Who Is Dictating EU Policy?
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Something extraordinary happened last November in Nice, the picturesque city nestled on the gentle shores of the French Riviera. “The extent of the harmony … was rare,” reported Spiegel Online. Leaders from the European Union and Russia buddied up to one another, discussing political and economic cooperation—even to the point of considering the creation of a “pan-European security pact” (Nov. 15, 2008).
The friendliness was especially intriguing considering how different it was from the way many European nations had been treating Russia only weeks earlier.
Almost immediately after Russia invaded Georgia last August, the European Union, under pressure from America and some eastern EU member states, suspended relations with Moscow and isolated itself, in word only, from the Kremlin. Given appearances, one would have thought that in Nice, after three seemingly tense months of separation, Brussels would have chosen to ease, gently and cautiously, back into its relationship with Russia. Not so.
As Spiegel Online observed, “Suddenly the barriers that had been piling up in recent months between the East and West seemed to be a lot lower. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, and his colleague from Moscow, Dmitry Medvedev, cleared the political hurdles at the EU-Russia summit in Nice on Friday with surprising ease—setting a new tone in difficult relations between unequal neighbors” (emphasis mine throughout).
At the summit, the EU showered Russia with promises, including an agreement to resume talks on a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, the possibility of a new European-Russian security pact, and even the promise that the EU would draw up a “roadmap” to help Russia join the World Trade Organization.
EU-Russian relations didn’t just thaw; they got warm—fast!
Europe’s apparent about-face surprised a lot of people, particularly given Russia’s complete lack of repentance for its invasion of Georgia. Some observers explained the move by saying Europe simply realized it was the politically and economically expedient thing to do. This thaw, say analysts, was inevitable because the EU simply cannot afford to upset one of its most important trade partners and critical suppliers of energy.
They’re absolutely right—but there’s another, more telling, more worrying, explanation for Europe’s apparent 180-degree turn. It’s the elephant in the room that no one is talking about.
And it powerfully demonstrates exactly who is dictating the EU’s foreign policy!
The German Precedent
The Trumpet has given special attention to Germany’s relationship with Russia since it invaded Georgia. Almost immediately after Russian tanks rolled into Georgia, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry explained the event’s significance. Rather than driving a wedge between Russia and Germany—as it did with other European nations—that event strengthened the Russo-German relationship. Mr. Flurry even said that Germany may well have been complicit in Russia’s assault on the fledging state. (Read “Russia’s Attack Signals Dangerous New Era” in our October 2008 issue).
Events have since confirmed that analysis. In fact, if you’ve been monitoring German foreign policy in recent years—particularly under former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder—you know that German leaders, for the most part, consider maintaining friendly relations with their eastern neighbor a fundamental responsibility of the German government.
It was no surprise then that when Russia invaded Georgia, how to react to the Kremlin became a point of tension between Germany and much of the rest of the EU. Instead of condemning, reprimanding and shunning Moscow, as America, the EU and most European states did to one degree or another, the Germans responded initially with relative silence, and then with warm gestures that condoned Russia’s violent invasion of Georgia and subsequent combativeness.
Two days after Mr. Flurry first warned of Germany’s complicity in Russia’s attack in a speech to Herbert W. Armstrong College students on August 18, Stratfor wrote: “So Berlin is now reassessing its allegiances to Washington and NATO, which would keep the country locked into the policies it made as an occupied state. Or Germany could act like its own state and create its own security guarantee with Russia—something that would rip NATO apart. … Stratfor sources in Moscow have said that Medvedev has offered Merkel a security pact for their two countries” (Aug. 20, 2008).
Think about that. While much of the rest of the world, including most of Europe, was angry with Russia, Germany was strengthening its relationship with the Kremlin—and establishing a pro-Russia precedent!
The European press became very vocal last November when the EU stopped giving Russia the cold shoulder and indicated that it was willing to restart relations with the Kremlin. But if you think about it, they ought not to have been surprised.
The EU was merely catching up with Germany, which never stopped embracing Russia!
Germany is, as French writer Madame de Stael put it, “le coeur de l’Europe”—the heart of Europe. Berlin is Europe’s trendsetter, its bellwether, its pacemaker. It has the largest population and economy of any European nation, and is without doubt the Continent’s most influential nation, geopolitically, economically and, in reality, militarily. The reality that has been exposed here is that unless the foreign-policy objectives of European states, and even theEU, have Berlin’s support, they carry little weight and get little traction. Neither Brussels nor any European state stands a chance of ever effectively penalizing the Kremlin—or anyone else for that matter—as long as its efforts contradict German designs.
