Friday, July 11, 2014

US-German Relations: US Station Chief to Depart Promptly, Bilateral Relations on Other Issues Vital

According to Reuters, Germany's eventual decision to ask the CIA station chief in Berlin to leave the country was an inevitable response to fresh allegations of US spying on Berlin, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Friday (July 11).

"Our decision to ask the current senior representative of the US intelligence service to leave Germany is the right decision, a necessary step and a fitting reaction to the break of trust which has occurred," Steinmeier told reporters. 

"Taking action was unavoidable, in my opinion. We need and expect a relationship based on trust."

Steinmeier said a strong transatlantic partnership was especially important now given the multitude of simultaneous international crises. He would tell US Secretary of State John Kerry when they meet in Vienna at the weekend for talks on Iran's nuclear program that Germany was eager to revive that partnership on the basis of mutual trust.

The scandal has chilled relations with Washington to levels not seen since Chancellor Angela Merkel's predecessor opposed the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. It follows allegations that Merkel herself was among thousands of Germans whose mobile phones were eavesdropped on by NSA.

Merkel has not had a phone conversation with US President Barack Obama since Berlin asked the CIA station chief to leave, but the two are in close contact, a German government spokesman said on Friday. 

COMMENT: Chancellor Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert told a news conference that the station chief "would leave Berlin promptly."

On Wednesday, Berlin said it had discovered a suspected US spy in the Defense Ministry. That came just days after a German foreign intelligence worker was arrested on suspicion of being a CIA informant and admitted to passing documents to a US representative.

Public outrage at the revelations put pressure on Merkel to take action against the United States. 

The German daily, SUEDDEUTCHE ZEITUNG, called the expulsion "an unprecedented act of protest against American arrogance."

Despite the above sentiment, it is in the interest of both Germany and the US to continue to work closely together.

For instance,  Germany still wants a free trade agreement to be negotiated between the European Union and the United States, despite the cooling of relations between Berlin and Washington over the spying controversy.

Many details would still have to be cleared up, he said, but this was unconnected to differences with the United States over intelligence matters.

"German-US friendship is much broader and deeper than the narrow area of cooperation of our intelligence services," Seibert said.

The Foreign Ministry said Germany and the US were working together on crises in Afghanistan, Ukraine and Iran.