Europeans tend to agree when it comes to identifying their common history: the influence of Greek philosophy, a Christian heritage originating in Jewish tradition, Roman culture, the influence of the Catholic Church, the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment. In the two centuries prior to World War II, this historic commonality was often overpowered by the drive for individual nationhood and conflicting national interests. This led to a series of bloody disasters, the last of which was World War II itself.
A different Europe rose from the ashes of that war. However, this different Europe was not solely the result of self-examination and self-determination by Europeans themselves. Instead, it was the result of an Atlantic partnership forged to counter the perceived Soviet threat to Western Europe’s freedom and security.
America’s commitment to Europe and its military presence on the old continent helped Europe establish stable democracies and become a key player in the world economy. The United States, originally created by Europeans, had returned to Europe and influenced the development of a new Europe with a democratic Germany at its core.
Forty years after NATO was founded to counter the Soviet threat, Germany was reunited peacefully, an event soon to be followed by the demise of the Soviet Union itself. The Cold War was won, and Western Europe, united in its fear of Soviet domination or even conquest in the years after World War II, breathed a sigh of relief.
America remains the common denominator
When the Soviet system collapsed, the geopolitical situation changed, and the United States shifted its focus. China, seen as a potential superpower, took on a new dimension in American foreign policy. Stability in the Middle East with its key energy reserves became a higher priority as well. Europe, however, was no longer as important as it had been during the Cold War years.
In the last nearly 50 years, the European Union has made remarkable progress in peacefully uniting Europe. For example, the introduction of the euro for 12 of Europe’s then 15 members is without precedent in history: individual countries voluntarily gave up a degree of national sovereignty to forge a common currency.
In many ways the United States remains a common denominator for Europe, although the orientation has changed considerably since the end of the Cold War. Instead of America being the key factor in European security, it has become at times a counterpoint to the European view on world affairs.
In terms of its influence, however, Europe still is largely the “junior partner,” as it was sometimes called during Cold War days, in its relationship to the United States. The reason is that Europe is still influenced by the nationhood mentality of past centuries, and without a clear European identity, Europeans tend to react not as Europeans, but as French, Germans, Italians, etc.
To be sure, Western Europe was not always enthralled with America’s actions and policies during the Cold War era, the Vietnam War being a notable case. However, in a Europe divided by the Iron Curtain, overriding security concerns inhibited open prolonged dissent with the United States and contributed to nuances and differences among Europeans being sacrificed for the common goal of mutual defense.
The Iraq war as a case in point
Following the attacks in New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush declared America at war against terrorism and expected to receive support for that war from Europe. Europe obviously rejects terrorism in all its forms. In the 21⁄2 years since 9/11, though, most Europeans have not seen themselves as being at war with terrorism, causing some of the difficulties in the transatlantic relationship during this period.
Without the common denominator of fear influencing them, Europeans reacted in different ways to the potential for military confrontation with Iraq. France and Germany openly opposed the war and its justification (and so far feel vindicated on the issue of weapons of mass destruction).
Britain and other European countries sided with America for various reasons. They either shared the U.S. view about the threat posed by Iraq, they did not want to damage their relationship with the United States or they were not willing to accept Franco-German leadership within Europe in response to America’s endeavor.
In retrospect, France and Germany’s approach was bound to provoke the latter response, especially in Eastern Europe. Talk of a “German path” in foreign relations or the manner in which French President Jacques Chirac attacked Poland for its support of the United States did nothing to enhance European unity in the weeks prior to the start of the war. American Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld got in on the act during the 2003 annual security conference in Munich by contrasting the reaction of the “old” Europe with the “new” Europe, i.e., Eastern Europe.
The Madrid attack: a catalyst?
On March 11, 2004, Europeans learned firsthand what it is like to experience large-scale radical Islamic terror. Bombs detonated by cell phone calls tore through four commuter trains in Madrid, Spain, killing 191 people and injuring over 1,500.
Fear gripped European cities as people realized that their continent was not immune to Islamic terrorism: “Whoever thought that the so-called holy warriors of Islam would limit their terror to Jews and American citizens was taught a lesson” by the Madrid bombings ( Pforzheimer Zeitung , March 26, 2004). Surveys in Germany after Madrid revealed that 60 percent of Germans now expect terrorist attacks in their own country.
With its attack in the Spanish capital, the al-Qaeda terrorist network has unwittingly contributed to the process of European unity, with fear being the motivating factor. Prior to Madrid, the EU would have admitted 10 new members on May 1 without having agreed upon a constitution for its 25 members. With the existing unanimity rule for EU decisions, Poland and Spain as holdouts could have prevented the implementation of the proposed EU constitution with its new “double majority” provision. This provision allows the EU council of ministers to make decisions by simple majority, provided that the countries voting in the majority represent at least 60 percent of the total EU population.
Three days after the Madrid bombings, Spain’s conservative government of José María Aznar was soundly thrashed in a previously scheduled national election. Newly elected Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero quickly announced an end to his country’s opposition to the “double majority” scheme, isolating Poland as the only holdout. “Out of fear of isolation,” noted the Süddeutsche Zeitung , “the ‘nouveau Europeans,’ who had been embraced selfishly by the USA, have returned to sit on Europe’s lap” after Poland also decided to alter its stance (March 24, 2004).
Following the meeting of the 25 EU heads of state at the end of March, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was optimistic that a compromise would be achieved on the EU constitution: “The commonality of the threat [of terrorism] brings us closer together” (ibid., March 26, 2004).
Just as important, though, were the many calls for greater cooperation within Europe to combat the threat of terrorism. Germany’s Interior Minister Otto Schily called for the implementation of a European computer profiling system to identify potential Islamic terrorists and their movements within the EU. In view of Europe’s strict data protection laws, Schily’s proposal was nothing less than sensational. For Germans who went through years of attacks by the Baader-Meinhof gang, the post-Madrid discussion about which civil liberties might be sacrificed to get the terrorists was nothing new.
Terrorism, fear and the EU “double majority”
Europe’s fight against terrorism provides a possible insight into a prophecy in Revelation 17. There we find an end-time union of “ten kings,” who “will make war with the Lamb [Jesus Christ], and the Lamb will overcome them” (verses 12, 14).
These “ten kings” will be alive at the time Jesus returns and are the same power represented by the toes of the image described by Daniel in his interpretation of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 2:42 Daniel 2:42And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.
American King James Version×, 44). The legs and the feet of Daniel’s image represent the Roman Empire, and the toes of that image—like the 10 kings of Revelation 17—are alive in the end time and represent a final resurrection of the Roman Empire.
Revelation 17:13 Revelation 17:13These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength to the beast.
American King James Version×gives us an interesting detail about this final union: “These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast” (emphasis added).
The 10 kings will be in agreement on the nature of the situation that confronts them, and they will voluntarily cede their “power and authority”—in modern language we call this sovereignty—to a central authority that then acts on their behalf.
It is important to note the clear wording of Scripture on this point. The 10 kings—whether 10 literal nations in a “core” Europe scheme or perhaps 10 nations or groups of nations within Europe, that, representing a double majority within Europe, render a decision for all of Europe—give their power away. If they give it away, it will not be taken from them by force, making this final prophetic union different from all its predecessors.
A rational explanation would be that a crisis or a perceived threat could lead to emergency legislation or the declaration of martial law. Fear of losing one’s life is a very strong motivating factor.
Since the end of the Cold War, Europe has not faced any threat with the potential for disruption of normal life similar to the possible effects of large-scale terrorist attacks. How Europe meets this challenge may have a profound effect on us all. WNP