The North Atlantic Treaty Organization formed in 1949 as a bulwark against Soviet communism, which allied Europe with America's interests. A war-weakened Germany was integrated into the alliance, making it subordinate and dependent on U.S. military protection. As the 19 nations of NATO celebrate a victory of sorts in the Balkan conflict and its 50th anniversary year as one of the most enduring alliances in history, America's leadership of the Western world is increasingly questioned.
Recognizing that the interests of Europe and the United States don't always overlap, the leaders of 15 European nations decided in June to create a joint European Union (EU) army, making the EU a military power for the first time since its formation 42 years ago.
The European Union, long an economic giant, plans to add military muscle to its economic strength. By late 2000 the union plans to have in place the 60,000-strong Eurocorps—an army almost twice as large as the total U.S. military forces deployed in the Kosovo conflict—to project military power and protect European interests. The intended move marks a major step in the development of a new, more assertive Europe.
"The union must have the capacity for autonomous action, backed by credible military forces, the means to decide to use them, and a readiness to do so, in order to respond to international crises without prejudice to actions by NATO," declared the European leaders.
The magazine Foreign Affairs summarized shifting world power and opinion over recent years: "Even old allies stubbornly resist American demands, while many other nations view U.S. policy and ideals as openly hostile to their own. Washington is blind to the fact that it no longer enjoys the dominance it had at the end of the Cold War" (March-April, p. II).
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany, in office less than a year, recently stepped forward to help fill a vacuum left by American vacillation in dealing with Serbia. He apologized to the Chinese government and people for NATO's (actually, America's) accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, defusing a potentially dangerous escalating tension between two major powers.
The German leader and his foreign minister, Joshka Fischer, were also at the forefront of negotiations with Russian envoy Victor Chernomyrdin, who was busy visiting the major capitals of the nations involved in the conflict trying to bring peace.
Chancellor Schroeder ruled out any possibility of using ground troops against Serbia by making it absolutely clear Germany would not support such action, weakening NATO unity on this particular issue. For Germany to have done so might have brought the fall of the fledgling coalition government, made up of Mr. Schroeder's Social Democrats and the leftist environmental Green Party, which opposes all wars. Memories of Germany's last military intervention in the area during the Nazi era linger.
Largely overlooked is that the conflict in Yugoslavia is rooted at least in part in Germany's unilateral decision eight years ago to recognize the independence of Croatia when that former Yugoslavian republic broke away from the Yugoslav federation.
This move took Germany's allies by surprise. In a short time other nations, following Germany's lead, backed Croatia and sent the clear signal that the federation of Yugoslavia was subject to further division. Inevitably, ancient ethnic rivalries came to the fore, and the federation that was established only after World War I was progressively dismembered.
Germany's support for Croatia followed almost immediately from the country's renewed confidence after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent reunification of East and West Germany. Germany's World War II ties with Croatia were thought to be behind the German government's far-reaching decision. The consequences have been horrendous for the peoples in the Balkans and have sucked Germany's allies into a quagmire.
America's Diplomatic and Military Troubles
Meanwhile, Russian and Chinese involvement in the Kosovo conflict has raised the profile of these two nations and their leaders at the expense of the United States. America has inadvertently opened the door for a Russian presence in the region. The Clinton administration seems desperate to appease China to make up for its embassy bombing mistake.
Over the course of the short war, American leaders appeared to make serious diplomatic misjudgments and military mistakes even with the most sophisticated weaponry and intelligence available. The greatest change as a result of the Kosovo conflict is likely to be in America's relationship with Europe. Although most Western Europeans supported action against the Serbs to save the Kosovar Albanians, support waned as it became clear that the U.S.-led bombing campaign was perceived only to worsen the plight of the refugees.
The conflict has further weakened America's military preparedness, already ragged from the long stalemate in Iraq and deployments to other hot spots around the globe. Difficulties such as the crash of an F117 stealth fighter—the most advanced weapon in the United States Air Force arsenal—and several embarrassing bombing mishaps blamed on faulty or outdated military intelligence have led to much soul-searching among U.S. military planners and leaders.
The Pentagon has expressed concern about diminishing supplies of cruise missiles and other munitions and admitted that, since cruise-missile production lines have long since shut down, replacement orders cannot be filled for at least another year.
Additional burdens on the U.S. military around the world, coupled with defense cuts at home, lower-than-expected enlistments and trained personnel leaving the armed forces, point to a reduction in America's military role in the years ahead.
Many observers openly doubt the U.S. armed forces' longstanding commitment to be able to wage "limited wars" simultaneously on two fronts. This obviously creates a dangerous situation for U.S. troops should another conflict break out in such troubled areas as Korea, Iraq or Taiwan.
Empires aren't Forever
It's difficult for people brought up since World War II to imagine a world not dominated by the United States. But history shows power can shift dramatically and suddenly, often as a result of war.
In 1937 it could be said the only superpower in the world was Great Britain. The empire spanned a quarter of the globe, and its strategic military bases gave it prominence seemingly everywhere. Within 10 years Britain was reduced to the No. 3 spot in the world pecking order as the United States and the Soviet Union entered a 40-year period of domination.
Those pivotal 10 years included World War II. Britain emerged victorious, but it was so weakened it could no longer sustain its empire and military responsibilities. The result was the gradual dismantling of its empire beginning with the Indian subcontinent in 1947.
What happened to Britain was in many ways an echo of what had happened to France. A century and a half earlier it had been the Napoleonic Wars between Britain and France that reduced French military power and elevated Great Britain.
Beginning with the Korean War, the last 50 years has witnessed a string of conflicts that have diminished American military power and prestige. As these prolonged hostilities continue to weaken and at times embarrass America on a global scale, others are beginning to recognize they will have to pick up the defense burden for the sake of their own safety and security.
Prophesied Power Shift
When we look at Bible prophecy, we see descriptions of several dominant world powers at the time immediately before God's dramatic intervention in human affairs. But no power recognizable as the United States is among them. The books of Daniel and Revelation both show us that the dominant power at the time will be an alliance of 10 rulers, heirs of the old Roman Empire, who will suddenly arise and ultimately turn on Jesus Christ at His return.
Revelation 17:12-14 talks of "ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet ... They receive authority for one hour [a short time] as kings with the beast ... These will make war with the Lamb [the returning Jesus Christ] ..."
This final union of 10 kings—or heads of state such as prime ministers, chancellors, presidents and premiers, as we would call them today—appears to be the last of a series of attempts over the centuries to unite Europe, in effect resurrecting the Roman Empire. It is a continuation of the "fourth beast" of Daniel's vision in Daniel 7, which began more than 2,000 years ago. Daniel 7:7-27 shows the formation and rise of this coalition of rulers will lead directly into the time of Christ's return.
For these prophecies to come to pass, the geopolitical balance of power must dramatically shift. America's unchallenged preeminence will apparently come to an end, with a revived, unified Europe eventually replacing it as the dominant power. Undoubtedly Britain will find itself in a difficult dilemma as to whether to side with Continental Europe or her traditional Atlantic ally, the United States.
Recognition of European military weakness in the face of challenges such as that from Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, coupled with America's vacillation over Kosovo and its own military problems, no doubt contributed to the announced intention of forming a European defense force outside American control. Although it in no way rivals America as a military power, things could change, especially considering that the total armed forces of the European countries already exceed the military manpower of the United States.
This is one scenario by which we may see the prophesied rise of a coalition of leaders who join forces to create the world's next superpower.
Continue reading The Good News, and our other publications, to gain a better understanding of Bible prophecy and its implications. GN