The ramifications of the U.S. drawdown
As the United States slashes its security forces in Europe, EU nations are preparing to fill the void by multiplying their own military might.
In early January, President Obama outlined a 10-year defense plan to reduce U.S. military spending by $487 billion, which includes plans to slash the total number of troops by half a million. Days later, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta specified the military’s plan for its European presence, saying Washington will withdraw two of its four brigades from the Continent.
The number of U.S. troops stationed in Europe peaked during the Cold War at 277,342. At present, America has around 40,000 soldiers there, and the withdrawal of the two heavy armor brigades will decrease the U.S. presence to 30,000 troops.
Both of the brigades slated for removal will be pulled out of Germany, which will leave Europe with one cavalra brigade in Germany and one airborne brigade in Italy.
Already, European nations have significant military might. Germany, Italy and France remain among the world’s top 10 defense spenders; the combined number of EU nations’ military personnel exceeds the number in U.S. forces; and the EU spends more on defense than Russia and China combined.
But two obstacles have prevented Europe’s strategic significance from matching its high spending figures and troop numbers.
First, Europe has grown accustomed to depending on the U.S. for security. Some analysts showcased last year’s war in Libya as evidence that Europe is beginning to take responsibility for its own environs, but, in fact, the campaign was overwhelmingly reliant on American military, intelligence and technical power. European Union nations did not even supply enough of their own munitions to see the conflict through.
The second obstacle preventing the EU from realizing its military potential has been the difficulties the nations have encountered trying to pool their military resources. Individual EU countries tend to use their defense sectors primarily to boost national industry and employment, and efforts at cooperation among the nations have faltered because of political interference. Back in 2004, the European Union established the European Defense Agency to build military coordination among EU states, but it has had little success because of such interference.
The U.S. drawdown in Europe works toward the removal of both of these obstacles.
Europe will be weaned from its military dependence on the U.S. as Washington’s ability and willingness to defend Europe rapidly erodes. Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the overall message from the U.S. withdrawal is that “Europe is going to need to start taking more care of its own defense, that they won’t be able to call on the U.S. in the same way as the past.”
Nick Witney, a former head of the European Defense Agency, said, “Europe is going to have to grow up and learn to take responsibility for its own security, without Uncle Sam to prod and cajole.”
The U.S. pullback from Europe is also making the solution to the second obstacle obvious to more and more onlookers.
America’s drawdown is telling us that “we have to do our job,” said European Defense Agency Chief Executive Claude-France Arnould. “We should go full speed ahead with pooling and sharing.”
“It’s always been obvious what needs to be done—taking a more collective approach to Europe’s security,” said Kupchan.
The United States has defined security in Europe for many decades, but it is increasingly urging the nations of the EU to take charge of their own defense. European nations can see that the U.S. is now a bankrupt nation with a broken will, and they are preparing to fill the void Washington will leave by multiplying their own forces and pooling them together. Bible prophecy reveals that the end result of Europe’s military pooling and multiplying will be a German-led force so powerful it will eclipse the armies of Hitler, Napoleon and even Charlemagne.
To understand the significance of this future staggering European military power, and how it is connected to the most inspiring news a publication could ever proclaim, request a free copy of Germany and the Holy Roman Empire.
A boot to the neck of tax cheats
In order to fight tax evasion, Italy is restricting how much people can pay in cash, and monitoring those crossing the border. Since Dec. 4, 2011, Italians have not been allowed to pay more than €1,000 in cash to anyone. Previously, the largest allowed cash payment was €2,500. Credit card companies and banks must report any card transactions of more than €3,000. Italy is even trying to stop people driving out of the country with their money. It recently posted dogs trained to smell bank notes at its border crossings. Cameras and computer systems keep track of those crossing into Switzerland. Italy does need to solve its tax evasion problems. But an unelected government introducing draconian rules should get people worried—even if it seems to have a legitimate excuse. Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi warned last year: “There’s a real danger of crossing over into a fiscal police state.”
Parliament’s mouthy new prez
German Socialist mep Martin Schulz was elected the new president of the European Parliament on January 17. His victory was no surprise—the Socialists and the European People’s Party had agreed to split the five-year presidency. Schulz is known to be easily angered, and is an outspoken critic of Britain. “I doubt in the long term whether Britain will stay in the EU,” he said in December. “The EU can, if necessary, do without Britain, but Britain would have more difficulty without the EU.”
