Europe unveils time line for building a military
“Our European Union is, at least in part, in an existential crisis.” That was the grim assessment of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in his September 14 state of the union speech. One solution? European military cooperation.
“Europe needs to toughen up,” Juncker said. “Nowhere is this truer than in our defense policy. Europe can no longer afford to piggyback on the military might of others or let France alone defend its honor in Mali.”
Juncker’s push is supported by France and Germany, whose defense ministers sent a six-page paper to the EU’s foreign service on September 11. Süddeutsche Zeitung and Le Figaro, which both saw it, reported the paper as stating, “In the context of a deteriorating security environment … it is high time to reinforce our solidarity and European defense capabilities in order to more effectively protect the citizens and borders of Europe.”
At a meeting in Bratislava on September 16, EU leaders—minus Britain—agreed on a time line for developing this military cooperation. The European Commission will put forward concrete proposals in December, and governments will aim to form an agreement by June.
Federica Mogherini, the EU’s de facto foreign minister, said earlier in the month that this time the push for a shared military is “the real stuff.” The push had moved beyond general discussions, she said, and would have the “first operational results” by spring.
The EU has already engaged in military missions. It has already formed European battle groups, but they have never been used. European leaders want a European military headquarters: Constructing a single headquarters and command structure over Europe’s combined military strength will make its potential power more usable.
EU leaders are also aiming to cooperate on defense procurement projects. European militaries share some common weaknesses, such as a lack of air-to-air refueling, drones and air transport. EU leaders want to solve this on the EU level, eliminating redundancies and creating interdependent militaries.
Juncker praised the progress the EU was making in implementing a new border and coast guard force. This alone is a major step toward an army. The force will only be 1,000-strong, but it can deploy in any EU country, even against that country’s will.
France and Germany have also called for a new European military academy, or for European military courses to be taught at national academies, in order to forge a European spirit within national militaries.
Many of these leaders have also noted that EU treaties allow a smaller group of nations to move forward on defense cooperation even if others object.
“Whenever I present the plan to ambassadors, ministers, … my last slide is that all of this requires political commitment,” Mogherini said. “At the moment, I don’t see resistance; at the moment, I see readiness.”
EU attack on Apple: a blatant power grab
On August 30, the European Union’s Competition Directorate ordered Ireland to charge Apple $14.6 billion in back taxes. This represents an extraordinary move to gain power—not just over American corporations, but over the sovereignty of EU nations through tax policy.
The EU’s choice of target was well calculated. Corporate tax avoidance is a hot-button issue right now. Popular sentiment is suspicious of corporations not “paying their fair share,” and Apple’s setup looks suspect. Ninety percent of Apple’s non-U.S. profits are earned by subsidiaries located in Ireland but are technically not tax residents in any country at all. According to the EU Commission, in 2014 the company’s effective tax rate on its European earnings was 0.005 percent.
Apple has exploited some loopholes in the international taxation system, but the G-20 has already addressed this problem, and those loopholes are due to be closed by 2018. In truth, the rights or wrongs of Apple’s tax arrangement have nothing to do with this case. Individual nations determine taxation policy, not the EU. The EU is massively exceeding its jurisdiction and testing to see if anyone can stop it from doing so.
The European Commission is acting “arbitrarily, retroactively and beyond the rule of law,” wrote the Telegraph’s international business editor Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. “What is really going on—as often in EU affairs—is a complex political attack on multiple fronts” (August 31).
The EU is now ordering Ireland to collect taxes that the Irish government does not want to collect. The EU is “overreaching their competence,” said Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan. “The European treaties say the individual countries are responsible for taxation policy. This is an approach through the back door to try and influence tax policy through competition law.” Ireland has joined Apple in appealing the case to the European Court of Justice.
In co-opting taxation policy that it has no legal authority over, the EU is taking an important step toward becoming a superstate. Taxation is an integral power of a nation or empire. The EU is brazenly taking more of that power for itself.
Ethiopia on the brink?
