Boris Johnson arrives in Bavaria on Sunday for the annual G7 summit of world leaders, hosted this year by the new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. It will be all smiles when the two men greet at the beautiful Schloss Elmau hotel, a luxury spa high in the Bavarian Alps.
But beyond the handshake diplomacy, Johnson finds himself facing a center-left leader who has decided to break ranks with the discreet style of his predecessor Angela Merkel and deliver clear, public rebukes to London over its Brexit maneuvering.
Five senior politicians and officials within Scholz’s administration confirmed the new German chancellor has chosen to adopt a more robust public stance than his predecessor’s sometimes-opaque utterings over Brexit.
This has played out in speeches, public comments and across the airwaves since Britain published the Northern Ireland Protocol bill earlier this month.
The bill would grant British ministers powers to disapply parts of the protocol, a central part of the Brexit divorce deal designed to prevent a land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The protocol keeps Northern Ireland inside the EU single market, but means the region must administer checks on goods arriving from the rest of the U.K. — stipulations hated by Northern Irish unionists and the British government.
In their public remarks following the bill’s publication, both Scholz and his hawkish foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, a Green Party member of the German coalition government, made their displeasure crystal clear.
“It is a very regrettable decision that the British government has taken,” Scholz said. “It is a departure from all the agreements we have made.”
“London is unilaterally breaking agreements,” Baerbock added. “And it is doing so for predictable motives of its own. We in the EU cannot accept that.”
In private, Scholz is said to be highly critical of Johnson’s handling of the issue, and fears the protocol bill may lead to a trade war between the EU and Britain. With exquisite timing, the bill will receive its second reading in the House of Commons Monday, just as the second day of the leaders’ summit in Bavaria is getting underway. (Politico, 6/25/2022)
Germany building LARGEST army in Europe as Scholz vows Kyiv support ‘as long as necessary’ – GERMANY is in the process of building the largest military in Europe, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a pledge that marked a 360-degree turn in the country’s historic stance on defence by Teresa Gottein Martinez, Express (patriotic UK newspaper), 29 June 2022
Post-Cold War Germany steadily reduced the size of its army from around 500,000 troops at the time of reunification in 1990 to just 200,000. Its military spending has for decades been notoriously cautious – until Berlin’s approach abruptly changed in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February. Days after the start of the full-scale war, Mr. Scholz announced a €100billion ($105-billion) fund to beef up Germany’s military defences and offset decades of chronic underfunding – none of which is directly linked to the delivery of weapons to Ukraine. He also promised to meet NATO’s target of spending two percent of GDP on defence as well as boosting its high-readiness forces from the current 40,000 to more than 300,000 troops. This followed years of criticism from close allies that the Bundeswehr was falling short of contributing enough to the Alliance. In an interview on public television ARD after the G7 group of the world’s richest nations met in Bavaria, the Chancellor said Germany, alongside the United States, made “certainly the largest contribution” to the North Atlantic Alliance.
This shift towards a military mindset has emerged in unexpected places. Adopting the ‘language of power,’ German chancellor Olaf Scholz announced a spectacular defence policy change, with a new €100bn defence package.
Future German defence spending, he said, would represent more than two-percent of GDP, exceeding Nato’s annual spending goal.
This is a dramatic change from its previous position, which placed civilian approaches front and centre and that there is no military solution to complex, violent conflicts. (euobserver, 6/28/2022)
Why Japan and Germany are Ready to Fight Again – It’s not just the Ukraine war. Unlike in the past, less worrisome figures are now driving the push for a stronger defense — and for sounder reasons. It is good news that Germans and Japanese are waking up from their postwar slumber. by Ian Buruma: professor of human rights at Bard College. His latest book is “The Churchill Complex,” Blooomberg, 5 May 2022
When German Chancellor Olaf Scholz traveled to Asia in late April, he bypassed China, Germany’s biggest Asian trading partner, in favor of Japan — and with good reason. The two former Axis powers are aiming at closer military cooperation, spurred by concerns over China’s expansionism in East Asia and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Germany sent a frigate to Japan last year for joint naval exercises. Both countries have pledged to boost their defense spending.
