WorldWatch

From the February 2008 Trumpet Print Edition

Europe

Recent events reveal Europe’s inexorable rise toward superpower status.

The European Defense Agency (eda) received a massive budget increase as plans to enlarge Europe’s power militarily and strategically are pushed forward. The eda is in charge of forging Europe’s fractured militaries into a cohesive whole; any money spent on the eda, therefore, will strengthen Europe’s armed services. The eda’s annual budget grew nearly 50 percent to €32 million (us$47 million).

Spending on Europe’s Galileo project also increased by €2.4 billion in November 2007. As we wrote in 2003, “Major wars will never be controlled from this Earth’s surface again! From now on, all major wars will be controlled from space.” Europe knows a satellite navigation system is a strategic imperative for 21st-century warfare.

The European Union also took several steps toward unification. One important step was the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon, a badly disguised version of the failed EU constitution, by the 27 EU heads of state on December 13. Now all that remains for this treaty to become binding is for the governments of the member nations to ratify it. In a revealing display of Britain’s increasing estrangement from Europe, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown missed the signing ceremony, ostensibly because of a scheduling conflict, signing the treaty later in the day, away from the glare of the media spotlight. Facing a British public strongly resistant to the treaty, which Mr. Brown has admitted is a “constitution” or “semi-constitution,” the British prime minister’s inelegant move may have been a half-hearted gesture at recognizing the need to at least partially placate the views of his electorate.

Another victory for European integration came as Poland, long a pariah in the EU, enthusiastically came on board with the rest of Europe. Poland’s new prime minister, Donald Tusk, is far more pro-Europe than his predecessor was. Without Poland reaching for the brake, European integration will run a little smoother. Poland now gets along famously with the EU, and in particular, Germany. For anyone familiar with the propensity Germans have for wanting control of Poland, this is an ominous development.

Europe’s next opportunity to test its strength on the world’s stage is rapidly approaching. Tension is mounting over the possibility of independence for Kosovo, a southern province of Serbia. Kosovo wants independence; Serbia says no. Europe, especially Germany, is ready to back Kosovo. The Russians, however, are on the side of the Serbs. The UN deadline for solving the problem, Dec. 10, 2007, passed with no progress having been made. Kosovo says it absolutely will declare independence—Serbia, that it will never recognize it. The battle lines are drawn. The ethnic, religious and political cocktail of the Balkans may soon burst into flames once again.

Europe makes no secret of its desire to control Kosovo. “It will be a state entity, which will continue to be under broad international observation,” said German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger. “The nato troops will continue to be deployed there. A further international presence of the UN and, consequently, of EU, will be ensured.”

Mideast

Developments point to the rise of Iran, the isolation of Israel and the weakness of the United States.

Representative of an ongoing turnaround in U.S. policy toward Iran, the United States publicly whitewashed Tehran’s nuclear activities with the release of its National Intelligence Estimate on Dec. 3, 2007 (see article, Handing the Middle East to Iran). This appears to be a political move on the part of the U.S. as it attempts to formulate an exit strategy from Iraq with the help of Iran. An emboldened Iran, for its part, has high hopes of what it will gain: increased influence regionally and particularly in Iraq. At the same time, Tehran is covering its bases by shoring up its relationship with Russia. On December 13, the two countries signed five agreements to expand economic and trade cooperation.

As America courts Iran, however, it distances itself from its ally Israel. America’s betrayal of Israel was also seen at the Arab-Israeli peace talks held at Annapolis, Maryland, at the end of November 2007, and the lead-up to them (see article, America Is Copying Chamberlain’s Mistakes). The outcome of those talks was an agreement to hold more talks. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators began their first formal talks in seven years on December 12, which, unsurprisingly, yielded nothing.

Speaking of Annapolis, the fact that certain Arab countries chose to attend again highlighted the growing Iranian threat. “The Arabs have come here not because they love the Jews or even the Palestinians,” said one Palestinian official who attended the summit. “They came because they need a strategic alliance with the United States against Iran.”

While some Arab states are fearful of Iran, others are seeking to jump on the bandwagon. Most significantly, Egypt is warming to Tehran. For the first time since 1979, when the two countries broke ties, a high-level Egyptian diplomat visited Iran on December 12. The Egyptian deputy foreign minister and the Iranian foreign minister held talks on bilateral, regional and international issues. Both sides say such high-level talks will continue. As Bible prophecy points to an Iranian-Egyptian alliance in the end time, we can expect Iranian-Egyptian relations to continue to improve.