The EU‘s summit with Russia on the beautiful French Riviera last November exposed a dark, foreboding reality: Germany dictates European foreign policy!
Moreover, Germany is the only European state that Russia truly respects. It wasn’t that long ago, after all, that steely-eyed Nazi soldiers were storming toward Moscow. The Russians understand what few other people or nations do today: Germany is the European nation to be feared most!
This reality brings terrific clarity to any analysis of Russian foreign policy. Why has the Kremlin consistently refused to back off efforts to augment its influence on its western periphery, challenge American interests in Eastern Europe, undermine NATO, and in general practice a confrontational, even imperialistic, foreign policy? Because of the security guarantee it has forged with the only nation it fears!
And Economic Policy!
Not long after it got on board with Berlin’s foreign policy toward Russia, the EU, as well as virtually every sovereign European state, found itself once again in the ring beefing it out with the German government.
The issue this round was how to solve the financial crises plowing through Europe.
By the end of 2008, Europe’s economies were at a breaking point: Manufacturing and service industries were contracting; payrolls were falling; consumer and executive confidence was plummeting; industrial production was slumping. Half of EU member states were running budget deficits; most others were on the fence and quickly eating into surpluses. Social unrest spread, such as the violent riots in Greece, as bankrupt and tottering European governments struggled to find a solution to the mounting chaos.
As 2008 came to a close, Brussels and nearly every country on the Continent had settled on a solution: some sort of large, Europe-wide fiscal stimulus. There was only one problem. Europe’s largest, most influential and best-positioned national economy disagreed with it.
While London, Paris and Brussels sought the flamboyant, American-style quick-fix, billion-dollar-bailout/stimulus-package approach, Berlin viewed that as reactionary and potentially dangerous. Instead of further rupturing national budgets by borrowing billions and haphazardly throwing money at the problem, Germany argued the bona fide solution lay in sound, cautious fiscal management that would solve the root cause of the problem.
“At a time when the global benchmark for decisive leadership boils down to the number of zeros that are attached to economic stimulus packages,” reported the New York Times, “Germany has taken a different path” (Dec. 16, 2008). Chancellor Merkel highlighted that path in a speech in December in the German region of Swabia, where she “lambasted the bailout mentality gripping Western leaders and lauded financial discipline, balanced budgets and the ethic of thrift …” (Washington Times, Dec. 14, 2008). Every Swabian housewife knows the root cause of this crisis, she said: “You can’t keep on living beyond your means. … We are not going to participate in this senseless race for billions. We have to have the courage to swim against the tide.” Merkel was insinuating that German housewives know more about the cause of the economic crises than some European leaders.
Talk about bold.
Also in December, Germany’s finance minister, Peer Steinbrück, set off sparks during an interview with Newsweek. When asked what was wrong with the stimulus proposals being bandied about by Europe’s leaders, Steinbrück denounced the plans and said that the “speed at which proposals are put together under pressure that don’t even pass an economic test is breathtaking and depressing” (Dec. 15, 2008).
During the interview, Steinbrück specifically excoriated Britain for tax cuts it had just made, calling British efforts to kick-start its economy “crass Keynesianism,” in reference to the famous British economist who believed nations should spend their way out of recession. Steinbrück’s divisive outburst, said some analysts, was partly designed to undermine international confidence in the British economy and government. “[T]he last thing Mr. Brown’s government needs is a further weakening of confidence in sterling assets among international investors,” wrote Philip Stephens in the Financial Times. “It scarcely helps to have Germany’s finance minister declare that Britain’s strategy amounts to ‘crass Keynesianism.’ … The danger … has always been that international investors—in British government bonds, in particular—will take fright. Mr. Steinbrück seems to be egging them on in that direction” (Dec. 11, 2008).
Were Steinbrück’s remarks a direct attack on one of Germany’s largest competitors in the European Union? International business editor of the Daily Telegraph and highly respected journalist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard thought as much. “For the first time in my life,” he wrote, “I am starting to feel twinges of anti-German sentiment. … Even Teutophiles who think that Germany has played an enlightened role for 60 years are losing patience with the antics of the Finance Ministry and Bundesbank, and with the dictatorial turn in Berlin’s EU strategy” (Dec. 15, 2008).
Economist and Nobel peace laureate Paul Krugman was similarly enraged. He called Germany’s response to Europe’s collapsing economies boneheaded, and assailed Berlin for impeding a Europe-wide solution to the economic crises. “[Y]ou can’t have a coordinated European effort if Europe’s biggest economy not only refuses to go along, but heaps scorn on its neighbors’ attempts to contain the crisis,” wrote Krugman (International Herald Tribune, Dec. 15, 2008).
