Europe’s satellite navigation system goes live

Europe’s satellite navigation system, Galileo, went live on Dec. 15, 2016. The project is a result of the European Union’s effort to become independent of American satellites and is a step toward it joining the United States and Russia as the only powers to field their own satellite navigation systems.

The milestone comes as the EU makes the military uses of its space program more public.

Satellite navigation is far beyond a simple convenience for travelers. Automated mining, agricultural and other vehicles rely on these systems, and from construction to archaeology and beyond, more uses for the technology are being found.

But the most crucial use for satellite navigation is within modern militaries. The technology is used to track friendly and enemy forces and to guide smart munitions to their targets. This is why just about every major power is working on its own system.

Independence from America has been at the heart of Europe’s efforts from the start. In 2001, French President Jacques Chirac said that without Galileo, EU nations would become “vassals” to America. In 2002, a European Commission report noted that “Galileo will underpin the common European defense policy that the member states have decided to establish.” It said Europe wanted to put “an end to a situation of dependence.”

“If the EU finds it necessary to undertake a security mission that the U.S. does not consider to be in its interest, it will be impotent unless it has the satellite navigation technology that is now indispensable,” the report said. “Although designed primarily for civilian applications, Galileo will also give the EU a military capability.”

The system now has 18 satellites. It needs 24 to become fully operational. It will launch eight more in 2017 and 2018, and is scheduled to field a total of 30, including six backups.

The EU has emphasized that its system is a civilian project, unlike the Russian and American systems. But for all practical purposes, they are the same. Galileo is configured so access can be restricted to European military personnel and emergency services only.

On October 26, the EU released its first-ever space-policy document, which highlights the military importance of its efforts, noting, “Space is also of strategic importance for Europe. It reinforces Europe’s role as a stronger global player and is an asset for its security and defense.” The document states that EU space programs will consider “additional services” to help meet “emerging needs” in Europe’s “security and defense.”

Another major project of Europe’s space program is Copernicus. It was originally touted as a tool to support “environmental security.” But the EU has tweaked the wording so its purpose now is to support “the environment and security.”

The European Parliament’s stated military purposes for the system include “border monitoring outside the EU” and “EU peacekeeping operations”—in other words, European military operations. “It’s already abundantly clear that the system will also be used for military operations and surveillance purposes,” said former EU chief scientific adviser Anne Glover.

The new policy document promised to “assess further the potential” of Galileo and Copernicus to “meet EU autonomy and security needs.”

Watch for Europe to continue breaking free of its military dependence on America.

France calls for more German militarism

Germany must become more powerful militarily, said a top presidential candidate in France. Center-right politician François Fillon said the Christmas market attack in Berlin and the election of Donald Trump show that Germany can no longer play the role of a “pacifist.”

Fillon said he wants to “remobilize the European Union around strategic priorities: our collective security, defense, innovation and the retightening of the eurozone.” Though he has disagreements with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Fillon agrees Germany and France must form the core of a tighter EU in which Germany assumes more responsibility.

Such talk has become a common French request. France is trying to control government spending while sustaining major overseas deployments against Islamic terrorism. One way to square that circle is to get Germany’s help with the fighting.

Former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer made a similar call in an article published on January 5. Like Fillon, Fischer believes that “it will fall to its two largest and economically strongest countries, France and Germany, to bolster Europe’s defense.” He notes how a military cooperation once considered impossible is now forging ahead. Fischer concluded: “The old EU developed into an economic power because it was protected beneath the U.S. security umbrella. But without this guarantee, it can address its current geopolitical realities only by developing its own capacity to project political and military power. Six decades after the Treaty of Rome established the European Economic Community, history and current developments are pushing France and Germany to shape Europe’s future once again.”

Austrian cardinal: ‘We can’t accommodate all refugees’

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, admitted on Austrian television that he was rethinking his stance on the migrant crisis. During a discussion with Protestant Bishop Michael Bünker, the archbishop said an “unbelievable number” of migrants are causing a “feeling of overcrowding” in Austrian society. He pointed to the rise of the anti-immigrant Austrian Freedom Party as a sign that the “country is worried” and said he is no longer convinced that Austria should accept all refugees.

The cardinal stated that Europe needs to develop a common strategy to support nations in Africa and the Middle East so migrants can live peaceably in their own land. In the December 23 discussion, Schönborn said, “Sure, in the beginning, I also said, with [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel: ‘We can do it!’ And many important experts in Austria said, ‘We can do it!’… We then realized that there is another dimension, and we need common European plans; we need more help on the ground. In the meantime, I believe this is clear: We cannot accommodate all refugees. We must first see that they can find and live in their homeland again” (Trumpet translation).

Bünker agreed with Schönborn and added that terrorism was both a cause and consequence of the migrant crisis.

While Schönborn and Bünker were vague about what steps Europeans should take to enable migrants to “live in their homeland again,” they agreed that the long-term solution to the migrant crisis was a united EU response to the turmoil in Africa and the Middle East.

Last September, Schönborn spoke on the 333rd anniversary of the Battle of Vienna, when a Habsburg emperor defended the city from an invasion of Ottoman Turks. He used the occasion to warn about “a third attempt at an Islamic conquest of Europe” if Europeans don’t return to their “Christian heritage.”

Schönborn and Bünker highlighted the need for Europe to deal with the problem of radical Islamic terrorism before it can solve the migrant crisis in a way that will allow Germany to maintain a working relationship with pro-European Arab and Turkish regimes across the Middle East. While this might sound positive, the Bible makes plain that this alliance will ultimately wreak staggering devastation.

