1. Germany—Learn German or get out
Germany’s chancellor asserted Germany’s role as a major world power, and emphasized Germany’s role as a Christian nation, in a powerful speech on November 15.
“Whoever wants to live here must learn German … (and) obey our laws,” Angela Merkel told the Christian Democratic Union Conference. “It’s not that we have too much Islam, but rather that we have too little Christianity …. We speak too little of our Judeo-Christian heritage.”
Stratfor commented, “The gist of the speech was that Germany was a European leader, it should not be ashamed of its German identity and it needed a modern army to defend its interests. However, its standing in the world was not guaranteed and the looming demographic crisis could very well threaten its preeminent position. …
“[I]ts politicians are beginning to speak of a German security and defense strategy in mature tones, without a prerequisite ‘we’re sorry’ attached to every policy statement. In short, Germany is ascending to what it feels is its rightful place as a global power, if not one of the world’s true superpowers” (Nov. 16, 2010).
“Current Cold War-era institutions that dominate Europe politically, economically and in terms of security—the European Union and nato—were not originally designed for a unified, assertive and unashamed Germany,” Stratfor concluded. “The Germany that Merkel spoke to on Monday will either make these institutions work for Berlin or will leave them behind.”
Following the leader
As Hungary prepared to take over the presidency of Europe for the first half of 2011, Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi vowed that his nation would use its new influence to support Germany. “A strong and successful Germany is vital for the strength of Europe,” Martonyi said after meeting with his German counterpart Guido Westerwelle in Berlin on November 4. As EU president, “we will support all that is important for Germany,” he said.
Hungary had its credit rating cut by two notches by credit rating agency Moody’s on December 6. Its rating is now Baa3—Moody’s lowest investment grade.
Under fire for failing to fire
More evidence personally implicating Pope Benedict xvi in the Roman Catholic child abuse scandals has emerged. It involves a case in 1980 where a priest was transferred to Munich—then under the jurisdiction of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger—after sexually abusing boys in Essen. The head of personnel in Essen told Ratzinger that “there is a risk which has prompted us to immediately remove him from the parish.” The priest was then allowed to go on abusing children, and received a fine and suspended sentence for this in 1986.
Nearly 2,000 people said they had been sexually and physically abused as minors by Roman Catholic Church personnel in the Netherlands, an independent commission reported on December 9. This makes the Netherlands the second-most abused nation by the Catholics, after Ireland.
Economy tanking; people want more
On November 24, public sector workers in Portugal went on strike for a day as the country’s two biggest unions held their first joint strike since 1988. The two unions say they represent 1.5 million workers. The strike was called over dissatisfaction with the government’s austerity measures.
The alliance that lost its way
Nato leaders met to decide on a new strategic concept, or mission statement, for the alliance in Lisbon on November 19 to 20. The result was essentially mush. Nato has lost its way and doesn’t really know its mission in today’s world. As the Trumpet has long forecast, expect either Germany to twist the alliance to its own ends, or for nato to fade into insignificance.
Jerusalem not for sale!
Israel’s Knesset has passed a law to prevent an Israeli government giving up East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights without a significant number of people supporting it. The national referendum law, passed on November 22, means that this territory can only be given away if approved by two thirds of the Knesset. Unless 80 out of the 120 Knesset members approve such a land giveaway, the deal must be approved by a majority of voters in a national referendum.
“The new law makes it extremely unlikely that any government can surrender any of the land covered by the law, barring a drastic shift in political leanings against the growing nationalist mood,” wrote IsraelNationalNews.com (Nov. 23, 2010).
The Trumpet has long predicted that Israel would not give away East Jerusalem in a peace deal. Rather, the Bible indicates that the eastern part of the city will be violently taken over by the Palestinian Arabs.
Watch this anti-West alliance
Iran and Pakistan have agreed to boost security ties and strengthen regional cooperation, Iran’s Press tv reported November 17. In a November 16 meeting between the Iranian ambassador to Islamabad and the Pakistani interior minister, Iran’s ambassador reportedly called for the two countries to exchange intelligence and carry out joint operations against drug traffickers. The same day, Iran’s parliament speaker, meeting with a Pakistani official in Tehran, also spoke of the need for cooperation to establish peace and security in the region. Signs of increasing solidarity between Iran and Pakistan—based largely on a shared foundation of Muslim ideology and anti-Western sentiment—should concern the West.
