Spy vs Spy

Former Carter Adviser Brzezinski Faults U.S., German Handling of Spy Scandal, Alliance Tensions

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Mr. Brzezinski’s statements on the U.S.-German spy scandal reflect how the crisis is perceived in Washington, D.C.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden detailed U.S. spying efforts in Germany.
    • Until recently, the U.S. was eavesdropping on the cellphone of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.
    • Earlier this month, German authorities detained a member of the Germany’s foreign intelligence service for allegedly giving 218 documents to U.S. agents.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

 

Zbigniew K. Brzezinski
Brzezinski said Germans should not lose sight of the real threat: Russian aggression in Ukraine. Source: AP

 

In a recent column in Handelsblatt, Germany’s former foreign minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, harshly criticized the United States over its spying in Germany and abroad.

In an interview in Washington, Zbigniew Brzezinski, former security adviser to U.S. President Jimmy Carter, weighed in on the issue. Mr. Brzezinski said Germans should keep things in perspective and not lose sight of the real threat: Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Mr. Brzezinski, the Americans have infiltrated the Bundesnachrichtendienst, Germany’s intelligence service. Do you understand and appreciate why Berlin is now asking the head of the CIA in Germany to leave the country?

It would have been smarter and more constructive if they had asked him to leave behind closed doors. The de facto expulsion overdramatizes the whole case.

Doesn’t it give the U.S. government something to think about when even a person staunchly committed to transatlantic ideals like Hans-Dietrich Genscher is disgusted when he sees no appropriate reaction from the Americans about the accusations of espionage?

My impression is that talks are most certainly taking place informally, as the matter warrants. Perhaps the Americans should express their regret in some form or other in addition. But no one should think that the USA has hostile intentions.

 

Zbigniew K. Brzezinski
Brzezinski: “The attention the U.S. media is giving the matter is simply not strong enough.” Source: AP

 

The good news is that Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Barack Obama are talking with each other again. The bad news is that there is no sign of an understanding. You just spoke of regret; many Germans expect an apology.

No one has to “Walk to Canossa.” Not Obama, also not Merkel. Of course, I regret the undiplomatic behavior of the United States. But I hope our German friends will keep things in perspective. I don’t like to say it but the uproar is almost a bit silly given the serious global challenges.

Are the Germans too naive — or the Americans too brazen?

I cannot be the judge of how the Germans are or what they feel. But I am convinced that the overwhelming majority of Americans haven’t even noticed this incident. The attention the U.S. media is giving the matter is simply not strong enough.

One is almost reminded of what Washington was saying after the dispute over the war in Iraq: forget Germany.

America and our most important European allies, and that means Germany first of all, are facing the highly complex problem of Russian aggression against Ukraine. We must find a political formula for the Middle East, which could explode any moment. And we have to see to the stability of our alliance systems in the Far East. I believe we have a common agenda whose significance is unequally greater than the spying controversy.

“Of course, I regret the inept and undiplomatic behavior of the USA. But I hope our German friends will keep things in perspective. I don’t like to say it, but the uproar is almost a bit silly given the serious global challenges we all face. ”

Zbigniew Brzezinski, Former U.S. national security advisor

Genscher argues that the Americans are so engulfed in the unilateral aspect that they haven’t noticed that the imperative world order has developed into one of cooperation.

That sounds like a tidy formulation, but I would be interested in knowing how that translates into strategic options. Does Genscher propose a readjustment of German foreign policy?

Would an alliance with Putin’s Russia be conceivable?

You aren’t worried by any chance that Germany could leave the Western alliance?

To keep from adding more fuel to the dispute, just let me say the following. I congratulate the Germans with all my heart on their World Cup triumph and I hope that their happy feeling and pride doesn’t get spoiled by this, in truth, ridiculous espionage debate.

Moritz Koch is Washington correspondent for Handelsblatt. He can be reached at: koch@handelsblatt.com

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