Shocked by child abuse
Details from yet another Catholic child abuse scandal emerged as a commission investigating abuse in Dutch Catholic institutions published its report Dec. 16, 2011. Church officials knew about the rampant abuse suffered by thousands of children over a period of 65 years but did nothing because they did not want to create a scandal.
Europe still in deep muck
Nine eurozone nations had their credit rating downgraded by ratings agency Standard & Poor’s on January 13, causing the euro to fall to its lowest level against the dollar since 2010.
Greece must persuade its creditors to forgive some of its debts, as well as meet a host of other conditions, to receive the bailout cash it needs. It needs money by March 20, when it must pay €14.4 billion worth of debt. The country’s unelected government has agreed to postpone elections until after then.
To guard against a risk of a crash, the International Monetary Fund is trying to gather an extra $500 billion to loan to European countries.
Investors are so desperate to keep their money safe that on occasion they’ve even paid to lend money to Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK.
Downgrades and troublesome Greek debt show that the eurozone hasn’t come close to solving its financial problems. Expect things to get worse, until Europe is forced to accept Germany’s conditions in return for a financial lifeline.
Guess where the bailout money is going
Greece’s new government is channeling its bailout money into Germany’s armaments industry. According to the 2010 Arms Export Report for Germany, published early this year, Greece is the second-biggest buyer of German armaments, after Portugal. Greece lives under a permanent military threat from Turkey. As a result, Greece spends 4.3 percent of its gdp on defense, money that goes mainly to Germany. When the EU was threatened with the collapse of the Greek economy, German government defense contractors enforced Greece’s contract obligations. The effect has been ironic: Greece is treating as a priority the payment of its obligations to the German armaments industry using the very bailout funds supposedly received to revive its own dying economy.
Kudos to your intelligence
Outgoing Australian ambassador to the Vatican Tim Fischer praised the Vatican’s diplomatic links and intelligence gathering, according to an article published by the Catholic News Agency on January 12. “It is the oldest organization in the world, and it does have a huge network,” he said. “As recently as the Balkans war, some of the best information as to what was really happening on the ground was not held by the cia or the kgb but, in fact, right here in Rome by the Holy See.”
Now that America is gone …
After the last U.S. troops left Iraq on Dec. 18, 2011, the Shiites wasted no time in throwing their weight around, igniting a sectarian political crisis. The Shiite-controlled government leveled terrorism charges and issued an arrest warrant against Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi on the very day the Americans left. Hashemi claims the charges against him are a fabrication, and Washington appears to agree. Sunnis are furious, and fear being shut out of politics by the Shiite majority.
The situation sparked a surge in violence in the country; at least 150 people were killed in just the first couple weeks of this year. A series of bombings killed some 72 people in mainly Shiite areas of Baghdad on December 22. A suicide bomb attack targeting Shiite pilgrims in Basra on January 14 killed at least 53 and wounded more than 135. On January 16, car bombs exploded in Shiite areas of two Iraqi cities, Mosul and Hillah, killing at least 11 people.
The sectarian division between Sunnis and Shia is playing into Iran’s hands by giving it pretext for getting more involved in Iraq’s internal affairs. Iran is “ready to expand its military and security ties with Iraq,” Iran’s chief of staff of the armed forces, Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, said December 25. Firouzabadi praised the “forced departure” of America that he said “was due to the resistance and determination of the Iraqi people and government.” In November, a delegation of Iraqi military leaders under the army’s chief of staff, Gen. Babaker Zebari, traveled to Iran to examine areas where the two militaries could cooperate.
Watch for Iran—politically and otherwise—to further cement its hold on Iraq as it takes advantage of the power and security vacuum America has left behind. The Trumpet has forecast for decades that Iran would take over Iraq. Now that American troops have left the country, expect Iran to quickly take charge.
War games in Hormuz
The Iranian Navy kicked off 10 days of war games in the stretch of water from the Strait of Hormuz to the Gulf of Aden on Dec. 24, 2011. The military drill has raised concerns over a possible closure of the world’s most strategic oil transit choke point in the event of any future conflict between Tehran and the West. A daily flow of about 15 million barrels of oil pass through the strait. While there are many who doubt that Iran actually has the military capacity to keep the Strait of Hormuz closed for an extended period of time, it must be remembered that when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, global oil prices more than doubled on the mere expectation of future shortages.
