Wednesday, February 19, 2014

North Korea: Belligerence vs 'Smart Policy'

The following article is an expanded version of
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 248| Wed 19 Feb 2014


NORTH KOREA: BELLIGERENCE VS 'SMART POLICY'
By Elizabeth Kendal

UN Commission of Inquiry Report Confirms Horrific Abuses

On 21 March 2013, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed Resolution A/HRC/RES/22/13 which established the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).  The Resolution gave the Commission a 12 month mandate to investigate systematic and widespread human rights abuses in North Korea. North Korean Ambassador So Se Pyong denounced the Resolution as "an instrument that serves the political purposes of the hostile forces in their attempt to discredit the image of the DPRK," adding, "those human rights abuses mentioned in the resolution do not exist in our country".

The Commission of Inquiry's report was released on 17 Feb. It documents "a wide array of crimes against humanity" and details "unspeakable atrocities" to conclude: "The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world." As noted in the report: "The State considers the spread of Christianity a particularly serious threat, since it challenges ideologically the official personality cult and provides a platform for social and political organization and interaction outside the realm of the State. Apart from the few organized State-controlled churches, Christians are prohibited from practising their religion and are persecuted. People caught practising Christianity are subject to severe punishments . . ." (article 31)

Office of the High Commission on Human Rights Press release
North Korea: UN Commission documents wide-ranging and ongoing crimes against humanity, urges referral to ICC (17 Feb 2014)

Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea

MANAGING INSTABILITY
-- North Korea balancing reform and risk


The UN Commission of Inquiry report also remarked on what is without a doubt the key dynamic of North Korea today: "Strengthening market forces and advancements in information technology have allowed greater access to information from outside the country as information and media from the Republic of Korea and China increasingly enter the country. The State’s monopoly on information is therefore being challenged by the increasing flow of outside information into the country and the ensuing curiosity of the people for "truths" other than those provided by State propaganda. Authorities seek to preserve their monopoly on information by carrying out regular crackdowns and enforcing harsh punishments". (article 30)

The Kim Jong-un era

Groomed to rule, Kim Jong-un assumed power after his father (the Dear Leader Kim Jong-il) died in Dec 2011. At his father's funeral, Kim Jong-un accompanied his father's casket along with the 'Gang of Seven' -- an inner circle of elites tasked with guiding and mentoring the young ruler.

By the end of 2013, four of the seven had been purged -- including Kim Jong-un's hugely influential uncle, Jang Song-taek -- and one had been demoted. Kim Jong-un is consolidating power and establishing a new order that he hopes will provide him with a better chance of holding on to power through the challenging times ahead. According to analysts, 'the upper ranks of North Korean leadership are now sprinkled with people who hold a known interest in reform'.

Kim (who did his secondary schooling in Switzerland) and his younger clique know that the information seeping in will generate anger and dissent as North Korea's impoverished masses become aware of their plight relative to the outside world. So, in a race against time, the regime is implementing agricultural and economic reforms designed to raise the living standards of ordinary Koreans. The regime is also easing the way for foreign investment and undertaking major infrastructure projects -- highways, theme parks and resorts -- designed to make North Korea more attractive to North Koreans as well as to tourists.

Reforms

In line with the June 28 [2012] New Economic Management Measures, known informally as the "6.28 Policy", agricultural production units may be reduced to between 4-6 people (i.e. family-sized). While set quotas are still in place, the state now takes 70 percent of the quota (rather than 100 percent for central redistribution - military first). The remaining 30 percent is left for the family who are free do with it whatever they wish: eat, trade, store etc. Furthermore, if the family produces more than the quota, they also get to keep the surplus. This actually reverses Kim Jong-il's Songun (military first) policy.

North Korea Pushes Ahead on Agricultural Reforms,
The Diplomat, 17 May 2013

North Korea making visible progress towards reforms.
Institute for Far Eastern Studies, 7 June 2013

Building

". . . to build foreign investor trust, the country has considered allowing 'international law supersede domestic North Korean law regarding investments' . . ."

