Britain Buddies With France. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Facing a budget pinch, the UK stakes its fortunes on an alliance with a longtime European foe.

What an odd turn of events! Suddenly the leaders of Britain and France are fawning over each other as they join in a military alliance supposedly to last 50 years!

What is going on here? For the better part of the previous six centuries, these two have been bitter enemies. For the past century they’ve been grudging partners at best.

Their national interests have gone in opposite directions far more often than they’ve lined up. As recently as the Iraq War in 2003, Britain sent 45,000 troops while France actively worked to keep Saddam Hussein in power.

Now the leaders are instant buddies. In early November, France’s Nicolas Sarkozy and Britain’s David Cameron signed up for their nations to share aircraft carriers; collaborate on technology for nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and nuclear submarines; work together on cyberwarfare; and commit troops to a joint rapid reaction unit, among other things. And they act like anyone who doesn’t embrace the agreement for its innate logic and “perfect sense” is crazy.

“From a purely practical military perspective,” explained the head of Britain’s Armed Forces, Gen. Sir David Richards, “we have been working very closely with the French ever since the First World War, but particularly in nato.”

Uh … not quite. As historian Andrew Roberts responded, “If filling in the gaps on the Western front after the French Army mutinied in 1917, sinking the French fleet at Oran in 1940 and being bombed in Gibraltar by the Vichy air force in retaliation, capturing Lebanon and Syria from the French in 1941, invading French North Africa and Madagascar in 1942, opposing French policy toward Bosnia, Rwanda and latterly Iraq, while watching General de Gaulle expel all nato forces from France, can possibly be described as ‘working very closely with the French ever since the First World War,’ then General Richards is right. If not, then it is—like the defense pact itself—merely wishful thinking” (Wall Street Journal, Nov. 5, 2010).

What are France and Britain thinking? Even if Sarkozy and Cameron see eye to eye, what could possess them to believe their successors will—until 2060, no less?

In reality, it isn’t fellow feeling or shared interests driving these nations into each other’s arms. It’s beggary. Both Britain and France are strapped for cash and desperate. Though their militaries are Europe’s two largest, they’re shrinking and falling apart, getting slammed by budget cuts. This awkward alliance is their effort to maintain some semblance of power. Britain in particular is looking for ways to strengthen its military on the cheap.

But those budget cuts, and this pact, are based on a dangerous miscalculation. They reflect terrible weakness—and remarkable lack of vision. They expose Britain’s foolish overdependence on nations it considers allies, and reveal the steep decline in what even a few generations ago was history’s greatest empire.

Anyone who has followed the prophetic warnings of Herbert Armstrong or the Trumpet over the years knows this story won’t have a good ending. The Bible specifically prophesies of this problem—and reveals its devastating conclusion.

The Aircraft Carriers With No Planes

In mid-October, just a couple of weeks before signing the agreement with France, the British government released its Strategic Defense and Security Review, detailing how it will shrink its military budget 8 percent over the next four years. The cuts include 17,000 personnel. The army, after already being reduced by one third since the end of the Cold War, will lose 7,000 more soldiers; 40 percent of its tanks and 35 percent of its artillery will go. The 20,000 British troops in Germany will come home. (Compare the 95,000 troops Britain will have by 2015 with the 690,000 it had in 1957.)

Britain’s navy—the greatest symbol of the global power it once wielded—will suffer some of the worst embarrassment. The navy’s aging Ark Royal aircraft carrier will go out of service. The navy’s fleet of destroyers and frigates will shrink to 19. (In World War i Britain had over 300 destroyers alone, out of a fleet of nearly 600. After these cuts, the fleet will be smaller than it has been since the days of Henry viii.)

The most bizarre turn of events surrounds two new 60,000-ton aircraft carriers being built for the Royal Navy—the largest, most expensive ships in Britain’s illustrious naval history. Britain can’t afford them, but contractual obligations actually make it cheaper to finish the mammoth projects than to stop them. Thus, as soon as possible after the first one is completed in 2016, it will be mothballed or even sold.

It gets worse. The government also decided to scrap the navy’s 80-strong fleet of Harrier jump jets within a year. This means the aircraft carriers will have—of all things—no jets to carry. New fighters won’t be available until 2020. Thus, these floating airbases will only be able to serve as helicopter pads and assist with humanitarian missions.

In the words of one serving navy commander, “How can you send an aircraft carrier to sea without aircraft? I think that future history will show the rashness of this decision.” Indeed it will.

