Robert Gates, the outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary delivered a stunning rebuke to European leaders in a recent speech delivered in Brussels, Belgium. Speaking during a self-described moment of candor Secretary Gates complained of the continued unreliability of America’s European partners in military matters; citing to the decision of the Netherlands to pull out its troops early from Afghanistan in 2009, as well as the continued reluctance of Germany to commit its forces to combat roles for NATO missions. Concluding his comments with a rhetorical question, Mr. Gates openly wondered whether future U.S. Presidents, in light of continued economic stagnation for the foreseeable future, will think that it is worth the investment to aid Europe in matters of defense.
Mr. Gates’ frustration has been shared by a generation of U.S. leaders who have complained about footing the bill for military engagements that European leaders officially support, but rarely commit the needed resources to. Examples include the NATO interventions in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and now most recently, Libya, where U.S. military assets and personnel are relied upon disproportionately to carry out the mission. The outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary’s comments are even more relevant during a period when economic instability in the United States has led to calls for cuts to military spending.
The Secretary’s comments leave open the question as to what exactly European leaders would do in response to an American pull back. European populations are far too committed to the extensive social services provided by most governments to entertain a shift in spending away from such programs in favor of a military build-up. Moreover, while Europe is suffering the economic instability plaguing other parts of the world, the notion of raising taxes is certainly not appealing.
The answer may come in the form of greater European military cooperation. The recent agreement reached by Britain and France to begin sharing key military assets, such as use of the French aircraft carrier, Charles de Gaulle, as a means of cutting costs may set a precedent for the rest of the EU. Some leaders within the EU have proposed for over a decade the creation of a pan European military force. However, this has met with little success because of the overwhelming reliance placed by most of Europe on the American led NATO alliance. If Mr. Gates’ comments turn out to be prescient, and Washington does begin pulling back from its traditional leadership role in European military matters, the gap may well be filled with the rise of a new, European military.
For more regarding Secretary Gates’ recent speech, read the recent EU Observer article reporting his comments.
Eye on Europe
On May 29th the Financial Times, a British newspaper, revealed that the European Union is contemplating an “unprecedented” intervention in the Greek economy. Europe is on the verge of launching this historic initiative because it has become increasingly clear that Athens will need at least another 100 billion euros in emergency financial aid in order to stave off what, for lack of a better word, can be described as bankruptcy. The intervention by Greek’s European partners may include such far-reaching measures as a European take-over of assets owned by the Greek government for the purpose of selling them off. International involvement in Greek tax collection and other revenue raising activities usually considered to be the exclusive domain of national governments, are also proposed.
After over a year since it was first revealed that the Greek government was near financial collapse, it has become clear that this Mediterranean nation is unwilling to implement the economic reforms needed to turn the situation around. Current Greek government borrowing runs at a shocking rate of 150% of the national GDP. Without additional loans from European partners and international institutions like the IMF, it is almost certain that Athens will default on its financial obligations – a scenario which would drag down the economies of other fragile European states.
Representatives of Greece to the European Union in Brussels have in recent days again suggested their country will have to give up the common currency, the euro, and return to the old national currency, the drachma, in order to deal with the crisis. This too is an unsavory option for the rest of Europe, as it will certainly lead to a loss of value for the euro. Nevertheless, Europe’s leading lender nations to Greece, such as Germany and the Netherlands are facing their own political dilemma, as recent polls suggest that support for extending further financial support to Greece is low amongst voters. To assuage voter discontent, the recent European proposal to take a direct hand in the Greek economy is seen as an attempt to appease voter apathy towards bailing out this vulnerable economy.
The contemplated intervention in Greece would compromise the sovereignty of that nation. However, in order to prevent the entire Eurozone (those European nations who use the euro as their currency) from falling into economic catastrophe, it is becoming increasingly clear that Greece, or any individual Eurozone country, cannot be allowed to mismanage their economy to such an extent. In this regard the situation in Greece sets a radical new precedent.
Perhaps recognizing that it may no longer be possible for individual member states who use the euro currency to individually manage their economic affairs without oversight, Jean Claude Trichet, the soon retiring head of the European Central Bank recently proposed the creation of a European wide ministry of finance. This new ministry would, amongst other things, manage to one degree or another the fiscal and budgetary policies of EU member states.
Such a proposal stood no chance of winning acceptance by the member states of the EU in times past. But these are not normal times, and as the rest of Europe prepares to in intervene in Greece minds are concentrated on securing Europe’s long term economic future.
President Obama has stated: “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”
The Prime Minister of Israel strongly disagrees with the President’s vision:
“Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967,” Netanyahu thundered. “Jerusalem must never again be divided,” he vowed.
The Prime Minister’s clear and powerful speech to a joint session of congress did not go over well with President Obama. Washington is pressuring the Israelis to give the Palestinians their own state–In essence a land for peace strategy that has never worked in the past, and will not work in the future.
Many Americans and Europeans gullibly believe there can be peace in the Middle East if only the Palestinians can have their own state. Arab and Palestinian diplomats say one thing for the Western Media and the opposite when speaking with their own people. The peace they believe in is based upon the destruction of the Jewish state.
It is naïve to believe that the “Land for Peace” formula can magically persuade Arab states and terrorist groups to lay down their arms and change their minds about a dream they have taught in their schools, preached in their mosques and voiced on radio and television since 1948… the Dream of driving Jews into the Mediterranean Sea.
Mr. Netanyahu made the following observations:
–Fate of Jerusalem: “Only Israel has protected all faiths of the city… Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel.”