INSIGHT-Kim Jong Un, North Korea's master builder
Reuters, 23 Nov 2013

Mounting Problems (The Masikryong Ski Resort)
The Economist, 14 Feb 2014 
see also: NK Economy Watch

Recommended articles:

Kim Jong-Un dismisses powerbroker uncle as North Korea inches toward reform
Nathan Vanderklippe in BEIJING, The Globe and Mail, 3 Dec 2013

Kim purges for a new economic dawn
By Sascha Matuszak, 10 Jan 2014

North Korea’s rolling economic reforms
By Ruediger Frank, University of Vienna, 24 September 2013
Excerpts:
Now comes the tough part: finding ways to foster economic development while maintaining the stability of the political system. Reform is the only option for Kim Jong-un, but implementation will not be easy, because he must accomplish many tasks simultaneously. . .

Like painting a masterpiece, reforming North Korea may seem easy in theory but it will be highly complex in reality. Thus, a smart policy by the international community is needed. The obvious strategy for Seoul would be to support positive trends by expanding trade and investment. The many negative and frustrating experiences of the past should be a lesson not to expect (or promise) too much too soon. Transforming a systemically failed socialist economy has never been easy, in particular if it is supposed to take place gradually. Reconciling two parts of a nation that once fought a bloody civil war and have lived separately for almost 70 years is a gigantic task. Accepting that successful reform means prolonging the current regime is a bitter pill for many, but what are the alternatives?


The above paragraph by Frank addresses the very heart of the matter: how to move forward. As Frank states, transforming North Korea is going to be a highly complex and exceedingly delicate operation for which "smart policy" and great patience will be required. The regime will be constantly balancing reform and risk.

Frank's closing sentence is key: "Accepting that successful reform means prolonging the current regime is a bitter pill for many, but what are the alternatives?"

I have long maintained "that an all-round positive outcome for North Korea (reform without bloodshed) can only be achieved through gradual openness alongside a strategy for maintaining stability" (RLM Aug 2007). As unpalatable as this "bitter pill" may be, the alternatives are a return to isolation with unprecedented repression OR a descent in civil war and massive bloodshed.

As one who has been monitoring religious liberty in North Korea for over 15 years now, the current situation leaves me with a strong sense as déjà-vu. What can we learn from history?

Kim Jong-il era

In 2002, Kim Jong-il enacted economic reforms, moving North Korea towards a free-market economy. [Actually, the markets had risen during the famine as people sought means to survive. When Kim Jong-il endorsing them in 2002, he was merely endorsing a trend he could not stop.] Knowing the risks attached to any degree of openness, the regime simultaneously amended the criminal code to stiffen penalties for anti-State crimes. This strongly resembles today's situation.

However, once the darkness is breached, the situation can quickly become very difficult to control. By 2004 the regime was looking for ways to turn the clock back.

See: North Korea's balancing act.
By Elizabeth Kendal for WEA RLC, 16 December 2004
Excerpt
Paik Hak-soon, director of North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute, told the Korea Times [8 Dec 2004] that, "Kim Jong-il is now trying to prevent social problems from drastically undermining his regime."

The free-market reforms have also brought many North Korean traders into contact with the outside world. As noted in a recent Washington Post (WP) article entitled, "For North Korea, Openness Proves a Two-Way Street" (13 Dec 2004), "...diplomats, analysts, intelligence sources and recent defectors say that the once airtight lid on information in what is known as the Hermit Kingdom is gradually loosening."

The WP article states, "Asian intelligence sources estimate that as many as 20,000 North Koreans -- particularly those trading in the newly thriving border area with China -- now have access to Chinese cellular phones, from which they can make undetected international calls in large areas of northern North Korea." Also, at the new Kaesong Industrial Park near the border with South Korea, and the tourist resort at Mount Kumgang, South Korean firms are directly employing and paying North Korean workers for the first time.

The WP quotes Sohn Kwang Joo, managing editor of the North Korea Daily (a Seoul-based website) as saying, "North Korean people and the elite bureaucrats all want more reform. But the faster the doors open, the more vulnerable becomes Kim Jong Il's tight grip of the nation. Kim Jong Il will therefore try to control and limit the opening. But as more people cross in and out of the border, there are more mobile phones, and more flows of information, the North Korean people will begin to realize the truth about Kim Jong Il." . . .


