WorldWatch

From the August 2018 Trumpet Print Edition

Italy’s new coalition shakes Europe

Italy’s new prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, was sworn in June 1, after nearly three months of coalition negotiations.

Negotiations were difficult because of an unusual election result. The main winners were the Five Star Movement (an upstart party founded by a comedian) and Lega (The League), a party described as fringe right-wing or far-right.

After weeks of talks, these two agreed to form a coalition. By late May, the unusual coalition was nearly ready, but then Italian President Sergio Mattarella took the unusual step of objecting to the coalition’s plan to appoint Paolo Savona as finance minister. In his latest book, Savona states that the euro is a German “cage,” writing, “Germany didn’t change its idea on its role in Europe after the end of Nazism, even if it abandoned the idea of imposing itself militarily.

“[W]e need to prepare a plan B to get out of the euro if necessary … the other alternative is to end up like Greece.”

Though voters and party leaders agreed on Savona, President Mattarella found his euroskeptic opinions unacceptable. So he stepped into a constitutional gray area and blocked the proposed government.

The outcry against his action forced Mattarella into a compromise. The coalition backed down on Savona and chose Giovanni Tria instead. Tria appears to be firmly against the euro as well, but he has expressed himself a little less stridently. He has described Europe as a “rigged competition” that “favors Germany” and has called for debate on the euro in Italy and Europe.

Savona, meanwhile, although rejected as finance minister, still gets a post (albeit lesser, and perhaps ironic): minister of European Affairs.

Italy now has its new government and is set to move forward—to confront Germany. It plans to borrow its way out of its economic troubles, defying the economic rules Germany has worked to impose on the eurozone since the 2008 financial crisis.

The eurozone’s third-largest economy is squaring off against its largest. With the two trying to pull in opposite directions, it’s clear that Europe has not managed to form the common economic policy it needs to go with its common currency. Until that happens, it is sure to careen from crisis to crisis.

Germany can legally spy on its own citizens

A German court declared that it is legal for the German Federal Intelligence Service (bnd) to spy on its citizens’ Internet use. The court ruled on May 30 that major data hubs like the Deutsche Commercial Internet Exchange (de-cix) “can be required by the federal Interior Ministry to assist with strategic communications surveillance by the bnd.”

Germany’s spy agency has already been spying on its own citizens. Now its judiciary has declared its actions legal as long as it is relevant to “strategic security interests.” What this means is left up to interpretation by the bnd.

Tapping into a major hub like de-cix gives the German government access to a lot of information. At its busiest moments, de-cix handles six terabytes of information per second. This data comes from Asia, the Middle East and Africa, not just Europe.

Slovenia election: Europe shifts further to the political right

An anti-immigration party won the most votes in Slovenia’s parliamentary elections on June 3, making Slovenia the latest nation to join the recent far-right shift in European politics. Other nations in this shift include Austria, Italy, the Czech Republic and Hungary. The migrant crisis has been a major catalyst for this destabilizing political transformation.

The Slovenia Democratic Party, led by Janez Janša, took 25 percent of the vote, after Janša vowed to “put Slovenia first.” But his party may struggle to form a majority coalition with other parties less restrictive toward immigration.

Slovenia has been hard-hit by the migrant crisis. After Hungary closed its borders with Croatia in 2015, the flow of migrants from the Middle East and North Africa shifted west into Slovenia. Slovenia has a population of just over 2 million and is about the size of New Jersey. Thus, the influx of hundreds of thousands of people has made a huge impact.

Illegal immigration and the refugee crisis are empowering these right-leaning movements. European voters see that mainstream parties aren’t resolving the issue, so they are voting in people they think will take action.

The Trumpet has been prophesying of the rise of one specific European leader: a strongman in Germany. The Bible describes this leader in many passages, including Daniel 8. Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry writes in A Strong German Leader Is Imminent: ”When the Bible talks about a king, in most cases it’s saying that this is not a democratic government. Even if he doesn’t have that title, he is going to lead like a king. This vision in Daniel shows that the European empire is about to become a lot more authoritative.”

The climate in Europe is ripe for such a man to emerge.

