This Week in the News

Europe’s Outlook for 2019

Euractiv wrote on December 27:

“Europeans had relied on treaties dating from the final days of the Cold War arms race, possibly thinking they are iron-cast. Not at all.

“It came rather as a shock that the United States declared it would pull out of the 1987 Intermediate- Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty unless Moscow withdraws its new cruise missile system 9M729… Russia’s nuclear-capable missiles are mobile, difficult to detect and can target cities in Europe with little warning. Russia seems to be unimpressed and ready to negotiate a new treaty, which could include China’s nuclear missile arsenal.

“The United States delivered Russia a 60-day ultimatum on Tuesday (4 December) to come clean about what Washington says is a violation of [an] arms control treaty that keeps missiles out of Europe… The EU, once again, is somewhere in between…

“While the ‘European army’ debate, initiated first by French President Emmanuel Macron and then German Chancellor Angela Merkel, caused animosities internally and on the other side of the Atlantic… ‘EU member states must aim to improve their military capabilities to cover the full spectrum of land, air, space, maritime and cyber spheres, in order to make the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) a credible force,’ MEPs agreed in [a] report…”

Europe will build its powerful army.

2019—Need for EU Action

The EUObserver wrote on December 31:

“Carl Bildt, the former foreign minister of Sweden, tweeted on 25 December: ‘The US president is now in open conflict with the US Congress, the US Federal Reserve, the US secretary of defence, China, the EU, the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and a couple of others. Otherwise it’s OK.’

“Trump’s actions again show the US under his leadership is increasingly unreliable… It all follows a pattern of deteriorating transatlantic ties…

“More military conflict due to the power vacuum left in the Middle-East could bring higher migration flows… 2019 could be an even more turbulent year for transatlantic ties and global stability. This all the more so, given that [Trump’s] room to manoeuvre in domestic policy will be constrained after the opposition Democrats took over… the House.

“The Kremlin could be encouraged to make a new military adventure in Ukraine… Free trade also remains at risk, with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s ‘ceasefire’ with Trump likely to falter…

“Next year’s EU parliament elections could prove crucial… This requires a broad coalition of pro-EU parties from the left to the right who support a strong and united EU. It is not so much about ideology here, but about survival.

“… the EU should continue bringing together like-minded countries… If populists and nationalists really care about national sovereignty, they ought to realise they can only maintain and leverage real sovereignty in a strong EU…”

A core Europe of somewhat “like-minded countries” will develop.

2018—The Year of Political Upheaval in Germany

Deutsche Welle wrote on December 31:

“The irony is that much of the political disruption in Germany was due to factors beyond the control of [Merkel]… It started with then-SPD Chairman Martin Schulz flip-flopping on whether Social Democrats would form another Merkel-led government and whether he himself would serve in it. As a result, he was out of a job only a year after winning the party leadership by a unanimous vote…

“… the biggest challenge to [Merkel’s view on] democracy came from within her own conservative ranks. Seehofer’s rebellion on refugee policy unfolded… the animosity over core issues like migration is at the moment unbridgeable and impervious to dialogue…

“Merkel surprised us in October by ruling out a further run for the chancellorship in 2021, or for her party’s leadership that December. In January, despite her difficulties in forming a government, the German chancellor and the European Union’s longest serving leader still seemed invincible. By the end of October, she had rung in the end of her own political career… the nimbus of inevitability of both the chancellor and her patented compromise-based centrism has been blown away…

“Grand coalitions are a thing of the past. Together, the conservatives and the SPD would be unlikely to be able to muster anywhere near a parliamentary majority… the current chancellor won’t get to lead [any type of coalition].

“2018 began with many people around the world hoping — somewhat unrealistically — that Merkel and Germany could somehow fill the hole in global leadership left by Trump’s America. But as the The New Yorker writes, correctly, ‘Angela Merkel is not the leader of the free world, nor will she be.’ And 2019 is already shaping up to be a very unpredictable year.”