The years of reform and gradual openness had yielded several positive changes, including: family reunions, the move to a market economy, cross-border trade with China, trains crossing through the demilitarised zone, the opening of Kaesong Industrial Park enabling economic cooperation with South Korea, and the establishment of the Christian-funded, English-language, Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.

See: North Korea: Changes
". . . though your footsteps were not seen".
By Elizabeth Kendal for WEA RLC, 24 August 2007

However, by the end of 2008, it was all over. All positive steps had been reversed and North Korea had returned to isolation. For Kim Jong-il, reform had proved too difficult, too threatening. Things had changed and the risks had begun to out-weigh the benefits.

Lankov concluded: "It seems that North Korean leaders believe that their system cannot survive major liberalisation. They might be correct in the pessimism. . . . Were North Korea to reform, the disparities with South Korea [a rich and free country that speaks the same language and shares the same culture -- i.e. is not 'foreign'] would become only starker to its population. This might produce a grave political crisis, so the North Korean government seemingly believes that in order to stay in control it should avoid tampering with the system. Maintaining the information blockade is of special importance, since access to the overseas information might easily show the North Koreans both the backwardness of their country and the ineptitude of their government."

See: North Korea returns to isolation
By Elizabeth Kendal for WEA RLC, 2 December 2008

BELLIGERENCE VS "SMART POLICY"

There is no doubt in my mind that the US North Korea Human Rights Act (Oct 2004) -- signed into law by President G.W. Bush -- directly contributed to North Korea's return to isolation. The law, which was  effective from 2005 to 2008, granted $2 million a year to pro-democracy and human rights groups actively working to undermine the regime.

I wrote at the time: "The North Korean Human Rights Acts is wonderful in principle. . . [But] the implementation of the Act will need to be as sensitive as the defusing of a bomb. . . [For] an all-round positive outcome for North Korea (reform without bloodshed) can only be achieved through gradual openness alongside a strategy for maintaining stability."

Kathi Zellweger of the Catholic aid organisation Caritas shared my concerns: "Regime change is what some groups of people hope for. But I believe what is happening is that very slowly the nature of the regime is changing, albeit at a very slow pace." Zellweger expressed the widely-held fear that the North Korea Human Rights Acts would lead to a tightening of the government's control of the people and of NGOs.

And indeed it did. Though "wonderful in principle" the NKHR Act (2004) might not have been "smart policy", for it caused risk to elevate to the point that Kim Jong-il's only option -- as a survivor -- was a return to isolation, centralisation and severe repression.

See: Reforming North Korea.
By Elizabeth Kendal for WEA RLC, 19 November 2004

In the above Nov 2004 posting I suggested the following: "Those things Kim jong-Il desires most of all, survival and prestige, appear to be on shaky ground . . . Maybe this is the biggest bargaining chip of all. To avoid catastrophe on the Korean Peninsula, would the US be willing to ensure Kim's survival and prestige in exchange for reforms for which Kim would of course take all credit? This would involve great humility on the part of the US. It would involve leaving justice, regarding Kim, in the hands of God. It could only be done by looking past the man, Kim jong-Il, and keeping eyes firmly fixed on the goal: the liberation and reform of North Korea, for the sake of North Korea's suffering and oppressed millions."

Like it or not, the reality is, the UN Commission of Inquiry report (Feb 2014) can only be used as leverage to get prisoners released and human rights improved if the regime is assured it will not be threatened.

So while it is commendable that the UN Commission of Inquiry report is shining a spotlight on the horrific situation inside North Korea, great wisdom -- "smart policy" -- is required. For if the situation is handled belligerently rather than with great care and wisdom -- i.e. if too much pressure is applied or if "hostile forces" use the report to fan the flames of revolution for their own political, economic and geo-strategic ends -- then we could see reforms rolling back and repression escalating to unprecedented levels. Or worse, we could see the State descend into an absolute bloodbath.

END
---------------------------------------

Breaking News:

South Australian man John Short detained in North Korea, now facing 15 years in jail

CRAIG COOK EXCLUSIVE
The Advertiser, February 20, 2014
excerpt
Dr Leonid Petrov, who teaches North Korean political history at the Australian National University in Canberra, said Mr Short’s situation “could be complicated” by the release of a UN report on Monday detailing regime crimes against humanity. . .

