When newspapers around the world reported that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand had been assassinated in Sarajevo, nobody would have thought it would lead to the First World War, the worst war in history. The subsequent war started in the Balkans, a part of Europe that frequently saw conflict; it didn’t seem anything to worry about.
25 years later, another world war followed on from the first, again started in Europe.
You would think that, consequently, the world would want to know what’s happening in Europe! But the mention of Europe is likely to see wide-mouthed yawns in an audience – Europe is a continent of the past, not the future; a quaint place to visit but of no relevance.
However, Europe is a continent that is unraveling as old rivalries rise to the surface. The end result could be a Europe that is very different from what we see now.
What we are witnessing is the return of nationalism, the root cause of both world wars. Right now, we are in the dark, just as the world was the morning after the Archduke’s assassination. Another seemingly insignificant event could lead directly to global conflict, just as the assassination did over a century ago.
After six decades of the European Union and its predecessor, Europeans are turning against the idea of “an ever closer union.” Now, they want to put their own country first. It started in the United Kingdom with the Brexit vote. Outside of Europe, the Americans voted earlier this month to put “America First.” Austrians seem likely to elect their “far right” candidate to the presidency on December 4th. If he wins, he has promised to dissolve parliament and to hold a vote on whether or not the country should stay in the EU. A referendum in Italy on the same day could also have a profound effect on other countries in Europe.
However, the biggest two upcoming elections will be in France in May and Germany four months later.
France just had its primaries for the center-right party, resulting in the selection of Francois Fillon as their presidential candidate. He will run against the leader of the Socialist Party. It’s not likely that their candidate will be the current socialist president, Francois Hollande, as his approval rating is down to only 4%. A third party candidate, Marine LePen, of the National Front, could beat the two establishment figures. Ms. LePen is against both the EU and immigration, two popular positions that could give her victory.
Elections next year in France and Germany may see a continuation of the trend toward nationalist parties.
Brexit has already led continental Europeans to move ahead with a European Army, independent of NATO. This has been talked about for some time, amid growing concerns about Russia and Islamic terrorism. Donald Trump’s victory in the US led, hours later, to a German call to quickly move forward – without Britain this is now possible. It’s also the case that, until the UK actually exits the EU, it will have to help pay for the combined military force.
Europe and America differ on Russia, even more so now that Trump will be president. Note the following from The Orange County Register, November 25th.
“Russian and American interests in Europe do not align. Although both powers do share the general goal of preventing Islamic terror networks from spiraling out of control, Russia’s tacit support for some acts of terrorism, through its close relationship with state sponsors of militant jihad, is well known. The truth is that Putin’s regime wants instability in Europe, by hook or by crook, so as to replace U.S. dominance on the continent.” (“High-stake Russian relations”)
The editorial continues: “And the reality is that Putin is well on his way to getting it. NATO allies like Turkey, Bulgaria and Hungary have joined in a clear pendulum swing away from Western liberalism. At the same time, reactionary parties on the ascent aim to shake off the political bonds economically forged by the international institutions that give the US its influential stake in European affairs. Few in Europe wish to become satellites of Moscow. But few realize that, absent a robust American role in Europe, there is no European force powerful enough to keep its patchwork of small states from slipping into Russia’s shadow.
“Were the US capable of defending a persuasive liberal agenda abroad, friendlier European relations toward Russia wouldn’t necessarily be cause for such profound alarm. But today, America’s leadership – like public opinion – is divided and unsure about just how much support free trade and international agreements deserve. Without clarity and confidence, even a little resurgence in traditionally pro-Russian sentiment in Europe could trigger a stampede away from the kind of American influence that has helped build and maintain security and order on the continent for generations.
“Is that a price America’s pro-Russian right and left are willing to bear? Whatever Trump’s actual preference around Russian relations may be, he is well advised to take into account the answer to that question. Nothing can ruin a presidential legacy like losing Europe.” (The last sentence was italicized by myself for emphasis.)
Five days earlier, another editorial in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette addressed European issues:
“President Obama spent Thursday and part of Friday in Germany, underlining the importance of the relationship with Chancellor Angela Merkel and, particularly, their personal rapport. With Obama’s imminent disappearance from the world stage, the transition to a Donald Trump administration is creating international disquiet, as world leaders prepare for the unknown. The German chancellor is arguably the most important figure of stability in international politics . . . They met in Berlin, increasingly the capital of Europe, although Brussels still hosts the headquarters of both the European Union and NATO, British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Francois Hollande and Spanish Prime Minister Maariano Rajoy all traveled to Berlin for their farewell-as-president meeting with Obama.”
Continuing: “Germany is the economic and, thus, probably, the political center of Europe, an ironic epilogue to its loss of two major wars in the last century.” (“Obama’s last key European stop.” Italics mine)
Put these two articles together and what you have is this:
Europe is increasingly likely to break away from America; and Germany is the leader of Europe.
But . . . not yet!
The Economist magazine’s Charlemagne column adds that Germany and its Chancellor Angela Merkel “are still too hesitant to be able to lead the free world” (“Iron Waffler,” Charlemagne, November 19th):
“Now, after an election campaign in which Mr. Trump trashed immigrants, vowed to rewrite trade deals and threatened to withdraw America’s security guarantee, the West’s indispensable nation appears to have dispensed with itself. Desperate for a candidate to accept the mantle of leader of the free world, some alighted on Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor.”
Yet Mrs. Merkel’s options are limited. “We are protected by our terrible history,” says Joschka Fisher, a former foreign minister. “You cannot say, ‘Make Germany Great Again’.”
Times are changing – and further changes are likely as a result of Donald Trump’s victory in the US. “The Westbindung (Western integration), a staple of German foreign policy since Adenauer, is fraying as extremist parties on the left and right cozy up to Russia.”
Konrad Adenauer was Germany’s first chancellor after the formation of the Federal Republic in 1949, four years after Adolf Hitler. Germany’s foreign policy since then has been firmly rooted in both NATO and the EU. Extremist parties in the country threaten this and could destroy this policy after next year’s election.
“Germany’s stake in the global liberal order is immense. Its export-led economic model relies on robust international trade; its political identity is inexorably linked to a strong EU; its westward orientation assumes a friendly and engaged America. All of these things may now be in jeopardy, and Germany would suffer more than most from their demise. But do not look to Mrs. Merkel to save them, for she cannot do so alone.”
A different chancellor, a stronger chancellor, perhaps with more extremist views of either left or right, could make a huge difference in the 2017 general election.
It’s very difficult to predict what will happen in the next twelve months in Germany or other European nations, but the continent is going through a peaceful turmoil that could see radical changes in the months ahead.
The biblical books of Daniel and Revelation both wrote of the Roman Empire and successive attempts to revive the empire down through the ages. In 1922 Mussolini proclaimed a revived Roman Empire; in 1957, the Treaty of Rome was signed to lay the groundwork for another attempt at European Union. A final group of European nations will soon come together, with Germany as its leader. Bible students have expected this for years — now the world’s media sees Berlin as the new European capital and Germany as the driving force behind the world’s biggest single economic grouping.
Does any reader have 60,000 frequent flyer miles they are not likely to use? I would like to go over to Europe to research and write on developments on the continent.