It won’t be Merkel’s year for sure. But another figure will arise soon in Germany (or Austria) who will “fill the hole in global leadership.” However, it won’t be “the leader of the free world.”

Nevertheless, this does not mean that, for the time being, Merkel is shying away from expressing her disagreement with Trump’s policies, albeit in her usual subtle and subdued manner. Note the next article.

Merkel: Germany Will Play a Larger Role in the World because of Trump

The Independent wrote on January 1:

“Angela Merkel appears to have delivered a veiled rebuke to Donald Trump as she vowed Germany would in future play a larger role in the world. In her new year’s address, the German chancellor said the concept of international cooperation was ‘coming under pressure’ – which has been interpreted as a reference to strained relations with the US president.

“Merkel… devoted a large part of her speech to the benefits of bringing a multilateral approach to international problems – which she has defended in the face of Mr Trump’s ‘America First’ foreign policy. [She] said Germany will push for “global solutions” as it takes up a two-year seat on the UN Security Council, and she noted that the country is spending more on defence and humanitarian aid…

“She said: ‘We want to resolve all these questions in our own interest, and we can do that best if we consider the interests of others. That is the lesson from the two world wars of the last century. But this conviction is no longer shared today by everyone, and certainties of international cooperation are coming under pressure.’

“Ms Merkel added: ‘In such a situation, we must again stand up for, argue and fight more strongly for our convictions. And we must take on more responsibility in our own interests.’ It came after Ms Merkel and Mr Trump exchanged blows over foreign and domestic policies.”

President Trump Does Not Care About His Lack of Popularity in Europe

Deutsche Welle wrote on January 3:

“In his first Cabinet meeting of 2019, US President Donald Trump reflected on his lack of popularity in Europe. The president told reporters on Wednesday that he was unfazed by low approval ratings among Europeans… ‘I shouldn’t be popular in Europe. If I was popular in Europe, I wouldn’t be doing my job,’ he added…

“A Pew Research Center study released in October 2018 revealed that confidence in Trump was strikingly low in European nations. Only 10 percent of Germans… viewed Trump’s handling of world affairs in a positive light… 73 percent of Germans considered bilateral relations with the US to be bad… only 41 percent of Germans wanted more cooperation with the US…

“The US president admitted that he was aware of the studies proving his low popularity among Europeans and said he did not care about it… Trump has come under fire in the US for frequently lambasting European countries that for decades have been seen as traditional allies of the US…”

Attack of Drunken Asylum-Seekers on Germans

Deutsche Welle wrote on January 2:

“Germany’s Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said asylum-seekers who commit violent crimes must leave the country, after a group of apparently drunken teenagers attacked a dozen people in the Bavarian town of Amberg. ‘If existing laws are not sufficient, they must be changed,’ Seehofer told Wednesday’s edition of Germany’s Bild newspaper…

“Police said four suspects aged 17-19 — who were asylum-seekers from Syria, Afghanistan and Iran — suddenly harassed and beat passers-by on Saturday evening while under the influence of alcohol.

“Twelve people were injured, though the injuries were mostly minor.”

This will not help those who advocate an open-door migrant policy and plays right into the hands of those who want a complete stop.

The Cost for Britain of Withdrawing from the EU

Project Syndicate wrote on December 27:

“Day after day, week after week, most British citizens think that the turmoil over their country’s proposed exit from the European Union cannot get any worse. But, without fail, it does. Turmoil turns into humiliating chaos; a political crisis threatens to become a constitutional crisis…

“It is fewer than 100 days until the UK leaves [the EU], and at the moment there is no deal in sight that is acceptable to both Parliament in Westminster and the European Commission and European Council in Brussels…

“A fog of political uncertainty hangs over Britain after Christmas. Only four things seem clear. First, the Conservative Party will have growing difficulty accommodating its… English nationalist wing. Second, to save the UK from disaster, Parliament will have to get a grip on the process. Third, life outside the EU will, in any case, leave Britain poorer and less influential in the world. And, lastly, whatever the outcome, Brexit will be a divisive issue for years to come…”

The Bible prophesies Britain’s downfall in these last days… economically and militarily.