Worse still, navy insiders told the Telegraph that, because of the intricacies of carrier landing, even after new planes come along it will take many more years to bring the navy’s Fleet Air Arm—the world’s oldest air force—back to full strength. “Once these carrier skills have gone they will take at least 16 years to build back up,” said Commodore Steve Jermy, who once headed the Fleet Air Arm (Oct. 18, 2010). Now we’re talking about 2036. In effect, this marks the death of Britain’s ability to project air power.

Britain’s defense secretary, Liam Fox, said that Britain not having planes to put on the carrier won’t be a problem, since it can just use American and French planes.

Further underscoring this trend of dependency is the fact that the Royal Air Force’s Nimrod spy planes will also be cut. These nine planes were built for patrolling the waters around Britain and intercepting unwelcome foreign submarines and other ships. Now, reported The Sun, Britain “will have to depend on the French to stave off a naval attack” (Oct. 22, 2010). “French Atlantique planes operating from UK bases will monitor and intercept unauthorized ships and submarines,” it said.

Essentially, in order to cover its defense budget gaps, Britain is banking on its European neighbors—France in particular. This ignores the yawning historical, cultural and political gaps between the English-speaking Brits and Europhile French.

Can Britain Really Trust France?

President Sarkozy says—with a straight face—that it’s impossible to imagine a scenario where Britain’s and France’s interests would diverge. Impossible to imagine? For whom, pray tell?

But he couldn’t even make it through a press conference without raising eyebrows about France’s dependability. When a bbc reporter asked if Britain could borrow France’s aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, in case of a crisis in the Falklands, the president responded, “It would take a h—- of a crisis.” Then he dodged and went political: “Do you imagine our British friends facing a crisis and France folds its arms and does nothing?” Again, how much imagination does it take?

Well, maybe that was a trick question. After all, in 1982, Britain faced a crisis in the Falklands and France didn’t do nothing: It actually supplied the Argentineans with missiles to use against Britain!

The notion that these two countries would actually be able to agree on just where and for what to deploy their joint forces is difficult to swallow.

Even since the split over the Gulf War, French leaders have repeatedly voiced their contempt for the UK. They have snootily derided Britain for its incessant niggling over regulations and procedures, for dragging its feet on European integration, for slowing the EU’s progress. Their disdain only intensified when the global economy tanked: They looked down their noses and blamed London for its loose fiscal practices. They dropped the regulatory boom in punishment. Britain’s relationship with Europe, always prickly, has looked wobblier than ever—even up to quite recently.

It all makes the sudden camaraderie, the handshakes and grins, a bit surreal.

For Britain, this pact represents a lurch away from the United States in favor of Europe. American insiders are warning that U.S. cooperation and intelligence sharing with Britain is going to be curtailed out of fear of the wrong information reaching France and spreading from there. David Campbell Bannerman of the UK Independence Party concurred: “In a nutshell, the closer we get to France, the more we risk losing the support of the biggest military power in the world—the usa.”

If history is any guide, this portends disaster for Britain.

As former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher wisely said in 1989, “In my lifetime all our problems have come from mainland Europe, and all the solutions have come from the English-speaking nations who have kept law-abiding liberty for the future.”

Swallowed by Europe

Viewed shallowly, the British move is unsurprising, considering the poor treatment Britain has received from the current American administration, not to mention the declining trajectory of American power. Nevertheless, France is hardly a prize substitute.

Leave aside the decrepitude of its present defense capabilities (the French government has admitted that “most” of its tanks, helicopters and jets are unusable; the Charles de Gaulle, its sole carrier—upon which Britain will solely rely in a few years—has had an almost comically bad maintenance record). Just judging by France’s uneven history as an ally and as a military power, this seems a very shortsighted decision indeed. There is a reason this modern nation is described in biblical prophecy—after its patriarch, Jacob’s son Reuben—as being “unstable as water” (Genesis 49:4).

The biggest issue, though, is how this deal casts Britain’s fortunes together with those of the Continent.

In a sense, one can view the deal as an extension of the Entente Cordiale, the agreement Britain and France forged in 1904 in response to Germany’s burgeoning power potential. Today, once again, Germany is clearly the strongest nation in Europe, and one could view this alliance as France trying to establish its military leadership to counterbalance Germany’s power. That’s the view of the analysts at Stratfor. And apparently, despite widespread mistrust of the EU within the UK, some Euroskeptics are hoping the bilateral pact “distracts France from pursuing military cooperation at an EU level” (Wall Street Journal, Nov. 3, 2010).

