Global Balance of Power Shifting—What It Means
HIGHLY significant events have been taking place in world affairs in recent years. Among the many things that have happened, observers have noted a trend of unusual importance. During 1975 this trend has picked up speed.
What many have noted is a shifting in the world balance of power—politically, militarily and economically. Why is this so significant? Because of its relationship to Bible prophecy for our day. Thus, thoughtful persons are keenly interested in what is taking place, and what the real meaning of it is.
Of course, shifts in balances of power among nations are nothing new. These have been going on for thousands of years. How, then, is the current trend different?
For one thing, the shifting does not affect just a few areas of the globe, as most others in the past did, but affects the entire world. Second, it is being largely accomplished with little influence from an element that the nations previously made great use of—the religions of this world. A third factor is that this shift comes at a time that Bible prophecy shows to be very significant. All these things together confirm that we are very close to an immense turning point in history.
Struggle for Global Power
At the end of World War II in 1945 the Western world, that is, the United States and its Western European allies principally, stood at the apex of world power. Never in history had such an array of political, military and economic might been seen.
However, at the end of World War II another power was growing—Soviet Communism. While Communism had taken control of Russia back in 1917, it had been contained there for decades. Only Mongolia had come under a similar form of government, in the 1920’s. But by the end of World War II victorious Soviet armies had paved the way for Communist governments in all of Eastern Europe: Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania and Yugoslavia.
Then, in 1949, China was taken by Communist forces after a civil war, and, a few years later, Tibet. About a decade hence, Cuba entered the Communist ranks. And, in 1975, Communist forces have now engulfed much of Indochina.
Thus, in less than sixty years Communism as a political, military and economic force has come to dominate fully one third of mankind. Under Communist control these lands have made considerable strides in developing power and influence.
Almost two decades ago, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev made his boastful challenge to the United States: “Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you.”
Khrushchev, it is reported, meant that in such things as industrial might and scientific achievement the Soviet Union would overtake the United States to become the most powerful and influential nation on earth. At the time many people laughed at the challenge. But today, few consider it a laughing matter.
The power of the Soviet Union has indeed grown to enormous proportions. In 1974, for instance, the Soviet Union produced more oil, steel, coal and cement than any other country in the world. She was also the leading producer of many other products, and is rich in raw materials.
This growth has enabled the Soviet Union to acquire the base for constantly expanding military power, the largest in the world. Former American Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, Jr., noted: “The combination of increasing Soviet military power and declining U.S. force levels has put us at the crossover point where Soviet superiority in military capabilities may become reality.” He added: “Wherever one looks the rate of change on the international scene has achieved dizzying proportions, often with ominous overtones for United States interests.”
In addition to growing Soviet power, Communist China, with her 800,000,000 highly disciplined people, is also growing rapidly in industrial and military might. While having large differences of viewpoint with the Soviet Union, China’s ideology is also a challenge to the West. And these two huge Communist lands have vastly increased their influence with many other countries throughout the world. Scores of these nations are developing nations, or what is called the “Third World.” How do they view global matters?
“Third World” Attitudes
When World War II ended, American and Western European influence among the nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America was huge. This could be seen even in the voting pattern among the then fifty-one nations of the United Nations organization. Consistently the vast majority of smaller countries voted with the Western lands on global issues.
But that has changed greatly in recent years. Now a growing majority of the present 138 members of the United Nations very often side against Western Europe and the United States on matters. Indeed, some Western nations now complain about “the tyranny of the . . . majority.”
Since 1945 scores of these “Third World” nations have achieved independence from colonial rule and have adopted their own forms of government. And more and more of them are taking a course of action that is often at odds with the interests of Western nations. The example of the oil-producing countries in raising prices and controlling oil resources has not gone unnoticed by other “Third World” lands with other natural resources. Since the industrial nations of Western Europe have very few vital raw materials, and the United States has shortages of some, the West is at a growing disadvantage economically.
Also of interest is the fact that the economic and political activities of many “Third World” nations are invariably backed by the Soviet Union and China.
Recently a number of additional countries have stated their intentions to loosen their previous strong ties with the West. Newsweek reports that various “Third World” nations are now saying that their governments will ‘have no difficulties in dealing with a Communist regime.’ A foreign ministry official of one Asiatic land stated bluntly: “We frankly feel that a détente with China is a far better security for the country than relying on American troops.” In another land an ambassador said: “It is safer to be an ally of the Communists, and it looks like it is fatal to be an ally of the United States.”
Of course, others point out that such views may be an exaggeration. But the fact that they are expressed at all shows that there is indeed a change taking place in the thinking of many who were formerly dominated by Western influence.