Euractiv wrote on January 1:

“Historians will look back at this period of British history with open mouths and lacerating pens that a country known for its stability and pragmatism could get itself into such a mess of its own creation.”

Europe’s New Financial Capital

The Week wrote on December 12:

“Once Brexit arrives in March 2019… much of the London financial sector could jump ship. Major players like J.P. Morgan, Citibank, and Northern Trust are all either planning to move some operations already or are at least talking about doing so.

“Frankfurt is probably at the top of the list. It’s already the biggest finance hub in Germany and boasts the headquarters of the European Central Bank. But officials in Paris are also making it clear they’d love to snatch up the finance business that London loses. Milan, Amsterdam, Dublin, and Luxembourg all get honorable mentions as well…

“Initial estimates were that anything from 75,000 finance sector jobs to an eye-watering 200,000 could leave London for other parts of Europe… Now that May’s deal is on the brink of defeat, those… numbers seem increasingly likely.”

With or without a deal, Brexit will happen and London will cease to be Europe’s financial capital.

US Ambassador Warns Against May’s Brexit Deal

The Associated Press wrote on December 31:

“The U.S. ambassador to Britain [Robert ‘Woody’ Johnson] told BBC radio Monday that negotiating a ‘quick’ and ‘massive’ trade deal between the two longtime allies ‘doesn’t look like it would be possible’ under the terms of May’s proposed deal with the European Union.

“Johnson used a live radio appearance to reiterate President Donald Trump’s concerns about the proposed agreement, which faces strong opposition in Britain’s Parliament. May has said she plans to bring the plan to a vote in mid-January.

“The U.S. ambassador said he finds a ‘defeatism’ in the British attitude toward Brexit that overlooks the many positive developments leaving the EU could bring.”

It is highly unlikely anyhow that the US and the UK will enter into a massive financial trade deal.

Moldova’s Tensions with the EU, Considering to Move Embassy to Jerusalem

JTA wrote on December 31:

“Moldova’s president said his country would ‘very seriously consider’ moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem… The United States moved its embassy to Jerusalem in May. The European Union and Arab countries were among the harshest critics of the move, which they said may be harmful to attempts to reach a permanent peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, who both claim the city’s [eastern part].

“The announcement of Moldova’s intention to consider the move comes amid heightened tensions between Moldova and the European Union, which the landlocked country bordering Romania has sought to enter. Last month, the European Parliament warned Moldova’s government that it would end the visa waiver program it has with Moldova unless more steps are made to fight corruption.

“Moldova, one of Europe’s poorest countries, recently received a visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who vehemently opposes recognition of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.”

The antagonism between the EU and the US will continue, even over issues such as the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem. Erdogan’s hatred towards the Jews is well-known, and Turkey will collaborate with Europe against both the USA and the state of Israel.

Russia Threatens Israel With Missile Attack

Breaking Israel News wrote on December 30:

“In response to an Israeli airstrike in Syria last Tuesday, Russia threatened to respond to further Israeli action in Syria with surface-to-surface missiles against targets inside Israel. An Israeli military intelligence website reported that one such missile was already fired last week.

“On Wednesday, Israeli authorities… confirmed… an airstrike the previous night targeting three main sites that were actively involved in Iranian arms transfers to the Hezbollah. Among the weapons targeted by the Israeli strike were GPS-guided missiles.

“Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov… claimed that… the attack created a ‘direct threat’ to [civilian] aircraft… Lebanon’s Transport Minister Youssef Fenianos confirmed Russia’s claims, saying that two civilian… airplanes in Lebanese airspace ‘narrowly’ avoided [Israeli] jets…

“[Israel claims that] the civilian air traffic was endangered by the Syrian air defenses that fired 30 missiles in response to the airstrike…”

Even though there is no indication in the Bible that Russia will launch a full-fledged military attack on Israel prior to the beginning of the Great Tribulation and the occupation of Jerusalem through European troops, we DO read that Judah will soon receive a “wound” (Hosea 5:13); that is, a military defeat of some kind, without identifying the power which will inflict such injury on Israel.

