Tuesday 15th October 2019

Diplomacy: Trump’s Man In Berlin Threatens Again

- March 13, 2019

Ambassador Grenell has sparked a new dispute with Berlin. It concerns the participation of the Chinese company Huawei in the 5G expansion in Germany.

He did it again. Richard Grenell, US ambassador to Berlin, has written another letter to the German government. Most recently, he had threatened with sanctions for the Russian-German Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 2. This time he warned against the participation of the Chinese group Huawei in the development of the 5G network in Germany. The letter threatens Grenell quite openly that the US would restrict its intelligence exchange with NATO partner Germany if Huawei would participate in grid expansion. Because the digital infrastructure would then, mutatis mutandis, no longer safe.

The timing is no coincidence: Germany wants to begin on 19 March with the auction of licenses for the 5G expansion, the date wobbles due to urgent actions of applicants. 5G is the latest mobile standard and allows a much faster Internet. The Huawei dispute now revolves around the question of whether the mobile operators are allowed to hire the low-cost Chinese group as a “supplier” – or whether its technology is a security risk because it could serve China for sabotage and espionage. The US fears the latter. Huawei denies it. Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier (CDU) so far wanted to “exclude no manufacturer per se”.

Grenell’s letter caused displeasure in Berlin. “There is no need for any guidance from the US ambassador,” said Michael Grosse-Brömer, parliamentary director of the Union faction. He also warned for serenity. There are also critics of Huawei’s participation in the Grand Coalition. The safety regulations for 5G expansion are tightened in any case. Whether the guidelines could also allow an exclusion Huawei, was recently unclear.

At European level, Chinese attitudes have slowed noticeably in recent months. On Wednesday, two decisions were taken in Strasbourg, which, while not naming Huawei, clearly target the security risks for Europe that the group is causing. Firstly, the European Parliament adopted the EU Cybersecurity Act. This is a regulation that creates a Europe-wide certification model, which should guarantee the digital security of products, processes, and services. Accompanying the resolution, Parliament issued a resolution expressing “grave reservations” against alleged spying functions in 5G equipment of Chinese manufacturers.

Secondly, in a strategy paper on relations with China, the European Commission announced that, after the European Council at the end of the month, it would propose how an EU strategy could secure the security of 5G networks.

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