Hezbollah, allies win in Lebanon elections

Hezbollah, a terrorist proxy of Iran based in Lebanon, is now stronger than ever. Its alliance of political parties won a majority of the vote on May 6 in Lebanon’s parliamentary elections.

News analysts at TheTower.org wrote that Hezbollah has “achieved what amounts to complete political and military control of Lebanon” (May 8). Its coalition now holds 71 of the parliament’s 128 seats, more than enough to veto any legislation it opposes.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Party lost a third of its seats. It was a defeat Hariri said will hurt “Lebanon’s stability, economy, sovereignty and Arab identity.” The Lebanese Forces, a right-wing Christian party that opposes Hezbollah, doubled its number of seats.

Lebanese-American Toufic Baaklini wrote in the Hill that the election results “show a Lebanese people less confident in Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s leadership, looking to allies of Hezbollah or anti-Hezbollah Christians to lead them” (May 15).

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called the result a “very big political, parliamentary and moral victory for the choice of resistance,” referring to Hezbollah’s goal of opposing and destroying Israel.

Hezbollah’s 1985 manifesto declared: “Our struggle will end only when [Israel] is obliterated. We recognize no treaty with it, no ceasefire, and no peace agreements, whether separate or consolidated.”

Bible prophecy shows that Iran and its radical Islamist allies will attempt to conquer Jerusalem. Zechariah 14:1-2 prophesy that this bloc will conquer half of the city.

Iran’s influence continues to grow, and the Bible says this will be devastating for Israel. Yet the Bible also forecasts that Europe will supplant Iran’s influence in Lebanon. A prophecy in Psalm 83:1-8 describes an alliance between Europe and several Arab nations. One of them, Gebal, is modern-day Lebanon. Europe could secure Lebanon’s allegiance by supporting anti-Hezbollah organizations like the Lebanese Forces. Keep watching Lebanon for the fulfillment of prophecy.

Israel’s first military drills in Europe

For the first two weeks of June, the Israel Defense Forces (idf) participated in two large military exercises in Europe, the first time the idf has done so.

The United States-led exercises involved thousands of soldiers from 19 countries. The Swift Response maneuvers took place in Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and other East European countries. This exercise was “the first time the idf has participated in an international exercise of the European Command [of the U.S. Army],” according to an idf statement. “The objective of the exercise [was] to improve the ability for mutual cooperation between the participating armies.”

The second exercise, Saber Strike, involved more than 18,000 soldiers. The Jerusalem Post wrote that the goal of these maneuvers was “to train and drill nato’s enhanced forward presence with a focus on promoting interoperability and improving joint operational capability in a variety of land missions.”

Israel’s increased military involvement with Europe is a trend the Trumpet has watched since our inception in 1990. The Bible prophesies that in the end time, the Jewish state will turn to Europe, particularly Germany, for its security needs. The Bible also says that Europe will betray Israel. The foundation for these future developments is being formed right now.

Iran’s secret long-range missile facility

Iran’s long-range missile program, previously believed to have ended with an accidental explosion at a facility on Nov. 12, 2011, is alive and well, according to a report from weapons researchers at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California.

The researchers say Iran has been secretly operating a long-range missile facility near the Iranian city of Shahrud. Their report was independently reviewed by other weapons experts who “agreed that there [is] compelling evidence that Iran is developing long-range missile technology” (New York Times, May 23). Evidence includes satellite imagery of buildings similar to the one that exploded in 2011, launch stands and ground scars from missile tests.

The report said the size of the stands for firing test missiles reveal Iran’s intent to fire missiles as far as Western Europe and possibly beyond. It also said the type of fuel Iran is using for its test rockets enables those missiles to launch at a moment’s notice.

Nuclear expert Jeffrey Lewis told the Jerusalem Post, “Iran was striving for a large space launcher like India’s pslv [Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle] and the test stands are for very large engines, consistent with a rocket that could deliver a nuclear-weapons sized payload to icbm [intercontinental ballistic missile] ranges.”

The military threat Iran is increasingly posing to Europe is biblically significant. Daniel 11:40 describes a military clash between a “king of the north” (a German-led Europe) and a “king of the south” (radical Islam, led by Iran). The more advanced Iran’s ballistic missile program gets, the more it will push against Europe to the point described in this end-time prophecy.

