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EU Becomes Battleground In US-Chinese Standoff

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EU Becomes Battleground In US-Chinese Standoff

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Germany is finding itself more and more drawn into the multi-faceted US-Chinese conflict.

In a letter dated March 8th, US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell issued a warning to Germany of repercussions if Germany chooses Huawei to upgrade its wireless networks to 5G, the WSJ reported.

“The letter, which was dated Friday and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, marks the first known time the U.S. has explicitly warned an ally that refusing to ostracize Huawei could lessen security cooperation with Washington. Among other things, European security agencies have relied heavily on U.S. intelligence in the fight against terrorism.

U.S. officials declined to say whether other countries have received or would receive similar warnings… [Grenell] noted that the code running on 5G equipment would need frequent updates and was so complex that the potential for so-called backdoors and other system vulnerabilities couldn’t be ruled out even if Huawei were to let regulators regularly inspect its software,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

Korbinian Wagner, a spokesperson for the German ministry for economic affairs, confirmed the receipt of the letter but declined to comment on its contents.

A spokesperson for the State Department said Wednesday: “We believe the risks posed by vendors subject to extrajudicial and/or unchecked compulsion by foreign states that do not share our values need to be weighed rigorously before making procurement decisions on critical infrastructure such as 5G, which will affect our economies and our security for decades.”

The US antagonism to Huawei is part of a larger conflict on several fronts it has with China.

According to the US, allowing Huawei to work on the 5G system would create security-related risks, potentially allowing Chinese espionage of sensitive information.

The European Parliament also repeated the US concerns in a resolution released on March 12th.

The European Union assembly stressed the need for the bloc to protect the next generation of wireless networks, known as 5G, from intruders and to bolster cybersecurity defenses in general.

The resolution “expresses deep concern about the recent allegations that 5G equipment developed by Chinese companies may have embedded backdoors that would allow manufacturers and authorities to have unauthorized access to private and personal data and telecommunications from the EU.”

The assembly “is equally concerned about the potential presence of major vulnerabilities in the 5G equipment developed by these manufacturers if they were to be installed when rolling out 5G networks in the coming years,” the non-binding text said.

MEP Markus Ferber from Germany also had some words of warning.

“If there’s the slightest suspicion that Trojan horses end up in critical infrastructure due to Chinese technology, all alarm bells should ring. The EU has to make sure it becomes more independent from third countries when it comes to infrastructure and central technologies.”

On the same day, the EU’s executive body – the European Commission also issued a list of 10 actions that should be discussed by the EU Council. These actions were a result of a review of relations with China.

Notably, Action #9 calls “to safeguard against potential serious security implications for critical digital infrastructure, a common EU approach to the security of 5G networks is needed. To kickstart this, the European Commission will issue a Recommendation following the European Council.”

On March 13th, Bloomberg also reported that a member of Germany’s BND intelligence services warned a committee of lawmakers that Huawei is not trustworthy.

Past “security-relevant incidents” involving the company are part of the reason. An official from the Foreign Ministry, speaking at the same meeting, said it would be hard to work with a company that cooperates with its national secret service.

“It’s above all a matter of trustworthiness and of the impact on our relationship with our allies,” the unnamed Foreign Ministry official said.

So far, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and most of Europe have dropped plans to use Huawei gear. Germany remains on the fence, with Economy Minister Peter Altmaier saying that Germany doesn’t wish to ban Huawei, while adding that Berlin would tighten security criteria for all vendors instead.

Another reason of the US opposition of the potential Huawei establishment of the 5G network in Germany is that it would impede US access to EU’s IT infrastructure. It is no secret that US intelligence services spy on Europe and its leaders, a very prominent example are the leaks by NSA’s Edward Snowden, which turned out into a massive scandal, which has since somewhat subsided.

The US shares only a limited amount of the information it gathers in Europe and it wouldn’t be surprising if it uses the EU IT infrastructure and information sharing mechanisms to pursue its own policy goals. Thus, the Washington establishment would not want to part with this source of information, which the Chinese company potentially threatens.

Germany, on its part may succumb to US pressure, since its dependence on US intelligence is no also not a secret. A more recent example of this sort of co-operation is the foiled terror attack in Cologne, Germany in October 2018.

Over the last several years, Germany has been ever more dependent on co-operation with US intelligence services due to the massive influx of illegal immigrants, many of which are targets for indoctrination by various radical groups.

This tendency will only become more serious with the incoming defeat of ISIS in the Middle East, and the potential influx of ISIS members fleeing Iraq and Syria and entering EU through various channels. Naturally, US intelligence assistance will be invaluable in dealing with these threats in Germany, and throughout the EU, since they are also active in their information gathering operations in the Middle East.

That information sharing would quite possibly depend on whether Germany wishes to co-operate with US in its antagonism of China.

As a result, the EU and Germany are in a precarious position, since Washington may “twist their hand” and abuse its stronger position to force its “partners” in making decisions against China they otherwise would avoid. Since, the US has shown that it treats the EU as another battleground against China, similarly to the trade sphere, Africa and the South China Sea. And it will certainly not treat Germany and the other as an equal side of any kind of negotiations on this issue.

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  • Ilya

    Only let them enter with the tech as 49% partners with a native corp. They do the same in reverse, and it gets over all this ‘stealing other people’s shit’ thing – may as well trade it if it gets stolen anyway!

