President Barack Obama talks often by phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (AHN'-geh-lah MEHR'-kuhl), but he can no longer be as certain as he once was that he knows what she's thinking at a time like this, when the U.S. and Europe consider how to respond to Russia's actions in Ukraine.

Merkel has sent mixed messages about the crisis in Ukraine. It is just the type of situation in which the U.S. intelligence community might once have monitored Merkel's private phone conversations for insights beyond what she might share with Obama.

Merkel was outraged when she learned through disclosures about National Security Agency surveillance operations that the U.S. was monitoring her cellphone conversations. Obama promised Merkel that the U.S. would stop listening to her calls.