Demonstrators in Ethiopia clashed with the police in the capital Addis Ababa in August as part of nationwide protests against the government. Since November last year, members of Ethiopia’s two largest districts have been protesting inequality and systemic corruption that have impoverished 80 percent of the country and threatened 15 million residents with famine.
The government responded with strong crackdowns. Relatively peaceful protests have since turned violent. More than 500 protesters have been killed; thousands more have been injured.
Stratfor noted on August 31 that Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn had authorized the country’s armed forces to take “any and all” measures necessary to restore order. Laws established in 2009 give the government sweeping powers to combat anyone it considers a terrorist. Some say the government has used these laws to justify the kidnapping, imprisonment and even torture of political opponents.
Human Rights Watch explained that “donor countries to Ethiopia have been largely silent about the brutal crackdown, presumably in part due to the Ethiopian government’s strategic relationships on security, peacekeeping, migration and development. For years, the U.S., the UK and other influential governments have basically rejected public condemnation of the Ethiopian government’s repressive practices.”
The Ethiopian government has heavily censored the media and refused entry to United Nations investigators since 2007. These harsh tactics have further destabilized Ethiopian society, making it vulnerable to regional predator nations like Iran, which has a history of capitalizing on unrest in Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq.
To understand why Iran holds a vested interest in this region, “all you need to do is get a good map of the Middle East, with the emphasis on the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea,” wrote Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry. “Then you can see why the king of the south, or radical Islam, is so interested in an alliance with or control over [Libya and Ethiopia] (as well as Egypt and Tunisia). They are on the two seas that comprise the most important trade route in the world! Whoever heavily influences or controls Ethiopia will undoubtedly also control the small areas of Eritrea and Djibouti on the Red Sea coastline” (April 2011).
To understand the significance of the current strife in Ethiopia and of Iranian meddling in Ethiopia and its neighboring countries, read Daniel 11:43, which mentions Ethiopia as a member of a “king of the south” alliance that is led by Iran and clashes with the European “king of the north.”
West Bank: The next Gaza?
On September 8, a Palestinian court postponed municipal elections scheduled for October 8. The postponement arises from the lack of participation by East Jerusalem in the vote and from legal disputes over candidates between the Palestinian rival factions, Hamas and Fatah.
Hamas had been expected to boycott the elections, as it had done in the past. But when the terrorist group announced its participation in the elections in July, the prospect of Hamas using the ballot to take over the West Bank increased.
A Fatah-influenced court postponed the elections until at least December 21. Hamas rejected the ruling, further worsening the political crisis between the two camps.
Though many Israelis have no love for the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, the idea of radical Hamas taking over the PA is deeply concerning.
In 2008, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote, “Hamas terrorists (and weapons) are present throughout the West Bank, and there is little doubt that they are working toward getting control of this strategically located region of Israel” (May 19, 2008). Hamas’s chief state sponsors in Iran “believe that if they can conquer Jerusalem, they can unite the Arab world under their control,” he wrote. He based his analysis primarily on a prophecy in Zechariah 14 indicating that half of Jerusalem will violently fall to a terrorist, anti-Semitic entity.
A Hamas takeover of the West Bank and East Jerusalem makes this outcome many times likelier than it would be otherwise. The struggle is steadily intensifying.
Under threat: American nukes in Turkey
“Terrorists and other hostile forces” could capture dozens of American nuclear weapons from an air base in Turkey close to the Syrian border, the Stimson Center has warned.
The Washington-based nonpartisan think tank issued a report on August 15 about the risk of a potential breach after Turkey’s recently failed coup. The air base commander was arrested on suspicion of involvement in the coup.
The United States stores about 50 nuclear weapons at the base; unconfirmed reports say it is preparing to move some of them into Romania. EurActiv
.com wrote on August 18 that the transfer had already started.
One of EurActiv.com’s two independent, anonymous sources said U.S.-Turkey relations has deteriorated since the attempted coup, and the U.S. can no longer trust Turkey to host its nuclear weapons. If the reports are true, the weapons will be moved to Deveselu Air Base in Romania.
