Europe an Ally, but an Enemy as well?

This week will see the European Summit discuss a quite unusual issue: that of America’s snooping on its allies. Barely a week has passed since the revelations that America’s NSA tapped on government phone calls from Spain and France, and now we have Germany’s top leader Angela Merkel to add to this sorry list of compromised allies.

The fresh NSA leaks showed that the NSA has been tapping on the Chancellor’s phone calls as far back as 2002.

This recent revelation by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden infuriated both Paris and Berlin, where Merkel was quoted saying “Spying between friends—that’s just not done.” “I said that to US President Barack Obama when he came to Berlin and again on the phone [Wednesday],” Merkel said.

As hard-hitting as these relationship snippets between the Western allies are, the mood and tone Britain is quite disconnected from its European friends.

British Prime Minister David Cameron was more worried about how these things are revealed in the first place, expressing concerns that the Snowden leak “is frankly signaling to people who mean to do us harm how to evade and avoid detection”, citing the recent Kenya mall massacre. He added that “it (revelation) is going to make our world more dangerous”.

Just a few days ago, a conservative British politician called for the prosecution of the paper Guardian for publishing NSA documents and “aiding terrorism and endangering national security.” The fear-mongering official diverted the issue of America spying on its allies and instead argued that “once an adversary knows if and how we can read their communications, they will change their behavior.”

Rewind just a couple of weeks ago and you end up opening your morning papers with the less-publicized furry of Brazil’s president Dilma Roueseff over similar NSA accusations. And if you go back a decade ago, you end up with a leaked NSA memo calling for increased “surveillance of and interception of phone calls and emails from United Nations delegations crucial to the (then) upcoming Security Council (Iraq invasion) vote.”

“Everyone spies on friends”

Surprisingly for a conflict-hungry leader, Obama pacified Merkel’s anger, saying he did not know about the spying. The same air brushing language was employed by the president earlier this year: “We should stipulate that every intelligence service —not just ours, but every European intelligence service, every Asian intelligence service, wherever there’s an intelligence service — here’s one thing that they’re going to be doing: They’re going to be trying to understand the world better, and what’s going on in world capitals around the world…If that weren’t the case, then there’d be no use for an intelligence service.”

However, these days, not even his allies are impressed. French president Francois Hollande demanded the US to immediately stop any more eavesdropping, saying “we cannot accept this kind of behavior from partners and allies.”

Snowden’s status in Russia

It was August 1 when the NSA whistleblower was granted his application to seek temporary political asylum in Russia. He has since left the Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow and his whereabouts are not disclosed, although it is believed Edward Snowden might now intend to apply for full refugee status.

According to Veronika Krasheninnkova, Director General of Institute of Foreign Political Studies and Initiatives in Moscow, Russia has no choice but to grant Snowden asylum.

The Director said “this is the decision made by an independent sovereign state. Additionally, well, Russia has been left without much choice. Mr. Snowden’s passport was cancelled when he was on Russia’s territory. And furthermore when President Obama said on June 27 that he would not send fighter jets to intercept the plane transporting Mr. Snowden, and only a few days later indeed a plane was intercepted with the President of Bolivia Eva Morales on the suspicion that Mr. Snowden was on board. So in this situation it was very difficult to conduct negotiations with Washington. I think that was the only right thing to do and Russia did it.”

She also added that “what is appalling in this situation in the United States is that a young man who helped the government to fight against glaring violations of American constitutional law and International Laws instead of being helped by the government is being prosecuted. Well, that is, and President Obama who as a trained constitutional lawyer  definitely knows the Constitution, well, it is too bad that they have to face hundreds plus years of prison rather than indeed being helping those cases being investigated and the true perpetrators of these violations being punished.”