“If he was found to be networking directly with North Koreans to spread religious material it could be very bad for him and them,” Dr Petrov said.

“For locals, the whole family would be sent to the gulag (forced labour camps) with little chance of ever being released unless they repent (their religious views).

“For the foreigner, they could face a similar sentence to Kenneth Bae of 15 years with 16-hours-a-day hard labour.”

Mr Bae, a South Korean-born US citizen, was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment in April last year for attempting to topple the Korean regime.


--------------------------------------------

Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Ukraine: anti-Semitism rises as Neo-Nazis hijack 'Euromaidan'

HIGH STAKES

Situated between Middle and Eastern Europe on the north shore of the Black Sea, Ukraine is a geographically strategic state. But Ukraine is not a monolithic state. The north-west is predominantly Ukrainian-speaking, pro-Europe (largely anti-Russian) and Ukrainian Orthodox and Catholic. The south-east is predominantly Russian-speaking, pro-Russia and Russian Orthodox. So while Ukraine might be highly strategic, it is also extremely delicate.

This one map helps explain Ukraine’s protests (below)
By Max Fisher, 9 Dec 2013, Washington Post 

click on map to enlarge

Protests erupted in Kiev on 21 November 2013, after the government of Viktor Yanukovich chose not to sign a comprehensive free trade agreement with the European Union in preference for closer economic ties with Russia. Initially the protests in Maidan Square -- which quickly came to be known as "Euromaidan" -- were focused primarily on the protesters' desire to be more European and less under the influence of Russia (something they associate with government corruption). When the government introduced anti-protest laws in January the protests turned violent and strongly anti-government, with elements declaring their intention to fight until they achieve regime change in Kiev. [NOTE: the anti-protest laws have since been repealed.]

President Yanukovich does not face a political threat, as his Party of Regions has a comfortable majority in parliament. However, the situation on the streets has turned very ugly indeed, with many warning that Ukraine could be lurching towards civil war. Despite the clear and present danger, Germany and the US have publically thrown their support behind the anti-government protesters.

If external powers continue to fan the flames of revolution, then Ukraine could tear apart with the north-west coming under the protection of Europe, the south-east coming under the protection of Russia, and a massive and bloody war for Crimea.

NEO-NAZIS, ULTRA-NATIONALISM and ANTI-SEMITISM -- Church beware!

The mood of the protesters changed in early December when Ukraine's three main opposition parties -- Fatherland, UDAR and Svoboda -- began to take control of Euromaidan.

Formerly known as the Social National Party of Ukraine, Svoboda (Freedom) is a neo-Nazi, ultra-nationalist, anti-Semitic party (official website). According to Svoboda, a nation is a community bound by blood and spirit. Therefore, only those belonging to the traditional Ukrainian [blood] nation may be members. Svoboda supports the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and deems atheists and former Communist party members ineligible for party membership.

President of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee (UJC) and member of the parliament of Ukraine, Oleksandr Feldman warns: "Ever since the breakthrough success of Svoboda in the 2010 elections, leaders of Fatherland and UDAR repeatedly have declined entreaties from myself and many other supporters of democracy in Ukraine to break their electoral alliance with Svoboda, apparently seeing the party and its leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, as essential partners in the coalition to topple President Viktor Yanukovych."

As evident by this photograph, elements of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church also see Svoboda as an essential ally against all things Russian. A "covenant with death" indeed (Isaiah 28:14-22)[1]

According to Feldman, Svoboda is fanning the flames of anti-Semitism in Kiev. He describes a skit that was performed on the main stage at Euromaidan on New Year's Eve. "The lead role," says Feldman, "was played by a Svoboda parliamentarian named Bogdan Benyuk, who donned black garb and sidelocks to play a stereotypical Orthodox Jewish wheeler-dealer character called Zhyd (Kike)."

Feldman explains that Zhyd -- established as a banker, stock broker and loan shark -- represents the stereotypical "Jewish oligarch". He sing, "East and West belong to me; our people are everywhere." According to Feldman the skit drew parallels between the birth of Jesus and contemporary Ukrainian politics, linking Yanukovych with King Herod and establishing the Jews as powerful, greedy, self-interested and treacherous.

