As highlighted in the last two issues of the Lampstand, Europe has continued to dominate the headlines with change after change continuing to reshape the face of the political landscape of the Continent. At the heart of these changes is the emergence of the “United States of Europe”, which is seeing the breakdown of barriers, the embracing of traditional enemies and a redefinition of the role of the “United States of America”. An example of how the European Union had the US in their sights was the dispute over the monopoly that will emerge from the merger of Boeing and McDonnell-Douglas—a merger that will give the new corporation 60% of the EU market and therefore threaten the viability of the European aerospace industry (New Straits Times, 20 December 1996).
But more interesting in this realignment of the nations of Europe is that the UK is consistently at loggerheads with its “partners”. In the International Herald Tribune of 21 January 1997, plans on the part of France and Germany to circumvent the rights of veto by other members of the EU under certain circumstances was only opposed by Britain (Britain Assails Initiative on EU Decision Process). In the report, the German Foreign Minister was quoted as saying: “The French and Germans are closing ranks, and we hope that the German-French tandem will be a stimulus for further European integration”. This was cited as one of the main international challenges the new British Prime Minister faced when he took office. Time of 12 May 1997 carried a report which stated that Mr Blair had promised to “fight tenaciously for both British national interests and reform of EU institutions” (Promises, Promises, Promises).
But it is worth considering the enormity of what has been accomplished in Europe, especially at the hands of the French and Germans who are the driving force of the EU. In an article entitled Unity and Division (Time, 9 June 1997), it was reported that, “Not only is there no prospect of a war in Europe, but the ancient enemies—France and Germany at the centre—have integrated their economies, torn down internal trade barriers and face the world increasingly as a single unit. Their prosperity is enormous: Europe’s gross domestic product last year, $8.6 trillion, overshadows America’s $7.6 trillion”.
So as the British fight to protect their national interests, the other EU nations are looking at ways to step up their integration, thus placing the UK outside of the mainland European nations. So we find that it is to the East the EU is looking to broaden its economic and security base. This has become increasingly obvious with the expansion of NATO to include the former communist nations. After some initial posturing by Russia, even down to the play acting of Boris Yelstin who engaged in a gesture of overt resignation as he signed the agreement, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic were admitted as members, with Romania and Slovenia waiting in the wings.
It is no secret as to the intentions of German. Chancellor Helmut Kohl has declared that he will contest another term to steer through the implementation of the major EU platforms, one of which is to see through “a politically united Europe as the best way of prosecuting its own interests in the world, and, not coincidentally, of challenging the hegemony of the United States” (Newsweek, 1 July 1997, What Did They Smoke?).
In a recent article in the International Herald Tribune (29 August, 1997) the French Foreign Minister made a statement in which he accepted the global supremacy of the US. However, he reserved the right to say “no” to Washington when legitimate French interests are at stake. The article commented that two of the areas where both nations have and will continue to disagree are, Middle East Peace talks and the reform of NATO. The Foreign Minister stated that: “The euro’s [single currency for the EU nations] arrival will have a balancing effect in a world dominated by the dollar”. So the more that Britain continues to be aligned with the US and the more the US is perceived as a threat to the economic security of the EU, Britain will become further isolated from the Continent.
However, whilst pursuing their own “image empire” in Europe, which seeks to exclude the United States, it is also serving to isolate Britain from its future. Newsweek, of 1 July 1997 continued to note: “… Amsterdam was not much of a victory for Blair. There remains a gulf wider than the Channel between the free-trading, global instincts of the British (cp Ezek 38:13), with their links to the heart and the pocketbook of non-European societies, and the Eurocentric concerns of most of their Continental neighbours. Blair, because he does not have the hang-ups about Europe of most British Conservatives, can reduce that gulf somewhat. He cannot eradicate it without transforming Britain in a way that most Britons, for understandable reasons, would resent”.
Since the British elections there has been a resurgence in national pride. The images of a new fresh face of the youngest Prime Minister this century, installed in 10 Downing Street with a modern family and a reshaped Labor Party which has an unprecedented majority, have given a new impetus to a nation of declining influence on the European stage.
