Europe Seeks Collective Nuclear Strategy

More Europeans are accepting the idea that the Continent must develop a consolidated nuclear weapons command.

On Monday, the New York Timesreported on the growing conversation in Europe about the need to develop some sort of collective European nuclear weapons program.

European officials are discussing a plan, writes Max Fisher, in which,

France’s [nuclear] arsenal would be repurposed to protect the rest of Europe and would be put under a common European command, funding plan, defense doctrine, or some combination of the three. It would be enacted only if the Continent could no longer count on American protection.

The fact that Europe is even discussing this subject is remarkable. Post-war Europe is famously pacifist and, at least until recently, has been at the vanguard of global nuclear disarmament. That this issue is now being openly and seriously discussed by European leaders, the mainstream media, and by a growing number of European citizens speaks to the anxieties pulsing through the Continent. Anxieties that include a resurgent, combative Russia to the east, a retreating U.S. presence in regions critical to European strategy, and a more independent Britain.

As informative as it was, the Times article didn’t get to the heart of this issue. While the notion of bringing France’s nukes under a “common European command” sounds rational, the fact is, when it comes to European integration on any issue, there is no “common European command.” Germany is Europe’s largest nation and the most powerful economically and politically. Germany’s mere presence in any collective European entity makes it the de facto leader. Granting nukes to a “common European command” means granting nukes to Germany.

This is the issue we really ought to think on: Is Europe—is the world—okay with Germany getting nuclear weapons?

We are still early in the conversation and, as Fisher explains, some significant hurdles have to be overcome before Europe forms any sort of common nuclear strategy. But the fact that this discussion is even underway—that it hasn’t been flatly dismissed, or that there hasn’t been a massive public outcry—is extremely revealing. That this conversation is even taking place shows that there is an growing appetite for some sort of overarching pan-European nuclear and military strategy. Consider too that the factors compelling Europe to think in this direction are not going away anytime soon. To the contrary, world conditions and conditions inside Europe will intensify the urge to develop some sort of nuclear security blanket.

This is a major development that needs to be closely watched. As Fisher wrote,

Though no new countries would join the nuclear club under this scheme, it would amount to an unprecedented escalation in Europe’s collective military power and a drastic break with American leadership.

Today nuclear weapons are seen primarily as a geopolitical issue. Whenever nuclear weapons are discussed, it’s generally in the context of strategy and leverage. Many will probably learn of Europe’s developing nuclear strategy and think, America has nukes, Britain has nukes, and Russia has nukes. Isn’t it fair that Europe also have nukes? The answer is simple: Europe’s history is fraught with competition and conflict. Germany, in particular, has been unable to exist peacefully with its neighbors for longer than a few decades. Today, multiple factors are converging over Europe that are resurrecting the historic tendencies that inevitably resulted in war.

The development of some sort of European nuclear strategy would mean that Europe’s next major conflict will be nuclear.

And that ought to arouse more than a little worry. To learn more, read Europe’s Nuclear Secret.

Should Germany Have Nukes?

For decades in Germany, talking about nuclear weapons was taboo. Today, it’s necessary.
From the April 2017 Trumpet Print Edition

When Germany lay in ruins after World War ii, the Americans picked it up and set it back on its feet. As the Soviet Union loomed during the Cold War, America shielded West Germany with the threat of nuclear warfare against the Soviets. West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, however, was unsure whether the United States would actually risk mutual annihilation in order to stop a Soviet invasion of his country. He told his cabinet in September 1956 that he wanted West Germany to develop the capability to defend itself, “to achieve … as quickly as possible, the chance of producing nuclear weapons.”

French statesman Charles de Gaulle put a stop to those ideas when he became prime minister in 1958. The mere mention of a nuclear debate became taboo for decades. Nevertheless, the Cold War brought American B-61 nuclear bombs onto German soil under a “nuclear sharing” arrangement. The bombs would be controlled by American forces, and deployed only in time of war by special Tornado fighter-bombers.

So strong was the aversion to any type of nuclear weapons in Germany that in 2009—over six decades after the last German bomb exploded in World War ii—Germany’s ruling coalition stated that one of its goals was to remove those American B-61s from German soil.

How quickly things change. Today—quite suddenly—the sentiment is completely different. The Germans are openly considering building nukes of their own.

Public Debate

Though the public is still skeptical of giving the Bundeswehr the most deadly weapons on Earth, influential news outlets on both sides of the political spectrum have published editorials urging citizens and their leaders to reconsider.

On Nov. 28, 2016, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a conservative-leaning newspaper with Germany’s largest foreign circulation, published an opinion piece titled “The Utterly Unimaginable.” Coeditor Berthold Kohler said the “simple ‘same as before’” route cannot continue. The retreat of the United States and the advance of Russia and China mean that the Continent is changing, he said, and that Germany can no longer rely on building “peace without weapons.”