The very next day 15,000 opposition members marched in a Svoboda-sponsored torchlight parade "down Central Kiev's Kreshatik Boulevard in commemoration of the 105th anniversary of the birth of World War II-era nationalist leader Stepan Bandera, an ally of Nazi Germany whose followers participated in massacres of Ukrainian Jews. Marchers carried red and black nationalist banners and shouted nationalist slogans as they cheered Tyahnybok and expressed their undying love for Bandera." [NOTE: On 22 January 2010, at a ceremony to mark Ukrainian Unity Day, Ukraine's then US-backed president Viktor Yushchenko controversially pronounced Stepan Bandera a "Hero of Ukraine". (RFE/RL 22 Jan 2010).]

Jewish leaders have been expressing concern since mid December over the prominent role being played by the Svoboda party, noting that Svoboda's leader, Oleg Tyagnibok, supports European integration primarily because he is opposed to being controlled by  "Russian-Jewish mafia". [NOTE: several of Russia's richest oligarchs happen to be Jewish; of these Boris Berezovsky and Mikhail Khodorkovsky are but two.]

According to the Ukraine Jewish Committee's (UJC's) Director, Eduard Dolinsky, the slogan, "Glory to the nation, death to its enemies," is being popularised once again despite the fact that this slogan was once used by nationalist insurgents known for killing Jews.  Dolinsky believes that while some protesters would have no idea about the background of the slogan, some certainly do, "especially the leaders of the opposition, [they] understand perfectly what it means and where it comes from".

It must not be forgotten that Ukraine has history. In what has become known as a "Holocaust by bullets", some 1.7 million Jews were shot in Ukraine during WWII under supervision of the Nazis. As Deidre Berger, the head of the American Jewish Committee in Berlin told a recent conference in Krakow, Poland, "more Jews were killed by shooting in Ukraine than murdered in Auschwitz in the crematoria."

JANUARY KILLINGS: ANTI-SEMITISM TURNS VIOLENT -- great fear in the Jewish community

On 11 January 2014, an Orthodox Hebrew scholar named Hillel Wertheimer was ambushed and beaten by a mob of protesters that followed him home from the synagogue.

Only days later, on 17 Jan, Dov Baar Glickman was beaten and stabbed by three assailants while walking home from a Shabbat meal.

On 28 Jan, Christians 4 Israel (C4I) issued an urgent call for prayer and support, noting that there is "great fear in the Jewish community". An 84-year old survivor of the Holocaust expressed his fears to Koen Carlier (C4I leader in Ukraine), "This is not going to end well," he said.

FANNING THE FLAMES -- Church beware!

Considering how delicate Ukraine is; and considering the fact that Neo-Nazis have hijacked the protest movement, it is appalling the Germany and the US are prepared to fan the flames of revolution supposedly to advance their own interests.

At this point I would just like to leave readers with some material that I hope will encourage pause for thought.

FROM Stratfor Global Intelligence, Geopolitical Weekly

Perspectives on the Ukrainian Protests
by George Friedman, 28 January 2014

excerpts:

Some protesters wanted Ukraine to have a European orientation rather than a Russian one. Others felt that the government was corrupt and should thus be replaced. These kinds of demonstrations occur in many countries. Sometimes they're successful; sometimes they're not. In most cases, the outcome matters only to the country's citizens or to the citizens of neighboring states. But Ukraine is exceptional because it is enormously important. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has had to pursue a delicate balance between the tenuous promises of a liberal, wealthy and somewhat aloof Europe and the fact that its very existence and independence can be a source of strategic vulnerability for Russia.

. . . Ukraine is central to Russia's defensibility. . . Moreover, Ukraine is home to two critical ports, Odessa and Sevastopol . . .

From the Russian point of view, therefore, tighter Ukrainian-EU integration represented a potentially mortal threat to Russian national security. After the Orange Revolution, which brought a short-lived pro-EU administration to power in the mid-2000s, Russian President Vladimir Putin made clear that he regarded Ukraine as essential to Russian security, alleging that the nongovernmental organizations that were fomenting unrest there were fronts for the U.S. State Department, the CIA and MI6. Whether the charges were true or not, Putin believed the course in which Ukraine was headed would be disastrous for Russia, and so he used economic pressure and state intelligence services to prevent Ukraine from taking that course. . .

