German officials spooked by Steve Bannon
The German government and the ambassador, Peter Wittig, has declined to comment on rumours that the US views the EU a a flawed project, citing the confidentiality of talks with White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.
Published: February 22, 2017, 11:48 am
“We are worried and we should be worried,” Thomas Matussek, a former German ambassador to the Britain and the United Nations, told Reuters.
“No one knows anything at the moment about what sort of decisions will be coming out of Washington. But it is clear that the man on top and the people closest to him feel that it’s the nation state that creates identity and not what they see as an amorphous group of countries like the EU.”
Bannon had met with a German diplomat and delivered the message, according to sources familiar with the talks. Three sources who were briefed on the meeting spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
The encounter has spooked the German government, especially those liberal interventionist officials who had been hoping that Bannon might change his views once in government and that he would offer a different message on Europe in private.
According to Reuters, Bannon told Germany’s ambassador to Washington that he viewed the EU as a flawed construct and suggested relations with Europe on a bilateral basis.
But Bannon told the White House official who had replied to the Reuters query that the meeting had taken place but said the account provided to Reuters was inaccurate. “They only spoke for about three minutes and it was just a quick hello,” the official stated.
The sources described a longer meeting, in which his message was similar to the one he delivered to a Vatican conference back in 2014 as editor of Breitbart News.
Via Skype, Bannon welcomed European conservative movements and described the rise of nationalism as a result of people who no longer “believe in this kind of pan-European Union.”
In his Vatican address, Bannon said Western Europe was built on a foundation of “strong nationalist movements”, adding: “I think it’s what can see us forward”. Trump too has repeatedly praised Britain’s decision to leave the EU.
Germany and its European partners are now bracing themselves for “hostility towards the EU” in terms of policy, one source briefed on the meeting confirmed.
“There appears to be no understanding in the White House that an unravelling of the EU would have grave consequences,” a second source told Reuters.
According to the White House there is no transcript of the meeting.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference, issued unusual calls last week for reassurances that the US was not aiming to break up the EU.
Elections in the Netherlands, France and Germany are going to challenge the basis on which the Union has been constructed. The worst-case scenario was described last week by Ischinger in an article entitled “How Europe should deal with Trump”.
He said that if the US administration actively supported anti-establishment parties in the coming election campaigns it would trigger a “major transatlantic crisis”.
Rumors have filtered out of the US national Security Council that Bannon has formed a shadow NSC within the organization, formulating foreign policy without consultation from NSC directorates. Bannon takes a different view of global geopolitics, including a vocal belief the US will inevitably go to war with China and that Islam poses an existential threat to the future of the Western world.
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