In recent times the setbacks suffered by the West have been very grave. For example, columnists Evans and Novak, in the New York Post, called the reverse suffered by the United States in Indochina “the worst foreign policy defeat in this nation’s history.”
As a result, an editorial in The Wall Street Journal by Vermont Royster from Paris asks: “Is the United States—militarily, economically and politically—now a declining world power? In varying forms this is the question Europeans are now putting to each other in conversation, in the councils of political leaders and in the press.” He added that the reverse in southeast Asia “is hardly the whole cause of the decline of U.S. prestige in Western Europe, only the dramatic event that called it to everyone’s attention. For another harsh fact is that American economic and political power has been crumbling for a long time.”
Observers also point to other recent setbacks for Western policy in various parts of the world. Editorial writer Carl Rowan stated:
“The Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) is moribund, and U.S. influence in the Far East seems at its lowest point since World War II. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is in disrepair . . .
“Soviet influence is up and U.S. prestige is down in India and the Arab world . . . And quiet though it has been kept, U.S. relations with Canada and Latin America have deteriorated sharply in recent years.”
One Western official, reviewing the avalanche of troubles that has descended recently, said: “We don’t have enough fingers to stick in all the holes in the dike.”
Political commentator William Safire concluded that “the current of world events is running against” the West. United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger spoke of “a massive shift in the foreign policies of many countries.” C. L. Sulzberger of the New York Times wrote: “The free world situation has become rapidly more critical.” He quoted a leading West European statesman who went so far as to say that “we are witnessing the collapse of Western civilization.” The Wall Street Journal also stated: “It may well be that in the great long-term sweep of history the Western democracies have finally passed their high water mark.”
Shifting attitudes are also illustrated by the fact that a growing number of people in many lands wonder if it is worth while or consistent to fight smaller Communist nations while at the same time improving relations with the giant—ones the Soviet Union and China. Evidently this includes some persons in the United States too, for the magazine U.S. News & World Report states: “Many in Congress—especially new members—think it’s time to revise the whole ‘contain Communism’ policy the nation has pursued since the end of World War II. They see huge risks and expense, few gains in return.” Of course, many other people disagree.
What It Means
While it may be premature to state that world power has completely shifted this way or that, one thing is certain. The relative power and influence once held by the Western nations that make up the leading part of what is called Christendom have diminished.
New rulers who hold the reins of power in many nations are not bound to past links with the Western world and its religions. Many of them are not religiously minded men. When confronted with problems, they answer them in a secular way, not being swayed by religious interests.
Today nationalism and power politics are far stronger than religion. In times of crisis people now respond mostly, not to the appeals of religion, but to the appeals of their political leaders, as well as to labor, social and military leaders. As a Wall Street Journal editorial commented:
“All of us have tended more and more to invest more of ourselves in political leaders. In a sense, they have tended to fill the void left by the decline of religion and other sources of moral authority.”
Also, in nearly every country on earth many people have abandoned the traditional religions. An evidence of religion’s lessening role can be noted in the poll taken among Americans in various fields. When they were asked to rate twenty-four main institutions in regard to influence, religion was rated next to last!
Just what does the shifting world balance of power, the loss of influence of the nations of Christendom and the growing trend toward irreligious thinking and ideologies mean? It means that the time is soon coming when God will call this world’s religions to account for their centuries of political meddling and support of horrible wars, their hypocrisy and misrepresentation of the Creator.
The Bible depicts the world empire of false religion as a prostitute, a harlot. Why? Because it has sold itself to this world instead of seeking true relationship with Jehovah God. In this regard an editorial in Newsweek noted:
“God must have cringed when men invented slavery and called it divinely inspired, or lighted the fires of the Inquisition in the name of Jesus. This God must still cringe when we make a desert [by means of warfare] and call it holy will. . . .
“This has made of religion a faithless thing, subject to the dictates of human pride rather than the truth about God.”
Bible prophecy for our day shows that shortly the member nations of the United Nations will turn on this world’s harlotlike religions in disgust and rage. Describing this event in symbolic language, God’s Word says that these member nations “will hate the harlot and will make her devastated and naked, and will eat up her fleshy parts and will completely burn her with fire.” (Rev. 17:16) That is why those who are yet a part of this world’s religions are warned: “Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues.”—Rev. 18:4.
Further, the beginning of God’s judgment against worldly religion will mark the start of what Jesus Christ called the “great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” (Matt. 24:21) Who will survive? God’s Word answers: “The world is passing away . . . but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:17.
Thus the current shifting in the world balance of power away from Christendom and the trend away from religious influence is of tremendous importance. It signals the fact that we are nearing the time of God’s judgments against this entire system of things, beginning with false religion. Surely these momentous events of our day and their deeper meaning merit your most serious attention. What you do about them will actually mean your life.