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Image of US "overwhelmingly positive" despite the NSA scandal?

Berthold Stevens / dfJuly 3, 2014

Germans still have an "overwhelmingly positive" image of the US, according to RTL's Editor-in-Chief Peter Kloeppel, speaking at a round table discussion centered on transatlantic relations in light of the NSA scandal.

Peter Klöppel
Image: DW/K. Danetzki

At the "Transatlantic talk" session on the second day of the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum, Kloeppel shared the stage in Bonn with Melinda Crane, DW's chief political correspondent, Rüdiger Lentz, Director of the Aspen Institute, Germany, and Hubert Wetzel from the German daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

The close relationship between the two countries has been most significantly influenced, according to Kloeppel, through the support the United States provided to Germany in the wake of the Second World War and the manifest cultural influence that America has had since then. Not even the massive surveillance activities of the U.S. spy agency NSA has been able to fundamentally alter that, he said. However, he does see a change in attitudes towards privacy and data security following the most recent revelations. "There has been a loss of trust," said Kloeppel at the media conference. Simultaneously, this is occurring "at a time when everyone is giving away their data," he added.

Global Media Forum Transatlantic Talk
Kate Müser (host), Peter Kloeppel (RTL), Hubert Wetzel (Süddeutsche Zeitung), Melinda Crane (DW), Rüdiger Lentz (Aspen Institute Germany)Image: DW/K. Danetzki

Rüdiger Lentz mentioned the end of the Cold War as the turning point. "Everything changed," is the way he characterized the view assumed by the United States in the early 1990s. "Germany was no longer needed as a security buffer against Communism," he said.

In Melinda Crane's opinion, mutual esteem between the two countries remains high. She also pointed out, however, that people in the U.S. are less aware of events and opinions in Germany than vice versa. The current difficult negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the U.S. are, "a barometer of how much mistrust there is right now in the transatlantic relationship," she said. TTIP is good for companies on both sides of the Atlantic and will help create more jobs for people, according to Rüdiger Lentz. "That's why it should not be mixed in with the debate about the NSA," he said.

Hubert Wetzel warned against overreacting to America's increased security response to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. "It would be good if Germans would remember the period of RAF terror and recall how hysterical the discussions were here and how much the security forces grew at that time," said the Süddeutsche Zeitung's foreign policy expert. Still, "the extent of the spying by the NSA is shocking," he said.

The experts all agreed that there is a certain asymmetry in the transatlantic relationship. They also shared the conviction that Europe remains the most important partner for the U.S. in the world. And that - at least in terms of economic questions - Germany is on an equal footing with the United States.