At the same time, Egypt showed its lack of support for Israel when it opened the Rafah border terminal in early December to allow 1,700 Palestinians to travel to Mecca, in the process facilitating the travel of terrorists in and out of Gaza.

Elsewhere in the region, instability continues in Lebanon. The Lebanese government has been at an impasse, lacking a president since Nov. 23, 2007, when President Emile Lahoud stepped down. Politicians from various factions—apparently with U.S. agreement—have endorsed Syria’s choice: Gen. Michel Suleiman, Lebanon’s army chief. However, political wrangling within Lebanon has prevented his election as of this writing. The head of Lebanese army operations, Brig. Gen. Francois al-Hajj, slated to become the next army chief after the current commander takes over as Lebanon’s president, was assassinated December 12 in a car bombing. Stratfor contends that the bombing may have been Syria telling the Lebanese government to hurry the presidential election process and give in to the Hezbollah-led opposition’s demands. An alternative explanation, originating from a Lebanese army source, is that the army itself carried out the killing to rein in Hezbollah. Hezbollah had allegedly gained extensive concessions from al-Hajj including guarantees that the army would not disarm the group.

The Turkish military build-up along Turkey’s border with Iraq has continued in response to increased attacks on Turkey by Kurdish rebels from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (pkk). The U.S.’s lack of options in containing this situation highlights America’s growing geopolitical impotence.

With no real progress being made by nato forces in Afghanistan against the Taliban, the UK has asked Taliban militants to join in the political process. Both the U.S. and Kabul have tried this tactic multiple times, but the insurgency has only grown in strength over the past two years. Hence, there is little incentive for the Taliban to lay down their arms and negotiate.

The crisis in Pakistan continues, with political instability combining with the rise of radical Islamist movements to endanger the whole region and potentially make things far more difficult for Washington. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf stepped down as military chief at the end of November and assumed his civilian presidency role. General elections are scheduled for January 8. If the political scene undergoes an Islamic shift and if the army divides at some point in the future (a distinct possibility), the situation in the Middle East could go from American headache to nuclear nightmare.

Asia

We are witnessing a great thrust by Russia to return to the power and prestige of its Soviet days.

On November 30, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law the rejection of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, which limited the number of combat vehicles, aircraft, and heavy artillery that Russia could deploy near Europe.

Russia also deployed naval forces to patrol both the Mediterranean Sea and North Atlantic Ocean on December 5. This is Russia’s first naval presence in the Mediterranean since the Soviet era. As Moscow News reported, “The naval expedition represents the latest effort by Putin—bolstered by a torrent of oil revenues pouring into government coffers—to breathe new life into Russia’s armed forces.” At the same time, it is a powerful foreign-policy initiative designed to strengthen its bargaining position with competing nations.

After Putin declared his “moral right” to retain power over Russia, his United Russia party won a 63 percent majority in the Russian parliament in a December 2 election that Western leaders condemned as neither free, fair, nor democratic. By contrast, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the election was “held smoothly” and that the new Russian parliament would “make an important contribution to the development of China-Russia relations.”

Eight days later, on December 10, Putin endorsed the ever loyal Dmitry Medvedev as his presidential successor, thus ensuring that he will play the role of a puppet master and continue to rule over Russia. Qin Gang praised Medvedev as “a good friend of the Chinese people,” again taking Russia’s side against the West.

Putin’s strong-arm tactics are making the European Union nervous. Watch Europe: Its response to Russian ambition is more important than the growing power of Russia itself.

Meanwhile, Putin has extended a friendly hand to India. November 12, he met with Indian President Manmohan Singh to strengthen what Singh termed a “strategic partnership.” The result: Russia will sell India additional military arms, the two countries will closely cooperate in a space exploration program, and Russia will aid India in building four nuclear power plants.

China’s growing trade surplus with America and Europe has been a major cause of contention. The EU held a trade summit with China on November 28; America held a separate summit with China on December 12-13. The message of the summits was the same: Western leaders are concerned about their growing trade deficit with China and want China to reform its currency policy to curb the problem. Chinese officials told Europe it would reform its currency policy in a gradual, protracted, manageable manner and told America not to blame its economic problems on Beijing.