Not long ago, many people would have been alarmed at such a turn of events, not least in Germany and Japan, still haunted by bitter memories of their bellicose past. The fact that opposition has been muted is a good sign — and has much to do with who exactly is driving this momentous shift.
Germany’s union head warns of collapse of entire industries due to cuts in Russian natural gas Bloomberg, 3 July 2022
Top German industries could face collapse because of cuts in the supplies of Russian natural gas, the country’s top union official warned before crisis talks with Chancellor Olaf Scholz starting Monday. “Because of the gas bottlenecks, entire industries are in danger of permanently collapsing: aluminum, glass, the chemical industry,” said Yasmin Fahimi, the head of the German Federation of Trade Unions (DGB), in an interview with the newspaper Bild am Sonntag. “Such a collapse would have massive consequences for the entire economy and jobs in Germany.” The energy crisis is already driving inflation to record highs, she said. Fahimi is calling for a price cap on energy for households. The rising costs for Co2 emissions mean further burdens for households and companies, Fahimi added. The crisis could lead to social and labor unrest, she said. Economics Minister Robert Habeck said on Saturday that the government is working on ways to address the surging costs both utilities and their customers face, without giving details. Earlier he had warned that the squeeze on Russian gas supplies risks creating deeper turmoil, likening the situation to the role of Lehman Brothers in triggering the financial crisis in 2008. Russia has reduced shipments through Nord Stream pipeline by 60% and the pipeline is scheduled for a full shutdown this month for maintenance. Germany has raised doubts that Nord Stream will resume supply after that. (https://fortune.com/2022/07/03/germanys-union-head-warns-of-collapse-of-entire-industries-due-to-cuts-in-russian-natural-gas/)
Guess who mines more than 70 % of the world’s rare earth materials, and holds at least 85% of the world’s capacity to process them into materials that manufacturers can use? China. Who produces more than 60% of the world’s solar panels, and 45% of the global supply of solar-grade polysilicon, the base material used in solar cells? China.
Moreover, rare earths is not a market that outsiders can simply enter. According to the Danish Institute for International Studies: “China today has the expertise, IP rights and production facilities, as well as its own REE [rare earth elements] consuming industries. China also manufactures a significant and growing share of goods containing REEs, making it practically impossible for competing companies outside China to get a foothold.” (Gatestone, 6/29/2022)
BLACK LIVES DON’T MATTER
Where is the outcry? When an Australian, Brenton Tarrant, attacked two mosques and killed 51 Muslims in 2019 in New Zealand, the world stood in condemnation; the hand-wringing has not stopped since. The United Nations responded to that lone and aberrant attack by inaugurating a “combat Islamophobia” initiative. Where, after years and decades of being attacked, are the UN initiatives to “combat anti-Semitism” and to “combat Christian genocide”?
Ignoring the murder of Christians is, of course, only one piece of the puzzle; covering up the religious identity of their murderers is the other. In describing last Sunday’s massacre of more than 50 Christians, the words “Muslim,” “Islam,” or even “Islamist” never appeared in the AP report. Rather, we are told that “It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack on the church.”
To maintain this ambiguity, the AP failed to point out that Islamic terrorists have routinely stormed churches and slaughtered many Christians over the years in Nigeria — a fact that might just offer a hint as to “who was behind the attack.” (Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone, 6/12/2022)
Israel Took Part in Unprecedented Meeting With Arab States About Iranian Threat, Report Says – The Wall Street Journal reports that top military officials from Israel, Egypt, Jordan Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as representatives from the U.S., Bahrain and UAE, discussed the shared Iranian threat (26 June 2022, Haaretz Israel)
Israel took part in a secret, U.S.-initiated meeting of top military officials from throughout the Middle East in Egypt in March in order to discuss combatting the shared threat of Iran’s missile and drone capabilities, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.
The talks, held at Sharm El Sheikh, included senior military officers from Israel, Egypt, Jordan and two countries with whom Israel does not have relations: Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain sent officers to the meeting as well, the report said, and Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of the U.S. Central Command, represented the United States, which convened the gathering. The Wall Street Journal report said that this meeting was the first time that such a range of senior Arab and Israeli officers were gathered by the United States to talk about a shared threat.