Still at war
Violence continues in Syria where the governing regime is trying to crush a protest movement along with armed rebels. UN officials said in January that more than 5,000 people have been killed. Although Arab League monitors arrived in December, Assad has not carried out his pledge to halt his offensive against protesters in a bid to start peace talks. With Arab dictatorships crumbling across the Middle East, the prospect of a regime change in Syria carries heavy regional implications. Turkey and Saudi Arabia would love to see Sunni protesters overthrow their Shiite overlords and pull Syria out of the Iranian axis. Such a development would greatly strengthen Iran’s enemies.
Taking heat from Europe
The European Union issued a report in January highly critical of Israeli policies in the West Bank. Authors of the report, titled “Area C and Palestinian State Building,” were criticized by Israeli diplomatic sources for not getting any input from the Israeli government. The EU has decided to pursue a series of steps that may undermine Israel’s control over “Area C” in the West Bank, according to the internal report. Area C makes up 62 percent of the West Bank and is the portion that, under the Oslo Accords, is fully controlled by Israel. The report says that Europe will support building, infrastructure and other projects in this region in order to “support the Palestinian people and help maintain their presence” there. A Western diplomat, commenting on the document, said the EU had simply decided to ignore Israeli regulations. The report is just the latest of ongoing criticism Israel has received from Europe regarding its policies.
An Asian army grows
Asia is becoming increasingly militarized, and China is leading the way. Over the last 20 years, China’s military spending has increased an average of 16.2 percent each year, and in 2010 China ranked second in the world after spending $91.7 billion on defense. Western analysts believe China’s actual military spending is two to three times larger than these figures Beijing officially reports.
Last year, China also significantly boosted its ties with foreign forces. “Senior officials of the Central Military Commission and the People’s Liberation Army headquarters paid visits to 14 neighboring countries including Vietnam, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore and the Philippines in 2011,” the China Daily reported on January 17. It emphasized the Chinese military’s “profound achievements” in cooperating with the militaries of neighboring nations, and highlighted eight joint military exercises China conducted with foreign forces last year. These joint drills included China-Pakistan anti-terrorist exercises, China-Indonesia special forces drills, and China-Belarus parachute troop training. This June, China’s army will join with troops from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for military drills in Tajikistan.
A new multilateral deal allows Chinese police to conduct joint patrols along the Mekong River with Lao, Myanmar and Thai security forces, significantly altering the region’s strategic dynamic and bolstering Beijing’s power, Asia Times reported Dec. 16, 2011. In addition to the joint patrols, the four nations will share intelligence, establish a multinational headquarters and conduct joint security training under the direction of Chinese forces. “[T]his marks the first time that Chinese security forces will carry out sustained operations in another country without a United Nations mandate,” the Times wrote, explaining that the unprecedented move highlights Beijing’s desire to protect its rapidly expanding trade links with Southeast Asian nations. “There is a growing perception in Beijing that it must take measures to protect its economic interests abroad. … As [China’s] regional trade networks expand, the necessity of making sure they remain open and undisturbed will make it increasingly necessary for China to take a more forward-looking security stance through greater participation in regional security issues,” it said.
While many Asian nations are responding to China’s rise by jumping onside with it, the trend is clearly making some of them nervous. South Korea is boosting its own defenses in a way that indicates its concern. For example, in preparation for the launch of China’s first aircraft carrier last year, Seoul began developing a fierce supersonic anti-vessel cruise missile and a fleet of small submarines capable of maneuvering undetected in shallow waters. “The nation’s armed forces have been bolstering their high-tech weapons arsenals since the mid-1990s by developing Aegis destroyers and purchasing early-warning aircraft, not just to deter threats from North Korea, but rather to prepare for the rising military powers of China and Japan,” South Korean daily ChosunIlbo reported Dec. 30, 2011.
Ultimately, even this development—an Asian arms race of sorts—will prove to work in China’s favor. Biblical prophecy speaks of a giant Eastern army coalescing in the end time, absorbing many Asian states, with China and Russia at the head. This prophecy is unfolding before us today. Smaller Asian nations will continue to rally behind Beijing, and even presently resistant nations will have a change of heart, as China solidifies its position as the regional hegemon.
