Why Brazil's President Stood Obama Up


There's always that one kid who angers his friends by spying on them at recess.

Obama is rehashing this elementary school drama as indicated by his increasingly chilly relationships with other nations and even his own citizens due to the various scandals surrounding the NSA. This became painfully clear when the Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff canceled a trip to Washington over reports that the U.S. spied on her personal communications as well as other Brazilians'. It's not only Brazil though. Obama's surveillance policies have unnecessarily damaged U.S. policies abroad.

Surveillance has hurt U.S. foreign policy, and this is demonstrating more than America's supposed lack of credibility and the projection of bad international attitudes towards the NSA. It means that foreign governments and international populations are hindering actual policies from being enacted because they distrust surveillance.

The cancellation of the Brazilian trip is significant to U.S. economic policy. Brazil's market has been an growing, and Reuters reported that "Weak economic U.S. data has helped boost Brazilian stocks in recent months due to the expectation that the Federal Reserve would delay the tapering of monetary stimulus should the U.S. economy fail to gain traction."

Despite the need to address this shift in global markets, the Brazilian government issued a last-minute statement canceling the visit based on the lack "commitment to cease such surveillance activities, the conditions are not in place for the visit to go ahead as previously scheduled." Brazil's markets are the ones that are growing, so this cancellation hurts the U.S. a lot more than Brazil.

What has been shrugged off as a world without privacy is now a problem for U.S. relations. Brazilian hackers acting outside the government even attempted to hack the NSA in retribution. (Humorously, they accidentally hacked NASA instead with the message: Stop spying on us.)

Brazil's strong negative reaction hasn't been the first. When the surveillance scandal abroad broke with the EU in July, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius stated that the acts, if true, were "absolutely unacceptable." The German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger described it as "reminiscent of the Cold War."

The German people have major problems with the surveillance scandal. On September 7, thousands of Germans protested the NSA with an official slogan of "Freedom Rather Than Fear." This is huge considering that German elections are September 22. In coverage of the election, an article in the Guardian argued that Chancellor Angela Merkel needed to make a "moral stand" against the U.S. surveillance, as evidenced by the German people.

The Brazilian cancellation, attempted hacks, EU anger, and German protests are some of the most obvious effects of the outing of the surveillance program. It's difficult to quantify the amount of international policy change and potentially severed ties with various countries, but the deconstruction of current policies and politics are becoming apparent now.

The deficit in U.S. trust has now become a deficit in U.S. foreign policy.