A new path needs to be drawn, Kohler indicated: one with “higher spending on defense,” the return of “compulsory military service,” and a new debate on nuclear weapons. He wrote that although it seems “completely inconceivable” to the German mind, Germany needs to ask the “question of our own nuclear deterrent.”

Kohler and many others have the answer to that question already in mind.

Earlier in the month, the left-leaning Spiegel Online, one of Germany’s most widely read news websites, published an article in anticipation of Donald Trump winning the United States presidential election. Ulrich Kühn, from the Stanton Nuclear Security Fellowship, described the piece as musing “about the possibility of Germany pursuing its own nuclear weapons if nato were to break up in the aftermath of a Trump administration’s withdrawal from the alliance.”

About the same time, Roderich Kiesewetter, a Christian Democratic Union politician and a former Bundeswehr general staff officer, made similar points in an interview with Reuters: “[I]f the United States no longer wants to provide this [nuclear] guarantee,” he said, “Europe still needs nuclear protection for deterrent purposes” (Nov. 16, 2016). Kiesewetter also happens to be the deputy chairman of the Subcommittee for Disarmament, Arms Control and Nonproliferation.

The Germans are not alone in their desire for Germany to have its own nukes. Writing in National Interest, former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan and senior fellow at the Cato Institute Doug Bandow encouraged the idea. “Rather than expect the United States to burnish nato’s nuclear deterrent, European nations should consider expanding their nuclear arsenals and creating a Continent-wide nuclear force,” he wrote (January 13).

Even Poland, Germany’s victim in World War ii, is on board. The government’s gray eminence, Jarosław Kaczyński, told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that Poland would “welcome an EU nuclear superpower.” Kaczyński is not the president or prime minister, but sources including Politico rate him the most powerful man in Poland—“it is Kaczyński who makes the final call.” Europe needs to be “ready for huge expenditures,” said Kaczyński. “A separate atomic unit would have to be able to compete with Russia.”

Trusting Themselves

While Germany’s mainstream politicians are not yet on board with the idea of nuclear weapons, they are clearly worried about how to address rising threats to European security. Former Vice Chancellor Joschka Fischer, who belongs to the left-leaning Green Party, has made calls for Germany to leave behind its pacifist role. “Judging by Trump’s past statements about Europe and its relationship with the U.S., the EU should be preparing for some profound shocks,” he said.

There is no question that Donald Trump as America’s president is factoring into this discussion. It has shaken Europeans’ confidence in America as their nuclear shield.

President Trump’s inconsistent comments on the nuclear issue haven’t helped. On nuclear proliferation, he has taken both sides. At a cnn townhall debate held during the campaign, candidate Trump said that nuclear proliferation “is going to happen anyway.” He also told the New York Times, “[I]f Japan had [a] nuclear threat, I’m not sure that would be a bad thing for us.” Nine months later, in an interview with Germany’s Bild and the Times of London, he said, “I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced substantially.”

In the same interview, Mr. Trump repeated his claim that “nato had problems …. Number one, it was obsolete, because it was designed … many, many years ago. Number two, the countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to pay.” Yet Defense Secretary James Mattis has opposed the president’s view, saying the U.S. has an “unshakable commitment to nato.” Thus, the EU has to choose whom to believe: The pro-nuclear-proliferation President Trump, the pro-disarmament President Trump, or President Trump’s advisers.

An alternative is for European nations to start trusting themselves—and that seems to be their choice.

Even the stable and collected German Chancellor Angela Merkel has acknowledged the need for this change. Spiegel Online wrote in “The End of the World Order as We Know It?” that within the EU, “Concerns about America’s possible pullback have hastened things that for years had seemed implausible” (January 4). It then quoted Merkel: “I have to say, within only a few months, a considerable amount of cooperation has taken shape.”

Public Resistance

Those opposed to a German nuclear program, and even the current nuclear weapons sharing agreement in Germany, point to the clear public opinion against it. Polls from early 2016 show that 93 percent of Germans want nuclear weapons banned.

It is notable that the German government was not among the 113 nations that voted to negotiate a nuclear ban at the United Nations General Assembly last year. International surveys by Soka Gakkai International showed 91.2 percent of people believed nuclear arms were inhumane, while 80.6 percent were in favor of banning all nuclear weapons. If the German public doesn’t like nukes, it simply holds the same opinion as the rest of the world.

Though there remains considerable resistance to nuclear weapons in Germany, the current discussion still marks a dramatic change. As Kühn wrote in his article “The Sudden German Nuke Flirtation,” “Obviously, current German nuclear flirtations represent a fringe view, but they are an important early warning sign. These flirtations were carried by Germany’s biggest left-leaning and conservative media outlets” (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Dec. 6, 2016).

“[E]xtreme views on nuclear matters do not always remain at the fringes,” Kühn continued. “As the case of South Korea demonstrates, external shocks such as the repeated nuclear tests by North Korea in 2013 can quickly move formerly fringe positions to the center stage of public attention. Once in the mainstream, it can be difficult to put such sentiments to rest, particularly when the underlying security concerns remain.”

