WorldWatch

From the April 2015 Trumpet Print Edition

Russia and China digging into Latin America

Russia and China want business partners, resources and friends that share their desire to end the era of United States dominance. In Latin America, they are finding all three in abundance.

From 2000 to 2009, trade between China and Latin America increased by 1,200 percent. China is on track to surpass the European Union next year, becoming the region’s second-largest trade partner.

On January 8, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to invest $250 billion in Latin America. “China has taken over the inside lane of economic development in Latin America with an ambitious 10-year regional investment plan on the scale of the Marshall Plan,” Latin America expert Juan de Onis wrote on January 14 (World Affairs).

China has also apparently broken ground on a $50 billion canal through Nicaragua, billed as the world’s largest engineering project. Its width and depth will dwarf the dimensions of the Panama Canal, several hundred miles south, allowing Nicaragua to accommodate modern freighters that Panama cannot.

Meanwhile, Russia has reestablished and surpassed the connections to Latin America that the Soviet Union held during the Cold War, especially during recent months as Moscow has been isolated for its violent intervention in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin toured Latin America in July, visiting Cuba, Argentina, Brazil and Nicaragua, meeting with 11 regional leaders and signing major agriculture, investment, security and military deals.

The Russian military has sent bombers on patrols over the Caribbean, landing them in Venezuela and Nicaragua, has held joint military drills with Venezuela, and has docked ships at Cuban and Venezuelan ports. Meanwhile, Russian gas giant Gazprom is investing heavily in Argentina and Bolivia, and Russia’s state-run Rosneft oil firm is increasingly dynamic in Venezuela.

“It can … be argued that Russia is more influential in Latin America now than it ever was during the Cold War,” Moscow-based analyst Andrew Korybko wrote in August in the Oriental Review.

China and Russia are both driving deep into Latin America. But there are no major signs of the two conflicting. Instead, they are collaborating.

To support the China-funded Nicaragua Canal project, Russia has promised military backing to ensure safety during construction. Starting this year, Nicaragua will host a Russian base, and Moscow’s fleets will patrol the country’s Pacific and Caribbean coasts. In July, Putin and Xi crossed paths in Brazil to unveil a new-world “development bank” to challenge U.S.-dominated financial institutions.

This all adds up to a significant trend: a Russo-Chinese advance into the Western Hemisphere. Yet the U.S. has reacted with indifference.

But many people are overlooking an even more important reaction: Europe’s.

For more than five centuries, Europe and Latin America have been bound together as sister continents by both religion and language. This means European powers have enjoyed preferential economic treatment among most nations of the region. At present, the European Union remains Latin America’s second-largest trade partner (after the United States). Yet Europe’s influence in the region has slipped slightly as the ambitions of Beijing and Moscow have swelled.

Timed close to Putin’s visit to Cuba, Pope Francis sent letters to the leaders of Cuba and the United States that helped normalize relations between Washington and the Communist dictatorship. The intervention also gave the Catholic Church renewed influence over Cuba and undercut some of Putin’s leverage. In January, the pope appointed five new Latin American cardinals, which he said displayed “the indissoluble links” between Rome and Latin America.

Watch for China and Russian’s deep digging in Latin America to finally strike a nerve in Europe. Under Vatican guidance, Europe will come roaring back as the major power in Latin America.

Poor but happy

Russia is at odds with the West over the war in Ukraine, its currency has fallen by about 50 percent against the United States dollar in the past year, and inflation has sent consumer food costs soaring. But you wouldn’t know any of this looking at the Russians’ happiness index.

At the end of 2014, Russians were more than twice as happy as they were a year earlier, according to a poll by win/Gallup International. The poll calculated Russia’s “happiness index” by subtracting the percentage of respondents claiming to be unhappy from those reporting to live happy lives. The number jumped from 24 percent in late 2013 to 59 percent in late 2014.

According to the Moscow Times, “The pollster suggested the spike in Russians’ happiness may have been connected to a series of events that boosted many people’s spirits last year—such as the Winter Olympics in Sochi and the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, accompanied by a ‘general rise of patriotism,’ a report on the pollster’s website said” (February 4).

As the Russian ruble and the average person’s standard of living have fallen, many in the West speculated that the discomfort will become more than the Russians can withstand, turning them against President Vladimir Putin.

But the poll shows that Russians are not about to demand regime change. The timing actually implies that the country’s surge in happiness is not in spite of Putin’s increasingly aggressive foreign policy, but because of it.

Could Russia invade the Baltic states?