But such thinking only goes so far before its smacks into the reality of today’s European Union. The simple fact is, no independent alliance between EU states will remain beyond the purview of Germany and the EU for long.

Look again at how Britain ended up trapped in that ridiculous unaffordable aircraft carrier venture. This folly sprang from Britain’s misguided efforts to link itself with Europe and contribute to building a single EU defense force—via a defense agreement with France. Back in 1998, Prime Minister Tony Blair and France’s Jacques Chirac pledged that their countries would begin cooperating toward that end. The next year, aiming at establishing a European Rapid Reaction Force, Britain agreed to contribute two large aircraft carriers. In 2006, it was determined that these carriers would be a joint project between Britain’s bae Systems and the French firm Thales.

“In effect, when built, they will be operated jointly with the French, with French pilots flying French aircraft,” explained Christopher Booker in the Telegraph. “So little money is left to buy the escorts needed by a carrier group that these will have to be provided by other EU navies, such as those of Spain or Italy” (Oct. 23, 2010; emphasis mine).

The inevitable outcome of the whole deal is not at all difficult to predict. Once these jointly built Anglo-French carriers are operational, and are escorted by Spanish or Italian vessels, whose flag do you suppose they will be flying? The White Ensign of the Royal Navy? The Tricolor flag of France?

It will just eliminate a lot of hassle, won’t it, to just hoist the EU ring of stars.

“Thus,” wrote Booker, “after 600 years, will the Royal Navy merge its identity with that of the new EU Navy.”

Britain’s leaders may naively view this latest defense pact purely as an agreement with France. They have bristled at any suggestion that it will require giving up even a smidgen of British independence or sovereignty.

But let’s open our eyes. France is inseparably entangled with Germany in the European project. And as much as France has tried to fight this reality, Germany is the senior partner. France has already sacrificed its sovereignty for the sake of the EU collective; it simply is no longer free to act purely as a sovereign military power.

Does anyone really believe Germany will be content to allow France and Britain to seize the initiative on European defense?

Just watch! Like everything else happening in Europe, Anglo-French military cooperation is certain to become prey to encroaching EU regulation and bureaucratization, and eventually subsumed wholly into the common European defense.

“From now on, neither [Britain nor France] has any independent defense policy. Both have handed it to the EU,” wrote Peter Hitchens. This alliance “is intended as the beginning of federal European armed forces. These will be controlled by the new post-Lisbon ‘legal personality,’ the European Superstate they keep telling us doesn’t exist” (Mail Online, Nov. 9, 2010).

Britain allowing its military to become swallowed by a European empire is of enormous prophetic significance. For not only does Scripture foretell Britain’s loss of prestige and power and the severing of its relationship with America, it also tells of its foolishly seeking salvation from its false European allies—and of the shocking double-cross it will then suffer at their hand!

Where It Will End

In biblical prophecy, Britain is called by the name of the tribe of ancient Israel from which it descended, Ephraim. Detailed proof of this can be found in Herbert Armstrong’s book The United States and Britain in Prophecy.

“Ephraim [Britain] also is like a silly dove, without sense,” wrote the Prophet Hosea (Hosea 7:11; New King James Version). Silly means simple, easily fooled. And the dove perfectly symbolizes the senseless, toothless and naive nation Britain has become.

As the Trumpet’s editor in chief Gerald Flurry has written, no “silly dove” nation can endure in a world full of hawks and tigers.

Hosea’s prophecy continues by saying of Britain, “[T]hey go to Assyria.” Assyria, as we explained in our October/November 2010 article on the subject, is the prophetic name for Germany. This is one of several prophecies that describe a weakened Britain looking for help from its neighbors in Europe.

But in prophecy after prophecy, the result of this dangerous gamble is revealed. God says through His prophet, “When they shall go, I will spread my net upon them; I will bring them down as the fowls of the heaven; I will chastise them, as their congregation hath heard. Woe unto them! for they have fled from me: destruction unto them! because they have transgressed against me: though I have redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies against me” (verses 12-13).

God recorded these prophecies to serve as a warning to modern Britain!—a warning the British people will soon regret having ignored. The fact that this and many other specific prophecies are rapidly becoming present reality is sure and convicting proof of their reliability—and of the active existence of the Creator God who is bringing them to pass!