Spy vs. Spy

by Andrew Stuttaford

I am shocked, shocked that spying has being going on…

A number of EU politicians are up in arms about claims (allegedly based on material leaked by  Sheremetyevo Ed) that the the NSA has been keeping a naughtily close ear on various European US allies (Germany prominent among them) and, for the matter, on the EU missions to the US and UN. As has been observed before, the first rule of spying is not to be caught. The US may have just broken that rule. The second rule is that discovery is followed by a spasm of outrage and then life generally goes on pretty much as before.

As I wrote back at the time of the exposure of that Russian spy ring in the US back in 2010:

Countries spy on each other. They spy on their friends, their enemies, and those rivals who are somewhere in between. It’s what countries do. And sometimes the spies get caught. That’s part of the game, too — as are the remarks of varying degrees of hypocrisy (from all sides) in the aftermath of such arrests.

Turning to the current fracas, Alexander Stubb, nominally Finland’s European Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, but, seemingly no great fan of his own people, often more of a shill for the EU commission than anything else, has moaned that “you shouldn’t spy on your buddies,” a comment that can only suggest that he graduated more recently from kindergarten than I had previously thought.

That said, Finland (non-NATO, but it sent troops to Afghanistan, and suffered losses there)  is indeed, to use Stubb’s term, a buddy, and Germany, of course, is also a buddy, but the EU is not.  To take one example out of countless, back in 2001 (before 9/11, it should, in fairness, be noted) then Swedish prime minister Göran Persson claimed that the EU was “one of the few institutions we can develop as a balance to U.S. world domination,” a perfect blend of the paranoia and ambition that runs through the European project. The EU was always intended to evolve into a strategic rival to the United States, and that is indeed what it is trying to do.  Under the circumstances it can hardly be surprised if the US does what it can to find out what Brussels is up to.

And then there’s this (via the Daily Telegraph):

Some of the reactions to NSA revelations are, therefore, a little tendentious: particularly that of French President Francois Hollande, who demanded that the spying stop “immediately” and that it might imperil negotiations over the EU-USA free trade agreement. A 2009 US diplomatic cable acquired by Wikileaks quotes the CEO of a top German satellite manufacturer as saying that “France is the evil empire, stealing technology, and Germany knows this”, and that French industrial espionage was so widespread that it did far more damage to the German economy than that of China or Russia. In 1991, the former head of France’s foreign intelligence service admitted that France had spied on US technology companies that competed with French rivals. It was noted, then, that “France has long been among the most aggressive users of espionage to collect foreign industrial and technological secrets” – perhaps second only to Japan. This included allegations of bugged seats on Air France. In 1992, another former CIA director, Stansfield Turner, noted that “the French are the most predatory service in the world now that the old Soviet Union is gone”.

And so the game continues.

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