Ditching the dollar
Russia and Iran have replaced the American dollar with their own national currencies in bilateral trade, Iran’s state-run Fars news agency reported on January 7. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev initiated the proposal to switch from the dollar to the ruble and rial at a meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In recent months, agreements have also been made to bypass the dollar in bilateral trade between Russia and China, China and Japan, China and Iran, and Japan and India. Expect the greenback to continue to weaken as more nations move away from the dollar. These economic agreements will hasten the end of the dollar’s reign as the global reserve currency, point to a coming era of Asian unity, and will help goad European leaders into taking drastic action in their efforts to save the eurozone.
Break in through the back door
Hackers in China infiltrated the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s computer systems, undetected for at least six months, the Wall Street Journal reported Dec. 21, 2011. “The break-in at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is one of the boldest known infiltrations in what has become a regular confrontation between U.S. companies and Chinese hacks,” it wrote. The attack was thwarted in May 2010, but the hackers may have had access to the Chamber’s systems for up to a year before that. Chamber officials investigating the attack say hackers focused on Chamber employees that dealt with Asian policy. The hack is suspected by U.S. officials of having ties to the Chinese government. It provides another sobering example of how vulnerable the U.S. is to hacking.
Latin America, Africa
Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay
Latin American trade bloc closes its ports to Falkland vessels
A crisis is brewing in the South Atlantic. On Dec. 20, 2011, Argentina successfully petitioned its neighbors in the trading bloc Mercosur (which includes Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay) to support Buenos Aires’s claim on the Falklands archipelago by closing their ports to ships flying the Falkland Islands flag. The decision came less than two weeks after a visiting Chinese diplomat ratified support for Argentina’s sovereignty claim over the Falkland Islands. Britain, it seems, is quickly losing friends willing to support its sovereignty in the Falklands. Regardless of how events play out, sooner or later Argentina will once again test Britain’s control over this sea gate. Bible prophecy predicts that London will lose control of this strategic asset.
Economy passes UK’s
Brazil’s economy has overtaken that of Britain, making it the world’s sixth-largest economy, the Center for Economics and Business Research (cebr) reported in December. The cebr World Economic League Table (welt) forecasts that Britain’s economy will fall to eighth place by 2020 as it is overtaken by Russia (reaching fourth place) and India (reaching fifth place). The welt used 2010 gdp data from the International Monetary Fund and forecasts based on the cebr’s global prospect model. (Brazil’s gdp per capita is still much lower than Britain’s—us$12,916 compared to us$39,604.) A nation that once ruled a quarter of the Earth’s land area has been reduced to an ailing economy.
The fuel for drug violence
Over 12,000 were killed in Mexico last year in the country’s surging drug violence. According to the daily newspaper Reforma, this staggering statistic is 6.3 percent higher than in 2010 and does not include juveniles or children killed. Such rampant violence has brought total casualties resulting from Mexico’s drug war to more than 50,000.
Latin American leaders recently lashed out at Washington for not doing enough to curb American drug consumption. “Our region is seriously threatened by organized crime, but there is very little responsibility taken by the drug-consuming countries,” Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom said during a meeting of Latin American leaders in December in Caracas, Venezuela. At another regional summit in December, Latin American leaders from 11 nations convened in Mexico City and issued a formal statement accusing the U.S. of being the top consumer of illicit drugs in the world and calling on Washington to revise its current drug policies.
America’s ravenous appetite for deadly drugs—cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and others—is fueling what the United Nations estimates is a $142 billion-a-year business.
Hail the great Kim Jong Il!
The South African anc Youth League put forth one of the most flattering eulogies of late North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il publicly released by a political organization. In a statement in late December, youth leader Abner Mosaase praised Kim for taking his people out of poverty, ending homelessness, cleaning up the environment and defending North Korea from the imperialist United States. He went on to write that the working people of South Africa will remember his struggle as they move to nationalize their economy and defeat the legacy of apartheid. While most of the free world little mourned the death of the nuclear tyrant, the African National Congress Youth League joined the Iranian parliament and Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez in lamenting the demise of a fellow revolutionary.