The Fragile Economy

CNN Business wrote on December 31:

“… this will be the worst December since the Great Depression and the second down year for US markets since the financial meltdown of 2008. For the year, the S&P 500 is down 6.3%, the Dow is down 5.8% and the Nasdaq has fallen 3.8%…

“The market is in an historic period of volatility… Volatility has been driven by signs of a global economic slowdown, concerns about monetary policy, political dysfunction, inflation fears and worries about increased regulation of the technology sector. Fear about a global trade war… remain[s] a source of concern for markets.

“Although the US economy has been strong, some fear the Federal Reserve has been raising rates too quickly and could choke off economic growth. Some formerly high-flying US tech stocks, such as Facebook (FB), Apple (AAPL) and Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL) are now down for the year. Fear of an economic slowdown, as well as a supply glut, spooked the oil market this year…

“Brexit’s impact on the United Kingdom and Europe also worried investors, as did a slowdown in the Chinese economy. The FTSE All-World index, which tracks thousands of stocks across a range of markets, plummeted 12% this year. It’s the index’s worst performance since the global financial crisis, and a sharp reversal from a gain of nearly 25% in 2017.”

The Week wrote on January 2:

“The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 350 points as markets opened Wednesday, the first trading day of 2019. Asian and European markets also opened down, sparking fears of a ‘global slowdown.’

“The Dow dropped 5.6 percent throughout 2018 while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite also saw overall drops, marking the worst year for stocks in a decade. That same trend continued Wednesday…”

CNBC added on January 3, 2019:

“U.S. stocks fell sharply on Thursday following a dire quarterly warning from Apple. The iPhone maker blamed a slowing Chinese economy for the shortfall, intensifying fears that the global economy may be slowing down because of the ongoing trade war.

“A weaker-than-expected reading on U.S. manufacturing added to those fears. The [Dow Jones] dropped 660.02 points, or 2.8 percent, to 22,686.22 as Apple shares led the decline…”

USA Outside Looking In

CNN wrote on December 29:

“A major 11-country agreement goes into effect Sunday, reshaping trade rules among economic powerhouses like Japan, Canada, Mexico and Australia — but the United States won’t be a part of it… Japan will offer similar tariff relief to the European Union, in a separate trade deal set to go into effect on February 1.

“Withdrawing from the TPP fulfilled a campaign pledge for Trump… He’s also renegotiated the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, replacing it with… the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which still needs congressional approval before it can take effect. And the Trump administration is currently pursuing bilateral accords with the European Union as well as with Japan.

“The stakes will be even higher now that the Trans-Pacific deal is going into effect — especially for American farmers who were eager to take advantage of more open markets abroad… the most important element of the CPTPP may be its new rules for digital trade. Some of which were included in Trump’s renegotiated North America Free Trade Agreement, but won’t apply to US trade beyond Mexico and Canada for now.”

The current US policy of exceptionalism and exclusivism won’t fare too well for America’s economy.

Trump Responds to Criticism on Troop Withdrawal from Syria

Newsmax wrote on December 31:

“President Donald Trump Monday, in a series of tweets, defended his decision to pull troops out of Syria… ‘If anybody but Donald Trump did what I did in Syria, which was an ISIS loaded mess when I became President, they would be a national hero,’ the president said. ‘ISIS is mostly gone, we’re slowly sending our troops back home to be with their families, while at the same time fighting ISIS remnants.’ ‘I campaigned on getting out of Syria and other places,’ Trump continued.

