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Every 4 months Don writes a Milestones article for the BibleMagazine – in the following months we provide the article free of charge. here is the latest….

Bible Magazine Winter 2017/18

Once again, we have been somewhat overwhelmed by the speed at which things are racing onwards, towards that grand dénouement—the Return of our Lord and Master. Indeed, as one of our hymns says, the days are quickly flying and Christ will come again. So many things are now realities that our early brethren and sisters could only imagine with the eye of faith. With Britain on the exit pathway from the EU, the remaining members have pressed on with their plans for the forming of the United States of Europe. In truth, this lay at the heart of the EU but was too sensitive to discuss in public, especially in Britain. Now this is regularly being talked about and the EU Commission is pressing for rapid progress. Running in parallel is the urgent call for Europe’s own army.

We are seeing the forming of the latter-day phase of the European Beast system. Just as Communism was the brake on Russia returning to its Tsarist roots, so Britain was the brake on European integration. We have seen what amazing progress has taken place in Russia to integrate Church and State, with Mr Putin happy to act in the spirit of the Tsars to rebuild Russia’s fortunes. Now with Brexit, we are beginning to see similar progress, with the Papal support for a central government to control Europe just as the founding Fathers of Europe had envisaged.

The idea of One Europe grew out of the events of World War 1—one hundred years ago. Step by step it is nearly at its desired end point!

The Roman Catholic founding fathers of the EU had this bold vision of a United States of Europe. But they realised that nations would not easily give up their sovereignty. So, deceit was the way to sell the dream. The chief architect of today’s Europe was Jean Monnet of France. This is an extract from an article by Christopher Booker who co-authored the book The Great Deception first published in 2003. The article was written for the Daily Mail 31-Dec-12, on the 40th anniversary of Britain joining the EU.

The real story, surprisingly, goes back to the 1920s, when a senior League of Nations official, Frenchman Jean Monnet, first began to dream of building a ‘United States of Europe’, very much on the lines that decades later would shape the European Union as it is today.

After World War II, Monnet, by then the second most powerful man in France, finally set the project on its way. He knew there was no chance of bringing such an astonishingly ambitious vision into being all at once. So his plan was that it should gradually be constructed, piece by stealthy piece, without ever declaring too openly what was intended to be its ultimate goal.

At first it should be presented as just a trading arrangement, the ‘Common Market’ set up in 1957 by the Treaty of Rome. But the essence of that treaty was to create the core institutions of what Monnet always intended should one day be the ‘Government of Europe’.

The idea was to work for ‘ever closer union’.

Treaty by treaty, it would take over more powers from national governments, based on the sacred principle that once power to make laws was handed over to Brussels it could never be given back.

Ever more countries would be brought into the net, until the project reached its ultimate goal as a super-government, with its own president and parliament, its own currency and armed forces, its own flag and anthem—all the attributes of a fully-fledged nation state.

Thus, stealthily assembled over decades, would this new ‘country called Europe’ finally take its place on the world stage. What we found most shocking in researching this story was that, when Britain’s leaders first considered joining the project, they were made fully aware of this hidden agenda.

As we see from Cabinet papers and other documents of the early Sixties, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and his ‘Europe Minister’ Edward Heath were put completely in the picture about the secret ‘grand plan’. But in June 1961 the Cabinet formally agreed that it must not be revealed to the British people.

In Macmillan’s words, to admit ‘the political objectives’ of the Rome Treaty would raise ‘problems of public relations’ so ‘considerable’ that they should be kept under wraps. It was vital to emphasise only the economic advantages of British entry.

Thus did Macmillan and Heath become drawn into complicity with that same web of deceit which was driving the ‘project’ itself.

The “Monnet method” (or engrenage—gearing) is spelled out in the book The Great Deception, by Christopher Booker and Richard North.

There would never be any single, clear definition of these terms. But every ‘project’ insider would know what was meant by engrenage, or ‘gearing’. It provided a blanket word to describe all those various techniques whereby the ‘project’ could advance what was really its only underlying agenda: a steady, relentless pressure to extend the Commission’s supranational powers. Each new advance it made would merely be regarded as a means of gearing up for the next. Each new addition to its competences might begin with a small, innocuous-seeming proposal to which nobody could object; until the principle was conceded, and those powers could then be steadily enlarged. Each new problem or setback could be used as a ‘beneficial crisis’ to justify further extending the Commission’s powers to provide the remedy.