Rigged election—angry mob
Riots erupted throughout Egypt at the end of November, resulting in eight deaths and scores of injuries, over accusations that the country’s government rigged the November 28 election. The unrest indicates that a shift is underway in Egypt’s political alignment.
The party snubbed by the election fraud was the government’s only real rival, the Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood (MB) party. Although the MB is officially banned in Egypt, its candidates run as independents, and it is the largest political opposition to President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party (ndp). Suspiciously, in this election, the ndp won its largest share of the legislature in 15 years, while the MB was obliterated, going from 88 seats to zero.
Although the government has defended the integrity of the elections, its refusal to allow international organizations to observe them has undermined its credibility. Egyptian security forces arrested more than 1,000 MB activists in a nationwide crackdown in the days leading up to the election.
In runoff elections on December 5, the ndp won 83 percent of the seats, with the two main opposition groups, including the MB, boycotting the vote. The Brotherhood promised to mount legal challenges against the results, and popular opposition figure Mohammed ElBaradei called for a boycott of the 2011 presidential election, dismissing Egypt’s election process as a “farce.”
The MB has not abandoned its quest for power in Egypt. MB candidate Sobhi Saleh said the Brotherhood hopes the rigging will discredit the ndp and draw more Egyptians to the MB. Reportedly, 82-year-old Mubarak is terminally ill and will likely be unable to run in this year’s presidential election. Will his successor be able to maintain Egypt’s dictatorship and its suppression of the MB? The Trumpet’s editor in chief has predicted, based on a prophecy in Daniel 11:42, that Egypt will fall to Islamists.
Nukes? Um … er …
Syria is refusing UN nuclear inspectors access to multiple suspect sites. An International Atomic Energy Agency report shows that for over two years, Syria has blocked iaea access to the nuclear site bombed by Israel in September 2007. It is also denying access to a pilot plant used for acid purification, which produces uranium ore as a by-product. At a research reactor in Damascus, inspectors found unexplained particles of processed uranium; Syria gave inconsistent information to the iaea and dodged questions about this uranium. The UN has proved ineffectual in preventing or even monitoring nuclear weapons development in rogue countries, including Syria, Iran and North Korea.
Operation Misguided Evacuation
In an effort to get the United Nations to declare it free of Lebanon border violations, Israel has agreed to withdraw Israeli forces from the northern part of a village that straddles the Israeli-Lebanese border. Israeli Security Cabinet officials voted on November 17 to transfer the northern section of Ghajar, an Arab village, to UN control. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon will take over security for the northern part of the village, supposedly to prevent Hezbollah infiltration. While this may sound plausible in theory, unifil’s track record in southern Lebanon does not provide much assurance. In reality, this unilateral retreat by Israel is just one more concession that will weaken its security and only be met with more demands from its Arab enemies.
1. North Korea
Chinese friend, U.S. nemesis
When Kim Jong Il began shelling the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong in November, most of the world, especially regional counterparts such as Japan and Taiwan, roared with disapproval.
Amid the fracas, China remained relatively quiet. China’s leaders display little interest in curbing North Korea’s belligerence. On December 8, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated that the “Chinese have enormous influence over the North, influence that no other nation on Earth enjoys, and yet, despite a shared interest in reducing tensions, they appear unwilling to use it.”
But China isn’t the only country unwilling to use its influence. The question not being asked is: Why is the United States—presumably the most powerful nation in the world—looking to China to rein in Pyongyang to start with? After all, China is the nation helping North Korea. China’s view of North Korea as a strategic buffer against the U.S. has prompted it to defend and increase aid to Pyongyang in recent years. It is the primary source of political and economic support for the rogue nation—and, it is emerging, also a source of its nuclear technology.
The stunning progress North Korea has made in its nuclear technology was recently exposed when a nuclear scientist was invited to tour the facilities in November. Stanford professor Siegfried S. Hecker visited two new North Korean nuclear facilities, including, shockingly, a new uranium enrichment plant that contains 2,000 centrifuges. “The control room was astonishingly modern,” Hecker later said. He reported that the uranium enrichment facility was currently configured to produce low-enriched uranium—material for use in a nuclear reactor and unsuitable for a nuclear bomb. However, he pointed out that it could be reconfigured pretty easily to produce highly enriched uranium, the type used in bombs. In addition, the facility Hecker visited went completely undetected, so North Korea could easily have another hidden site.
