Tag Archives: Russia Today

INTERESTING DEVELOPMENTS IN EUROPE THIS WEEK

German Chancellor Angela Merkel with US President Barack Obama outside the Elmau castle in Kruen near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on Monday.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel with US President Barack Obama outside the Elmau castle in Kruen near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on Monday. (Reuters)

The week began with the 41st G7 summit, held this year in the Bavarian town of Krun.

The former G8 is now down to 7 since Vladimir Putin started misbehaving himself and invaded Ukraine.   He never really belonged anyway.  The group is made up of the seven biggest industrial powers in the world – Russia was never the eighth.   Even the Belgian economy is bigger than Russia’s.   At the same time, Russia under Putin can hardly be described as a model democracy.

The leaders of the seven seem to have had the usual amicable two-day session, during which they discussed Russia and Ukraine, global warming and ISIS.   President Obama was more than candid when he said that the US does not have a “complete strategy” when it comes to dealing with the terror group.  One year after ISIS captured the city of Mosul, the Administration still doesn’t know what it’s doing!   It’s a good thing the president wasn’t in power at the time of Pearl Harbor – Hitler and Tojo would have won!

Fortunately, there are leaders out there who do know what they are doing and who seem to have a clear strategy.  Unfortunately, they live in Moscow and the Vatican.

Today, the leader of Russia, no doubt sore at being barred from the summit and all that Bavarian beer, met with the Pope in the Eternal City.   This was the second time the two men have met, the first since the Russian annexation of Crimea.   Note what Russia Today had to say:

“The two men champion similar conservative values in a rapidly changing world, as well as concerns for emerging threats to Christianity.  During their last meeting in 2013, Putin and the Pope discussed the danger Christians face in the Middle East at the hands of radical Islamists.

“The meeting is expected to touch upon Ukraine and the civil war in the east of the country.  Pope Francis has been rejecting calls from the Ukrainian Catholic Church to condemn Russia over allegations that it’s fueling aggression, and instead called on all parties involved to cease hostilities.”

Today’s meeting was a test of the pope’s diplomatic skills.  Fresh from a visit to Cuba, which was appreciated in both Washington and Havana, the pope was instrumental in breaking the ice between the US and the communist country.  Can he help break the logjam over Ukraine?

Perhaps more important to the pope is the state of Christians in the Middle East.  Extremists throughout the region are killing Christians at an alarming rate and in a most alarming manner.  Russia’s president has said that Russia will protect them.  The pope has called for world leaders to intervene and use force against those persecuting Christians.  The US president is on record as saying that the US is a “post-Christian” country – he will not be seen to favor Christians over Muslims, reminding people a few weeks ago that Christians did some terrible things to Muslims during the Crusades. At the same time, Christianity is a thing of the past to most western Europeans.

So, what next in Europe and particularly Germany, Rome and Moscow?

Bible prophecy shows that prior to Christ’s Second Coming, there will be a revival of the Roman Empire, in which Rome and Germany will play major roles.   You can read about the revived Roman Empire in Revelation, chapter 17.   History students will know that this union is not improbable.   In 1922, Mussolini proclaimed a revival of the Roman Empire.   After his plans failed, six European nations came together to sign the Treaty of Rome in 1957, pledging to form “an ever closer union”, in effect a nicer Roman Empire, not built by force.

For this revival of the Roman Empire to come into its final form, a German led Europe and America are set to go their separate ways. Clearly, there are already differences between Washington and Berlin, the only European capital that counts.   Germany is witnessing increasing anti-Americanism, which is likely to get worse with the publication of “Schindler’s List.”   Gerhard Schindler is the president of Germany’s BND, the equivalent of America’s National Security Agency (NSA).   He has in his possession a list of people in Germany that his BND has been spying on at the behest of the NSA.

“This list has become a potential time bomb both for Germany’s ruling coalition and for the transatlantic relationship.  It refers to the documentation of millions of “selectors”— search terms for phone numbers, e-mail addresses and so on — that America’s National Security Agency (NSA) has over the years fed into the computers of its German equivalent, the BND.   The Germans monitored these and passed the intelligence back to America.  Under a 2002 deal, the selectors may not point to German citizens, European firms or European Union governments.

“But for years the BND failed to check the selectors, according to parliamentary testimony by Gerhard Schindler, its president. It began doing so properly only after revelations of American mass surveillance by Edward Snowden in 2013.  The BND then rejected thousands of search terms as impermissible, apparently because they aimed at European firms and governments, including France’s. A big question is just how many problematic selectors had got through.   Mr. Schindler says he was informed of the situation only in March.  How much Chancellor Angela Merkel knew is unclear.” (“Germans are angry not only with America’s spies but also with their own,” The Economist, June 6th.)