–“The Jewish people are not foreign occupiers… No distortion of history could destroy the 4000 year old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.”
–“In the Middle East, the only peace you can hold is the peace you can defend. Peace must be anchored in security.”
The hard truth is that Israel has to grapple with the reality that the nations that surround her hate her, and desire her destruction (read Psalm 83). Christ will have to deliver this tiny nation from the great evil that is yet to come (see Zechariah chapters 12 & 14).
Dominique Strauss Kahn, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund and a man as of Sunday leading the polls as the likely next French President, appears to be the latest political figure to be caught in a sex scandal in Europe. A housekeeper at the Sofitel hotel in New York alleges that he attempted to sexually assault her and falsely imprisoned her last Saturday. Mr Strauss Kahn was in New York on a plane due to depart to Paris late Saturday evening when he was escorted off by plain clothes police. An American court today denied him bail determining him to be a flight risk. Mr Strauss Kahn denies “any wrong doing”.
It is questioned whether this will in fact kill his presidential chances. Pundits predict that Francois Hollande, a former head of the Socialist Party and former partner of the 2007 French presidential candidate Segolene Royal is a likely contender to replace Mr Strauss Kahn. Mr Hollande is another candidate with impeccable credentials in the national sport of “l’amour” (literally translated as “love” but which is used as a euphemism for “sex”). After his 30 year long relationship with Segolene Royal which bore four children, he left her to pursue his love interest with a journalist he had been pursuing a long term affair with.
The fact that this assault happened in the United States may help bring to light a level of personal corruption in France’s political leaders which is not normally published in France’s press due to strict enforcement of privacy laws and elitism that keeps magazine publishers and French leaders in a cozy relationship. President Jacques Chirac revealed a number of what he described as discreet affairs in his biography. It reportedly made the headlines around the world except for in France where presumably he had only confirmed what was otherwise widely assumed. One of his predecessors, President Francois Mitterand was known to have kept two households but it was not widely reported. When asked by a journalist about it he is said to have answered, “Et alors?” meaning, “So what?”.
To add to Mr Strauss Kahn’s sorrows, yesterday Le Monde published a report that the goddaughter of his second wife (he has been married three times) and a friend of one of his four daughters, was also a victim of attempted sexual assault by Mr Strauss Kahn over 9 years ago when she was in her early 20s. It appears she was encouraged not to bring charges by her mother who was heavily involved in the Socialist Party at the time.
The fallout in the EU is still being determined. As a result of his detention in New York, Mr Strauss Kahn missed a key European Union meeting relating to finalization of the bail-out for Portugal, adjustment of Ireland’s interest rate and whether to provide more funds to Greece. It goes without saying that Mr Strauss Kahn will be dearly missed at such a critical time in the EU’s economic recovery. As the political figurehead of the IMF, Mr Strauss Kahn has been responsible for making the tough political decisions concerning bailout conditions when the economics criteria have been questionable. He is not easily replaceable and thus this personal failing could well end up leading to an institutional failing.
If one looks back over the last year, one is confronted by a string of personal failures of this sort by Europe’s leaders. In Italy Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been charged with hiring an underage Moroccan prostitute and “springing” her from juvenile detention by calling police and claiming that she was a relative of then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. At the beginning of 2010, Northern Irish First Minister Peter Robinson left office after it was discovered that his wife, 58, was having an affair with a 19 year old boy. Daniel 4:17 says, “…the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, Gives it to whomever He will, And sets over it the lowest of men.” Unfortunately, that is seeming to be quite true.
Eye on Europe
A recent report on Der Spiegel online, the website of a prominent German news magazine, reported on 6 May that Greece was planning to exit the Eurozone, the grouping of European nations which use the common currency, the euro. The immediate reaction of currency markets was for the euro to lose over 1 % of its value in afternoon trading against the U.S. dollar, highlighting the perceived problems to the currency that would be caused by Greece’s exit. The European Commission and the Greek government have both denied these rumors, however, Der Spiegel continues to post the story online.
Five years ago the notion that one of the original, founding members of the Eurozone, would actually leave the common currency was unthinkable. However, the severe economic crisis that has gripped Greece in the wake of the global financial downturn has meant that the government has been unable, without outside help, to meet its debt obligations. Membership in the Eurozone has its benefits, but Greek government officials and some economists have complained that the country is restrained by the Eurozone rules from dealing with the financial crisis effectively. In light of these problems, and the debt crisis contagion that has spread to other Eurozone countries like Ireland and Portugal, the idea that one or more Eurozone member states might leave the common currency is certainly more believable.
The effect of a Greek departure from the euro could be disastrous for Europe. According to the Der Spiegel report, European finance ministers concerned about the rumored decision by Greece to leave the euro, met on Friday evening, May 6, in Luxembourg to consider their options. A paper prepared for the meeting, quoted by Der Spiegel, estimates that eurozone countries would have to write off billions in loans and financial obligations owed to them by Greece should it leave the currency. Germany would be particularly hard hit.
CNN International has reported that their sources were unable to confirm the Greek story, and is reporting it as false. Nevertheless, the fact that the Eurozone is vulnerable to such rumors underlines the continued fears over the stability of the common currency in the wake of the financial difficulties suffered by several of its member states. Ireland and Portugal have both suffered similar problems to Greece, and it is now expected that Spain may also, in light of its rising unemployment and prolonged economic stagnation, have to seek an economic bailout from its European partners to stave off a similar debt crisis. Spain would be by far the largest European economy to suffer from such problems to date.
Eye on Europe