Since North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006, the idea of a South Korean nuclear program has been gaining acceptance. According to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, from 2013 to 2016, media coverage of South Korea’s nuclear debate doubled. Arguments were split nearly evenly between pro- and anti-nuclear views.

South Korea is a model for how previously fringe views become mainstream.

Nukes Already in Germany

While Germany restarts its nuclear debate, U.S. nuclear warheads left over from the Cold War remain at Büchel Air Base. Germany’s nuclear contradiction—a “non-nuclear” country which happens to have nuclear weapons—endures for the present.

As is so common, the passing of a few generations has dulled the memory of the German threat to Europe. No doubt the coming debate will feature the pro-disarmament faction recounting the wisdom of Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle and Margaret Thatcher: A German threat to the world must be contained. But Donald Trump is a different type of leader.

Your Bible forecasts a preeminent Germany in Europe, not a pacifist stabilizer. Because of that, you can know the outcome of the coming debates—and the results truly will be the “utterly unimaginable.”

The Debate

Nov. 6, 2016

Spiegel Online sparks a nuclear debate with an article suggesting “Trump could force Germany to rearm.”

Nov. 16, 2016

A former Bundeswehr general staff officer, Roderich Kiesewetter, tells Reuters that Europe needs to consider developing its own nuclear deterrent strategy.

Nov. 17, 2016

The director of Berlin’s Global Public Policy Institute writes in Foreign Affairs that European states may “rethink their nuclear postures.”

Nov. 28, 2016

A coeditor for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung publishes “The Utterly Unimaginable” op-ed, saying Germans must ask the question of their “own nuclear deterrent.”

Dec. 6, 2016

A Stanton Nuclear Security fellow, Ulrich Kühn, writes “The Sudden German Nuke Flirtation” for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

January 13

Former special assistant to Ronald Reagan, Doug Bandow, writes in National Interest that “European nations should consider expanding their nuclear arsenals and creating a continent-wide nuclear force.”

January 23

Tagesspiegel’s Maximilian Terhalle publishes an article titled “Germany Needs Nuclear Weapons.”

February 2

Left-leaning German television channel ard calls for an “open debate” on the “German nuclear bomb” in its Panorama program.

February 6

Poland’s most powerful politician, Jarosław Kaczyński, tells Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that Poland would “welcome an EU nuclear superpower.”

SocietyWatch

From the April 2017 Trumpet Print Edition

Raids on California human trafficking

A statewide operation to combat human trafficking in California in January culminated in the arrests of 474 people and the rescue of 28 sexually exploited children and 27 adult victims.

The sweep took place January 26 to 28 and combined the efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and task forces, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said in a news release.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said 70 percent of trafficked children are taken from foster care situations. “They’re looking for love,” he said. “They’re looking for someone that cares about them. The pimp says that they’re going to give them this, then leads them down a path of destruction.”

McDonnell said that, while the majority of child victims are abducted from foster care, traffickers have ensnared people from all walks of life: “[A]ny family, any kind, anywhere with the Internet can get involved in a situation where they think they’re meeting someone who cares about them on the Web … and then from there could drug them and drag them into the life of this type of behavior. Enslave them, essentially.”

Human trafficking and enslavement are not limited to California. Across the United States, 7,572 cases were reported in 2016—up from 5,526 the year before.

Berkeley riots: Divided America

Thousands of protesters descended on the University of California–Berkeley campus on February 1 to block Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos from giving a speech. Mainstream media reports described this group as “peaceful protesters.” A few hours after the protest began, however, another group of 150 people arrived—dressed in black and wearing masks. This group started throwing rocks and tossing barricades through windows, then set a generator on fire, which produced massive, building-high flames. People were beat up and assaulted with pepper spray, and windows were smashed. Meanwhile, the “peaceful protesters” cheered and chanted, holding signs that read, “This is war” and “Become ungovernable.”

All this was done to fight against “fascism” and “hate speech” that was “un-American.”

“Let’s be clear: A significant number of Americans, both on and off America’s college campuses do not believe in other people’s right to give speeches with perspectives and ideas they oppose,” wrote National Review contributor Jim Geraghty in responses to this violent riot. “[National Review editor Rich Lowry] noticed how frequently the term ‘un-American’ is thrown around these days in the debates about immigration law. Physically attacking people because they have different beliefs is about as un-American as it gets” (February 2).

Over $100,000 worth of damage was done to the campus. Police arrested one person.

Mainstream media rushed to explain that the acts of violence were committed by a small minority of the protesters. “The university blamed ‘150 masked agitators’ for the unrest, saying they had come to campus to disturb an otherwise peaceful protest,” cnn wrote February 3. Meanwhile, thousands of others were standing by, cheering on the destroyers and allowing them to hide among them.

