PRISM Fallout Casts a Pall on East-West Relations

The news from Estonia today is an echo of what greeted U.S. President Barack Obama on his now much-lamented European tour, and a preview of what is to come. The Baltic state’s Interior Minister was forced to deny on television that Tallinn is engaged in any sort of surveillance of its own citizens.

The problem for the West’s allies is that the PRISM program — as outlined in extremely sketchy detail — sounds almost exactly like NKVD/KGB operations, from secret wiretaps to anonymous government officials recording and analyzing reams of data to identify suspects behind black, closed doors. Regardless of the truth of the assertion, the bare outline is sufficient to raise old fears thought buried and forgotten, especially in those countries who have already formally sided with the West.

Why, many are asking, did we suffer as we did to experience the same thing?

The terrible result of the sloppiness of the operation — allowing an independent contractor to have access to the darkest workings of the National Security Agency is facially poor statecraft — is that it has now tainted much of America’s, and the West’s message. Former Soviet victims will wonder whether they’ve been sold a bill of goods. Those living closer to Russia’s grasp, especially farther East, will wonder if the suffering needed to join the West and anger Russia is quite worth it.

It is a dark time for the West’s message in the East.