The Gatekeeper of Europe
It has been said of old that “all roads lead to Rome.” While that may have been true during the successive revivals of the Roman Empire, it has certainly not been the case since the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire at Napoleon’s defeat by Wellington in 1814. That battle set the scene for the rise of an even mightier empire than Rome, the great British Empire, which ruled the waves for a century before the great war of 1914-1918 began to sap its energy. Even then, for another 30 years, it was as though all roads led to London, as the British continued to control almost every major sea and land gate around the world, with London as the world’s financial capital.
But World War ii changed this. The United States rose rapidly to its zenith as an economic and geopolitical force second to none after the war. For the following half-century, it appeared that all roads led to the great cosmopolitan metropolis of New York—icon of commercial power and free enterprise.
Then came September 11, 2001, and New York shook to the thunder of a terror attack. Nothing has been the same since that date, in America or, for that matter, the rest of the world. We have since seen a show of military power, from the world’s greatest single nation, without comparison in the conduct of precision warfare, as the president of the United States has taken the fight to the terrorists’ home turf.
The latest campaign against Iraq, in pursuit of this war, brought to light extreme differences between the U.S. and the Franco-German axis within the European Union.
In a very deliberate move to outflank America economically and, ultimately, militarily, the European Union steadily plods on in its muddled, confusing way, to bring together a monolithic federalist power with the now clearly indicated intention of knocking the U.S. off its perch.
Readers of this magazine will know that we often point to the biblical prophecies which indicate that Germany will be the lead power in a final, prophesied resurrection of the old Holy Roman Empire. There exists some very tangible evidence of this development: Europe’s main transit system, its crucial waterways.
Germany’s singular advantage, which has historically proven also to be its downfall, is its location at the very center of Europe.
This central location gives Germany a unique geo-strategic benefit: It stands to gain much by dominating the very crossroads between east and west when the EU opens its doors to what the pope has termed Europe’s “eastern lung.” In June next year, the EU gains that eastern lung with the accession of 10 nations to membership of the Union. The strategic control that Germany will then wield can hardly be underestimated.
The problem that then arises is a historic one. In the past, when Germany has perceived the strength of its position in Europe, it has sought to stretch itself beyond its borders. The Germans call it lebensraum—simply put, a desire for more space for Germans to live in. While Germany remained divided, that desire was contained. Since German unification, it has started to raise its head once again.
Referring to an article in the German newspaper Die Welt, the Information on German Foreign Policy news service reported, “One of the most influential political experts in Berlin believes that the opportunity has arrived to dispute ‘world hegemony’ with the USA. He demands that the EU (which he sees as ‘a world power in the making’) should make use of this chance” (March 8). The fact is, to realize that dream of world hegemony (a recurrent theme in Germany’s history), they must first control their traditional empire’s homebase: Mitteleuropa, the heartland of Europe, the crossroads through which all major traffic of goods, services and manpower must flow in the pursuit of business, east and west, north and south.
Crucial to the reconstruction of post-war Germany was the rebuilding of a German transport and distribution infrastructure. Up to 1990, West Germany worked at developing a substantial north-south transit system. But not until German unification was it possible for Germany to add to this already highly developed north-south system an infrastructure to cope with the increased load of east-west traffic that unification inevitably would bring.
Following unification, the German government quickly implemented the German Unity Transport Projects. But the vision behind the massive investment in these construction projects was not to just link the former East and West Germany. Rather, it was “to create the preconditions for good traffic links between Eastern and Western Europe” (www.wna-magdeburg.de; emphasis mine). The German leadership of the early 1990s obviously saw German unification as but the start of a much broader unification of Europe, to incorporate many states of the old Soviet Union. They immediately began preparations to dominate and control the transit systems that such a united Europe would need for the regular and reliable flow of goods and services, particularly east and west.
The results, viewed from a current perspective—having in mind the imminent extension of the EU eastward to the Ukraine in early May next year—are amazing. Why? A detailed look at the highly developed transport and distribution system that will channel the flow of goods and services throughout the EU economic colossus reveals one singular nation at the controlling hub—Germany!
What is particularly intriguing is that the vision of Germany controlling the transport and distribution system for the movement of goods throughout Europe goes way back to Charlemagne, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. We are merely seeing the systems being prepared to support the resurrection of Charlemagne’s old dream of Germany dominating a united European empire!
One of the most effective ways of moving goods across Europe has, since ancient times, been via its waterways.
The Rhine River, with a total length of 1,320 kilometers (820 miles), is Germany’s longest and most important river. It is also Europe’s busiest waterway. Since pre-Roman times, the Rhine has been an important trade route. But it was the rise of the Roman Empire that led to a vast increase in traffic on this key waterway, primarily as a result of the movement of Roman troops either fighting in Rome’s various imperial wars, or being ferried backward and forward to man the ever-widening borders of the empire. This traffic inevitably led to important trading centers such as Cologne, Mainz and Koblenz emerging along its banks.