Even the enormous impact of the sudden death of Diana, Princess of Wales, may potentially have implications with respect to the position of Britain in the European scheme. In the death of Diana, the nation has been galvanised. The outpouring of dismay and grief at her passing and the perceived indifference of the Royal Family, has reaffirmed the overwhelming desire of the people to grasp hold of an icon which epitomises a rallying point for all. Commentators, both staunchly monarchist and republican, now acknowledge that the face of British Royalty has been changed forever by recent events. The current rise and rise of British nationalism is perhaps epitomised by one well known British novelist quoted in The Advertiser (13 September 1997) as saying: “Forget the monarchy. This Royal Family, let’s not forget, is a family of Germans”.
The outpouring of public anguish and anger is forcing the Royal Family to break from centuries of tradition and protocol, which may well be the beginning of changes that will dramatically increase the relevance of the Monarchy to the common people. So at the political and royal levels, British national purpose and identity will continue to become more evident and strident. This will serve to further distance Britain from its European “partners”, which are seeking to virtually homogenise national identity for the advancement of a common European purpose.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the English Channel, that other icon of everything European, the Pope, has recently concluded one of the most successful visits of his reign as the Pontiff. One of the largest rallies ever seen in modern times was held in Paris, with over one million attending the final service. The most remarkable feature was that it had the largest attendance of young people ever witnessed (Guardian Weekly, 31 August 1997). So, both Europe and Britain consolidate their respective positions as divergent forces in the new alliances forming between the nations.
Once again our understanding of the prophecies of the latter days are confirmed. Britain, as the mercantile power of Ezekiel 38 and the United States, as one of its young lions, are increasingly becoming isolated from the emerging conglomerate of European nations from the North Sea to the Russian steppes which are currently focused on forming and consolidating alliances, before making the grand move to “take a spoil and to take a prey”.
The year commenced with one of Israel’s toughest combat troops, wearing the trademark skullcap of Israel’s so-called national-religious Jews, using his military issue weapon to kill innocent Palestinian shoppers in an Arab market. Like so many of these senseless killings, they are deliberate attempts to honour their religious convictions. Most of these Israelis cite religious reasons for their bitter opposition to abandoning any West Bank territory. The gunman, in the first of many incidents that have shocked the world, “insisted he knew exactly what he was doing. ‘Our forefather Abraham bought Hebron for 400 shekels and the city belongs to us’” (Newsweek 14 January, 1997 Radicals In The Ranks).
The euphoria of the first agreements brokered behind closed doors and beamed throughout the world from the southern lawns of the White House for all to see, seems to be all but over. The process has reached the impasse that has been its hallmark since Hagar and Ishmael were compelled to leave the company of Abraham. Unable to save themselves, as David Gossman writes, it is remarkable that the Jewish people look to the United States as their only hope. Confronted with the question of Paul: “Hath God cast away his people?” (Rom 11:1), their answer would be a resounding YES! The people have returned “in unbelief of the Messiahship of Jesus, and of the truth as it is in him” (Elpis Israel, p441), and are yet to experience the spiritual revival prophesied by Ezekiel (see ch 11:19).
The truth of the words of Bro. Thomas, summing up the peace efforts in his time, are ever so applicable today, when he wrote: “And who are to be the arbitrators? The popes, cardinals, priests, emperors, and kings of the nations? Can justice, integrity and good faith, proceed from such reprobates?… If this peace mania be a specimen of ‘the light within’, alas! how great is the darkness of that place which professes to be enlightened by it” (Elpis Israel, pp111–112).
Soon the Prince of Peace is to return, and the peace he will bring will be based on the “spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Yahweh” (Isa 11:2) rather than the “spirits of devils working miracles” (Rev 16:14).
Whilst the Middle East peace process falls into disarray, Iran continues to demonstrate that it is on a war footing. Earlier this year the largest war games ever undertaken by ground, naval and air units of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were conducted in the Persian Gulf, and carried live by Iranian television.
The China Daily (23 April, 1997) reported: “Hundreds of thousands of revolutionary troops mustered in four Iranian provinces yesterday for Gulf war games to train for surprise attacks on ‘enemies’ posing threats to the Islamic Republic”.
More recently The Bulletin (19 August, 1997) carried a short article which reported: “While United Nations inspectors appear to have destroyed Iraq’s existing store of biological warfare weapons, Saddam Hussein still employs a team of 200 experts who could produce another batch within six months as reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association”.
