Russia ‘pulling a Crimea’
South Ossetia, a breakaway region in the nation of Georgia, signed a deal with Russia on February 18 that lays the framework to integrate Russian and South Ossetian security and military forces and says Russia will protect South Ossetia’s borders. The Georgian Foreign Ministry said this put Moscow one step closer to officially annexing the territory: “It’s yet another action directed against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia and an attempt to artificially redraw internationally recognized borders.”
In 2008, Russia fought a five-day war with Georgia over its regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Moscow then recognized both as independent nations and asserted control over them. Few other countries have recognized the two regions as independent.
Last November, Moscow moved to consolidate the spoils of that war by signing a “strategic partnership” integrating Russian security and military forces with those of Abkhazia. The February 18 deal shows Russia doing the same with South Ossetia.
Some in Georgia believe these deals parallel Moscow’s actions in Ukraine. “Russia, in a way, is pulling a Crimea here,” Dr. Irakli Bokuchava, a Tbilisi-based political commentator, told the Trumpet. President Vladimir Putin’s aim in both nations, he said, is “the creation of a renewed ussr.”
Moscow’s maneuvers in Georgia come less than a year after the Kremlin annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. Both Ukraine and Georgia were part of the Soviet Union before it collapsed in 1991.
Just after the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry forecasted, “Russia’s attack on Georgia in August marks the beginning of a dangerous new era in history. This was the first military strike of a rising Asian superpower—and there will be more! … Today, [Western leaders are] trying to also bring Georgia and Ukraine into nato. I don’t believe Russia will ever allow that to happen. … Will a crisis occur over Ukraine? That area is the breadbasket of Russia, and surely it is willing to wage war over that as well” (October 2008).
Mr. Flurry saw that Ukraine and Georgia were not safe from Putin’s expansionism. To understand more about the Ukraine crisis and what to expect for South Ossetia and other former Soviet areas, read “The Crimean Crisis Is Reshaping Europe” (theTrumpet.com/go/Crimea).
Russia pulls out of weapons treaty
Russia announced on March 10 that it has officially withdrawn from a major weapons control agreement it signed in 1990 at the end of the Cold War: the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.
Six Warsaw Pact countries and the 16 nato nations agreed to the deal, which limits numbers of troops, tanks, aircraft and other non-nuclear military assets that can be deployed in Europe.
Russia’s withdrawal announcement came just days after European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called for European nations to form a single army. More and more European leaders are seeing that Russian President Vladimir Putin rebuilding Russia’s empire constitutes a threat to Europe.
Russia’s decision to break promises about its conventional forces in Europe pushes the world a step closer to war.
China has more subs than U.S. Navy
China’s navy now has a submarine fleet larger than that of the United States, a U.S. admiral said on February 25. “Their submarine force has grown over a tremendous rate,” Vice Adm. Joseph Mulloy told the House Armed Service Committee’s Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee. “They now have more diesel and nuclear attack submarines than we have, so they’ve passed us in total quantity.”
The U.S. Navy has 71 commissioned submarines, and experts say China’s fleet now numbers at least in the low 70s, though the precise number is unpublished and the quality of the submarines is known to be inferior. However, that is changing.
“They are producing some fairly amazing submarines,” Mulloy said. “They’ve now had three deployments in the Indian Ocean. They are expanding where their submarines go. We know they are out experimenting and working and operating and certainly want to be in the world of advanced submarines.”
As Beijing’s military build-up continues and the nation develops strong ties with oil-rich Russia, watch for smaller Asian nations to rally around this Asian hegemon.
Vatican: Taking Islamic State’s word for it
The commander of the Vatican’s police force has acknowledged that the Islamic State poses a material threat against Pope Francis. Domenico Giani made the remark in a rare interview with Italian state publication Polizia Moderna, published on March 1.
Giani said the threat is “real”—more than just propaganda, based on “what has emerged from [his] conversations with Italian and foreign colleagues.” He said that threat against the pope also includes the risk of lone-wolf attacks, which are “more dangerous because they are unpredictable.”
Giani made his comments two weeks after the Islamic State released a video of its Libyan affiliates beheading 21 Coptic Christians on the coast of Libya, less than 500 miles across the Mediterranean Sea from Italy. The video, titled “A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross,” depicted a masked jihadist who threatened: “[T]oday, we are on the south of Rome, on the land of Islam, Libya. … And we will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission, the promise of our prophet ….”
Giani said that while Pope Francis is “well aware of the threats on his person,” he will not adjust his routine.
Under Giani, a former member of the Italian secret service, the Vatican Police has increased its cooperation with government security organizations around the world. But more and more Italian politicians are saying that Rome needs to bring in bigger guns: the Italian military. In February Italian Senate Defense Commission President Nicola Latorre warned that if diplomatic efforts fail, Italy must be ready to deploy its military against the Islamic State.
Long before the Islamic State began, the Trumpet forecasted that radical Islam would antagonize and push against Europe until the Continent—led by Berlin and Rome—strikes back with one violent last crusade.
Syria: U.S.-backed forces defeated
The Syrian rebel movement Hazzm controlled key areas of the Syrian city of Aleppo, fielded thousands of U.S.-trained, well-paid soldiers, and held caches of advanced weapons—that is, until the al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front vanquished Hazzm in late February.
Al-Nusra targeted Hazzm primarily because Washington had deemed Hazzm “moderate” enough to receive lethal aid to combat Assad and extremist groups like al-Nusra. Al-Nusra militants are now armed with some of that lethal aid.