In addition to the Rhine, the other key river system that flows through Germany is the Danube. Looking at a map of Germany, it becomes obvious that a waterway joining both river systems, thus connecting the North Sea with the Black Sea and the Turkish Straits, has obvious advantages.
Charlemagne was the first to seek to develop such an interconnected waterway during the eighth century. He did not succeed.
In 1836, King Ludwig i of Bavaria began construction on Charlemagne’s unfinished project. The result was the Ludwig-Danube-Main Canal (Ludwigskanal). This became the navigable link between the Main River and the Danube in 1845. In 1941 the canal works ground to a halt as labor and funds were diverted to the Nazi war machine. The development of today’s canal, designed for 1,250-ton “Euro” class ships, was begun in 1959 in concert with the developing Common Market in Western Europe.
The Rhine and the Danube were finally connected, fulfilling Charlemagne’s dream, on September 25, 1992, just two years after East and West Germany reunited. The Main-Danube Canal comprises a 171-kilometer section of the 3,500 kilometer-long waterway linking the North Sea with the Black Sea. That is twice the length of the Panama Canal. Some 18 million tons of goods are transported on the Main-Danube Canal annually.
One section of the original canal works started by Charlemagne, now called the Karlsgraben, still exists today. It remains a living witness to the dream of European hegemony by the first of the “holy” Roman emperors, and a reminder for those who have an eye for history in tune with prophecy of the future of the final resurrection of that ancient entity!
As Europe’s most strategic waterway, the Rhine is now connected with the Baltic Sea via the west German canal system, with the Black Sea via the Main-Danube Canal and with the Mediterranean Sea via the Rhine-Rhône Canal. All that remains is the completion of alternate shipping infrastructure to bypass the bottleneck of the Turkish Straits. Germany stands ready to fulfill the role of gatekeeper of this crucial pan-European transit system.
Whereas both the Rhine and Danube are international waterways open to transit by vessels of any nation, the Germans have cleverly manipulated their sole national control of the vital waterways crossroads of the Main-Danube Canal. This crucial canal is the central link without which this whole massive system is worthless.
As an additional control on inward-bound vessels from the east, this vital connecting link of the Main-Danube Canal was built so that it is too narrow for the wider vessels used by the former ideological and economic foes of Germany from the old Soviet bloc. Thus, the German rivers merchant fleet is spared competition by foreign fleets that could have undercut their cargo transport rates. A clever move by the Germans!
The Final Links
But, with eastward expansion imminent, perhaps the most significant and certainly the most ambitious of German waterways projects was that nominated as Project 17 within the German Unity Transport Projects. The piece de résistance within this visionary transport scheme involves the development of a canal bridge, nearly 1 kilometer long, over the Elbe River at Magdeburg, directly linking the Mittelland Canal and the Elbe-Havel Canal.
With the focus in Germany shifting from west to east, symbolized by the relocation of the seat of German government from Bonn to Berlin, the final link in the east-west waterways system is this immense aqueduct, bridging the Elbe River. This will allow sea-going vessels to enter the very heart of Berlin in less than a year’s time.
Up to now, shipping traveling from Germany’s massive North Sea ports to Berlin had to make huge detours before it could head in the direction of the German capital and on into Eastern Europe. The new canal bridge will speed the transfer of goods east and west along one of the busiest transport routes in Europe.
This huge engineering feat was actually begun within an earlier decade of German expansionary vision, the 1930s, but was abruptly terminated during World War ii.
Revived in 1998, the great canal bridge project is nearing completion as the time approaches for eight Eastern European nations to join a federating Europe.
Unified by common currency, governmental institutions, judiciary, police and defense, the EU is now being increasingly unified through its massive waterways transport system—largely under the control of the EU’s historically most aggressive member nation. Germany’s gateway to the east is about to open.
Complementing the interlocking of Europe’s great waterways transit system is an EU plan to complete the networking of the Continent’s whole transport infrastructure by 2010. This includes road and rail systems. The German ministry of transport refers to this, in military terms, as a “pan-European infrastructure offensive.” The goal is the complete re-orientation of Germany’s pre-unification north-south transit network to a post-unification, pre-EU expansion orientation east-west.
Plans include a 23,000-kilometer high-speed rail network, an additional 50,000 kilometers of conventional rail routes, and a trans-European road network totaling 58,000 kilometers, primarily consisting of autobahns and dual carriageways. All this will link with the primary means of shifting goods in Europe, the inland waterway network.
The German economy exhibits significant structural problems working against its immediate recovery. Yet Bible prophecy indicates that this nation will lead a powerful merchant-based economic empire (Rev. 18). Watch for Germany to quickly take control when the EU opens its doors to the east in May 2004 as the gatekeeper manning the crossroads of Europe!