There is likely to be considerable fallout when the list is revealed.   In turn, this could affect transatlantic relations.

Add to this a growing disillusionment with a do-nothing Washington that is no longer committed to Europe and seems averse to doing anything significant in the Middle East.   This leaves a vacuum in the Western world.   Europe is not ready to fill the vacuum yet, but if the West is to be saved, it must do so.   And do so soon.

Rome will also play a role here.   A revived Roman Empire is not possible without the papacy.   Note the following comment in Time Magazine one day before the pope met with President Putin.

“The Bishop of Rome may not represent the United States or Germany, but he is increasingly a superpower in his own right, and the Wednesday meeting is a diplomatic test of how Francis will use his influence.”

(“Vladimir Putin Tests the Limits of Pope Francis’ Powers,” Elizabeth Dias, Time Magazine, June 9th.)

Little attention is given to Berlin, Rome, or Moscow on American television news programs, but developments in these three cities could affect America’s future and very soon.

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INTERNATIONAL NEWS

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Zambia-Scott

The Middle East remains the focus of Bible prophecy with Jerusalem as its epicenter.

And Jerusalem is very much in the news just now.

Following an assassination attempt on a right-wing Jewish leader, Israeli soldiers shot and killed his assassin. The Israeli government then thought it prudent to close the Temple Mount to all three religions. This was temporary but a Palestinian leader declared the decision “an act of war.”

The Temple Mount reopened in time for Friday prayers but the city remains tense and the prospect of a renewed intifada remains high. At the close of prayers moments ago, Palestinian youth were starting to riot.

Meanwhile, relations between Israel and the US are at an all-time low, with Obama Administration officials using bad language to describe the Israeli leader, Benyamin Nethanyahu. The Israeli Prime Minister this week authorized the building of over 1,000 new homes in East Jerusalem, which the US protested. Natanyahu, a conservative, had little choice if he hopes to win the election scheduled for next year.

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News out of Africa this week has been very interesting, even without Ebola, which continues to rage in West Africa. The BBC today described the region this morning as one of the worst governed parts of the world. We used to live in Ghana, so I can echo those sentiments. Whereas Ghana itself has greatly improved, neighboring Burkina Faso is quite different.

President Blaise Compaoere was finally forced to resign this morning, after 27 years in office. He came to power in a violent coup in October 1987, overthrowing the previous president ,Thomas Sankara. I have been continually reminded of Sankara’s assassination throughout the years as a traffic circle in Ghana’s capital, Accra, is named after him. Ghana’s leader, Jerry John Rawlings and Sankara were close friends, both left-wing revolutionaries in the mould of Che Guevara.

Their devotion to revolutionary fervor did not, however, deter them from personal gain while in office. Compaoere was just the same.

The capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, has witnessed considerable violence for some days now, following the president’s request to the national assembly to approve a change to the constitution, which would allow him another 15 years in office. Tired of all the corruption, the people rose up and said no. Sadly, though, whoever takes over is likely to be just as corrupt. Coups and corruption are the order of the day throughout the continent of Africa. With each change of president, there is short-lived hope of real change,  hope that is soon dashed with the first signs of corruption.

Events in Burkina Faso bring to mind Christ’s profound observation on gentile government:   “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.” (Matt 20:25).   Abuse of power in most African countries is an every day occurrence.

A more orderly transition is taking place in Zambia, another African country considerably to the south and east of Burkina Faso. The 77-year-old President of Zambia, Michael Sata, died in London earlier this week while undergoing medical treatment. Under the constitution, his Vice President is taking over and must preside over an election within 90 days. He himself cannot stand for election as his parents were not born in Zambia, a constitutional requirement when standing for the office of president. What is remarkable is that the interim president is Guy Scott, a white man born in Livingstone in what was then Northern Rhodesia. His ancestry is Scottish. This is the first white man to rule an African nation since F.W. deKlerk, President of South Africa in the last years of apartheid.

Unlike Burkina Faso, Zambia has been quite stable since independence, fifty years ago. Under its post independence leader, Kenneth Kaunda, it pursued a socialist course that set it back economically. But, in recent years, it has been catching up.

Zambia and Ghana are two countries that give some hope to Africa. Sadly, Burkina Faso is another country that reminds us of Africa’s tumultuous post-colonial history.

