For the second time in five months, a democratic election has shaken the geopolitical order in Europe. First came Brexit, then Donald Trump being elected U.S. president.
Mr. Trump’s stated vision for America is very different from his predecessor’s. And Europe’s reaction hasn’t been enthusiastic.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Europe’s de facto leader, offered only conditional cooperation with the new U.S. president. She listed values that she said bind Germany and America together: “democracy, freedom, respect for the law and for human dignity, regardless of ancestry, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political leanings. On the basis of these values, I offer the future president of the United States of America, Donald Trump, close cooperation.”
Since the end of World War ii, the U.S. has been responsible for rebuilding Germany, protecting Germany—even reunifying Germany. Yet now Germany’s leader offers only tepid conditional support for an incoming U.S. president!
This is more than just one leader’s reaction to an election she disagrees with. This is a signal of the fact that the geopolitical order in Europe—in the whole world, in fact—is changing fast.
Europe Is Vulnerable
Since World War ii, Europe has been dependent on the U.S. for its security. After the war, British and American leaders considered it too dangerous for Europe to arm and defend itself. A decade later, nations like Germany were once again allowed an army, but Europe’s militaries remained divided and much weaker than America’s.
Now Donald Trump is questioning nato, the organization that institutionalized this system and thus underpins Europe’s security. This has some leaders terrified. Guy Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister and a pro-integration leader in European Parliament, warned in Project Syndicate, “The EU’s territorial integrity itself is now at stake” (Nov. 10, 2016).
“Trump has made it abundantly clear that his foreign-policy priorities do not include European security,” he wrote. “He doesn’t recognize nato’s strategic necessity, and he has shown an interest in transatlantic relations only when he has alluded to unpaid bills. A Trump presidency will lead to an epic geopolitical shift: For the first time since 1941, Europe cannot rely on the U.S. defense umbrella; it now stands alone.”
Mr. Trump’s economic policies also threaten Europe. The uncertainty in the financial markets after his election could be enough to knock the fragile euro back into crisis. Moreover the EU is, at its core, a free trade zone. Mr. Trump rose to the presidency on an anti-free trade platform. If his movement spreads, it could rip the EU apart. Leaders already feel vulnerable after Brexit. That referendum caused many to declare the EU doomed. After Trump’s victory, they are desperate to push for further unity if only to prevent their beloved project from fracturing apart.
A Cry for an Army
It is little wonder the European leaders are saying they urgently need to defend themselves.
“Trump knows that the EU has the money, technology and know-how to be a global power equal to the U.S., and it is not his problem that Europe lacks the political will to harness its full potential,” wrote Verhofstadt. “The EU should treat Trump’s election as a wake-up call to take charge of its own destiny” (ibid).
Verhofstadt said the EU could no longer wait to build its own military and develop its own security strategy. “This is a difficult but vital decision that the EU has postponed for too long,” he said. “Now that Trump has been elected, it can wait no longer.”
This European M.P. is hardly the only voice speaking along this line. Within hours of Mr. Trump’s victory, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker both called for European nations to do more on defense, and do more together.
It is possible Mr. Trump will back away from abandoning nato once he takes office. He certainly wouldn’t be the first politician to flip-flop on campaign promises. But regardless, Europe will continue to seek a united military. In many ways, the damage is already done. European leaders no longer take American support for granted. They—and the public—are now well aware that America not only can pull its support, but that its president is inclined to do so. Europe’s integrationists will intensify their calls for a united military no matter what Mr. Trump does.
Furthermore, European leaders were pushing for a stronger, more united military even before Mr. Trump was elected. That push has accelerated in recent months, with EU leaders now meeting regularly to plan for the union.
Germany-Foreign-Policy.com noted that in the weeks before the U.S. election, voices from within Berlin’s foreign-policy establishment had been demanding “that Germany enhance its position within the framework of the transatlantic alliance” (Nov. 9, 2016).
Long-time diplomat and chair of the Munich Security Conference Wolfgang Ischinger made a similar call in the November-December issue of Internationale Politik. “We need … more urgency in the establishment and development of effective European defense structures,” he wrote.
In many ways, Mr. Trump’s stated policy is merely an intensification of President Barack Obama’s. Mr. Obama has already pushed Europe in this direction; now it is moving.
Finally, some within Europe are welcoming Mr. Trump’s election. They have wanted an EU army for years and see this as an opportunity to finally realize that dream.