The Berkeley violence foreshadows the future of America: divided and dangerous.

Obama endorses anti-Trump protests

Former United States President Barack Obama issued a statement through his spokesman on January 30 encouraging Americans to publicly protest President Donald Trump’s executive order that temporarily restricted the immigration of refugees coming from seven Muslim-majority countries known for exporting jihadists.

“President Obama is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country,” said spokesman Kevin Lewis. “In his final official speech as president, he spoke about the important role of citizens and how all Americans have a responsibility to be the guardians of our democracy—not just during an election but every day. Citizens exercising their constitutional right to assemble, organize and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake.”

Two days after President Trump signed his executive order, thousands of demonstrators rallied in more than 30 cities across the nation. Protesters in California blocked traffic in Los Angeles and shut down the international terminal of the San Francisco airport. With influential Democratic Party politicians like Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders supporting such protests, it is likely that they will develop into an increasingly common disruption of American society.

WorldWatch

From the April 2017 Trumpet Print Edition

Renewed fighting in Ukraine

Russian-backed forces unleashed a massive artillery attack against Ukraine over the weekend beginning January 28. The Ukrainian military claimed that Russia was using “all the might of their arsenal along all front lines” between Donetsk and Mariupol. On January 29, Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported 2,260 violations of the ceasefire that was supposedly in place between the two forces.

Russian-backed separatists then launched a ground assault against the town of Avdiivka, near the front lines. Over 20,000 were without heat or water in the harsh Ukrainian winter, and the government began evacuating vulnerable citizens. Temperatures in Avdiivka were as low as zero degrees Fahrenheit.

The timing of the flare-up—coming so soon after Donald Trump’s inauguration in America and just days after the new president’s first official phone call with Vladimir Putin—gave the renewed violence additional significance. Russia blamed Ukraine for the violence, saying it was merely responding to Ukrainian attempts to gradually ease territory away from the pro-Russian forces. But even if that is true, the Russians still chose the timing of the attack.

“The Avdiivka attack certainly looks like the Kremlin’s first probe of the Trump administration,” wrote Times Record News. “Putin wants to know if he can continue to wage slow war while reviving his economy” (February 1).

The offensive could be a prelude to a much larger Russian advance. Europeans certainly viewed this as evidence of Putin’s intent to keep pushing forward as he has opportunity.

But what is Europe to do in the face of Russian aggression and with little support from the U.S.? On February 1, Stratfor reported: “Disheartened by the new U.S. administration’s stance on Russia, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko traveled to Germany on January 30 to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Germany, as the European Union’s de facto leader, is an invaluable ally for Ukraine—all the more so now that the United States may be wavering in its commitment to Kiev.”

Lithuania, too, is looking to Berlin. Germany is in the process of sending 200 vehicles and 450 troops to Lithuania with the first contingent having arrived in late January. It will lead a battle group of more than 1,000 soldiers, supplied by Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway and Luxembourg.

Eastern Europe’s fear is leading to a major shift within Europe. Over the last decade or so, the region has vacillated between putting its trust in Germany or in the United States. Now Mr. Trump is leaving it little choice: Germany now looks like the only option.

Germany takes back gold from U.S.

In February the Bundesbank announced that it had retrieved 583 tons of gold stored in New York City and Paris ahead of schedule. The German Central Bank said on Jan. 16, 2013, that it would relocate to Frankfurt 300 tons of its gold from New York and all of its 374 tons of gold from Paris. This decision was made after the United States Federal Reserve refused to submit to an audit of German gold held in U.S. vaults.

The 300 metric tons of gold repatriated from New York equates to 20 percent of Germany’s gold holdings in the United States. 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 2.7 percent in France. The Germans initially estimated it would take seven years to repatriate its gold in Paris, but they announced they will complete the French repatriation by the end of 2017, three years ahead of schedule. Once further planned transfers are complete, Germany will hold half its 3,378 tons of gold in Frankfurt, with the balance in New York and London.

Why is Germany’s gold in America to start with? One reason 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, they 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.

Iran pushing for war

On February 1, the Trump administration put Iran “on notice,” following what former National Security adviser Michael Flynn described as “recent Iranian actions, including a provocative ballistic missile launch and an attack against a Saudi naval vessel conducted by Iran-supported Houthi militants.”

On January 29, Iran launched a medium-range ballistic missile from a test site outside Semnan, east of Tehran. The missile launch defied United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which calls on Iran to refrain from undertaking “any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

The next day, three small vessels belonging to Iranian-backed Houthi rebels attacked a Saudi Arabian frigate off the west coast of Yemen. Some evidence indicates the Houthis believed the ship was American.

Video footage of the attack showed a barrage of Houthi gunfire and one explosives-laden vessel plowing into the rear of the Saudi warship, causing a large blast and fire that killed two crewmen and injured several others. It was the third maritime attack of this kind by the Houthis since October in the volatile yet strategic Red Sea/Bab el-Mandeb region.

