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Bloomberg: No way to treat a U.S. ally

  • (JACK OHMAN / Sacramento Bee)

This editorial is from Bloomberg View:

Angela Merkel is just about the most pro-American German chancellor the United States could hope for. How stupid, then — there really is no better word — for the United States to allow its intelligence agencies to make life so difficult for her.

Over the past week, German prosecutors initiated investigations into the Central Intelligence Agency’s attempts to recruit two low-level government bureaucrats of questionable value and even more questionable competence. (One offered classified information over Gmail.)

As a result, Merkel is under pressure to stand up to the U.S. and has taken the unprecedented step of asking the CIA’s representative in Berlin to leave the country.

Allies do, of course, spy on allies, and the U.S. has reason to spy on Germany. It is the dominant power in the European Union, and its contacts with Russia, China and Iran are of potential interest. For these and other reasons, a no-spy agreement similar to the one the U.S. has with Britain would probably be unworkable.

At the same time, there are broader U.S. interests that can be better served by not spying. Without German support, for example, it will be impossible to rally reluctant Austrians, Bulgarians, Cypriots, Greeks and others to agree to meaningful EU sanctions on Russia. German support is also crucial for a long-negotiated trade deal between the EU and the U.S.

In both these efforts, Merkel is essential. Most Germans oppose further sanctions on Russia; if Merkel is to support them, she will have to risk her domestic political capital. Meanwhile, some of Merkel’s socialist coalition partners have seized on the spy scandal as evidence that the U.S. cannot be trusted sufficiently on data protection and privacy to enter the trade deal. Merkel remains among the pact’s strongest proponents — but again, the CIA has made it harder for her. The same is true of efforts to get German agreement to move North Atlantic Treaty Organization assets to Poland or the Baltic states.

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