“Europeans need a shock,” said Eugeniusz Smolar, former president of the Center for International Relations in Warsaw. Mr. Trump’s election “is one which might be very helpful to concentrate their beautiful minds,” he said.
“Joseph Stalin was the first unifier of Europe,” said Elmar Brok, the chair of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs. “In a certain sense, Trump has the opportunity to be the second.”
Former leader of the Christian Social Union and elder German statesman Edmund Stoiber said that a Trump presidency may prove better for Europe than a Clinton presidency would have been, because under Mr. Trump, “we will have to take on a lot more responsibility than before.”
“America will retreat a bit from the overarching world policy and will only defend its own interests,” he said in an interview with Focus Online. “Hillary Clinton would also have moved into that direction; it already started under Obama. America is consciously retiring as a world policeman and also as a champion of free world trade. Europe has to enforce its own interests” (Nov. 10, 2016).
Mr. Stoiber has long wanted Europe to play a more powerful and independent role in the world. Mr. Trump’s election pushes it closer to Stoiber’s goal.
A Cry for Leadership
The U.S. has done more than provide security for Europe. It has provided leadership. Whenever there has been a crisis in the region—be it Russia, Afghanistan, wherever—the U.S. has taken a leading role. European leaders might have disagreed with or complained about that leadership at times, but they never took the lead themselves.
That era is now ending, which is all the more reason why Europe desperately needs a strongman of its own.
“The phrase ‘leader of the free world’ is usually applied to the president of the United States, and rarely without irony,” wrote historian and Guardian columnist Timothy Garton Ash. “I’m tempted to say that the leader of the free world is now Angela Merkel” (Nov. 11, 2016).
For Germany to even be considered as an alternative to America reveals a massive geopolitical shift. And Garton Ash is far from being the only one making the connection.
The New York Times published an article titled “Donald Trump’s Election Leaves Angela Merkel as the Liberal West’s Last Defender.” “An increasingly divided Europe is looking to Germany, its richest power, to cope with its many problems,” it said (Nov. 12, 2016).
“Never before has so much ridden on the Germans,” said Simon Tilford, deputy director of the Center for European Reform.
The Times noted that Mr. Trump’s anti-nato rhetoric means “there is pressure on Germany to take a greater role in European security—always a delicate matter” (ibid; emphasis added).
“With the U.S. election results, the pressure on Germany has increased dramatically,” Olaf Boehnke, an expert on international affairs, told the Local. “There is a need [for] leadership, and if the U.S. will not be the leader for the time being, then everybody looks to other leading nations or those with the potential. It is up to Merkel and to Berlin to step up at least for the European crowd and take on much more responsibility than she already has” (Nov. 9, 2016).
Again, this shove from the U.S. comes as many important voices within Germany are already saying it needs to step up and lead. “In the current crises, Germany has shown that it is willing to take responsibility in security policy,” wrote Defense Minister von der Leyen in a 2016 white paper on German security policy and the future of the Bundeswehr. “We have also shown that we are prepared to take the lead.”
A Momentous Shift
It’s still early, but it’s already clear Mr. Trump’s election is driving a massive wedge between Europe and America. The criticism of him coming from European leaders has been unparalleled.
Ms. Merkel’s conditional message of support for Mr. Trump won much applause. And she was much more restrained in her concerns about Donald Trump than other German leaders:
- “I don’t want to sugarcoat it: Nothing will be easier and much will be more difficult.” —Frank-Walter Steinmeier, foreign minister
- “Trump is a warning to us as well. He is the harbinger of a new authoritarian and chauvinistic international movement.” —Sigmar Gabriel, vice chancellor
- “The world won’t end. It will only get crazier.” —Heiko Maas, justice minister
- Mr. Trump is “completely inadequate” to be president. “That Trump’s election could lead to the worst estrangement between America and Europe since the Vietnam War would be the least of the damage.” —Norbert Röttgen, chairman of Germany’s parliamentary committee for foreign policy
Clearly a lot of the emotion surrounding Mr. Trump’s election will soon fade. The United States remains a superpower, and European leaders will not refuse to cooperate with that superpower merely to spite Donald Trump.
