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The Christadelphian | April 2015

In the magazine this month:

  • Editorial Making progress
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Sunday morning “These things have I spoken unto you” | James A. Crossley
  • Studies in Matthew’s Gospel 16 – Earthquakes | John Benson
  • 100 years ago
  • You have heard that it was said … hate your enemies | Luke Buckler
  • Bible Companion | Robert Tarrant
  • Halting between two opinions | John M. Hellawell
  • Feeling lonely | Stephen Whitehouse
  • Visits to Israel | Julia Fentiman
  • Bible Learning Centres 5 years on! | John Botten
  • Charity registration | Editor
  • Faith Alive! Challenge Accepted | Amy Parkin
  • Signs of the times Empire-building | Roger Long
  • Israel and their Land “The Most High rules …” | Roger Long
  • The brotherhood near and far

A sample article from this edition:

Signs of the times

Empire-building

News reports almost every day confirm the perception that Western leaders are increasingly nervous about the activities and intentions of Russia: we seem to be entering a new period of ‘Cold War’.

Western sanctions

The crisis over Ukraine has led to harsh economic sanctions being imposed on Russia by the US, the EU and other countries, in an attempt to isolate the Moscow government. Russia has responded with sanctions of her own, including a ban on food imports from the US, Canada, EU, Australia and Norway. This has led to a financial crisis in Russia. The rouble went into free-fall – a combination of sanctions and cheaper oil; in 2014 it lost more than half its value against the dollar. Potentially Mr Putin could be in serious difficulties. Indeed, his disappearance from public view for a while recently led to feverish speculation in the Western press that there might have been a coup against him – which proved to be unfounded.

Symbolic help?

NATO is also attempting to pile on the pressure. In a largely symbolic gesture, NATO soldiers in full combat gear took part in a military parade to celebrate Estonia’s Independence Day (February 24), held close to a border checkpoint with Russia. Also in February Britain announced that she would join America in helping to train Ukraine’s armed forces, and last month that work began. The BBC reported that British military personnel will give training “in medicine and defensive tactics and give non-lethal equipment …The British government is also supplying first aid kits, sleeping bags and night-vision goggles as part of its pledge to provide assistance and more British teams are expected to arrive in Ukraine over the coming weeks” (March 19). The Ukrainian Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, in welcoming the assistance, saw it as a “first step” and expected that the USA and other European countries would follow suit. “Please help us to defend our country and your peace”, he said.

Despite words of appreciation from Kiev – and predictable criticism from Moscow – it is difficult to see the help as being anything more than symbolic, especially with Britain’s reducing defence budget. America has stated its intention to send a battalion for training purposes, but in a recent article in The Daily Telegraph, Fraser Nelson argues that “Barack Obama has concluded that while the Ukraine crisis may be a problem for Europe, it’s not really one for America” (February 27).

Russia’s extending influence

There are other indications that despite Russia’s economic woes, Mr Putin may be more than holding his own, especially in exploiting any cracks in European unity. An example of this was clearly seen at the end of February when Russia and Cyprus signed a number of agreements. These provide for interest rates to be cut on a 2.5 billion euro bailout loan from Russia to Cyprus and extend payments by several years; they also allow Russian naval vessels access to Cypriot ports. With the Syrian civil war still raging, and an uncertain outcome, Russia’s well-publicised naval base at Tartus may be at risk; thus access to ports in Cyprus will have real strategic value for the Russian navy, as well as sending out a message to the world at large that a Russian presence in the eastern Mediterranean is here to stay.

Last October The Moscow Times, in connection with some Russian naval exercises, stated: “The Soviet Union’s Fifth Naval Squadron maintained a permanent presence in the Mediterranean Sea for most of the Cold War. But as its economic and military power shrank in the 1990s following the fall of communism, Russia disbanded the unit, limiting itself to temporary tours in the area. But the ambition remained. Recently, with the ongoing modernization of the Black Sea Fleet following Crimea’s annexation from Ukraine in March, Russian naval planners have re-energized plans to re-establish the permanent force, which would allow Russia to secure shipping access to the Suez Canal and extend its influence in the Middle East” (October 16, 2014). The latest agreement with Cyprus will enable Russia to move one step closer to achieving this aim.

The situation is potentially awkward for the UK that still has military bases on Cyprus. In the article by Fraser Nelson referred to above, he observes: “It’s quite a coup for the Kremlin. Cyprus was British until 1960; now it has been absorbed into Putin’s new empire. It’s not an empire that NATO, with its Cold War mindset, would recognise; it’s not one that can be described by colouring in nations on a map. This is an empire of influence – far cheaper to acquire, harder to spot and easier to maintain. It doesn’t cost much for Russia to provide eighty per cent of foreign investment into Cyprus, but with investment comes gratitude. Cyprus, an EU member, opposes sanctions on Russia – making the hard task of a common EU foreign policy that little bit harder”.

In addition to this, a recent Stratfor report argued that Russia has been working hard “to boost its leverage in Central Europe over the past few years”, with the Ukraine crisis giving added impetus to this policy. There is particular interest in “Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic that are struggling to balance between Russia and the West … Central Europe is strategically important to Russia because of its geographic location on the eastern edges of the European Union and NATO” (March 4).

The extension of Russian influence, however it is achieved, is entirely in line with expectations based on Bible prophecy. When the latter-day invasion of the Middle East and specifically the land of Israel occurs, as foretold by the prophets, it will be so devastating that the only possible counter-response will be a weak protest, “Art thou come to take a spoil?” (Ezekiel 38:13). To the surprise of the conqueror, and indeed the world at large, the invasion will be met by an overwhelming divine response, heralding the new age of Christ’s kingdom upon earth.

Roger Long

 

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