Germany Is Not a Classic Western Ally

Steffen Seibert, Angela Merkel's chief spokesman, commented as follows on the uncovering of two Germans spying for the United States, one in the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) and one in the Defense Ministry. "The difference of opinion [between the U.S. and Germany] affects the trust in this partnership, but it is a partnership that is not just of historical but of enormous current importance." (Wall Street Journal, 10 July, p. A7)

The fact is, however, that historically Germany is not a classic Western ally. How could it be when the Western allies (and the Russians) went through two world wars before they were able to tame Germany? No: Germany, though in the Western camp today, has historically been positioned between West and East, and many Germans today still regard themselves in this manner. This situation seems not to be fully understood in the United States. There are basically two reasons for this. The first is that the German immigration is the largest of all the European immigrations to the U.S., and this makes for a certain predisposition in favor of Germany. The second is that the American protector role in Germany during the Cold War led to an intimate relationship between the political classes in the two countries, reaching its apotheosis at the moment of German reunification, when the then American President, George H. W. Bush, gave to understand that Germany was America's most important ally. This intimate relationship has not extended throughout the German population where, in the wake of the NSA spying disclosures, anti-Americanism has reached unprecedented proportions. According to Olaf Boehnke, who runs the Berlin office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, "There was always some kind of anti-American sentiment in the German public, but this is skyrocketing. It's really worrying." (The Cable, 9 July). Thomas de Maizière, Germany's Interior Minister, stated on 7 July that Germany wanted to go to "360-degree surveillance", and that therefore the diplomatic and intelligence services of the Western allies -- The U.S., the U.K. and France -- would no longer be exempted from the attention of the BND. (The Independent, 7 July.) As if to highlight the new situation, the German Government on 10 July announced that the head of American Intelligence in Germany was being expelled from the country.