NATO's at risk if you go your own Huawei on 5G, US government warns Germany

Undersecretary pays a visit to Berlin, Merkel’s not moving despite pressure


The US government is continuing its crusade against Huawei, with economic undersecretary Keith Krach visiting Berlin to pressure the German government to reconsider banning the company’s kit from its 5G network.

Krach reportedly told Angela Merkel and her advisers that including Huawei equipment in its next-generation networks could even put the future of NATO at risk, repeating the US government’s position that Huawei represents a national security threat. He recommended Nokia and Ericsson kit instead.

In more public remarks, Krach railed against the company, telling a German think-tank that Huawei is “an arm of the Chinese Communist Party’s surveillance state and a tool for human rights abuse,” and reporters that Huawei was a “parasite” that was attached to “the prize” – namely Germany. He also repeatedly raised human-rights abuses by the Chinese government, and sought to connect them to Huawei.

The fiery language is just the latest in a relentless and lengthy campaign against Huawei, and China more generally, by the Trump Administration which appears determined to paint China as a global enemy that requires every nation to stand with or against it.

And it appears to be having an impact. Despite several European nations pushing back against American claims last year that Huawei would backdoor its kit for Beijing, and insisting they will continue to buy the cheaper Huawei equipment to build out their 5G networks, the pressure campaign has since seen France introduce restrictions – and the UK to backtrack from its previous position and decide that Huawei does in fact represent some sort of national security threat.

German chancellor Angela Merkel is less easily swayed, however, and has repeatedly dismissed US calls for a ban. But even Merkel is under pressure from those within her government, and the latest version of regulations in the Euro nation covering telecoms security include the ability of cabinet members to raise security concerns over data – a clear effort to give the German government the ability to ban Huawei.

Buy local

For his part, Krach has argued that European governments could and should buy 5G equipment from Nokia or Ericsson – both European companies – as a way to persuade folks that the US position is not solely about furthering American interests and profits. The UK has already followed that lead and chosen Nokia to fill a Huawei-sized hole.

The visit was timed to coincide with a meeting between European leaders over 5G security where the European Union hopes to come up with a consistent approach across the continent. If the US can pressure Germany to take France’s approach of strict controls on Huawei equipment, that approach would likely translate across the whole of Europe.

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The two-day summit was due to take place this week though was delayed until next week after the EU president Charles Michel was forced to self-isolate after coming into contact with some with the coronavirus.

As things stand, however, Angela Merkel appears unpersuaded by US aggression. Earlier this month, on the issue of Huawei, she gave a diplomatic but clear response:

“The number of problems have increased substantially in certain areas, there’s no question about that,” she told reporters. “On the other hand, you have to keep trying to find solutions, even if it’s a millimeter at a time.”

Huawei denies it plays any kind of spying role for the Chinese government, and last week said the American campaign against it was making life uncomfortable.

“Huawei is in a difficult situation,” said chairman Guo Ping at the tech giant's annual Connect conference. “Non-stop aggression has put us under pressure and we are still assessing the impact. Survival is the goal.” ®


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