Against the background of Iran’s unswerving military and religious fundamentalism, another frightening situation for the world is developing in the Middle East. Iran and Iraq have now resolved their long standing differences and are now cooperating at economic and military levels (Sydney Morning Herald 21 August 1997), which virtually means that Iraq is able to circumvent the blockages that have been put in place by the West to bring about reforms of Saddam’s regime.
However, the intention of the co-operation is focused on a new “threat” in the form of a Turkish- Israeli alliance. Even though Turkey swung to a more fundamental government in recent elections, its abilities to implement fundamentalist reforms have been hamstrung by the military, which has been cultivating links with Israel. The Sun, Kuala Lumpur, Magazine (6 May, 1997) reported: “The [Turkish] generals like Israel. When Turkish chief of staff Gen. Ismail Hakki Karadayi visited Jerusalem in February, the dinner speeches were paeans to historical links between Jews and Turks—two non-Arab peoples. There was mutual railing against the threat of political Islam”. Today Israeli military aircraft use Turkish airspace, providing them with a birds-eye view of the military activities of their not so friendly neighbours, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Also, the Turkish military have benefited from Israeli know-how and the $600 million worth of advanced military equipment that has come from Israel (Time, June 22 1997).
What is significant is the role that Turkey has in NATO. As the second-largest armed force in NATO, stationed between the volatile Balkans, the Caucasus and the Middle East, it is a reliable cornerstone in the defence of the West. The fact that the military is able to moderate the programs of the Government is a relief to many officials in Washington and Europe, as no one in the West wants to see Turkey become another Iran.
There is an even more tempting reason for a lot of interest in Turkey and its present leanings. To the north-west and west of Turkey enormous oil and gas reserves are waiting to be tapped. The magnitude of the reserves has only recently been definitely established.
The Asian Wall Street Journal (29 April, 1997) carried an article which stated that: “The oil companies of the world are swarming into the Caucasus to drill for black gold in the Caspian Sea. The oil is here, plenty of it, with reserves bigger than the US’s and potentially as great as Kuwait’s. Now all the oil men need do is extract the oil and pipe it out of this former Soviet domain. But that task is proving easier said than done for one of the pioneers, the twelve partner, 40% American-owned Azerbaijan International Operating Company. The new struggle typically pits Western interests against Russians fighting a rear-guard action in their old backyard”.
The unparalleled interest of Russia in securing their traditional influence in the region was highlighted by the report in the China Daily (21 April, 1997) in which Iran announced that Russia would invest directly in oil and gas sectors in the Islamic republic despite US sanctions.
In a separate report the Far Eastern Economic Review (April 10, 1997) said: “ A new version of Central Asia’s 19th century Great Game fought out by Tsarist Russia and the British Empire is being repeated. This time the protagonists are Russia and America… and Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan’s Taliban movement are also major players”. With enormous investments totalling $69.5 billion planned for potential pipelines, the stakes are very high. The report continues: “Both Russia and the US have already vied openly for influence in Uzbekistan. By late 1995 the West had clearly chosen Uzbekistan as the only viable counterweight both to renewed Russian hegemonism and to Iranian influence”. The report concludes: “The Great Game is now entering a critical stage. Washington and US oil companies are desperately keen for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline to be built, which would give an exit point to Central Asian energy that bypasses both Russia and Iran. Moreover the US is pushing to keep non- US oil companies out”.
The dalliance of the Turkish military with Israel against the wishes of the Government, may see some changes in the top ranks, as was the case in Algeria. A more likely scenario is that NATO, without the US and Britain, will become more closely aligned with the new eastern members and the nations described in Ezekiel 38 as their confederates. This will set the scene for the long predicted invasion of Turkey (Dan 11:40–41) to break the back of the military who currently, and will probably continue to, support Israel. The invader will then secure the oil and gas reserves in the Caucasus to eliminate any involvement of the US.
We all have a clear choice. We can either observe the manner in which the affairs of the nations are being so ordered by the angels, and act accordingly as strangers and pilgrims—or we can become so entwined in the affairs of this world and be “caught unawares”. There can be no doubt that the few simple events highlighted in this article serve as salient reminders to us that the Word that goes forth out of the mouth of Yahweh, does not return unto Him void, but it accomplishes what He “pleases”. (Isa 55:11) May it please Yahweh to find us working and active in His Service when His Son returns, whose right it is to receive the diadem and crown. (Ezek 21:27) “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20).