Opinion: Countries don′t have friends they have interests | Opinion | DW | 30.04.2015
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Opinion: Countries don't have friends they have interests

The uproar over the BND-NSA affair is loud. A minister will possibly be forced to resign. Kay-Alexander Scholz says, however, that nothing about it is unusual for intelligence agencies.

The evil Americans should finally come clean and tell the German people exactly what the NSA is up to, and if and why they are snooping on them on a massive scale.

That, at least, was more or less the tenor of the intelligence service debate in Germany a year ago.

At the time, Hillary Clinton's Senior Adviser for Innovation, Alec Ross, said that the Germans would be well advised to take a look in the mirror. The BND is no different than the NSA, their budget is just smaller. He said he was well informed about accepted practices. Ross didn't get much attention in the German media at the time. Somehow those statements didn't fit the picture.

Intelligence agencies are intelligence agencies – even the BND

Now, the topic is back again. In the meantime, the German public has learned that the BND has indeed been playing the great intelligence services game, where there is no good, and no bad, just interests. Spying between friends, that's just not done? With that statement, the chancellor was attempting to take control of the discussion.

Kommentarfoto Kay-Alexander Scholz Hauptstadtstudio

DW's Kay-Alexander Scholz

But there is no friendship treaty between the USA and Germany. The Americans don't even allow the Germans to participate in Five-Eyes. There are enough reasons for the Americans to view Europe skeptically, and there is a basis for their curiosity: What is going on with the Greek bailout? In the Ukrainian crisis? What is the European take on TTIP? When it comes to mega-contracts for corporations, espionage knows no limits.

There are shared interests in the war on terror though. In Berlin, the chancellor's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, made an interesting statement about that - which was also lost to the German public: In the fight against terror, there is no better partner than the USA. That sounded a lot like an excuse, but at least it was honest. He could not comment on any of the rest. Classified information.

Thomas de Maizière would sacrifice a pawn

Thus, a vast gray area remains. The big question is whether the Office of the Chancellor has detailed knowledge of what the BND is actually doing, and vice versa. But the Office of the Chancellor also has to keep its eye on the big picture – and that is cooperation with the USA. Without them – in terms of finances alone – nothing happens.

Like it or not, it's a dirty business, but the intelligence service is no picnic. To look for a pawn to sacrifice, as is currently happening with Thomas de Maizière, won't help at all. The world will not become any simpler because of it. The only thing to come out of it will be that a potential successor to Angela Merkel would be taken out of the equation, much to the delight of rival Ursula von der Leyen. And to the delight of the opposition, who could then claim victory in the parliamentary committee investigations of the NSA spying scandal. But that would be a purely domestic political victory. The real debate has to take place between Berlin and Washington. Yet, ever since last year's cyber-dialogue, there is only silence on that front.

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