Watch on the Rhine

by Andrew Stuttaford

Writing in the World Politics Review, Richard Gowan  lists “three good reasons” why the U.S. should be spying on  Germany (although he’s a touch squeamish about Chancellor Merkel’s mobile phone), specifically that country’s relationships with Russia and China, and above all, “Berlin’s central role in shaping European fiscal and trade policies.” All fair enough, and there are many other reasons besides.

That said, it’s worth returning to the question of Germany’s role in Europe. There’s been a lot of commentary, based neither on history nor commonsense, to the effect that allies do not spy on each other and, therefore, that the U.S. should not be snooping around the Bundesrepublik

This, of course, assumes that Germany is an ally. In one (not in any way to be downplayed) sense, of course, it indisputably is. It’s a longstanding member of NATO and it has often proved itself a very good friend to America. Germany is, however, also a critically important participant in the effort to create a more federal EU, a proto-federation designed (implicitly and sometimes explicitly) to act as a counterweight  and, on occasion, something as a challenge to the U.S.

Here’s a selection of quotes drawn from an article by Charles Kupchan that appeared in The Atlantic in late 2002:

The French used to be alone in looking to the EU as a counterpoise to America, but the other members have now joined in. Tony Blair has asserted, “Whatever its origin, Europe today is no longer just about peace. It is about projecting collective power.” Germany’s Chancellor Gerhard Schröder called for a “more integrated and enlarged Europe” to offset U.S. hegemony. According to Romano Prodi, the President of the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, one of the chief goals of the union is to create “a superpower on the European continent that stands equal to the United States.” Göran Persson, the Prime Minister of Sweden, a country that long ago renounced power politics, recently remarked that the EU is “one of the few institutions we can develop as a balance to U.S. world domination.”

And there have been plenty more comments like that in the decade that has followed.

So yes, Germany is an ally, but Germany-in-Europe, not quite so much.

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