Tuesday, 29 October 2013


By Yusni Yussof

President Obama and Chancellor Merkel

 ( Photocredit : Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

It is an open secret that nations spy on each other. Where every nation stands at equal footing and possess a similar level of sovereignty to others, there is nothing to stop them from spying. Information and intelligence gathered are vital to ensure that the state can see what’s coming. Its survival depends on it. The fact is augmented if we look at the global scenario through the Realist’s perspective. According to the school of thought’s framework of understanding how nations interact among themselves, power is regarded as the pertinent factor. 

Knowledge and information is power!

The questions are how deep and how far will states do it? It is naïve to suggest that nations will refrain from acquiring intelligence and information that will serve their objectives and their interest. Nevertheless, any state which want to spy on others, must be prepared to abide by the cardinal rule of spying- don’t get caught! Again, Do Not Get Caught doing it!

But if you do get caught, there are only few options left. You deny, cook up a convincing story or justify your actions with excuses that can hold water. But a denial from a hegemony like US sounds rather comical than convincing.

With Edward Snowden’s disclosure of the US spying activities on its allies, the US is currently in hot water. President Obama is trying hard to contain the damage with German Chancellor Angela Merkel over allegations that the US has been tapping her phone since 2010. Situations are going to worsen before they can improve as there are reports that Merkel was on the NSA’s monitoring list since 2002. And Obama knows about it all along. 

Last Friday, Chancellor Merkel clearly voiced out her stand on the issue by asserting that “ Spying among friends is never acceptable,” . She added to her discontent that the disclosure had severely shaken the relationship between Europe and the US, while demanding true change from the latter.

It goes without saying that in any case of betrayal,  especially  among allies, rebuilding trust will become a cumbersome task, if not a long one. 

As a clear show of mistrust and disapproval from its European allies, the European Parliament recently voted for the suspension of US access to the global financial database held by a Belgian company because of concerns that the US is snooping on the database for financial gain rather than just to combat terrorism. Meanwhile the already fragile negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will certainly be more negatively affected by   the issue. 

In the long run, the US is likely to lose more from the revelations. As new economic powers are emerging, the US needs greater cooperation from its allies to get things done. Losing trust and confidence will certainly not contribute towards achieving that goal.

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