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The U.S.-Europe struggle for Chinese technology threatens to split the transatlantic military alliance, and tensions were exacerbated on Sunday by the US ambassador to Germany.
Ambassador Richard Grenell tweeted that President Donald Trump had instructed him “to make it clear that any nation that chooses to use an untrustworthy 5G provider” could jeopardize “top-level” confidentiality and exchanges with the United States ,
The comment on Twitter seemed to target Huawei Technologies Co. specifically, although Grenell didn’t mention the Chinese company by name. Grenell said Trump delivered the command aboard Air Force One, the presidential jet.
A cross-party delegation led by Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, at the Munich Security Conference this weekend, expressed their concern about the use of Huawei devices with the U.S. defense company, which has identified China as a No. 1 priority brought.
Officials warned that installing the Huawei kit could undermine cooperation with U.S. allies as Trump’s hardball trading tactics infected his government’s defense relations.
“Republicans and Democrats agree,” said South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close ally of Trump. “If you drive along Huawei Street, you will burn a lot of bridges.”
European leaders huddled in the midst of the Huawei storm as they tried to maintain critical ties to both sides in the U.S.-China trade war. Pelosi’s intervention on Friday signaled that if the Democrats win the White House back in December, they shouldn’t put their hopes on the problem.
The atmosphere at the high-level meeting of security officials was an improvement on the previous year when Vice President Mike Pence and Chancellor Angela Merkel clashed. However, the structural tensions between the U.S. and Europe were rather greater: Europe’s exports to China have become a critical point in its economic model, and the Chinese have threatened retaliation against European companies if the bloc follows Trump by one of its flagship technology companies prohibits.
The US was consistently on the defensive because its tactics with strong arms strangely failed to reconcile the Europeans: the EU has stopped a total ban on Huawei in its 5G communications technology guidelines. Even the United Kingdom, which vigorously courted the White House outside the EU at the beginning of its life, chose the Huawei kit.
“We have a cold technical war right here, and Europe doesn’t want to participate,” said Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group’s political risk advisory. “There has never been such a rift about how Americans and Europeans now define the security threat.”
This divide can have far-reaching ramifications as Western powers struggle to grapple with the technological capabilities that China has developed since Xi Jinping presented a 10-year plan in 2015 to take leadership in industries such as communications, I.T. and artificial intelligence. Huawei has become a lightning rod for the greater uncertainties in the United States.
“If you don’t understand the threat and we ultimately don’t do anything about it, it could endanger the most successful military alliance in history: NATO,” Defense Minister Mark Esper said in Munich.
Europeans are already feeling uncomfortable with the state of NATO.
At the opening of the conference in the Bavarian capital, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier accused the Trump administration of rejecting “the concept” of an international community. “Every country, it believes, should take care of itself and put its own interests ahead of everyone else,” he said.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who said that NATO is “brain dead”, said on Saturday that Europe must build its own capacities as a strategic power.
Since Trump took office, he’s been trying to end the Iranian nuclear deal, has withdrawn from the Paris climate deal, and has repeatedly threatened the EU with tariffs. Pompeo’s claim that the talk of the end of the transatlantic relationship was “greatly exaggerated” met with skepticism.
Hours later, US energy minister Dan Brouillette crowed that US sanctions had failed to fail a $ 6 billion project to connect Germany and Russia with a new Baltic gas pipeline, Nord Stream 2.
The situation could worsen for Europe trapped between the US and its global rivals.
While Trump often campaigns for his relationship with Xi, competition between countries has only intensified since they signed their first phase trade agreement last month. The United States charged Chinese military personnel with one of the largest data thefts in American history a week ago, and charged Huawei with intellectual property theft on Thursday.
And the outbreak of the corona virus adds an additional element of uncertainty to the global political outlook – a disease originating in China threatens to weaken the global economy ahead of a US election.
“The potential for this to become much uglier in a short time is real,” said Bremmer.
(Updates with Grenell comments)
– With the support of Patrick Donahue.
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at [email protected], Iain Rogers
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