Germany let down by US friends

Excellent piece (Charlemange) in last week’s Economist ‘Falling Out of Love’ – gives a sense of the disappointment/ disenchantment in Germany as a result of learning that Mrs Merkel’s mobile was tapped from 2002 until this summer.

In many such activities the maxim is ‘don’t get caught’.  But in this case Mr Snowden has ‘spilt the beans’ and of course it impacts relationships between US and Germany.

It is quite understandable that there would be sympathy in Germany for granting asylum to Mr Snowden – when his sojourn in Russia comes to an end.  Without his disclosure would the tapping have continued indefinitely?

Suppose it really comes down to a superpower deciding whether it is in its best interests to spy on leaders of ally countries.  Obviously in this case the view in the US was that it was best served by conducting such phone tapping.  And I suppose one has to put it in the context of ‘war on terror’ and a general feeling after 911 that the US lacked useful intelligence.  This is not to excuse the bahaviour – but somehow to try and understand or rationalise the thinking.

I think what Charlemange does very well is to explain the impact in Germany – on the German psyche. And it certainly plays into the hands of all those who focus on the ‘ugly American’ image.  It must also remind Mrs Merkel, formerly of East Germany, of some of what she thought was left behind when the Wall came down.

Hopefully fences will be mended and friendships rebuilt.  Pretty clear what the US would like to do if they get their hands on Mr Snowden – and I don’t think the Germans would be much different in their attitude to someone disclosing their secrets.  However would be very interesting to watch this play out were Germany to contemplate some form of political asylum for Mr Snowden.