China’s fingerprints on the project are discernible. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists wrote on June 18, 2009, that North Korea’s uranium procurement scheme involved commercial entities in China. The Institute for Science and International Security, a U.S.-based think tank, confirmed in a report last October that North Korea often procured for its uranium enrichment program in China or used it as a transit point.
In response to North Korea’s deadly attack on South Korea, Beijing hosted the chairman of North Korea’s parliament the last week of November. While its initial response was muted, it later called for emergency talks among the leaders of the nations involved in the stalled six-party talks. Washington says the talks can’t be resumed until Pyongyang makes concessions over its attacks on South Korea. North Korea’s belligerency, which the West has often rewarded in the past, is its latest attempt to obtain aid from the international community. China’s calls for the emergency talks suggest that Beijing wants Pyongyang to accomplish this goal.
It is true—China has the leverage to truly pressure North Korea. But the problem is, the United States lacks the leverage to convince China to do so. In fact, America right now needs China to keep the U.S. economy alive by financing its gargantuan debt.
In reality, that the U.S. would look to North Korea’s main ally to rein it in speaks volumes of its own diminished power. As a result, America’s allies such as South Korea are destined to look less and less to the U.S. for support. Such nations will end up searching for security elsewhere—even if it means drawing closer to China. Without a strong America clearly behind them, these nations will have little choice but to make concessions to the nearest rising power.
Abetting an energy monopoly
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin left Bulgaria on November 14 with an agreement for Russia’s state-owned energy giant Gazprom to work with Bulgarian Energy Holding to build and run the Bulgarian section of the South Stream pipeline. The pipeline is planned to transport Russian gas through the Black Sea and over Bulgaria to Europe’s Balkan region. The agreement, Moscow’s most recent victory in a rapid expansion of Kremlin-operated energy firms into the EU, means that Bulgaria has followed Poland’s example of teaming up with Russia to circumvent the EU’s anti-monopoly legislation.
3. India | 4. Japan | 5. Singapore
Asian giant is coming together
Foreign ministers from China, India and Russia vowed in November to boost cooperation in energy, aerospace, high-tech, innovation, trade, cultural exchanges and geopolitical affairs. Chinese officials also emphasized the need for Russia, Japan and Singapore to ally themselves with China economically in order to capitalize on the influence they wield within the international monetary system. Watch such economic and political cooperation among these Eastern powers to increase, paving the way for military alliance.
Another U.S. ally slipping
On December 7, Filipino and Chinese military officials met to sign a military logistics deal between their two nations. A spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (afp) called it a step in the direction of bolstering Manila’s military ties with Beijing. The afp is too weak to control either domestic threats or outside security challenges involving the nation’s many sea-lanes and islands. Historically, Manila has depended on the U.S. for the military assistance it needs, but the U.S.-Philippines military relationship is cooling. Beijing sees an opportunity to gain a foothold in the Philippines and expand its influence in Southeast Asia, while elbowing the U.S. out.
7. Russia | 8. Poland
Making nice with Europe
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited Europe in December, boosting Russia’s relations with the Continent and bringing Moscow closer to joining the World Trade Organization (wto).
Medvedev visited Brussels for an EU-Russia summit on December 7, where he signed a bilateral trade agreement between Russia and the European Union, drafted the previous month.
European Commission President José Manuel Barroso called the agreement “a milestone.” Russia has been negotiating to join the wto for 17 years, and is the only large nation not a part of the 153-member group. At a press conference with Medvedev, Barroso said Russia is expected to become a wto member in 2011.
The agreement commits Russia to phasing out lumber and other raw materials tariffs. There are still some other issues the EU wants Russia to change, such as its seemingly arbitrary bans on European meat.
On the same trip, Medvedev visited Poland, where he worked to improve relations in the first official visit to the country by a Russian leader in nine years. Medvedev said that in order to attain better relations with nato and the EU, Russia must draw closer to Poland. He is right—often it is Polish objections that hinder EU-Russia or nato-Russia rapprochement.
The visit was an apparent success. Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski said that it heralded the end of a period of “bad drought” in relations between the two countries.