The United States responded with new sanctions on individuals and companies connected to Iran’s ballistic missile program and those supporting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iran in turn announced further military exercises and issued bold warnings to the United States and Israel.

Iran’s Fars News Agency quoted a former Guard Corps official as saying, “[O]nly seven minutes is needed for the Iranian missile to hit Tel Aviv.” Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh told the Tasnim news agency, “If we see [the] smallest misstep from the enemies, our roaring missiles will fall on their heads.”

However the U.S. confronts Iran, Bible prophecy says Iran will not stop pushing—until an altogether different superpower confronts it once and for all.

Russia returns to Afghanistan

Ever since the Soviet Union’s humiliating retreat from Afghanistan in 1989, Russia has dealt with that nation with extreme caution. That is, until recently.

On February 7, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that Russia would host a conference on the future of Afghanistan later that month. Russian authorities expected to meet with representatives from Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, Iran and India—and even the Taliban. The United States was not invited, despite its enormous investment in Afghanistan politically, militarily and financially.

This follows two covert meetings between Russia, Pakistan and China last year and a third meeting on Dec. 27, 2016, which was publicized by the three powers. It appears Russia is commandeering the Afghan peace process in the same way it hijacked the Syrian crisis in 2013.

Geopolitical Futures assessed that this move 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” (January 18).

On January 12, Stratfor noted that Pakistan, which supports the Taliban, “is arguably the most important foreign actor in Afghanistan,” and “the United States has been working to diplomatically isolate Pakistan.” But Russia is embracing Pakistan in the same way it embraced Iran and Hezbollah in Syria.

“The Bible warns us to expect a great power rising from the east,” our free booklet Russia and China in Prophecy says. “It calls it ‘the kings of the east’ ….” Those “kings” represent some of the very nations that are embedding themselves deeper into Afghanistan: Russia, China, Pakistan and India.

As Russia and its allies cooperate and increase their influence in Afghanistan, the greater Middle East and Eurasia, this resurgence is bound to frighten Europe, as the Trumpet’s Gerald Flurry warned in his January 2004 article “Russia Frightens Europe—and Fulfills Bible Prophecy”
(theTrumpet.com/go/1049).

Moving into the Arctic

Russia’s military presence in the Arctic has grown to levels not seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Reuters reported on January 31. Some speculate that Moscow will soon possess greater capability and control in this strategic and resource-rich region than the Soviets ever had.

The report showed that in recent years, Russia has established four new Arctic brigade command units, 16 deep-water ports, a new Arctic command, and 14 operational airfields. Moscow is either reopening or constructing six military facilities, and has a fleet of 40 icebreakers, with nearly a dozen more being constructed. Icebreakers open channels for military and civilian ships to pass through, and Russia’s fleet of icebreakers is far and away the world’s most advanced. “The highways of the Arctic are icebreakers,” said United States Sen. Dan Sullivan, underlining their importance for access to this strategic region.

Russia and China are developing more advanced weaponry, improving existing arms systems, and possibly practicing for preemptive strikes on American targets.

In “Threat Report 2017,” published on February 6, Popular Mechanics says the biggest game changer out of Russia is the new Buk-M3 surface-to-air missile system. “In modern warfare, owning the sky is everything,” it writes. “And the cheapest way to own the sky is to shoot down, from the ground, anything that tries to fly in it.” The Buk-M3 grants the Russian military the capacity to accomplish that with unprecedented potency, range and sensitivity. The report says the Buk-M3 system “has the potential to change everything.”

Russia is also now field-testing new next-generation T-14 tanks, which the “Threat Report 2017” says are now indisputably “the world’s most deadly” tanks. The report also notes that Russia and China are developing new stealth warplanes. Russia’s pak-fa and China’s J-20 and J-31 are causing planners to worry for the first time in many years about the possibility of losing U.S. jets in dogfights, and about Russian and Chinese aircraft slipping past radar to bomb U.S. air bases and other vital targets. “Stealth airplanes revolutionized modern warfare for the U.S., as they’re used to eliminate air defenses so that older, easily seen aircraft can attack other targets,” Popular Mechanics says. “Now we have to deal with potential enemies having them too.”

Meanwhile, War on the Rocks said on February 6 that Chinese forces may already be “practicing preemptive missile strikes against U.S. bases.” Thomas Shugart from the Center for a New American Security said that “the greatest military threat to U.S. vital interests in Asia” may be China’s ability to carry out such strikes.

Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry said in a January 2014 Key of David episode that China and Russia’s increasing military might and determination is far more threatening to global stability than most analysts realize: “[T]he goal of Vladimir Putin is to restore the Soviet Union; that’s his dream! … China is expanding into airspace over certain waters in Asia and the East China Sea, in waters claimed by Japan and South Korea. Those are our allies! And they’re really, really in a furor over what’s going on, and America is doing nothing to help them, and nobody here seems to be that concerned about it. But they should be, because China now is developing a leader very much like Vladimir Putin. … Can we look at this and believe that there has to be a great world-war clash?”

