By Eric Margolis
Just how independent is the European Union? Given recent events involving the United States and its European allies, one really must wonder.
First, there was the US National Security Agency brazenly tapping German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s private cellphone and, very likely, many more vip’s in Germany, a key US ally and Europe’s most important nation.
Washington and the NSA shrugged off this horribly embarrassing incident with the usual “well, everyone does it.”
Not true. Imagine the stink if Germany bugged President Barack Obama’s Blackberry. Chancellor Merkel was humiliated but she downplayed the scandal, unable or unwilling to chastise the US by taking any real punitive action – like closing one of the 69-year old US military bases in Germany.
Next, Britain’s Mutual Defense Agreement with the US is up for renewal. This 1958 pact is the foundation of the much ballyhooed US-British “Special Relationship.”
This writer has reported for years that Britain cannot fire its nuclear-armed missiles without Washington turning the key via special codes. Now, we learn that Britain’s nukes also contain components that only the US can provide. France, at least, has an independent nuclear force.
In 2003, US CIA agents kidnap a Muslim cleric off the street in Milano. Italian courts indict and convict 23 US agents of this crime and orders them extradited to Italy. The US refused the legitimate extradition request.
US officials charge UBS bank with helping Americans avoid taxes – a perfectly legal act in Switzerland, the bank’s home.
The head of UBS wealth management, Raoul Weil, was arrested in Italy and sent to the US under house arrest where he waits trial. Washington shut down a second important private Swiss bank and sends others running. The Swiss banks, no angels, risked seeing their US operations shut down unless they violated the basic Swiss bank secrecy law by giving up many of their client’s names.
Now, France’s leading bank, BNP, is being forced to pay a mammoth fine of $8.79 billion for violating US and New York State sanctions against Sudan, Iran and Cuba. Such dealing was entirely legal under French and EU law, but the US was determined to expand its punitive laws to Europe -a process called “lawfare.” BNP’s business in the US was threatened. BNP’s humiliation was hailed as a victory by Israel against Iran.
Shockingly, France’s government made no more than a few peeps of protest, yet another example of abject weakness by President Francois Hollande who is often compared to a large jellyfish by French critics. Paris could have told the Americans “non!” and threatened to seize US assets in France. Instead, it groveled.
Of late, two Americans were caught red-handed spying on Germany’s government. The CIA station chief in Berlin was ordered expelled. Germany repeatedly asked the US to be included on its lilly-white list of allies supposedly not to be spied upon: Canada, Britain, Israel, Australia, New Zealand. The US refused.
No one knew whether President Barack Obama was actually aware of this espionage. He will, of course, deny being in the loop. But further serious damage was inflicted on US relations with Germany and the European Union.
Unwisely, Washington still deals with Europe and the EU as if dealing with minor vassal states: “foot soldiers for America’s nuclear knights,” in the pithy words of Germany’s late defense minister, Franz Josef Strauss. Washington’s arrogance and contempt for Europe was best illustrated by State Department neocon Victoria Nuland’s reply when asked if the EU should get more involved in US attempts to overthrow Ukraine’s pro-Russian government, “f-k the EU.”
Washington has never accepted any European state or the EU as an equal. While official US policy backs a united Europe, unofficially the US has sometimes tried to thwart or delay unification – particularly a European armed force. NATO – 76% financed and run by Washington – is still the EU’s police force and America’s big stick in Europe.
At times, it looks as if not so much has changed in Europe since 1945. The Soviets are gone, but the more amiable Americans are still around. But it often seems that Washington is almost trying to alienate its natural European allies by treating them like banana republics with old world charm.