“‘Now when I start getting out the Fake News Media, or some failed Generals who were unable to do the job before I arrived, like to complain about me & my tactics, which are working. Just doing what I said I was going to do! Except the results are FAR BETTER than I ever said they were going to be! I campaigned against the NEVER ENDING WARS, remember!’

“On Sunday, retired four-star Gen. Stanley McChrystal… disagreed with Trump’s claims that ISIS had been defeated… ‘There’s a lot of intelligence that says there are actually more ISIS fighters around the world now than there were a couple of years ago.’ Trump returned to the topic an hour later, expressing frustration: ‘I am the only person in America who could say that, “I’m bringing our great troops back home, with victory,” and get BAD press. It is Fake News and Pundits who have FAILED for years that are doing the complaining. If I stayed in Endless Wars forever, they would still be unhappy!’”

Withdrawing from the TTP and other treaties and removing US troops from foreign war-torn countries were indeed part of Donald Trump’s campaign promises. Most in both parties did not take them seriously, but they now begin to see their naivety and miscalculation.

At the same time, Trump gave mixed signals, allegedly saying that the withdrawal of the US troops from Syria would not happen immediately. Newsmax wrote on January 3:

“President Trump reportedly told the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria late last week that the 2,000 troops stationed there could be withdrawn over several months versus the 30 days he initially announced.”

Shutdown Continues

Newsmax and the Associated Press wrote on January 2:

“Republican congressional leaders say the president has asked them and top Democrats to return to the White House on Friday for a second briefing on border security as the partial government shutdown continues…

“[It] began on Dec. 22 after Trump refused to sign a budget deal that didn’t include billions of dollars for his long-promised and long-stalled southern border wall.”

The Week added on January 2:

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell… said ‘I don’t think any particular progress was made’ at the meeting, but that he was ‘hopeful that in the coming days and weeks we’ll be able to reach an agreement’… Senate Republicans say they won’t allow a vote on any bill that Trump doesn’t support.”

Most Diverse Congress in US History… Deepened Gridlock a Certainty

Deutsche Welle wrote on January 3:

“Nancy Pelosi has become the first person to be elected Speaker of the House twice…

“The overwhelming number of Democrats who won seats in the House in the November elections marks a dramatic power shift and the end of Trump’s one-party rule in Washington.

“Meanwhile, a partial federal governmental shutdown over Trump’s insistence that lawmakers fund a southern border wall neared the two-week mark. The US president continues to stick to his demand that Congress approve a $5-billion (€4.4 billion) plan to construct a US-Mexico border wall aimed at thwarting illegal immigration. At the moment it appears that Democrats are unlikely to appease him.

“And while the ‘blue wave’ swept dozens of House Republicans out of Congress last November, Trump’s party managed to… expand its majority in the Senate to 53-47, meaning Washington gridlock is almost certain to deepen.

This will be the most diverse Congress in history. One hundred House freshmen will take the oath of office, including New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who at 29 is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Also in the chamber will be the first two Native American women and the first two Muslim women to be elected. Women will make up a record one in four members of Congress…”

Divided Majority Wants Trump Impeached or Removed or Censured

The Hill wrote on December 28:

“Nearly 60 percent of U.S. voters… say President Trump should be either impeached and removed from office or formally censured… though they are divided on how far lawmakers should go…

“39 percent of respondents said Trump should be impeached and removed from office. Impeachment would require a majority vote by the House — a possibility with a Democratic majority, though leadership in the party have been cautious on the topic. Conviction in the Senate would require a two- thirds vote, something unlikely in a body that will have 53 Republicans.

“Twenty percent of poll respondents said lawmakers should vote to formally censure the president. Forty-one percent of respondents said Congress should take no action against the president…

“Forty-nine percent of voters polled said they favor trying to impeach Trump over the allegations [of financial voting violations], while slightly more — 51 percent — said that doing so would return the country to 1998, when then-President Clinton faced impeachment proceedings on two charges related to an affair with Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern…

“U.S. voters are also evenly split on whether they believe special counsel Robert Mueller has uncovered evidence that Trump campaign officials coordinated with Russians during the 2016 election. Thirty-nine percent of respondents said they believe he has, while another 39 percent say that he has not. Twenty- two percent said they don’t know whether such evidence has been discovered.