With these nations’ military power expanding in the years since, that “great world-war clash” is drawing closer.

As U.S. retreats, China seeks to lead

As America steps back from the world stage, China is stepping forward. Beijing’s latest move occurred on January 17, when President Xi Jinping became the first Chinese leader to attend the Davos World Economic Forum, the venue at which European and American elites have long assembled to establish the framework for global affairs.

Mr. Xi delivered a speech in the Swiss city, proclaiming China as the new champion of globalization and free trade. Writing for the Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard explained the significance of Xi’s speech: “His star appearance is packed with geostrategic symbolism. It comes just days before Donald Trump is sworn in as U.S. president, and as America turns in on itself, openly wishing to cede direction of the international system for the first time in three quarters of a century” (January 18).

Analyst David Axe said, “Trump is voluntarily surrendering ground to Beijing on economic, diplomatic and environmental fronts, opening the door to an even greater global role for China that the country’s own growing military will only reinforce” (Daily Beast, January 30).

Trading U.S. for EU?

On February 1, Mexican and European officials agreed to accelerate updating a 16-year-old free-trade pact between them. Official negotiations for modernizing the pact began in May 2016. But on February 1, barely two weeks after the inauguration of United States President Donald Trump, the two partners agreed to hasten the process.

The EU’s trade commissioner and Mexico’s economy minister said, “Together, we are witnessing the worrying rise of protectionism around the world. Side by side, as like-minded partners, we must now stand up for the idea of global, open cooperation”—a clear shot at President Trump’s policies.

Mr. Trump has criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement, signed by the U.S., Canada and Mexico. His administration is considering large tariffs, discouraging companies from establishing operations overseas, and requiring Mexico to pay for a border wall.

After the latest agreement, the EU Commission said: “Now is the time to build bridges, not walls.” Construction of an economic bridge from Mexico to Europe has already begun.

Mexico’s trade is still dominated by the U.S., totaling $583.6 billion in 2015, compared to $56.4 billion with the EU. Yet since 2005, European-Mexican trade has more than doubled. Former Belgium Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt called Trump’s policy changes an “enormous opportunity.” That includes leadership in global trade.

How a Nation Came to Ruin

Stones in northern Israel silently tell the story.
From the April 2017 Trumpet Print Edition

The stones are still there. You can see them and touch them yourself if you travel to Upper Galilee in northern Israel. There you will pass from arid surroundings into the Tel Dan Nature Reserve, a popular scenic park where trails wind through lush oaks, ash, eucalyptus, buckthorn, laurel and willow herb, and across numerous footbridges spanning dozens of streams that seem to flow in every direction. But beyond the marsh ferns and reeds, the salamanders and the otters, this place holds something much less idyllic: a warning of ruination.

Walking down the boardwalks and across the rushing brooks, you will come face to face with something different: signs of a human habitation—a ruined one. According to some historians, this was the most important northern city in the ancient kingdom of Israel. Today this is all that is left of the city of Dan.

The Bible records this city’s original name, Laish, which was changed when the Israelite tribe of Dan, known for naming places after its father, captured the city during the period of the judges. The city of Dan is one of the first examples of many self-identifying places named by the people of Dan, a tribe God prophesied would leave behind a “serpent’s trail” (Genesis 49:17).

A couple of well-preserved structures from the earliest days of the Israelite kingdom still stand at the excavation site, including a city gate complex and a long section of the wall of the old city. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that the well-preserved inner gate is typical of what Israelite city gates looked like during biblical times.

But what happened to these Israelites? Why did they make a “serpent’s trail” westward from here? Why did they not stay in this beautiful place, their historic homeland?

It has little to do with economics, weather or politics and everything to do with what happened right here on these stones at this ruin.

After Solomon died in the 10th century b.c., the kingdom of Israel split in two, in exactly the way that the biblical prophets had warned. Responding to heavy taxes imposed by Solomon’s son, the 10 northern tribes, including Dan, left the kingdom and selected a man named Jeroboam to be their king.

The contentious division nearly caused a full-scale civil war between the north and south. After the dust settled from the bitter separation, Jeroboam had a new kingdom of his own—and a problem. He had political power, military backing and economic support, but he was missing the most crucial component: religious support. The people of Israel were deeply religious. King Jeroboam feared that if he did not fundamentally alter Israel’s religious worship, the northern tribes would continue looking to the holy city of Jerusalem. Eventually, that one element of religious faith would override everything else, and the Israelites would switch their allegiance back to Solomon’s son, the house of David, and the God of David.

Jeroboam had a choice. Keep Israel’s religion pure, or blend in his own ideas to his own political advantage.

“Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan” (1 Kings 12:28-29).

Jeroboam used his influence to convince Israelites to go along with this rebellious form of religious worship by telling them that there was a much easier way to observe God’s commands. He was like many modern preachers—who speak “smooth things” to their followers.