The Chinese are expanding their economic influence throughout Asia. China and Japan issued a joint statement on December 2 pledging to establish a regional free-trade zone between the two countries, while China and South Korea came to a similar agreement on December 10. Japan also signed an economic partnership agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (asean) on November 21 that is set to create a Japanese-asean free-trade zone by 2015. These three agreements follow on from many such free-trade agreements made in Asia in recent times. Watch for the Asian economy to grow far more unified.

Latin America, Africa

For the first time since his rise to power in Venezuela in 1998, President Hugo Chavez lost an election: His constitutional referendum, intended to ensure he would remain president for life, was narrowly defeated. Many outlets reported that Catholic leaders opposed Chavez’s proposed changes. This is not the first time President Chavez has been rebuffed by the Roman Catholic Church: In 2006, the pope personally handed him a stern letter counseling him to have second thoughts about the direction in which he was taking his country. While Chavez is certainly not down and out, his continued victories are no longer assured. More importantly, this event showcases the global reach of the Vatican.

In Argentina, President Néstor Kirchner handed over the reins of power to his successor: his wife, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Part of her plan for the country is to strengthen the Mercosur trade union, a group whose admittance of Venezuela and consideration of Cuba as a member illustrates declining U.S. influence in the region.

Latin American leaders started a bank on December 9: Banco del Sur, intended to compete with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Headquartered in Caracas, the bank is an innovation of Venezuelan President Chavez and is supported by Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay and Ecuador.

In Mexico, the main story continues to be unbridled violence. On November 29, heavily armed men killed former Mayor Juan Antonio Guajardo Anzaldua, two federal agents serving as his bodyguards, a customs official and two others. This high-profile case drew attention to Mexico’s spiraling gang problem.

On December 6, the EU signed a preliminary agreement with several African countries, including Zimbabwe, for duty-free and quota-free access to goods. Britain’s Gordon Brown shunned the conference due to the presence of Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, but business between the EU and African nations continued ahead with the human rights violator and without British representation.

In the first such deals since the 1970s, Libya signed natural gas agreements with four companies on December 9: Royal Dutch/Shell, Gazprom, Algeria’s Sonatrach and Poland’s Polski. Libya’s energy potential is such that the companies signed deals with no profit potential in the hopes of first access to such deals later. Thus continues the growing competition between Europe and Russia to secure energy supplies. Also, with no U.S. companies getting in on the ground floor, this points to the possibility of America being shut out in the future.

Two car bombs exploded in the capital of Algeria on December 11, killing 37 people and injuring nearly 200. The attacks, targeting security forces and Western installations, are the latest in a string of attacks by Algeria’s leading Islamic terrorist organization dating back to March 2004. They call into question the ability of the country’s security forces to contain the ongoing Islamist insurgency despite a crackdown by the military-dominated state. In The King of the South, Gerald Flurry details the possibility of Islamists taking control of Algeria and bringing that country further into Iran’s sphere of influence. Continued destabilization by Islamic forces could increase the potential for such an event.

Anglo- America

A September 2007 U.S. Defense Department report warns that adversaries like India, China and Russia are “supplying the key hardware and software on which the U.S. bases its military and economic superiority. … Bottom line: globalization of software development, where some of the United States adversaries are writing the code the DoD will depend upon in war, creates a rich opportunity to damage or destroy elements of the war fighter’s capability.”

The U.S. government continues to rack up debt by $1.4 billion per day. That’s $1 million per minute and $9.13 trillion total. Factoring in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security liabilities, the government owes $50 trillion—$166,000 per American—and it is struggling to pay just the interest on those bills.

In a report titled “Recession Coming,” Morgan Stanley states, “A mild recession is now likely,” pointing to soaring defaults and delinquencies, dwindling credit availability, falling home prices, and an auto industry in “liquidation mode” (Dec. 10, 2007). Consumers could be facing what Morgan Stanley calls “a perfect storm.”

Britain gave China’s $200 billion sovereign wealth fund the green light to invest in the UK. Britain has more incoming foreign direct investment than any other European nation. Strategic industries and national security could be affected.

Also in Britain, children are growing estranged from their fathers, according to a bbc affiliate poll. The study shows one quarter of British children do not consider their father an immediate family member, and only 11 percent would turn to their father “if something went wrong,” while 76 percent would go to their mum. The survey also showed more boys look up to soccer players as role models (25 percent) than look up to their fathers (14 percent). This is only the latest in a litany of evidence pointing to the catastrophic decline of strong traditional families occurring in Britain.