LONDON - Germany’s foreign minister says he will raise the issue of U.S. spying on his country when he sees Secretary of State John Kerry in Vienna in the coming days.
The ministerial meeting will raise the issue to a new level, after Germany announced Thursday that it is expelling the top intelligence officer at the U.S. embassy in Berlin.
The expulsion comes as German police are investigating two government workers for allegedly passing secrets to the United States. In addition, many Germans are still angry about revelations last year of U.S. monitoring of thousands of German phone calls, some involving senior officials, including Chancellor Angela Merkel and her predecessor.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Friday he will raise the issue with Secretary Kerry on the sidelines of talks on the future of Iran’s nuclear program.
Steinmeier said the expulsion was “right,” “necessary” and “appropriate” after what he called the U.S. “breach of trust.” But he also said Germany does not want a lengthy, damaging dispute with the United States.
Steinmeier said in spite of the current dispute, there is no alternative to the German-U.S. partnership. He said Germany wants to “reinvigorate” it “on an honest basis.”
But German officials also have to take account of public opinion, which is already very negative on the spying issue. Analyst Pawel Swidlicki of the Open Europe research organization says that could get worse unless the United States stops spying on Germany.
“German public opinion will only continue to harden against the U.S., which would have very negative implications for quite crucial issues, like the EU-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, currently under negotiation," Swidlicki said.
Experts say many countries spy on their friends in an effort to gain a better understanding of their policies and advance warning of changes. The United States has ‘no spying’ agreements with only a few countries.
Senior U.S. officials have not commented on the expulsion of the intelligence operative. But a statement from the U.S. embassy in Berlin, echoed in statements in Washington, said the U.S.-German security relationship “remains very important” and “keeps Germans and Americans safe.” The statement said it is “essential” for close U.S.-German cooperation to continue “in all areas.”