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I’ve often wondered if Vladimir Putin, Russia’s eternal leader, might one day have himself proclaimed Czar.  His determined swagger through the Czar’s palaces conjure up images of a bygone era.

A friend has just sent me a couple of articles showing that support for a monarchical form of government is growing in both Russia and Rumania.

According to the 24/7 news channel, “Russia Today”, quoting the All Russia Center for Public Opinion, almost a third of Russians support restoration of the monarchy. Only 6% feel that a candidate must be from the Romanov dynasty that ruled Russia for over 300 years.   The vast majority feel the Czar must be Russian Orthodox. 13% feel a prominent Russian could fill the role (Putin?), but a further question and answer showed that 80% feel that no contemporary Russian can fit the role. So, that leaves Putin out. The results were announced by the head of the organization, Valery Fedorov, at a Moscow conference dedicated to the 400th anniversary of the Romanov Russian royal house.

In Rumania, the current Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, is running for the figurehead position of president. If he succeeds, he is promising to hold a referendum on restoration of the monarchy, which was abolished by the communists in 1947. King Michael is still alive, aged 93, and is well thought of in the country.

As disillusionment with the present systems of government grows, nostalgia for an older, more stable and seemingly better time will increase. But it remains the case that only a dramatic upheaval is likely to result in the restoration of ancient crowns.

UKRAINE’S PROBLEMS FAR FROM OVER

Ukraine europ-map-eu

At the weekend, ABC news revealed that the US president was “working around the clock to resolve the crisis in Ukraine.”

I doubt this was true.

Pat Buchanan was likely more correct when he said on PBS’s McLaughlin Group that the US was “absent” and “irrelevant” in the Ukraine’s crisis.

Pivotal players in the Ukrainian situation were neighbors, Russia and the European Union.  As more than half the population of the eastern half of Ukraine speak Russian, there is a lot of support for Russia but the western half of the country, until a century ago a part of the Austrian Empire, looks west and wants to join the EU.

It’s not just language and history that divide the two halves.  Religion is another factor, with the Russian half Eastern Orthodox and the western half Roman Catholic.

The pro-Russia / pro-EU division is not the only problem that divides.

There is a great deal of anger amongst the demonstrators about the level of corruption in Ukraine.  As with demonstrators in many countries, economic deprivation is a major driving force.

What the EU represents for many is the hope of change, an opportunity to make a complete break with the Russian-Soviet past.  The EU provides an opportunity to secure democracy and prosperity.

Or does it?

A report just over a week ago showed that the EU itself has become very corrupt.   Perhaps not as bad as Ukraine but in some EU countries there’s a very high level of corruption.  The Mediterranean countries got a special mention, Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain, sometimes referred to collectively as the PIGS.

If and when Ukraine gets to become a full member of the EU, the country will not be another Germany.  It will rather be one of the PIGS, heavily indebted to Germany and dependent on handouts from the wealthier members of the European club.  Austerity is likely to be in force for some time.

If Russia Today, a 24/7 news channel free over the Internet, is accurate, Ukraine could also be a negative influence on the EU.  RT claims that many of the rebel leaders are members of extreme right-wing movements.  A number of European countries are seeing a rise in extreme right-wing parties.  A victory for rightists in Ukraine would encourage the same elsewhere.  It should be noted that, in World War II, many western Ukrainians were pro-Nazi.

Additionally, there is a very real threat of separatism along ethnic and linguistic lines.  If the Russian-speaking, Orthodox, Eastern Ukraine breaks away from the Catholic, Ukrainian-speaking western half, it could encourage other separatist movements in Europe.

It’s a mistake to assume that the fall of Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Yanukovych solves everything.  It is rather the beginning of a very uncertain future.

There is a possibility that Russia will move in militarily to protect its own citizens.  They may also claim the Russian-speaking eastern half of the country.  A Russian military intervention would be quick and would likely boost Putin’s stature at home, already considerably boosted by the completion of a successful Winter Olympics in Sochi.  It would be similar to the Russian war against Georgia in 2008.

If Russia does not intervene and Ukraine is free to join the EU, 15 billion euros in aid should arrive soon.  That’s $20 billion dollars – but Ukraine will be like Greece, beholden to Germany, subject to a long period of austerity that could build resentment and boost the extreme right even further.

It may be months or even years before we see the full consequences of the latest developments in Ukraine.  It will be a while before we see clearly who the victors are from the upheaval that has just taken place.