According to the report, it was made possible by a series of regional shifts: fears of Iran shared by the states, strengthened ties under the Abraham Accords as well as Arab states’ desire to acquire Israeli arms and defense technology.
Israel makes dramatic upgrades to military plans to attack Iran – IAF can now fly its F-35 stealth fighter jets from Israel to the Islamic Republic without requiring midair refueling. (Jerusalem Post, 8 June 2022)
In face of Iran’s continued development of a nuclear capability, the Israeli Air Force has developed a new capability to be able to fly its F-35 stealth fighter jets from Israel to the Islamic Republic without requiring mid-air refueling. The development is a boost to IAF capabilities and comes as the Israeli military has upped its preparations for a future strike against Iran’s nuclear capabilities. In addition, the IAF recently integrated a new one-ton bomb into the arsenal of weapons used by the F-35s (known in the IAF as the “Adir”) that can be carried inside the plane’s internal weapons compartment without jeopardizing its stealth radar signature.
Israeli Air Force gets a new bomb: made by Rafael Advanced Weapons Systems – is said to be autonomous and protected against jamming and electronic warfare systems. The bomb was recently used in a series of IAF tests, the results of which were presented to Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
News of the progress in military preparedness came just a day after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Israel’s Iran strategy has changed in the last year, and it is “acting against the head… and not just its arms, as we had in recent years.” There are multiple targets in Iran at different ranges. (https://www.jpost.com/arab-israeli-conflict/article-708875)
Pope Francis denies he is planning to resign soon (Philip Pullella, 4 July 2022, Reuters)
* Unsubstantiated rumours fuelled reports of imminent resignation.
* Pope laughs off rumours of cancer: “Doctors didn’t tell me.”
* Trips to Moscow, Kyiv appear more likely; possibly in September.
* On U.S. court decision, pope says abortion is ‘hiring a hit man.’
Putin’s invasion has shattered dreams of progress, German chancellor says Olaf Scholz said the international order has changed (3 July 2022, by David Cohen, Politico)
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Sunday that the Russian invasion of Ukraine ruptured illusions that had been in place since the end of the Cold War, creating a different dynamic in Europe than existed a few months ago. Speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Scholz told host Margaret Brennan that the brutal invasion launched in February by Russian President Vladimir Putin had shaken the world out of its complacency. “I think too many in the world were hoping that we are living in a different world that is different to the experiences of the last century and the centuries before,” Scholz said, adding that a part of that gentler world order was that “we have had an agreement that there should be no attempt to change territory, to change borders, to invade the neighbor.” He told Brennan: “And this agreement is now canceled by Putin.” Scholz said Putin was a throwback to those leaders who saw conquest as a demonstration of a nation’s greatness.
“What is Putin thinking of? He is thinking like the imperialists in the 17th, 18th, 19th century,” he said. “He is thinking that all about the nation is power, and that if you are mighty enough, you can just take territory of your neighbors. And this is an activity and an idea we cannot accept and we will not accept.”
Australia’s devastating floods spur new warning systems
On 27 February, Karl Sprogis and his wife Jill spent most of the night anxiously monitoring flood height data from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology. Their town, Lismore, was caught in the catastrophic floods that submerged southern Queensland and northern New South Wales in February and March. Those floods have become the most costly in the nation’s history, according to the Insurance Council of Australia. The latest flooding to hit Australia came at the weekend when Sydney was hit with torrential rain. Thousands were told to evacuate their homes and roads were cut by deep water. (BBC: by Emily McAuliffe, Business reporter, Melbourne, Australia)
TO THE POINT
- Thatcher’s economic reforms changed Britain irrevocably. She had assumed high office after years of apparent national decline. Inflation had been at 18 per cent in 1980 but had been cut to 8 per cent by 1990, when she left office. Likewise, unemployment had been reduced to 7 per cent by 1990. In 1983 nearly 100,000 workers left Britain, but by 1990 more than 200,000 were arriving annually. The number of working days lost to labour disputes plummeted from 29.5 million in 1979 to 1.9 million in 1990. (Niall Ferguson, 6/11/2022)
- Prince Andrew is the FBI’s “next target,” says the Daily Mirror, following the jailing of billionaire sex abuser Jeffery Epstein’s associate Ghislaine Maxwell for sex trafficking. The paper says lawyers for Epstein’s victims have “urged US prosecutors to look into associates of the warped pair,” including the royal, who denies any wrongdoing. (The Week, 6/29/2022)
- The Royal Family cost taxpayers £102.4m last year, reported the Daily Mirror. The Sovereign Grant Report showed that the renovation of Buckingham Palace helped to drive up the bill. Travel costs were also up – from £1.3m to £4.5m. Royal finances expert Norman Baker said the government should have a “complete rethink” of how taxpayers’ money is allocated to the royals because the public having “no say” in how such sums are spent while “ordinary people are struggling isn’t right.”