Hazzm’s leadership has publicly dissolved the movement and said its former members should move to the Levant Front, an umbrella group for the rebels in Aleppo. Thus ends America’s best—and brief—hope to empower a comparatively moderate Syrian force.
Washington refuses to conduct air strikes in Syrian airspace or to deploy troops on Syrian soil. So its next “best” option remains to fund “moderate” rebel groups to fight both Assad and extremist rebel groups. In spite of the aid, though, these moderate groups are losing.
America’s Middle Eastern policies continue to suffer setbacks and to fail, fulfilling the description in Leviticus 26:20 of a cursed nation whose strength will be spent in vain.
Boko Haram expands Islamic State ‘caliphate’
Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State in an audio message shared via Twitter on March 7. The terrorist group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, said: “We announce our allegiance to the caliph of the Muslims [Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi] … and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity, in hardship and ease, and to endure being discriminated against, and not to dispute about rule with those in power, except in case of evident infidelity regarding that which there is a proof from Allah.”
When the Islamic State terrorist organization declared itself a caliphate last June, it demanded that all Muslims, jihadists or otherwise, submit to the Islamic State and “caliph” Baghdadi.
The Islamic State has seized large swaths of territory, spoiled American-supplied weapons from defeated Iraqi troops, and committed savage atrocities. On a smaller scale, Boko Haram has made similar exploits in Nigeria.
Five days after Boko Haram pledged its allegiance to Baghdadi, Mohammed al-Adnani spoke on behalf of the Islamic State in an audio message shared via Twitter: “We announce to you to the good news of the expansion of the caliphate to West Africa because the caliph … has accepted the allegiance of our brothers of the Sunni group for preaching and the jihad.” He also urged Muslims to join Boko Haram.
This partnership came just after an African Islamic State affiliate beheaded 21 Coptic Christians in Libya in solidarity with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa Center at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, said, “Rather than trying to expand [like al Qaeda] from the center, the Islamic State is mushrooming all over the place.”
Australia: Running on empty
Australian oil refineries have been closing left and right, and now only four more remain. This trend, according to a February 23 report by Australia’s National Roads and Motorists’ Association (nrma), means Australia is on a course that could quickly lead to a stagnant economy, mass job loss, empty supermarkets and a dead-in-the-water military.
The report says that Australia’s declining oil refining industry and its rising demand for liquid fuels have converged in a way that leaves the country with just 23 days of reserve liquid fuels at any given time. About five days’ worth sits in crude tanks at refineries, two days’ worth is being processed in the refineries, 10 days’ worth sits in stock at terminals, three days’ worth is at service stations, and three more days’ worth is in cars’ fuel tanks around the nation.
Such a narrow margin between sufficient supplies and none whatsoever is more than just a concern: It is a breach of international obligations. According to International Energy Agency law, the country is supposed to store a net stockholding of 90 days’ worth of liquid fuels. Australia consistently misses that minimum.
Australia has a “just in time” system. As fuels are used, they are replaced. Under normal circumstances, the system is sufficient. But take a look at the world today: Circumstances are anything but normal. The nrma report posed the question, “What happens when there are interruptions?”
“Without discussing these issues and analyzing the options, we are likely to have our lives shaped by commercial forces largely out of our control,” the report stated.
Australia’s dependency on crude oil and fuel imports has grown 60 percent since 2000 to 90 percent today. The nrma report estimates that without government rulings to prevent it, the nation will be 100 percent dependent by 2030.
With just three weeks’ supply available, Australia is a country running on empty.
U.S. can no longer rely on British military
America can no longer rely on Britain as a military partner because of cuts to its armed forces, head of the United States Army, Gen. Raymond Odierno, told the Telegraph’s Con Coughlin, according to an article published March 1.
The U.S. Army formerly planned on the United Kingdom contributing a division-size force of about 10,000 soldiers in the event of a conflict. It now plans for Britain to contribute half that. This means the British Army is no longer capable of working alongside American forces as a separate unit. Instead, its soldiers could only supplement the main U.S. force.
The Telegraph noted that the general’s statements come as “the [Royal Air Force] is desperately short of combat squadrons, the Navy is still trying to work out how it will provide the expert manpower and equipment needed to operate its two new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, and the Army is struggling to cope with the drastic reductions to its ranks.”
Just one week before Odierno’s comments, British fighter jets intercepted two Russian bombers flying off the Cornish coast. Due to budget cuts, the jets scrambled from a base in Lincolnshire, over 300 miles away. Air Commodore Andrew Lambert warned: “If Putin wanted to attack, he would not send a pair of bombers, he would send the lot and saturate our defenses; we couldn’t cope. … The modern generation of politicians has grown up in absolute security—they’ve never felt a threat to their existence, safety or security. They’ve taken peace for granted and decimated the Armed Forces. Let’s hope we don’t pay the price.”
Iran blows up replica American carrier
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps destroyed a replica of a United States Navy aircraft carrier during a February 25 military drill near the Strait of Hormuz.
The Iranian military carried out similar naval drills near the strait in December, but using the American carrier practice target sent an unmistakable message. The exercises also included shooting down a drone and planting undersea mines.
One fifth of the world’s seaborne oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz, making Iran’s drills an obvious economic and geopolitical threat.
As Iran negotiates over its nuclear program with the U.S. and five other world powers, Washington is making large concessions to Iran. Tehran is returning the favor by practicing the best way to explode an American vessel carrying 5,800 servicemen.