The former secretary general of nato has warned that Russia may invade Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania to test whether the West will uphold the North Atlantic Treaty and defend its allies with force.

The Telegraph reported the warning by Anders Fogh Rasmussen on February 5. Rasmussen detailed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s desire to reach beyond Ukraine into the Baltic states to test the West’s resolve.

Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty states that an attack on one nato member is an attack on all nato members, and that they will respond against that threat, potentially with armed force. Article 5 has been enacted once, following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S. Had Ukraine been a nato member when Russia attacked it last year, the treaty would require all nato member nations to come to its aid.

The Telegraph said the fear is that Putin could stir up a foggy, unconventional conflict in Estonia or Latvia where large populations of Russian minorities live, using troops with no insignia like those who destabilized Ukraine. Some nato countries could use the ambiguity to downplay the attack and thus maintain their commercial and cultural ties with Russia.

The Telegraph noted that Europeans can hardly defend themselves without America’s help. Russia’s defense budget has increased 80 percent since 2010, while that of nato countries has plummeted 20 to 40 percent over the same period.

European nato members see the need to reverse this trend. nato announced on February 5 that it will set up six command posts along its eastern borders, along with a rapid reaction force of 5,000 troops. Air and sea forces, special operations units, and two more land brigades will be tasked with supporting the rapid response force. This will devote nearly 30,000 nato troops to the eastern border in the event of a major crisis with Russia.

Will World War II finally end for Russia and Japan?

For seven decades, relations between Russia and Japan have suffered due to a dispute over the status of an island chain off Japan’s north coast, known in Japan as the Northern Territories and in Russia as the Southern Kurils. The dispute has prevented Moscow and Tokyo from signing a postwar peace treaty. But on February 7, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to resolve the argument and to sign a peace treaty that will finally bring a formal end to World War ii for Russia and Japan.

“As I have agreed with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, it is abnormal that Japan and Russia have not concluded a peace treaty,” Abe said at a meeting in Tokyo. “I am determined to continue working tenaciously on this issue … concluding a peace treaty with Russia.”

Officially, Japan is still dependent on the U.S. for its national security. But Tokyo has seen what American security guarantees have meant to its other allies. It appears Abe wants to stake Japan’s survival on Moscow, not Washington.

Groundbreaking military mission for Germany

Germany’s parliament agreed on January 29 to deploy up to 100 soldiers to Iraq to train Kurdish troops in the use of German weapons. The soldiers are authorized to defend themselves, but not to support the Kurds in combat. The mission received overwhelming support, with 457 out of Germany’s 631 members of parliament voting in favor.

Germany sat out the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, making this military deployment there a groundbreaking decision. Not only that, but the mission marks the first time German troops have deployed to a combat zone without a United Nations mandate or as part of a nato mission. Germany’s constitution states that German soldiers can only deploy abroad “under a system of mutual collective security.” The lack of a UN or nato cover for this mission has led some to say that it is illegal. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said she has “full confidence in our constitutional department.” However, some of parliament’s constitutional experts have expressed concerns.

It is beyond dispute that Germany’s Iraq deployment constitutes another relaxation of the strict controls Germany has imposed on its armed forces since World War ii. U.S. President Barack Obama told a press conference fact that Berlin’s equipping and training of Kurdish forces represents “a significant milestone in its foreign policy.” Germany is gradually increasing the capability of its armed forces. For more information on where this is leading, read “Stepping Into America’s Footprint” from our January issue.

The de facto leader of Europe

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande forged a peace deal for Ukraine with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the early hours of February 12 after an all-night negotiating session in Minsk, Belarus. Merkel’s role in the negotiations confirms her as the de facto leader of Europe. Ahead of the negotiations, Stratfor’s George Friedman wrote, “In Europe, Germany is playing a leading but aggressive role. In Ukraine, it is playing a leading but conciliatory role. What is most important is that in both cases, Germany has been forced—more by circumstance than by policy—to play leading roles. This is not comfortable for Germany and certainly not for the rest of Europe” (February 10). For more on what these negotiations could mean, read “Is Angela Merkel Germany’s Chamberlain?

EU steps up opposition to Islamic State

The European Union announced on February 6 that it has pledged $1.1 billion over the next two years to fight the Islamic State and to alleviate the crises in Syria and Iraq. Brussels said most of the money will go toward humanitarian aid, but some will fund anti-radicalization programs to reduce terror financing and the flow of foreign fighters into the area.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the aid package “will strengthen our actions to help restore peace and security in a region that is so close to us and that has been devastated by terrorism and violence for too long.”