  • Joe Kerr

    NZ and Canada haven’t dropped Huawei yet, although no surprise if Canada toes the U.S. line as usual. That leaves just Australia and Japan in the “Indo-Pacific”, with the Anglo time-warp down under being the quickest little butt-licker.

  • Joe Kerr

    Interesting report in sputnik about Germany’s response to U.S. threatening it if it didn’t ban Huawei:
    https://sputniknews.com/business/201903141073226734-huawei-hermany-us-spat/

    U.S. attempts at mafia-style blackmail appear to have backfired.

    • Sinbad2

      The US trying to stop the more advanced 5g system is like steam engine makers trying to stop the internal combustion engine, it’s destined to fail.
      But it’s not an unusual response for the US, they refused to recognize China, because the communists defeated the American team in the Chinese civil war.
      The US refused to admit China existed until 1979.

      • Sinbad2

        The US also refused to adopt the more modern Gregorian calendar for many years and stuck with the ancient Roman calendar of Julius Caesar.
        The US is also one of the few remaining countries to use the old Imperial measures of miles pints pounds and bushels, I mean what the fu*k is a bushel?

        The rapid technological advancement of the US from 1950 to 1980 was an aberration.

  • Jesus

    Germany would be smart to diversify its economic exposure by weening from the US influence and start slowly tilting to Eurasia.

    • Sinbad2

      The US buys $134 billion from Germany and China buys $110 billion.
      US sales are in decline, and sales to China are rising.
      Within a few short years China will be Germany’s largest trading partner.
      However as long as the US continues to hold a gun to Germany’s head, Germany will mostly obey Washington.
      The Nordstream2 project is the first time Germany has disobeyed the USA since WWII.

  • peter mcloughlin

    The Huawei controversy, whether it is about economics or espionage, possibly both, is a symptom of the struggle between the world’s two major economics: the US to retain its dominant position; China to usurp it. It is a relentless process, which history shows must end in war. The pattern of history is clear. Power (manifested as interest) has been present in every conflict of the past – no exception. It is the underlying motivation for war. Other cultural factors might change, but not power Leaders and decision-makers delude themselves, thinking their age is different to earlier ones: history will prove them wrong, once again.
    https://www.ghostsofhistory.wordpress.com/

    • Barba_Papa

      Thing is though, neither the US nor China can resolve this by going to war, lest they face nuclear annihilation. Thus the US hopes that it can resolve things like it did via the Cold War, forcing the Chinese to collapse economically. The situation is differently of course, as China is not a giant with clay feet like the USSR was. And the US is no longer as strong economically as it was back then. On the flipside there is still more life left into the US then we would like to admit, and the Chinese are still not a first world country economically. Losing US markets would hurt China significantly, and outside of its 1st and 2nd tier cities China is still a 3rd world country in many ways.

      Suffice to say the future will be both surprising and interesting.

      • Jesus

        Reportedly China is ahead of the US in 5g technology, this is not any different than US threatening other countries from buying Russian weapons, or observe the guidelines of their sanctions. Why is US threatening economic punishment when their interests are being challenged? Because US does not see any realistic way of overcoming these challenges by fair and industrious efforts, diplomacy….etc
        The educational system in the US has been degrading gradually because of corruption, accentuated by the latest scandal whereby to Hollywood “stars” paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for college coaches and counselors to work the angles to get their “idiot” daughters accepted to prestigious colleges.
        Wall Street decimated the US economic prowess outsourcing it to Asia, sidelining a potent work force in skill and brainpower.
        Currently US lack genuine brain power to solve its internal and economic problems, the country is polarized, the young generations have screwed up values and are not very motivated, the lack of a strong moral and intellectual foundational values are lacking.

        Ever since the tariff wars, US trade deficit with China has been getting larger, the reality of the matter is, if China tightens up the spigot of consumer goods coming to US, things are going to get rough. US population in general is inept when face with adversities, I give China the edge in case of a protracted economic war.

        • Sinbad2

          I agree with all you have said, except I think the degradation of the education system was deliberate.
          The 1960’s produced the best educated Americans, and those educated Americans demanded that America change its ways via demonstrations and organized political opposition to the Vietnam war. The US government response was to slash education spending and embark on a plan to dumb down the American people.

          Fifty years later, the plutocrats have the morons they wanted, but of course they simply cannot be productive in a modern world, and so have doomed the country.

          Excessive greed always brings you undone, just look at the Jews.

          • Jesus

            I went to US schools in very early seventies, the educational degradation followed a parallel degradation of societal values. Always wanting the most for least possible effort.

      • Sinbad2

        The US became a major power because it had a large manufacturing base with which to build the war machines for WWII. That manufacturing base is now in China.
        In a non nuclear war between China and the US, China would win, simply because it can build 1000 ships/tanks for every American ship/tank.

        So the US will go nuclear, out of fear of losing.

        I hear many people say that a nuclear war will end life on earth, I hope they are wrong, because the US will use its nukes, it’s massive stockpiles of chemical weapons, and its germ weapons.

        Any nation opposing the US will obviously realize that the only way to stop the deluge of American WMD’s, is to burn the germs and gas, which means burning America.

  • John

    The Eu needs China, more than China needs the EU, especially in the case of Germany.

  • purplelibraryguy

    Shorter US: Don’t let the Chinese spy on you! You’re supposed to be letting us spy on you!