkel’s instinct is to hunker down.
This guarantees that in time the problems are going to hit home with a vengeance. And neither Germany nor Merkel look prepared.
Ultimately, the latest criticisms of Merkel from her coalition colleagues might prove to be a straw in the wind.
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