While Syria and Iran have dominated talks at the U.N. summit this week, Brazil is leading an offensive to push America’s spy policies back into center stage. Indeed, the ongoing conditions in the Middle East have forced the world to largely forget about America’s controversial spy programs, but some world leaders are refusing to let the issue rest.
The United States has used its massive spy apparatus, as outlined by Eric Snowden, to spy on other countries. Trying to gain intelligence on other countries is nothing new, and many global players run their own spy programs. Still, the United States’ NSA monitoring programs have proven to be especially evasive and massive, drawing global criticism.
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According to Brazilian President Rousseff, the United States has broken international law. Her message carried particular power as she was the first speaker to open the U.N. General Assembly. While the United States and its allies wanted to focus on Syria, President Rousseff’s message brought U.S. spy activities back into the forefront of international affairs.
Rouseff: U.S. actions were an attack on Brazil’s sovereignty
Perhaps most importantly, President Rousseff called for a global framework to govern the internet, marking one of the strongest calls to ramp up global protections for privacy. Rousseff also said that U.S. actions were an attack on Brazil’s sovereignty. Rousseff also claimed that the United States’ aims through its NSA programs is not restricted terrorism, but also is being used for industrial espionage.
President Obama himself was not present for Rousseff’s speech as he was enroute to the assembly. He avoided any direct reference to her criticisms and instead focused on the ongoing situation in Syria. Obama has made it clear that the United States wants reassurances that the U.N. will act if Syria violates any disarmament agreements.
This minor conflict at the United Nations highlights the tricky world the United States now finds itself in. The battle lines are no longer as clear as during the Cold War, when the United States could clearly differentiate itself with the Soviet Union. In a multi-polar world, nothing can be drawn up simply in black and white.
United States actions to monitor the internet have enraged many countries around the world. And now that the United States is trying to muster up support to act in Syria, the country has found that it has lost a considerable amount of capital and trust due to NSA monitoring efforts. Going forward, the United States may be forced to reexamine some of its security measures or else risk alienating more allies.
Brazil’s words left a stinging mark on the summit
While Brazil’s words left a stinging mark on the summit, the United States was largely successful in steering discussions in the direction it wanted to. Russia remained surprisingly low key, especially given its involvement in the Snowden scandal and central role in the Syrian conflict. Despite Brazil’s efforts, Syria and Iran remained at the forefront of UN discussions, and although little concrete progress was made, there is hopes that the US can continue to drive talks in the weeks to come. Meanwhile, most of America’s allies across Europe and elsewhere have already moved on in the aftermath of the Snowden leaks.
Still, with middle powers such as Brazil growing increasingly vocal, the United States may have to reconsider its own foreign policy stances on the world stage. Going forward, the United States may need to work harder to foreign friendships and build up alliances with so-called middle powers if it wants to maintain its position of authority on the world stage.