Former President George W. Bush was not at all popular in much of Western Europe, and the public animosity toward him endured. France’s and Germany’s refusal to support his invasion of Iraq was a clear break between Europe and America. That European dislike and that refusal were both symptoms of significant and fundamental differences between Mr. Bush and European leaders. The same is true with Mr. Trump. European leaders’ stinging response to the U.S. election reveals a deep divide between the two power blocs.
It is also true that Europe has “Trumps” of its own. Some leaders in Eastern Europe and challengers in the West draw on similar rhetoric. However, such similarities are unlikely to result in abiding friendships with America. No matter how similar France’s “Trump” may be to the U.S. president, it’s clear that a leader whose motto is “America First” will never have a deep, harmonious relationship with one whose modus operandi is “France first.” If America and Europe are not united in upholding free trade and liberal values, what common interests hold them together?
Furthermore, there is much about Mr. Trump’s rise that is uniquely American. It seems unlikely that a man who sits on a golden throne and boasts about his humility will ever win favor from European leaders.
“Europeans should show that they are able to hedge their bets and build alliances with others,” wrote Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
“Rather than waiting for Trump to marginalize the EU over Russia and China, Europeans should fly some kites of their own,” he wrote. He asked if Europe should reach out to China and perhaps end its arms embargo.
The German Institute for International and Security Affairs (swp) called for Europe to distance itself from America even before the U.S. election. In an October 2016 analysis, it warned that Europe was completely dependent on America regarding foreign policy. The government, it wrote, needs to “ponder the reaction, should U.S. behavior become counterproductive from a German perspective.”
“Without the will to argue with the U.S. government, many options for gaining influence are excluded from the outset,” swp continued. Instead, “Germany and Europe should not leave stability policy proposals up [to] the U.S.A.”
This highly influential think tank already wanted Europe to be willing to “argue with the U.S. government.” Again we see how Mr. Trump’s election is accelerating an established trend.
This is leading to a complete break between Europe and America—something that seven decades of U.S. leadership has tried to prevent.
Accelerating World Events
Donald Trump’s election is accelerating some of the most vital prophetic trends the Trumpet has followed for decades.
Warning about the cooling of relations between Europe and the U.S., Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote in October 2014 that this “is a significant development. It is about the dismantling of a relationship that has helped to preserve peace in Europe for nearly seven decades!”
He continued: “Bible prophecy warns that a German-led European empire is going to rise up. We have said for over 50 years that it will probably be more powerful than both America and Russia!
“The age of American global leadership is drawing to a close. While the Germans might not come out and say so, they are reveling in that fact. The U.S. may try and repair relations with its former lover, but irreversible damage has already been done. The breakup, which started with the spying scandal, is going to continue to worsen until one of America’s greatest allies since World War ii becomes, once again, its greatest enemy!”
“What makes the German-American split especially important is this: It is exactly what biblical prophecy told us would happen!” Mr. Flurry wrote. He elaborated on one of those prophecies, in Ezekiel 23, which describes America and Britain as having a lover-type relationship with the modern Assyrians—Germany—a relationship that will end with a massive double cross.
This German-American split is clearer than ever—and will accelerate further in the coming months.
We have said for decades that Germany will lead Europe. And we have warned that the EU would develop a common military. In 1978, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote, “The Europeans are far more disturbed about their safety in relying on United States military power to protect them than Americans realize! The United States is not loved in Europe. European confidence in U.S. protection against their next-door Communist neighbor has been lessening and lessening.
“Europeans want their own united military power! They know that a political union of Europe would produce a third major world power, as strong as either the United States or the ussr—possibly stronger!” (Good News, Aug. 28, 1978). That applies more than ever to Europe today! Europeans are, right now, saying almost exactly that!
Meanwhile Mr. Trump’s election is building the sense of crisis in Europe. The whole continent is crying out for strong leadership. Germany is the strongest nation, but Chancellor Merkel is isolated and has proved that she is not the leader for the job. We have forecasted for years that this will lead to the rise of a strong leader within Europe.
It’s clear that when Mr. Armstrong was writing in 1978, he expected to see this European military power within his lifetime. It did not happen on the timescale he anticipated. But world events are moving forward at a dramatic pace, and the election of Donald Trump will accelerate them greatly.
Bible prophecy is becoming increasingly hard to ignore. Already Herbert W. Armstrong’s decades-old forecasting has been proven right on Brexit. You need to become familiar with what he wrote—it is filling more and more of your newspaper headlines.
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