- UK pledges £1bn more to Ukraine – The UK will provide an additional £1bn in military aid for Ukraine, taking the aid given to Kyiv to £2.3bn. The government said the new money will go towards “sophisticated air defence systems”, drones, electronic warfare equipment and “thousands of pieces of vital kit”. Meanwhile, reported the inews site, the UK’s Armed Forces is facing a cut of £1.7bn in real terms by 2025 because of high inflation. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss are both calling for a spending boost. (The Week, 6/30/2022)
- Germany’s Scholz wants Western Balkans in EU – BERLIN, May 19 (Reuters) – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he will travel to the Western Balkans before a meeting of the European Council takes place next month, bearing the message that the region belongs in the European Union. The six Western Balkan countries with EU membership aspirations – Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo – have been engaged in years-long reform process, Scholz told lawmakers in Berlin on Wednesday. (https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/germanys-scholz-wants-western-balkans-eu-2022-05-19/)
- Ukraine War collateral damage: Britain’s beloved fish and chip shops. Fish [for example] is fried at Godwin’s Fish and Chips, a longtime “chippy” shop in Preston, England. by William Booth, Washington Post summary, 2 July 2022 — CHORLEY, England – It is a perilous time for fish and chips, the golden fried food for the masses, celebrated as Britain’s “favorite meal” and “the national dish.” As it turns out, a lot of that fish comes from Russian trawlers and the sunflower oil from Ukrainian fields. With Russia’s war raging in Ukraine, that means skyrocketing prices for hungry Brits. The ingredients for an order of fish and chips – by design cheap and caloric – now cost more than twice as much as at the start of the year.
- An underestimated, unappreciated, and oft-denied driver of the Arab-Israeli conflict is Islamic religious antisemitism. How deeply entrenched is this religious bigotry, and can it prevent, or slow down, the nascent reconciliation between Israel and the Arab world? Some might question whether it is justifiable to speak of “Islamic antisemitism” and view this charge as a slur on the name of one of the world’s great faiths, followed by close to two billion people. Yet the numerous passages in Islam’s canonical sources (the Qur’an and Sunna) that depict the Jews as a warmongering, cowardly, and treacherous lot have played a key role in the perpetuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict, as evidenced among other things by the outpouring of antisemitic hate speech during and after the May 2021 Hamas-Israel war. (MEF, 7/2/2022)
Mass shootings have become a daily staple of the media. Many of these shooters kill themselves afterwards. But some don’t.
A deterrent for them can be found in Ecclesiastes 8:11. “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”
We need to go back to when murder was folowed by a swift trial and then execution. Or our streets will flow with blood.
“For I will send pestilence upon her, And blood in her streets; The wounded shall be judged in her midst By the sword against her on every side; Then they shall know that I am the LORD.” (Ezek 28:23)
Spencer Perceval, a British Prime Minister, was murdered in 1812. Within days the perpetrator was put on trial, found guilty and executed. In more recent times, when an attempt was made to assassinate the American President, Franklin D Roosevelt, and another man was killed, the perpetrator was executed 33 days later.
Now, the average person is on death row for 21 years. And most murderers do not even receive the death penalty.
This may not go all the way in solving mass shootings, but it would be a good first step. A deterrent can be quite effective.