Notably, Putin's strategy toward the Russian periphery differs from those of his Soviet and czarist predecessors, who took direct responsibility for the various territories subordinate to them. Putin considers this a flawed strategy. It drained Moscow's resources, even as the government could not hold the territories together.

Putin's strategy toward Ukraine, and indeed most of the former Soviet Union, entails less direct influence. He is not interested in governing Ukraine. He is not even all that interested in its foreign relationships. His goal is to have negative control, to prevent Ukraine from doing the things Russia doesn't want it to do. Ukraine can be sovereign except in matters of fundamental importance to Russia. As far as Russia was concerned, the Ukrainian regime is free to be as liberal and democratic as it wants to be. But even the idea of further EU integration was a clear provocation. It was the actions of the European Union and the Germans -- supporting opponents of Yanukovich openly, apart from interfering in the internal affairs of another country -- that were detrimental to Russian national interests. (emphasis mine)

Ukraine is not quite as strategically significant to Europe as it is to Russia. Europe never wanted to add Ukraine to its ranks; it merely wanted to open the door to the possibility. The European Union is in shambles. Given the horrific economic problems of Southern Europe, the idea of adding a country as weak and disorganized as Ukraine to the bloc is preposterous. The European Union has a cultural imperative among its elite toward expansion, an imperative that led them to include countries such as Cyprus. Cultural imperatives are hard to change, and so an invitation went out with no serious intentions behind it. . .

The Germans are playing a complex game. They understood that Ukrainian membership in the European Union was unlikely to happen anytime soon. They also had important dealings with Russia, with which they had mutual energy and investment interests. It was odd that Berlin would support the demonstrators so publicly. . .

The Russians have remained relatively calm -- and quiet -- throughout Ukraine's protests. They understood that their power in Ukraine rested on more than simply one man or his party, so they allowed the crisis to stew. Given Russia's current strategy in Ukraine, the Russians didn't need to act, at least not publicly. Any government in Ukraine would face the same constraints as Yanukovich: little real hope of EU inclusion, a dependence on Moscow for energy and an integrated economy with Russia. Certainly, the Russians didn't want a confrontation just before Sochi.

The Russians also knew that the more tightly pro-Western forces controlled Kiev, the more fractious Ukraine could become. In general, eastern Ukraine is more oriented toward Russia: Its residents speak Russian, are Russian Orthodox and are loyal to the Moscow Patriarchy. Western Ukraine is oriented more toward Europe; its residents are Catholic or are loyal to the Kiev Patriarchy. These generalities belie a much more complex situation, of course. There are Moscow Orthodox members and Russian speakers in the west and Catholics and Kiev Orthodox in the east. Nevertheless, the tension between the regions is real, and heavy pro-EU pressure could split the country. If that were to happen, the bloc would find itself operating in chaos, but then the European Union did not have the wherewithal to operate meaningfully in Ukraine in the first place. The pro-EU government would encounter conflict and paralysis. For the time being that would suit the Russians, as unlikely as such a scenario might be. (emphasis mine)

Russian behavior in the Snowden affair [not to mention the Syria affair - ed.] has angered Washington and opened the possibility that the United States might be happy to create some problems for Moscow ahead of the Sochi Olympics. The U.S. government may not be supporting nongovernmental organizations as much as its counterparts in Europe are, but it is still involved somewhat. In fact, Washington may even have enjoyed putting Russia on the defensive after having been put on the defensive by Russia in recent months. . .

