Week in Review: Russia on Move in Syria and Libya, Pressure on Germany, European Nuclear Superpower?, and More
Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto/Getty Images, Dmitry Serebryakov\TASS via Getty Images, ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images, Xinhua/Li Gang/Getty Images
All you need to know about everything in the news this week
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What Russia wants in Libya
The Times of London wrote Wednesday that “Italy is turning to Russia to help combat the [Libyan] immigration crisis, despite warnings from European allies about Vladimir Putin’s motives.”
Russia’s involvement in Libya via eastern Libyan warlord, Khalifa Haftar, could spark a civil war in the country and trigger a refugee crisis reminiscent of Syria.
Hafter (and Russia) does not recognize the United Nations-backed government based in western Libya—the government European officials pledged to support with $200 million during a conference in Malta last weekend.
“[R]efugees are not Putin’s priority in Libya,” Leonid Bershidsky wrote for Bloomberg View. “He’s far more interested in restoring Russian influence there and establishing a military presence if he can.”
What Russia wants in Afghanistan
On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that Russia will host a conference on the future of Afghanistan later this month.
The conference, which is expected to involve representatives from Russia, Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, Iran and India, is the latest instance of Russia hijacking the American-led operation in Afghanistan.
Geopolitical Futures assessed on January 18 that Russia’s involvement in Afghanistan provides Moscow with “the additional benefit of inserting itself in an area of interest for the U.S. in hopes that it can increase its leverage over Washington.”
“The Bible warns us to expect a great power rising from the east,” we wrote in our free booklet Russia and China in Prophecy. “It calls it ‘the kings of the east’ ….” Those “kings,” as our booklet explains, represent some of the very nations that are embedding themselves deeper into Afghanistan: Russia, China, Pakistan and India!
‘An EU nuclear superpower’
Poland would welcome a European Union “nuclear superpower,” Jarosław Kaczyński, head of Poland’s ruling party, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in an interview published February 7.
Kaczyński made his remarks to the German newspaper before a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. According to the Telegraph, “it is thought” that Kaczyński “may have pressed [Merkel] on the issue” of nuclear weapons during the meeting.
Kaczyński also called for the EU to “be prepared for huge expenditures” on its military.
Germany’s resurgent military
Germany is “usually portrayed as a civilian and economic power par excellence, but rather allergic to military issues,” wrote Claudia Major in an article for Carnegie Europe titled “Germany: The (Not So) Timid Leader.
In reality, Germany is “one of four allies to lead a battalion of nato’s Enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltic countries and Poland; [it] is the biggest European contributor to nato’s deterrence measures in Eastern Europe; and [it] has soldiers deployed in 12 operations from Mali to Iraq.”
“Almost silently, Germany has changed its defense policy over the last four years.”
Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry said in a January 2014 episode of the Key of David television program that the increasing military might and determination of Russia and China is far more threatening to global stability than most analysts realize.
The United Kingdom’s House Speaker John Bercow said on Monday that United States President Donald Trump should not be allowed to address Britain’s Parliament because of his “sexism” and “racism.”
The Bundesbank announced yesterday that it had repatriated 300 tons of gold stored in New York City ahead of schedule.
The German Central Bank announced on Jan. 16, 2013, that it would relocate the gold from New York and Paris to Frankfurt. This decision was made after the U.S. Federal Reserve refused to submit to an audit of German gold held in U.S. vaults. The Germans initially estimated it would take seven years to repatriate the gold, but if they complete the French repatriation by the end of 2017, they will have completed the task three years ahead of schedule.
“The transfers were carried out without any disruptions or irregularities,” Bundesbank board member Carl-Ludwig Thiele said in yesterday’s news release. “The gold storage plan for New York, which envisaged the transfer of 300 tons of gold from New York to Frankfurt, was fully realized in 2016.”
The 300 metric tons of gold repatriated from New York equates to 20 percent of Germany’s gold holdings in the United States. Thiele also announced that Germany would repatriate 100 percent of its gold holdings in France by the end of 2017. The Bundesbank currently stores 47.9 percent of its gold in Germany, 36.6 percent in the U.S., 12.8 percent in England, and a mere 2.7 percent in France. Once the transfers are complete, Germany will hold half its 3,378 tons of gold in Frankfurt, with the balance in New York and London.
Despite declining relations between Germany and the administration of President Donald Trump, Thiele said there are currently no plans for further gold transfers from the United States, and Mr. Trump’s presidency doesn’t change the situation. The fact that Germany is repatriating so much gold from America at all, however, shows that the level of trust between the two nations is at a postwar low.
This is big news, but few know what it really means.
To understand how this announcement will eventually affect you, you have to understand why so much German gold was held in New York, London and Paris in the first place. Why doesn’t Germany hold its own gold?
According to the Bundesbank, the reason is twofold.
First, storing gold in America makes it easier to sell, or pledge, in case of an economic emergency. It is easier to trade to others who can then quickly take ownership.
The second reason is that it was deemed safer to spread Germany’s gold out during the Cold War to protect it from the Soviets. According to the Bundesbank, that is no longer a concern. That Germany feels safe enough to bring it home speaks volumes about Germany’s changing relationship with Russia.
But there is a third, unmentioned—and far more important—reason Germany doesn’t keep its gold at home.
It goes back to World War ii. When the Allies finally stopped the German death machine in 1945—for the second time in 27 years—they purposed to ensure that Germany could never again destroy world peace. Forcing Germany to store its gold overseas was the primary financial mechanism preventing Germany from ever starting another war. As analyst Byron King noted, “One way for the U.S., Britain and France to keep a leash on Germany was to keep ‘German’ gold under control outside of that country’s borders” (Daily Resource Hunter, Jan. 22, 2013).
