As Germany basks in its World Cup victory, it’s easy to forget that one of the most telling geopolitical moments of the tournament came during the Germany-U.S. game. As American fans chanted “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!” the Germans countered with, “N-S-A! N-S-A! N-S-A!”
In the weeks since, relations have crumbled. After it learned that a German intelligence officer allegedly spied for the United States, Germany expelled the CIA station chief in Berlin — a rare move by a close American ally.
This isn’t a sudden reversal in relations. The fallout from surveillance scandals has been sharp and steady over the past year. In 2013, Germans grew wary about the extent of U.S. espionage after Edward Snowden leaked documents showing that the United States had been monitoring German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone since 2002. A German parliamentary committee asked Snowden to provide testimony for an inquiry on foreign intelligence activities. The request, which Snowden rejected, was sure to rankle the United States, but Germany pushed forward anyway: One country’s traitor was another’s key witness.
It’s no surprise that of all foreign countries, President Barack Obama’s approval rating has fallen the most in Brazil and Germany, two countries with leaders monitored by the National Security Agency.
But all the “friendly spying” scandals are just one piece of the puzzle. There are even deeper fissures causing a lot of the bad blood — and suggesting more of it to come.