During the failed coup in Turkey, U.S. aircraft were forbidden from flying in or out of Turkey. The Stimson Center report said it is uncertain whether the U.S. could have maintained control of its weapons if civil conflict had erupted.
North Korea tests another nuke with no consequences
North Korea carried out its fifth underground nuclear test on September 9. South Koreans felt the magnitude 5.3 earthquake caused by the explosion, which was reported to have a blast yield of up to 20 kilotons.
Following nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013, North Korea detonated what it claimed was a hydrogen bomb in January. The detonations all violated United Nations Security Council resolutions. In April, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned North Korea: “There will be additional strong response in case of another nuclear test.”
Five months later, “another nuclear test” came. North Korea detonated its most powerful bomb yet, a 10-kiloton warhead, 25 to 100 percent more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. It claimed the warhead was miniaturized and can be mounted on its ballistic missiles.
The consequence: U.S. President Barack Obama warned, again, that North Korea would face “consequences to its unlawful and dangerous actions,” and discussed taking “additional significant steps, including new sanctions.”
North Korea called the threats of “meaningless sanctions … highly laughable.”
Jae H. Ku, the director of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, said, “No amount of sanctions will stop North Korea. Nuclear weapons are their sole survival strategy” (Foreign Policy, September 9). Ku said sanctions are unlikely to have meaningful impact on North Korea so long as Kim Jong-un thinks his nuclear arsenal is all that protects him from Western attempts to overthrow his dictatorship.
For all its military, political and economic power, the United States has been unable to check this Second World country. The only “strong responses” Washington appears willing to consider are flying warplanes near the border, attempting sanctions and making critical comments.
Philippines and China: Alliance in the making?
Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency of the Philippines has many nations on edge, few more so than the United States. Duterte, who was elected on May 9, has taken steps to expel America’s military presence from the Philippine archipelago, and in some cases is replacing it with China and Russia.
On September 12, Duterte called on the U.S. to withdraw from the southern island of Mindanao. Mindanao is a Muslim-majority region and the home of a number of terrorist groups. Duterte considers the U.S. special forces stationed there to be a prime target who must be removed for their own safety and for the stability of the island. As Duterte said, “For as long as we stay with America, we will never have peace in that land.”
The next day, Duterte said the Philippines would stop patrolling the South China Sea alongside the U.S. Navy in order to avoid upsetting China. The Philippines military will instead focus on combating drugs and terrorism, he said.
This is a victory for China, which asserts ownership of 90 percent of the South China Sea, including much of the territorial waters of the Philippines. On July 12, the International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled against China’s claims and in favor of the Philippines’ assertion that Beijing’s activities are illegal. But apparently Duterte is choosing to ignore the Hague victory and to tacitly cede ground to China.
On the same day, Duterte ordered his defense secretary to begin seeking military equipment from suppliers in China and Russia. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 75 percent of Philippine weapons have come from America since the 1950s. But Duterte said that Russia and China have agreed to a 25-year soft loan that will allow the Philippines to purchase their weapons.
Announcing the decision, Duterte said he wants to buy arms “where they are cheap and where there are no strings attached and it is transparent.” “I don’t need jets,” he continued, “F-16s, that’s no use to us. We don’t intend to fight any country.”
Rocket launchers in the South China Sea
Satellite data published on August 10 revealed that Vietnam moved rocket launchers to five disputed islands in the South China Sea, further escalating tensions between regional powers.
With more than 2,000 miles of coastline to protect, Vietnam’s defenses are stretched thin. Chinese incursions in the Spratly Islands constitute a major threat, particularly to Vietnam’s southern regions.
The Vietnamese rocket launchers in the Spratly Islands might appear on the surface to be a good sign for American efforts to curb Chinese claims in the South China Sea. But a look below the surface indicates the opposite. Hanoi is ignoring America’s calls for de-escalation in the region. It appears that even smaller Asian nations have lost faith in U.S. policy.