Jeroboam made a “house of high places.” To this very day you can go to one of his high places, the exact spot where a people turned away from God to a religion that was more convenient for them and politically expedient for their leader.

Jeroboam also dissolved the Levitical priesthood and instead “made priests of the lowest of the people” (verse 31), crossing another red line by taking control of religion and thus the masses. “And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense” (verses 32-33). Note how similar this is to the way human nature reasons today. Jeroboam took a religious festival and made it into something he thought would work better. Perhaps he himself said, “After all, it doesn’t matter how you worship as long as you worship.” But even if it has the exact same name and includes all of the same forms of worship, if it is not observed at the time God designates or carried out the way He commands, it is not God’s festival, and the person keeping it is not worshiping God!

This was Jeroboam’s religion through and through. Israel followed right along after this pagan form of worship. This came less than two generations after King David had shown the nation how to truly worship the true God!

God sent prophet after prophet to plead with Israel to return to the true God. But these God-fearing men were despised and rejected.

So Israel sinned. What was the big deal?

“And the children of Dan set up the graven image: and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land” (Judges 18:30). In other words, the tribe of Dan and the other northern tribes were attacked, conquered and evacuated from their homeland to become slaves.

Their cities, their streams, their homeland—and their pagan high places—were left behind and ultimately became a ruin.

According to Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, Vol. 2, the city of Dan flourished until the late Iron Age, when Galilee and the northern coastal regions became the first areas to be conquered by the Assyrians. The Assyrians, under Tiglath-Pileser iii, destroyed Dan and a new city was later constructed over it. Assyrian pottery vessels and statues, in addition to Phoenician chapels and settlements from the Persian period, have also been uncovered in Tel Dan. Unsurprisingly, the name of the pagan god “Ba’al” appears in a few of the finds from Dan.

When I saw the excavated remains at the Tel Dan site—the pagan temple precincts, the large stone gateway, and the new city structures the Assyrians built on top of a crushed and desolated Israelite city—I couldn’t help but think about how those excavated ruins validate not only the history of the Bible, but specifically the many sobering warnings delivered by the prophets of old, who constantly warned Israel to return to God’s festivals and God’s laws. Not because they are merely cultural or religious quirks, but because they are the very difference between national life and national death.

A Witness at Tel Dan

The most famous discovery made at the Tel Dan site is a ninth-century b.c. stone tablet bearing a clear reference to the “house of David” and “king of Israel.” The author of the inscription, a Gentile king, boasts of defeating both the king of Israel and the king of Judah—the latter monarch being a descendant of the “house of David.” Even notable Bible skeptics Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman could not ignore the significance of the Tel Dan tablet. They wrote in 2001, “Thus, the house of David was known throughout the region; this clearly validates the biblical description of a figure named David becoming the founder of the dynasty of Judahite kings in Jerusalem.” You could also say that this fragment hints at what destroyed these kings of Israel and Judah and what ultimately desolated this city of Dan: They left behind not only the “house of David” but also the God of David.

Man Is to Become Greater Than the Angels

God’s angels have lived for millions of years with stunning power and without sin. How could mortal men exceed them?
From the April 2017 Trumpet Print Edition

God describes the angels in brilliant detail throughout the Bible. They are as burning coals encompassed by a bright fire, shooting forth lightning. Their faces are bright like the sun. Their feet are pillars of fire. They are a righteous army under God their General, riding on horses and chariots of fire. The angels are full of fiery majesty.

You are destined to become greater than the angels, with better character, a deeper mind and more transcendent power. So says your Bible.

The angels may be remarkable, but they are staggered and stirred by God’s plan for man. “Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy [Spirit] sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:12). The angels are mesmerized,in awe, of man’s potential.

Angelic Power

To grasp your potential, it is important to understand just how awesome the angels are. “As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning” (Ezekiel 1:13). The angels dart from place to place like lightning. They radiate overwhelming fire. Yet they marvel at your future!

“And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire” (Revelation 10:1). It is hard to even picture a being with such power and glory!

“And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth” (verse 2). The angel in this vision standing on the sea and on the land had a message from God for the whole world. God trusts the angels to deliver His message.

“And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices” (verse 3). Angels exude resounding, thunderouspower. How could you possibly become greater than these majestic beings? Do you really believe God when He reveals your future?

‘You Are My Son’

In his writings, the Apostle Paul made it a point to compare the power of the angels to the potential of man. “For to what angel did God ever say, ‘Thou art my son, to-day have I become thy father’? Or again, ‘I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me’?” (Hebrews 1:5; Moffatt). God seeks a family relationship with mortal human beings! He is re-creating Himself in you. You can pray to Him as your Father every day, as much as you desire. The angels can never pray to God as a Father. They are God’s sons in the sense that He created them, but they are not literally sons of God like Jesus Christ is—or like you and I can become.