However, Poland hasn’t suddenly decided that Russia is a benevolent, friendly nation. “We have no illusions about the nature of the Putin regime,” an anonymous government official told the Wall Street Journal. “We got tired of being the one country to stand up to Russia. Russia is our number-two trading partner—we have more to lose [than other states in the EU]” (Dec. 8, 2010).
The Russia-EU, and specifically the Russia-Germany, relationship is important to watch. If the two work together, as they have several times in recent history, they can rise in power very quickly—putting them in a better position to wage war.
Deserting the dollar
China and Russia have agreed to abandon the U.S. dollar in favor of using their own currencies for bilateral trade. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced the news on November 23, saying the policy is not designed to challenge the dollar but to protect the Russian and Chinese economies amid the global financial crisis. Expect this movement away from the dollar to continue to gather steam. And watch for Russia and China, as their global economic influence increases, to draw closer to each other.
Prime Minister Putin praised Europe’s single currency while criticizing the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency on November 26. “We have to get away from the overwhelming dollar monopoly,” he said. “It makes the world economy vulnerable and unbalanced.”
Yes, them too
China and Vietnam held their first-ever bilateral strategic defense dialogue on November 27. The two sides agreed to collaborate in the areas of naval and border guard forces, and military science research and training. Previously, Vietnam’s concerns over China’s mushrooming power had been prodding it to develop a closer relationship with the U.S. These talks, however, show that Vietnam’s alignment is shifting.
Latin America and Africa
1. Brazil | 2, Argentina | 3. Uruguay | 4. Paraguay
Forget peace talks—here’s a two-state solution
On December 3, Brazil said it recognized a Palestinian state existing in the territory owned by Jordan west of the Jordan River in 1967. Argentina followed suit three days later, and Uruguay said it would do so this year. The Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister, Riad al-Malki, said he expected Paraguay and other South American nations to also recognize a Palestinian state soon. Not only does this demonstrate the continuing trend of nations worldwide siding against Israel, but it also reveals these nations’ increasing willingness to publicly spurn their neighbor to the north, the United States.
Eager to shush a drug smuggler
Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez seems to have rescued himself from a very tricky position. Last August, one of the world’s most wanted drug smugglers, Walid Makled, was arrested in Colombia. He is rumored to have recordings of all of his dealings—including those with high-ranking members of the Venezuelan government. If released, that information would be catastrophic for Venezuelan officials—and could even bring down Chávez’s government. Key government members could faces charges of money laundering, drug trafficking and even terrorism. But on November 16, Colombia agreed to extradite Makled to Venezuela, not to the U.S.
In exchange, a desperate Chávez is giving a lot to Colombia. On November 18, Venezuela announced it would extradite at least four members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and National Liberation Army—rebel groups that Chávez usually protects—to Colombia. Chávez also agreed to renew trade ties with Colombia.
The Trumpet has long watched for Latin American nations to draw closer together as part of a trade bloc that will eventually align with Europe. A quieter Chávez could allow the continent to better unite.
Ahoy! Pirates moving east!
Somali pirates hijacked a Bangladeshi ship only 300 miles away from the coast of India on December 5. The Jahan Moni was 1,300 miles east of Somalia when it was seized. Western efforts to combat Somali piracy have mainly involved patrolling the Gulf of Aden. They have not dealt with the cause of the problem, but rather merely tried to protect a small area from pirates. This means that the problem has not gone away—the pirates are just spreading out over a much larger area.
Iranian arms turn up in Africa
The government of Gambia broke off relations with Iran and sent all Iranian diplomats home on November 22 over an arms smuggling scandal. On October 27, Nigerian media stated that the government had seized a large shipment of weapons from Iran at the port of Lagos. The government informed the UN Security Council of the seizure on November 12. Despite the fiasco, Iran is certain to find alternative means of smuggling weapons into Africa.
Africa’s head in the mouth of a lion
African leaders are concerned they’re being exploited by resource-hungry Europe. At an African Union meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, from October 29 to November 2, several ministers of trade criticized the Economic Partnership Agreements (epas) the EU is attempting to sign with their nations.
The epas are ostensibly designed to benefit African nations by allowing them to trade with Europe on favorable conditions. However, the terms seem more favorable to the EU, and one minister said that by signing an epa a country puts its head in the mouth of a lion.