In an interview with Spiegel, Krugman said, “[I]f Germany, the largest economy, refuses to go along, there will be no cooperation. Events have given Germany a strategic policy importance disproportionate to its size” (Dec. 15, 2008).
Germany was basically employing the same strategy in regards to European efforts to solve the economic crises as it did against Europe’s attempts to punish Russia. Berlin’s stalling tactics undermined the efforts of the rest of Europe to rescue their collapsing economies. Germany was, in essence, trying to dictate European economic policy.
Berlin’s concerns about the solutions posed by its counterparts to Europe’s economic crises may be entirely justifiable. Still, its stubborn, critical and confrontational dealings with its European neighbors reveal a great deal about Berlin’s relationship with Brussels, and its approach to European unification.
The story of European unification is one of arm-twisting diplomacy. Virtually every single nation of the 27-member European Union has been forced to acquiesce to Brussels on one issue or another, especially in instances when a nation has been opposed by the majority of member states.
But in the case of Europe’s response both to Russia and the economic crisis, Germany, instead of adopting the opinion of the majority of EU states, decided to stand apart from its neighbors. While Berlin expects other European nations to fall in line with Brussels, it clearly isn’t afraid to defy the collective opinion of its neighbors and do what it likes!
Does Germany consider itself a member of the EU on parity with every other nation in the bloc? Or does it consider itself the leader of the EU, with the right to make its own rules, which the rest of Europe must then follow?
Berlin was exploiting its disproportionate strategic influence to, as Evans-Pritchard put it, implement a “dictatorial” EU strategy!
The German Proteus
In his book The Europeans, the late Italian author and historian Luigi Barzini labeled Germany a Protean country. “As everyone knows, only when one tied down Proteus, the prophetic old man of the sea, could one make him reveal the shape of things to come. But he couldn’t be pinned down easily; he continued to change. He could be a roaring lion, a harmless sheep, a slippery serpent, a charging bull, or in turn, a rock, a tree, a brook, a bonfire.”
Germany’s protean-like nature, said Barzini, makes it beautiful and alluring, impressive and worthy of great praise, yet at the same time distressingly unpredictable and opaque—a nation that ought to be watched.
We would do well to heed Barzini’s warning. Many are the accomplishments and achievements of the German people. Indeed, where would the world be—where would high culture and class be—without the great German poets, composers, inventors, craftsman, educators, chemists and physicists? There is much to be said of German national character; of its thrift and efficiency, its penchant for perfection and quest for quality, its natural inclination for structure and order.
But Germany needs to be watched carefully and with a critical eye!
The German national character, like the national character of every people, has shortcomings and flaws. History shows, though, that in Germany, those flaws can threaten world peace!
We know history, and we believe Barzini’s warning about Germany’s protean-like ability to transform from a peaceful “brook” into a “roaring lion.”
Most importantly, we believe the multitude of Bible prophecies that warn that in the end time, Germany, composed of the modern-day descendants of the biblical nation of Assyria, will rise to the forefront of European politics and forge itself—at first subtly and cunningly, but then forcefully and violently—as the dictator of what the late Herbert Armstrong termed a European beast power!
That’s why Germany’s dictatorial influence over European foreign policy and even European economic policy should chill our bones! Both are a foretaste of Germany’s impending, more encompassing, more comprehensive dictatorship—first over a united European superstate, then over the world!
There isn’t space enough here to explain all the prophecies pertaining to Germany and the soon-coming United States of Europe. But they’re there: in Isaiah 10; Daniel 2, 7 and 11; Nahum 2; Hosea 8; Matthew 24; Revelation 13 and 17. The Bible overflows with prophecies and history pertaining to Germany—and it’s not all negative. In fact, the example of Assyria’s repentance in Jonah 2 is one of the most positive and uplifting examples of repentance in the Bible!
To properly understand what’s going on in Germany and the rest of Europe, it’s imperative we set our gaze not only on current events happening on the Continent, but also on both history and Bible prophecy. This is what Christ meant when He said in Luke 21, “Watch and pray.” Watching world events will not save a person from the impending disaster. Our watching must be done in the context of urgent prayer and in-depth Bible study.
Actually, effective watching—that which leads a person to being so moved by the danger of the times in which he lives that he feels impelled to seek after God—is a function of prayer and intense study of the Bible and God’s prophecies regarding end-time events. To truly understand what’s happening in Europe, one must understand Germany in history and prophecy. If this subject genuinely interests you, request and study, in this order, The United States and Britain in Prophecy, Germany and the Holy Roman Empire, and Who or What Is the Prophetic Beast?