----------------------------

FROM Spiegel online (Germany)

Foreign Policy Rethink: Germany Weighs Stronger Military Role
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen want Germany to assume a greater role in world affairs, including military missions abroad. Their stance marks a break with Angela Merkel's policy of restraint.
By Ralf Neukirch and Gordon Repinski, Spiegle, 28 Jan 2014

Overseas Role: Germany Must Back Words With Deeds
German politicians have won applause abroad for promising a beefier role in international crisis management in the future. But does Chancellor Merkel support the new line? Berlin's behavior in Syria and Ukraine will prove how serious it is about the rethink.
A Commentary by Christiane Hoffmann, Spiegel, 3 Feb 2014

Excerpt: lead paragraph

When German politicians pledged a more active international role at the Munich Security Conference last weekend, the reaction they got was almost euphoric. President Joachim Gauck, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen appeared to be vying with each other to present their vision of a new Germany to the gathering of security experts and senior politicians. . .

----------------------------

FROM Stratfor Global Intelligence, Geopolitical Weekly

A More Assertive German Foreign Policy
By George Friedman and Marc Lanthemann, 4 February 2014

excerpts

The Ukrainian crisis is important in itself, but the behavior it has elicited from Germany is perhaps more important. Berlin directly challenged Ukraine's elected president for refusing to tighten relations with the European Union and for mistreating Ukrainians who protested his decision. In challenging President Viktor Yanukovich, Berlin also challenged Russia, a reflection of Germany's recent brazen foreign policy.

Since the end of World War II, Germany has pursued a relatively tame foreign policy. But over the past week, Berlin appeared to have acknowledged the need for a fairly dramatic change. German leaders, including the chancellor, the president, the foreign minister and the defense minister, have called for a new framework that contravenes the restraint Germany has practiced for so long. They want Germany to assume a greater international role by becoming more involved outside its borders politically and militarily. . .

The timing of the announcement, as Ukraine's strategic position between Russia and Europe continues to make headlines, was not coincidental. . .

The European Union is an economic entity, but economics has turned from being the binding element to being a centrifugal force. Either something new must be introduced into the European experiment, or it might come undone.

Berlin believes that holding the European Union together requires adding another dimension that it heretofore has withheld in its dealing with the bloc: military-political relations. Standing up to a weakening Russia will appeal to Central European nations, and taking a more active role overseas would endear Berlin to Paris. . .

Of course, Germany is in no position to take military action. It is in a position to posit the possibility in some vague way, thereby generating political forces that can temporarily hold things together. . .
At first, Germany's actions seemed confusing and uncharacteristic. But they become more sensible when you consider that that Berlin is looking for other tools to hold the European Union together as it re-evaluates Russia.

------------------------------------------
SUMMARY

Facts:
* Strategically speaking, Russia cannot afford to ever let Ukraine slip out of its sphere of influence.
* In truth, Ukraine will not be joining the EU anytime soon for the EU doesn't actually want another crippled economy in its ranks.

Questions:
* Is the West backing a Neo-Nazi-led revolutionary movement in Ukraine just to annoy Russia?
* Is Germany backing a Neo-Nazi-led revolutionary movement in Ukraine, fanning the flames of revolution and making an enemy of Russia just so it can rally the EU?[2]

Main points:

* Ukraine is not monolithic -- it is extremely delicate (think Syria).
* If it is torn apart, the resultant conflict and bloodshed will be horrific (think Syria).
* The protests have been thoroughly hijacked by ultra-nationalist, anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi fascist groups (think Syria, except in that case the protests were hijacked by Islamists).
* Not caring about consequences, the US and EU are fanning the flames just to further their own interests (again, think Syria).
* The empowerment of anti-Semitic neo-Nazis will not bode well for the Jewish community or the Church (think Dietrich Bonheoffer).

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Jesus, Matthew 5:9 ESV)

Ukraine Churches Seek Peace and Reconciliation
Slavic Gospel Association: Prayer Alert

Pray for them!


[1] See Turn back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today by Elizabeth Kendal (Deror Books, Dec 2012). Chapter 9: Christian security: not in a 'covenant with death'.
[2] In my book, Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Dec 2012), I make the case that like the UN, the EU is little more than a modern-day "Tower of Babel" -- a human project designed to forge social cohesion without recourse to God (i.e. social transformation without spiritual transformation). For all its good intentions, despite all the good will in the mix, it is an act of spiritual rebellion that leads to death. Because God loves humanity and wants men and women to live, he will not permit such rebellion to be successful. Such projects will be cursed with confusion. (See Chapter 8: Christian security: not in 'City of Man'.)