Germany is pursuing a similar policy in Latin America. On October 30, German Aid Minister Dirk Niebel left for a week-long trip to the region. “During Germany’s unification and the European Union’s extension to the east, we have not paid enough attention to some other parts of the world,” Niebel said, specifically mentioning Africa and Latin America.
A draft European Commission policy document, titled “Raw Materials Initiative,” states that the EU wants to access most of its raw materials from outside its own borders by means of new trade agreements. Watch for Europe and Asia to compete for raw materials in these areas.
In math, we’re #32
The United States and the United Kingdom were solidly beaten by a host of countries in math, science and reading tests conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (oecd), the results of which were published December 7.
Asian nations regularly came top in an assessment of 470,000 15-year-olds in 65 different countries in 2009 under the oecd’s Program for International Student Assessment (pisa).
Out of the oecd countries, South Korea came top in reading and math, and third in science. Finland came second in reading and math, and took the top spot for science. However, when China (not an oecd nation) is included and subdivided into economic regions, then Shanghai comes out first, by far, in all three categories.
The UK’s ranking has plummeted since the pisa first began in 2000. This year it came 16th in science, 25th in reading and 28th in math (ranking includes non-oecd countries, and China’s regions). In 2000 it was fourth in science, seventh in reading and eighth in math.
The U.S. performed even worse, coming 23rd in science, 32nd in math and 17th in reading. Both nations remained above the oecd average for reading and science (though only barely, for the U.S.).
The U.S. and UK did not do spectacularly badly; they ranked just above the middle. But the days of their educational superiority are over. The trend is worth noting: The quality of a nation’s education is a predictive measure of its future power.
Hazard pay for teachers?
Almost 1,000 British students are sent home from school every day for attacking or verbally abusing fellow students or staff, a November 17 study found. The figure is thought to be higher, as many such incidents are not reported to the government.
King James what?
A November survey found that half of Britons under 35 did not know what the King James Bible was. The renowned translation is one of the most important books of all time, religiously, culturally and linguistically.
They’ll die in debt and that’s OK
Though most dire financial headlines in the UK describe the government, individual Britons are also heavily in debt. A November study found that a third of Britons think they’ll never be free from and will die in debt. One in five had no qualms leaving their debts to their next of kin. Half who owed money said they did not feel in control of their debt, and half said they would always need to borrow money in order to fund their lifestyle.
Guess what your cabbie does on holiday
In October, Guardian reporters traveled with a group of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan with a variety of ethnicities, including some from London. One mid-level commander who spoke English with a slight Londoner accent said he fought for three months of the year and the rest of the time lived in East London and worked as a minicab driver. “There are many people like me in London,” he said. “We collect money for the jihad all year and come and fight if we can.”
See? Political correctness abets terrorism
As 12,000 people attended a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon, on November 26, Mohamed Osman Mohamud attempted to detonate a truck full of explosives. Happily, the explosives were fake, supplied by the fbi in a sting operation, and Mohamud was charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.
The bomb, had it been real, “could have killed hundreds,” according to the Portland Tribune.
Portland’s own actions put the city at risk. In 2005, the city council decided to end Portland police’s cooperation with the fbi’s Joint Terrorism Task Force—the same task force that thwarted Mohamud. The mayor at that time, Tom Potter, wanted top-secret security clearance to ensure that the fbi didn’t violate the state’s anti-discrimination laws, but the fbi refused it. The American Civil Liberties Union praised the city’s refusal to work with the fbi, saying there is “ample evidence that several fbi task forces elsewhere have targeted individuals because of their political or religious affiliations.”
The fbi succeeded, despite the city’s obstruction. But it could have been very different. Now, the city says it is considering renewing cooperation with the task force.
This is not the first time political correctness has hampered U.S. security efforts. In the 1990s, the government restricted how many agents could keep taps on the growing number of religious jihadist cells in the country. “So, for example,” wrote the Washington Times, “agents might know that a meeting of radicals was taking place inside a mosque, but they could not watch the building or even collect the tag numbers of cars parked in the parking lot because the entire structure was off-limits” (Dec. 1, 2010).
Today, America’s Transport Security Administration refuses to profile obvious potential terrorists. Giving invasive patdowns to small children and elderly people in wheelchairs doesn’t make the country safer. Focusing on young, Arabic looking men would. Political correctness, endemic in the U.S., Britain and other Western nations, poses a demonstrable danger.