Islamists killed over 40 people in churches in Nigeria on Christmas Day. St. Theresa Catholic Church, 25 miles from the capital, suffered the worst attack. A bomb tore a hole in the roof and ceiling of the church, killing 35 as Christmas mass was concluding. Boko Haram, a Taliban-like group with ties to al Qaeda, claimed responsibility. Rights groups say it has killed over 250 people since July 2010.
Christians are under attack across northern Africa and the Middle East. Al Qaeda in the Maghreb is working to turn the whole of Africa’s Sahel region into a “new Somalia,” a panel of experts warned in December. Jerome Spinoza, head of the Africa bureau in the French Ministry of Defense, said the sub-Saharan Sahel region, which reaches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, was a particular Islamist target. The region covers parts of Senegal (8 on map), Mauritania (9), Mali (10), Burkina Faso (11), southern Algeria (12), Niger (13), northern Nigeria, Chad (14), Sudan (15), northern Ethiopia (16) and Eritrea (17). Spinoza pointed to the possibility of a transcontinental link between Boko Haram militant Islamists in Nigeria and al-Shabaab in Somalia (18). He then called for a joint response from the international community and suggested that the European Union take more concrete action in the region.
Not going to the chapel
A record low number of Americans are currently married, a Pew Research Center analysis of census data revealed. Fifty years ago, nearly three quarters of adult Americans were married. Today, it is barely one half—51 percent. More people are opting instead for co-habitation or living alone, and the number of single parents is also increasing. Those who do marry are waiting longer than ever, with the median age for brides being 26½ years, and for grooms, closer to 29 years. A 2010 Pew survey found that 4 in 10 Americans believe marriage—the institution that has underpinned stable societies throughout history—is becoming obsolete.
EU court not a big fan of the Brits
Research by backbench Conservative M.P.s shows that the British government has lost three quarters of rulings in the European Court of Human Rights since Britain joined the system in 1966. The court allows judges, many of whom have no experience in judging, to overrule the government. This loss of control over British sovereignty often stirs angry headlines in Britain’s press.
Results of anti-family tax code
Britain has one of the highest rates of single-parent families in Europe, with 20.8 percent of children living with one parent, according to Eurostat figures. The only nations with a higher proportion are Estonia, Latvia and Ireland. Patricia Morgan, a researcher who has long campaigned for fairer treatment of families in the tax system, pointed out: “You can look at these figures and see immediately which countries help couples through tax and benefits. In France, people get help if they draw up legal family contracts …. By contrast, our system encourages transient shack-ups.”
Canada finds another customer
Canadian firm Athabasca Oil Sands Corp announced in early January that it was selling a 40 percent stake in one of its oil sands prospects to a Chinese company. Athabasca already sold 60 percent stakes in its MacKay River project to PetroChina in 2010. Now it is selling off the remaining stakes. If this sale goes through, it will be the first time a Chinese company will have gained full ownership of such a project. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said that he plans to actively market Canadian oil to Asian buyers since the Obama administration does not seem interested in it. Ironically, at a time when Washington is sweating over whether or not Iran will try to block Middle Eastern oil shipments, Beijing is sneaking in the back door and taking Canadian oil that America seems not to even want.
NYC: abortion capital
The abortion rate in New York City is more than double the national average, according to data released by the local health department on January 3. The data shows that 83,750 pregnancies were aborted in New York City in 2010, which translated into 40 percent of the total. The city’s abortion rate was highest among blacks, with 60 percent of pregnancies ending in abortion. The study revealed that the city’s teenagers aborted 63 percent of their pregnancies.
This could drain your savings
The U.S. national debt stood at $15.23 trillion at the close of 2011, according to government figures. Since the national gross domestic product for 2011 was only $15.18 trillion, the national debt is now bigger than America’s annual economy. With this being the case, it is only a matter of time until the American public suffers the consequence of losing most of its savings to inflation, the Business Insider warned.
Cracks in the ‘United’ Kingdom
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond is preparing Scotland to hold a referendum on independence. This led to clashes between the devolved government in Scotland and the national government in Westminster in January. According to recent polls, the majority of Scottish people don’t want independence. Even if Scotland ultimately votes to stay in the union, however, months, if not years, of campaigning and arguing isn’t going to help the unity of the United Kingdom.