Lesson 18 of our Herbert W. Armstrong College Bible Correspondence Course reads: “Man, now lower than angels, has a destiny far higher! Neither animal, nor angel, nor any other being except man, was created to be literally begotten by the spiritual reproductive process and then actually be born into the divine GOD FAMILY! Angels were not, and never can be, begotten and born of God! No angel can ever become a literal member of thedivine Family of God!”

“To what angel did he ever say, ‘Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies a foot-stool for your feet’?” (verse 13; Moffatt). God’s loyal people today, the firstfruits, are preparing to rule the stars from Christ’s throne forever. God can trust only Himself with the universe, so He is reproducing Himself in us! He has never offered the angels co-rulership over the entire universe as the Bride of Jesus Christ (Revelation 19:7). He will never offer such a reward to them.

The loyal servants who obey God before Christ returns will not only become God’s sons, they will be honored to become Christ’s Bride. The overwhelming majority of human beings, who are converted after Christ returns, will also become God’s sons. That potential is still greater than what the angels have. We human beings come from the dust of the Earth, yet God wants to give us everything!

“Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14). The angels are destined to serve you. That is their potential.

“For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak” (Hebrews 2:5). The angels are not called to rule the world. You are!

A Little While Lower

“But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little [while] lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him” (Hebrews 2:6-8). Until God transforms us into spirit beings, we are far less brilliant and powerful than the angels. But it won’t stay that way. The way God sees it, His sons rule the universe already! That is man’s potential.

God tells us to be careful to respect the angels since they are “greater in power and might” at this time. “But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord” (2 Peter 2:10-11). Only rebels speak poorly of God’s angels.

Very soon, mortal humans will receive the power of the angels—and much more! “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness …” (Genesis 1:26). God created human beings in His likeness, meaning that we resemble Him in our appearance. Much more importantly, God created us in His image, with the ability to develop His very mind and character. One day, you can possess the perfect mind and character of God. You will not only look like your Father, you will also think and act like Him! That is power—exceedingly above the angels!

Even Jesus Christ was once a little while lower than the angels. “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Hebrews 2:9-10). The Captain of our salvation subjected Himself to that situation to bring the sons of God to glory! Think deeply about God’s plan for man. How can we neglect so great a salvation? (verse 3).

“For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren” (verse 11). Jesus Christ happily calls us His Family. We are all brothers and sisters, sons of God. Christ is our elder brother; through His sacrifice, He enabled the rest of us to be born as spirit beings into the God Family one day. He was the eternal Word who lived for eternity serving as the Spokesman for God the Father. While He walked the Earth as a flesh-and-blood man, He declared the Father (John 1:18). The gospel message is all about family!

How the Angels Failed

Before God created man, the angels had the opportunity to rule the Earth. If they had succeeded, they would have ruled the universe. In his book Mystery of the Ages, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote: “So the angel potential was to take over the entire universe—to improve and finish the billions of physical planets surrounding the uncountable stars, many of which are suns. … God started this Lucifer out with everything going for him. He sealed up the sum of wisdom, beauty and perfection. He was perfect in all his ways from the instant he was created until iniquity—rebellion, lawlessness—was found in him (Ezekiel 28:15).”

Mr. Armstrong compared the universe to unfinished furniture. God created the universe without a single flaw. The angels would apply the finishing touches, making it habitable and beautiful the way they had done it on Earth. But the archangel Lucifer became selfish and evil and led astray one third of all the angels. He brought destruction and ugliness to Earth and to the universe beyond.

This proved to God that only beings with His mind and character could be trusted with such a massive responsibility. The angels were Plan A. Plan B was the ultimate, high-stakes backup plan: mankind!

God can create nothing greater than perfect sons who develop His character through trials and tests during this physical life. Christ said in Matthew 5:48, “[Become] ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” The key to the whole plan is godly character. We must submit to God building His character in us, or we will fail just like one third of the angels did.

Lucifer became the perverted archdemon Satan. He still has a lot of power. In fact, he still rules the Earth. The Bible calls him the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 12:9). The whole world is enslaved under his tyrannical rule! As a result, this world has been a horrid place ever since the first man and woman began to follow Satan, and generation after generation, their descendants have made the same choice to reject God, rely on themselves, and be influenced by Satan. After thousands of years of this debacle, we are now plunging into the worst violence and destruction in human history (Matthew 24:21-22).

But although Satan has enormous power, you have access to far more power—if you obey God. This is a lesson that a man of God taught to his servant in 2 Kings 6:15-17: “And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.”

As you fight to submit to God and use His power to conquer the devil, this great angelic army of God is on your side! These fiery warriors protect God’s people. And this is just the beginning of a relationship that will last for eternity after we are born as God beings and the angels continue to assist us.

Just like the young man in this passage, pray that God will open your eyes to see the marvelous power that is backing you each day. Ask for the faith to believe in your potential—a potential that is greater than the angels.