Washington has made a concerted effort to pressure its NATO and Five Eyes Alliance partners into abandoning plans to allow Chinese technology giant Huawei to build elements of their emerging 5G mobile networks.
Despite the lack of any substantive evidence to indict Huawei on any of the charges presented by the US (i.e. that the company is engaged in a systematic industrial espionage campaign, or that it embeds secret spying tools into its products), the US has put immense pressure on allies to cut down ties with the company, even as evidence continues to emerge that the US’s own intelligence services have been engaged in spying on allies for decades.
On Thursday, US officials told Bloomberg that the US National Security Council launched a review of military and intelligence cooperation with the UK in relation to Huawei-related threats.
Meanwhile, a group of Tory lawmakers concerned that Prime Minister Johnson’s decision to allow Huawei to help build the UK’s 5G told reporters that they feared the Huawei move could put the much-needed post-Brexit trade deal with Washington in jeopardy, adding that they would try to pressure Number 10 into changing its mind.
Similarly, in late February, US Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, commander of US European Command, warned that that European networks that use equipment created by Chinese companies including Huawei and ZTE face a “heightened risk” of information theft “by the Chinese government,” while the Trump administration branded Huawei a “mafia”-like entity potentially engaged in the blackmail of UK lawmakers.
US is the One With an Attitude Problem
“Trump has a mobster mentality when it comes to strategic decisions where there are threats to US dominance," Tom Luongo, a geopolitical analyst and publisher of Gold Goats ‘n Guns, a monthly investment newsletter, explains. "In two key areas, energy and communications, Trump is determined to keep Europe tethered to the US rather than allow it any independence. To achieve that Trump will sanction, threaten, and embargo anyone who does business with those who are his biggest perceived threat to US dominance."
In fact, the observer suggests, the lack of top-to-bottom solutions like Huawei’s on the 5G market means that to satisfy Washington’s concerns, Europe would have to risk falling behind the competition on next-generation mobile communications, with Trump effectively “trying to retard European economic opportunities and saddle them with…inferior technology.” The same is true with energy and the US sanctions measures against the joint Russian-Western European Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline venture, Luongo believes.
According to the analyst, the split between the US president and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Huawei “is telling of just how far Trump is willing to burn his friends who defy him. This is mobster mentality…Will this break up NATO? The conventional wisdom is that it won’t, but as we saw with the oil markets this week, change comes quickly when the situation is primed for it.”
In fact, Luongo believes that European “defiance” of US wishes on both Huawei and Nord Stream 2 are an indication of the continent’s changing attitude toward the US, particularly as the claims of Chinese spying are contrasted by actual, documented proof of US intelligence agencies doing the same thing.
“In effect, Europe is realizing that the US’s demands are in [Washington’s] best interests, not Europe’s. Trump is clarifying where his red lines are because he can’t win his civilizational wars against Russia, China and Iran without Europe’s help. He won’t admit that publicly but that’s the reality. And that’s where Europe’s leverage in these negotiations lies. The UK defying him on Huawei is the signal that there is a split between British intelligence and the US on this issue. If British intelligence was worried about China’s spying they would be in lockstep with the US on this. IN fact, it’s more likely that Europe is tired of the US spying on them through our tech firms than they are of China doing so…In the end, if Trump escalates, as he always does, then it will hasten the demise of NATO as a functional alliance as relations deteriorate further,” Luongo concludes.
Much Ado About Nothing?
For his part, Andrew Leung, a veteran independent Hong Kong-based China strategist, believes the latest US threats are nothing new, and based much more on US fears of a Chinese threat to US global hegemony than security in the tech sector.
Europe, Leung suggests, has already taken a hard look at the claims made by US regarding Huawei’s alleged espionage capabilities, realizing that although certain measures can be taken to protect national security infrastructure, they also “don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as it were, adopting [a] black and white kind of answer” to US demands, particularly given the reality of global interconnectedness and dependence on China in the technology and other sectors.
“China is perceived to be an existential threat to American dominance. China’s economy, even though it’s slowing, is still on track to overtake the United States as the largest economy in the world within this decade. And of course, in terms of technology, it seems that China is now gaining ground on a number of new areas like 5G and artificial intelligence,” Leung emphasises.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.