In recent months, the scourge of Islamist violence has terrorized Europeans in France, Belgium and Denmark, and the Islamic State has publicly murdered captives by beheading them and burning them alive.

Mogherini said the murder of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh on February 3 is “further proof that terrorism has no boundaries.”

On February 9, Mogherini announced, “The European Union is ready to step up its support for Lebanon to address these challenges.” Syria’s western neighbor, Lebanon, has been devastated by the Syrian civil war. About 3.2 million people have fled Syria, 1.2 million of whom are now in Lebanon.

The EU has already spent $3.8 billion in this volatile region since 2011. Watch for it to increase its intervention in the Middle East as the Islamic State destabilizes an already out-of-control region.

The lack of action from the U.S. will drive Europe to amass power and project it. As Gerald Flurry explains in his article on page 1, Europe will soon replace America as the leading foreign power in the Middle East.

What was an Iranian general doing in Syria?

The Israeli Air Force carried out an air strike on Syrian-controlled portion of the Golan Heights on January 18, killing six Lebanese Hezbollah militants and six Iranian military officers, including Mohammed Allahdadi, a high-ranking general.

Iran claimed that its officers were in Syria only to advise Bashar Assad’s forces in the fight against the Islamic State. Israel asserts that Iran was lying—and says high-level Hezbollah commanders meeting with high-level Iranian officials indicates future operations against Israel.

Iran has since used the alleged foiled plot against Israel to incite more attacks against Israel. Nasser Soltani, a senior commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, vowed, “Israel will certainly pay for what it did,” and the head of the Guard Corps, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, stated: “The path of the martyr Allahdadi is unstoppable. It will continue until the liberation of the sacred Quds [Jerusalem] and elimination of the Zionist regime as a disgraceful blot in the region. … These martyrdoms proved the need to stick with jihad.”

Iran has recently become much more open about losing its generals in foreign conflict zones. And it is using those losses to justify further hostility against Israel.

Through its terrorist proxies, which include Hezbollah and Hamas, Iran is capable of sparking violence in Israel, especially Jerusalem. Watch Iran continue to use its fight against the universally hated Islamic State lunatics as a smokescreen and a justification for increasing its power over the Middle East and intensifying its attack on Israel.

Britain’s romance with Europe is dying

President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker compared Britain’s relationship with the European Union to a dying romance on January 18 and called for a “divorce.” This was Juncker’s first public mention of Britain leaving the Union. “People shouldn’t stay together if the conditions aren’t the same as when things started,” he said. “It is easy to fall in love and more difficult to stay together.”

At a meeting with French delegates, Juncker said he was ready to discuss Britain’s demands for treaty change, but made clear that there are “red lines.” One “red line” includes any change to immigration rules for migrants from Eastern Europe.

In response, Nigel Farage, the leader of UK Independence Party, said: “We want an amicable divorce and a trading relationship to follow.”

Polls show that Britons favor calling it quits too. A December survey found that 31 percent of British adults would choose to stay with the EU, and 42 percent would leave.

Based on Bible prophecy, the Trumpet has forecast a split between Britain and Europe for decades, as our predecessor the Plain Truth did before us. To learn more, read the chapter “Atlantic Rift” in our free booklet He Was Right.

20,000 illegals enter Texas in seven weeks

More than 20,000 illegal immigrants crossed into Texas in the first seven weeks of 2015, Texas Governor Greg Abbott told cbs’s Face the Nation on February 22. “We all saw what happened on the Texas border last summer, but we need to understand that the problem is not going away,” he stated.

The governor is trying to secure the border by adding “more than 500 Department of Public Safety officers, more Texas Rangers, more technology.” Since the federal government has failed to secure the border with Mexico, the burden has fallen on the states. But as long as illegals feel that the welcome mat is out, they will continue to migrate from poorer countries.

Dozens of U.S. cities have embraced President Barack Obama’s amnesty program by organizing welcoming committees to help illegals adjust to life in America. The cities are working with a group called Welcoming America that helps illegals find employment and housing while “helping people who were born in this country understand and appreciate their new neighbors.” Cities include Chicago, Detroit, New York and St. Louis—but not cities in border states most directly impacted by illegal immigration.

This trend highlights a fundamental disregard for law. It exposes and exacerbates the loss of a common culture. It shows that the very things that define the U.S. as a nation are being chipped away. To learn more about the repercussions, read Stephen Flurry’s article “Borderline Breakdown.”