Crimean bridge: Metaphor for Putin’s reign

Russian President Vladimir Putin commemorated the opening of the Crimean Bridge on May 15, a structure that is a metaphor for his 18 years of authoritarian rule.

The 12-mile bridge connects mainland Russia with the Crimean Peninsula. It contains more steel than 32 Eiffel Towers. It is longer than any other bridge in Russia or in Europe.

Russia completed the project in less than four years, while under intense sanctions, and in unapologetic violation of international law. The Crimean Peninsula was part of Ukraine’s sovereign territory until 2014, when Putin’s forces unlawfully and forcibly annexed it.

Many Western leaders were stunned and even in denial as Putin’s troops took over Crimea. Then United States Secretary of State John Kerry called it “19th-century behavior in the 21st century.” President Barack Obama said Putin was “challenging truths that only a few weeks ago seemed self-evident: that in the 21st century, the borders of Europe cannot be redrawn with force.”

Most Western leaders maintain that the Crimean Peninsula still belongs to Ukraine. But the Crimean Bridge cements Putin’s rule of the territory for all practical purposes. It stands as a glaring indication of how meaningless international law has become in this era of declining American power and rising authoritarianism in other countries.

Shortly after Putin annexed Crimea, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry placed the event in the context of Bible prophecy. In a July 2014 article, he quoted Jesus Christ, who said that in the end time shortly before His return, “the times of the Gentiles [will] be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24).

Mr. Flurry then wrote: “These ‘times of the Gentiles’ are yet to be fully realized. However, we are in the outer edges of this catastrophic storm. Events taking place in Ukraine with Russia, along with those in the Middle East and Iran, have everything to do with this prophecy.”

Buying control of the Caribbean

The Dominican Republic announced on May 1 that it had ended its diplomatic relations with Taiwan and established ties with the People’s Republic of China. “[T]he government of the Dominican Republic recognizes that there is only one China and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory,” the announcement said.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry told Reuters that the shift came after China offered $3.1 billion in investments and loans to the Dominican Republic in exchange for switching its allegiance.

This marks the latest in a series of Caribbean and Central American nations dropping ties with Taiwan in favor of China. In 2007, Costa Rica transferred its commitment to China. São Tomé and Príncipe followed suit in 2016, and Panama in 2017.

Taiwan is not the only nation that stands to lose out from China’s deepening influence among the nations of the Caribbean and Central America. Most waterborne trade flowing to or from the United States passes through the Gulf of Mexico. This makes peaceful passage through the Caribbean region crucial to America’s economic survival.

China’s increasing power in this vital part of the U.S.’s periphery takes on sobering significance in light of a specific Bible prophecy. Deuteronomy 28:52 foretells of a time when hostile nations would “besiege” Israel in all its “gates.” Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry explained in his article “China Is Steering the World Toward War”that this “is a prophecy for the modern-day descendants of Israel”—chiefly America and Britain. These two countries “are full of terrible sins today, and God is going to correct them for that!” he wrote (July 2016).

China’s high-tech arsenal

The People’s Liberation Army of China is developing high-tech weapons designed to defeat the United States in a future conflict, according to a U.S. congressional commission report by Jane’s Defense Industry Solutions released on May 12.

China is developing anti-satellite missiles, attack drones, high-speed rail guns, hypersonic missiles, killer satellites, lasers and other advanced weapons, particularly for warfare in space and at sea.

Thanks to its aggressive decision making and to high-tech weapons, China is becoming the most powerful naval force in the South China Sea. The report notes that China leads the world in ballistic missile development and is making rapid progress in launching more lethal anti-ship ballistic missiles.

China’s navy is developing maneuverable reentry vehicles for its anti-ship ballistic missiles that fly a much less predictable path en route to their targets. A viable maneuverable reentry vehicle could be unstoppable by current missile defense systems. The report points out that these reentry vehicles are specifically designed to target U.S. Navy surface vessels.

For the past seven decades, the world has enjoyed relative peace and unprecedented prosperity because the U.S. military has policed the world and its trade routes. This situation is rapidly changing.