“… voters are also divided on just how long the special counsel investigation should continue, with 31 percent of respondents saying that it should end immediately and 32 percent saying that it should continue indefinitely. Despite that split, a majority of U.S. voters surveyed — 59 percent — said that the special counsel investigation is ‘hurting the country,’ compared to 41 percent that said it is ‘helping’ it…”

Trump won’t be impeached and removed, and he won’t resign either. In addition, there is no question that the Mueller investigation hurts the country… especially in the eyes of the world. What these figures show is how DIVIDED the UNITED States of America is.

Romney Critical of Trump’s Character

On January 1, the Washington Post published the following critical commentary of Mitt Romney regarding President Trump, explaining that “Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah and the party’s 2012 nominee for president, will be sworn into the U.S. Senate on Thursday”:

“It is well known that Donald Trump was not my choice for the Republican presidential nomination. After he became the nominee, I hoped his campaign would refrain from resentment and name-calling. It did not. When he won the election, I hoped he would rise to the occasion. His early appointments of Rex Tillerson, Jeff Sessions, Nikki Haley, Gary Cohn, H.R. McMaster, Kelly and Mattis were encouraging. But, on balance, his conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions last month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office…

“To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation. A president should unite us and inspire us… A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect…

“Trump’s words and actions have caused dismay around the world… The world needs American leadership…

“I will act as I would with any president, in or out of my party: I will support policies that I believe are in the best interest of the country and my state, and oppose those that are not. I do not intend to comment on every tweet or fault. But I will speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions.”

Speculation runs high on Romney’s motives for his scathing remarks. Regardless, his stated concerns are shared by many, including by House Republicans; however, most may not be willing to express them openly.

Newsmax added on January 2:

“Mitt Romney… said Wednesday [on CNN] he will work with President Donald Trump on things like funding a border wall, but he will push back on other issues where they disagree… Where Trump needs to improve, Romney said, is his character. ‘I do believe that a president, like any leader . . . has an impact not just on policies, but also on the character of the people who get to watch that person,’ he said.”

A person in high office ought to show good character traits, in public and in private. Please read our Q&A on the issue, titled, “Does it matter what a political leader does in private as long as he does his “public” job effectively?” 

Christians Selling Out?

The Huffington Post wrote on December 29:

“It has become more and more clear that some Christians will go to any length to gain and maintain political power, sacrificing Jesus’ values…

“Jesus warned against gaining the world and losing your soul, but some Christians have sold out the real Jesus in exchange for American political prestige and acclaim. Until they believe that Jesus himself is worth more than their ideas about him… Christians [will move] toward the death of their integrity…”

True Christianity and political power or misguided nationalism do not harmonize. One cannot serve God and Mammon.

First LGBTQ Rose Parade Queen

JTA wrote on December 30:

“Louise Deser Siskel, a high school senior who will preside over the New Year’s Day Tournament of Roses Parade, says she is the first Jewish Rose queen in the parade’s… history. Siskel, 18, also told the local media that she is the first LGBTQ queen…

“‘What was important to me throughout the interview process was that I was completely transparent about who I was, about the things that I value, and about the things that I advocate for,’ she told the Pasadena Star News in an interview last week. ‘I feel lucky that I was selected by the committee for those reasons…’ she said.”

Times and perceptions change, but godly values never will.

Acknowledgement and Disclaimer

These Current Events are compiled and commented on by Norbert Link. We gratefully acknowledge the many contributions of news articles from our readership. The publication of articles in this section is not to be viewed as an endorsement or approval as to contents or accuracy of the selected articles, but they are published for the purpose of pointing at worldwide developments in the light of biblical end-time prophecy and godly instruction. Our own comments are provided in italics.

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