Make the Cuban regime normal again?

On January 12, as one of his final acts as United States president, Barack Obama ended a decades-old policy that granted special status to illegal immigrants from Cuba seeking residence in the U.S.

Under that policy, enacted in 1995, Cubans caught at sea while attempting to enter the U.S. were sent back to Cuba or other countries. Those not caught in transit were eligible for residency in the U.S. the moment they set foot on American soil. This “wet-foot/dry-foot” policy treated such Cubans less as illegal immigrants and more as refugees fleeing the brutal regime of the Castros.

“Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the United States illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to removal, consistent with U.S. law and enforcement priorities,” President Obama said in a statement. “By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries.”

On Dec. 17, 2014, when President Obama announced the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, he ended what he called “an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests.” Two years later and one week before the end of his presidency, Mr. Obama ended the “wet-foot/dry-foot” immigration policy, saying that it had been “put in place more than 20 years ago and was designed for a different era.”

The policy change was “long sought by the Cuban government,” the New York Times said. “The move places a finishing touch on Mr. Obama’s efforts as president to end a half-century of hostility between the United States and Cuba and to establish normalized relations and diplomatic ties with a government American presidents have long sought to isolate and punish” (January 12). The Times noted that the “wet-foot/dry-foot” policy was “one way in which the United States tried to weaken Fidel Castro’s government, by welcoming tens of thousands of Cubans fleeing repression.”

“[T]he White House caved to what Castro wants,” said Florida’s Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, whose family was forced to flee the Castro regime in 1960. “Castro uses refugees as pawns to get more concessions from Washington” (Washington Post, January 13).

Prof. Carlos Eire said, “Obama has achieved two ends here. First, he has completed the utter betrayal of the Cuban people—a legacy move set in motion two years ago. Second, he has burdened [Donald] Trump with a no-win situation with the potential to seriously tarnish or weaken his presidency right from the start.” nChinese President Xi Jinping is taking more and more power for himself and blocking the promotion of a potential successor, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. Jeremy Page and Lingling Wei wrote, “Mr. Xi has taken personal charge of the economy, the armed forces and most other levers of power, overturning a collective-leadership system introduced to protect against one-man rule after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976” (Dec. 26, 2016).

Xi’s consolidation of power has been underway for several years. Now he apparently is also attempting to block the promotion of a potential successor. Page and Lingling said this is a worrying indication that Xi will try to remain China’s leader even after his second term expires. “Now, as he nears the end of his first five-year term, many party insiders say Mr. Xi is trying to block promotion of a potential successor next year, suggesting he wants to remain in office after his second term expires in 2022, when he would be 69 years old” (ibid).

One party official said it is apparent that Xi is seeking a leadership structure “just like the Putin model,” a reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has changed the nation’s constitution in order to prolong his rule.

“Concern is rising among China’s elite that the nation is shifting toward a rigid form of autocracy,” Page and Lingling wrote, quoting a retired senior official as saying, “Mao built the nation. Deng Xiaoping made it rich. We’re now in the Xi era, which will make it strong.”

India overtakes UK economy

India has economically surpassed its former colonizer several years earlier than experts projected it would, as India has grown rapidly over the last quarter century and the United Kingdom has suffered economic troubles. Forbes wrote on Dec. 16, 2016, that India’s gross domestic product was expected to surpass the UK in 2020, but the pound’s value dropped nearly 20 percent in the last year. For 2016, the UK’s gdp was $2.29 trillion, and India’s was $2.3 trillion. “Furthermore, this gap is expected to widen as India grows at 6 to 8 percent per annum compared to UK’s growth of 1 to 2 percent per annum until 2020, and likely beyond,” Forbes reported. This is significant largely because it underscores the shifting power dynamics between Asia and Western powers.

Japan increases its military spending again

Seventy-five years after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japan—a nation that constitutionally was to “forever renounce war as a sovereign right”—now boasts a military that might be even stronger than it was in World War ii. And it is set to grow bigger still.

Japan’s defense budget for 2017 is expected to hit a record high of $44.6 billion. This will mark the fifth year in a row that Japan’s defense spending has increased. The budget includes plans to develop land-to-sea missiles; upgrade Japanese missile destroyers with American-developed Aegis advanced radar systems; and construct a new type of submarine.

The increase is part of a five-year plan by the Japanese government to increase military spending by 0.8 percent each year until 2018. Japan is currently in the top-10 list of the most powerful militaries in the world. While its pacifist constitution imposed after World War ii forbids Japan to wage offensive war, it has been free to build up a self-defense force. Japan has established one of the most sophisticated militaries in the world, thanks to America bearing the primary burden of defending the nation. John T. Kuehn, a professor of military history at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, told cnn, “Pilot for pilot, ship for ship, Japan can stand toe to toe with anybody” (Dec. 7, 2016).

North Korea missile could reach U.S.?

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un brought in 2017 by proclaiming that his nation has “reached the final stage in preparations to test launch” an intercontinental ballistic missile. North Korea has never tested a missile that could potentially reach the West Coast of the United States. Such a test would violate international law and, if successful, pose a nuclear threat to America.

Pyongyang has repeatedly defied Washington and the global community in developing nuclear and missile capacity. It has conducted test after test in brash defiance of international law and UN resolutions. Preventing a future test would be difficult without a preemptive military strike or a missile interception early in the test.