As long as the Allies controlled Germany’s gold, the Allies had a conqueror’s insurance policy that ensured Berlin would not again disturb the peace. Without its gold, Germany’s currency and thus its economy, could be destroyed virtually overnight.
But now, America, Britain and France appear to think that they no longer need that insurance policy.
This will prove to be a tragic mistake.
With President Trump threatening to undermine both nato and the European Union, you can be sure that German leaders are discussing how they can shore up their economic and military might in a world where America isn’t their ally. Germany’s old World War ii foes will soon regret turning Germany loose. The world is about to see a much stronger Bundesbank—and consequently, a more aggressive German nation. German confidence and power grows with the clink of each brick it adds to its towering stack of gold!
Listen to the Trumpet Daily radio program that aired on Feb. 10, 2017.
For over a decade, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry has forecast that Syria will fall out of the Iranian orbit. Now that Russia and Iran have stabilized the Syrian regime, will their temporary alliance begin to fracture, leading to the fulfillment of this prophecy? On today’s program, Middle East correspondent Brent Nagtegaal discusses that likelihood in relation to two news stories from the past week.
In early 2014, Germany announced a revolution in its military and world power. “Germany’s foreign policy has just been dramatically and historically transformed,” Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote at the time.
The shift was part of a new administration that pledged a new security policy. Now that the current administration is coming to an end, “it’s time to take stock,” wrote Claudia Major, a senior associate for international security at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.
Which European country is one of four allies to lead a battalion of nato’s Enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltic countries and Poland, is the biggest European contributor to nato’s deterrence measures in Eastern Europe, and has soldiers deployed in 12 operations from Mali to Iraq?It’s Germany. The country usually portrayed as a civilian and economic power par excellence, but rather allergic to military issues. Almost silently, Germany has changed its defense policy over the last four years.
Immediately after the new government announced the changes at the Munich Security Conference, Germany was put to the test in Ukraine. “A large part of Germany’s foreign-policy shift is a direct result of [Russian President] Vladimir Putin’s recent behavior, especially in Ukraine!” wrote Mr. Flurry at the time. Major noted the shift after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:
In this context, Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the Ukraine crisis not only jolted the rule-based European security order unequivocally supported by Berlin. It pushed Germany to put its rhetoric into action.What followed was a remarkable political commitment by Germany, such as in the Minsk accords and Normandy format aimed at stopping the fighting in Ukraine. Berlin then substantially shaped the political and military course of nato’s return to territorial defense, which the alliance decided at its 2014 Wales summit. In fact, Germany reestablished itself as a discreet backbone of nato.
Over the last few decades, Germany has been cutting back military spending, and some of its equipment has been falling into disrepair. That is now being reversed. Major wrote:
Berlin is now reversing those downward trends. The number of main battle tanks and armored personnel carriers will increase. Improved maintenance will also improve readiness. After several years of decline, Germany’s defense budget will rise in 2017 for the second year in a row to reach €36.6 billion. While this increase is set to continue, it still does not reach nato’s goal of spending 2 percent of gdp on defense (Germany currently spends 1.2 percent) but does come close to the 20 percent investment line.Change is most visible in Germany’s military missions. Berlin now participates in operations more often, in different forms, and more offensively, particularly its strong participation in nato’s defense and deterrence activities. A new approach was the introduction of the Enable and Enhance Initiative, in which Germany trains and equips regional actors, including in Iraq and Mali, to help build capacity to provide their own security.Another noticeable development was Germany’s quick decision to participate in the anti-[Islamic State] coalition following the November 2015 Paris attacks, which, like the Iraq mission, stretched the legal framework for Bundeswehr deployments because the missions do not operate in collective security systems (such as the UN) but as part of an ad-hoc coalition. Within a short time frame, Berlin crossed traditional red lines, thereby moving the points of reference for military deployments.
Germany has only reluctantly increased its spending on its military. Major noted:
Overall, Germany has become most active when partners or events created the necessary pressure, such as in the Ukraine crisis, which forced Berlin to take over diplomatic and military leadership. In other cases, like the fight against the Islamic State, Germany only became active when the crisis turned into a domestic issue (for instance, as refugee flow to Europe grew), or when it was critical for an important partner (for example, following the November 2015 Paris attacks).
However, the pressure will continue to build. Major wrote that “the rapidly changing security environment combined with the West’s current internal problems—from Trump to Turkey to populism—will not allow Germany to take a break.”
Kaczyński made his remarks to the German newspaper before a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Reuters noted that Kaczyński “wields no government posts now but is seen as the main power broker in Poland.” Reuters also noted that Mr. Kaczyński appears to be changing his views of Germany. He has in the past been “deeply distrustful of Germany” but now appears to view Germany more positively. According to the Telegraph, “it is thought” that Kaczyński “may have pressed [Merkel] on the issue” of nuclear weapons during the meeting.
In general, Poland wants the EU to give more power to the member states. But when it comes to the military, it wants the EU to be a superpower that can help defend Poland against Russia.
Kaczyński’s comments on nuclear weapons come as Germans themselves debate whether they need their own nuclear umbrella—now that they can no longer trust America to defend them. Since United States President Donald Trump’s electoral victory in November 2016, articles on the subject have appeared with increasing frequency in the German press. On February 2, Germany’s ard—a public broadcaster—called for an “open debate” on a “German nuclear bomb.”
Although “unpopular and sensitive,” this subject has “become relevant earlier than expected, in view of the new man in the White House,” it said.