Thus, brick by brick, would the great supranational structure be assembled. Above all it would be vital never to define too clearly what was the ‘project’s’ ultimate goal, for fear this would arouse the countervailing forces which might seek to sabotage it before it was complete

In this sense, an intention to obscure and to deceive was implicit in the nature of the ‘project’ from the moment it was launched. This habit of concealment was to remain such a defining characteristic of the ‘project’ that it would come increasingly to affect all those caught in its spell. Page 583 The Great Deception

The one thing above all the ‘project’ could never be, because by definition it had never been intended to be, was in the remotest sense democratic. The whole purpose of a supranational body is to stand above the wishes of the individual nations and peoples. When Monnet and Slater first conceived their idea of a supranational ‘United States of Europe’ it never entered their minds that the wishes of the people should be consulted. They were technocrats, who thought that the future of Europe would best be served by placing it under the role of a government of technocrats like themselves, men whose only interest was efficient co-operation to pursue a common goal, unsullied by any need to resort to all the messy, unpredictable business of elections. Page 602 The Great Deception

This is what we have witnessed this year. We remind ourselves of the steps. Starting with the Rome Declaration issued in March at the EU summit held at Rome to celebrate the Common Market/EU’s 60th birthday. At the end of the summit, the 27 members, (the UK was about to deliver her Brexit letter and so felt it prudent to give the birthday party a miss), issued a defiant Declaration of Unity in the face of Britain’s perceived treachery. Here are the main points:

We, the Leaders of 27 Member States and of EU institutions, take pride in the achievements of the European Union: the construction of European unity is a bold, far-sighted endeavour. Sixty years ago, recovering from the tragedy of two world wars, we decided to bond together and rebuild our continent from its ashes. We have built a unique Union with common institutions and strong values, a community of peace, freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, a major economic power with unparalleled levels of social protection and welfare.

European unity started as the dream of a few, it became the hope of the many. Then Europe became one again. Today, we are united and stronger: hundreds of millions of people across Europe benefit from living in an enlarged Union that has overcome the old divides.

We will make the European Union stronger and more resilient, through even greater unity and solidarity amongst us and the respect of common rules. Unity is both a necessity and our free choice. Taken individually, we would be side-lined by global dynamics. Standing together is our best chance to influence them, and to defend our common interests and values. We will act together, at different paces and intensity where necessary, while moving in the same direction, as we have done in the past, in line with the Treaties and keeping the door open to those who want to join later. Our Union is undivided and indivisible.

We as Leaders, working together within the European Council and among our institutions, will ensure that today’s agenda is implemented, so as to become tomorrow’s reality. We have united for the better. Europe is our common futureThe Rome Declaration 25-Mar-17

This was followed on September 13th, as we saw in the last update, by the annual “State of the Union” speech delivered by the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. Last year it was very downbeat as Britain had just voted to leave, the economy was shaky. Since then there had been better economic news and the shock of Brexit had subsided. And so he was very upbeat this year. Things were looking up. The “wind was in the EU sails”, now was the time for pressing on with further integration. This Latvian cartoonist the following day captured the spirit of Juncker’s speech as Europe sails away from her links to the UK. The Daily Telegraph 13-Sep17 used the headline:

‘A United States of Europe’

Here are some extracts from Juncker’s speech—those in bold are in the original document, mine are in bold.

I want our Union to be stronger and for this we need a stronger single market.

I am also strongly in favour of moving to qualified majority voting for decisions on the common consolidated corporate tax base, on VAT, on fair taxes for the digital industry and on the financial transaction tax.

Europe has to be able to act quicker and more decisively, and this also applies to the Economic and Monetary Union.

We need a European Minister of Economy and Finance: a European Minister that promotes and supports structural reforms in our Member States. He or she can build on the work the Commission has been doing since 2015 with our Structural Reform Support Service. The new Minister should coordinate all EU financial instruments that can be deployed if a Member State is in a recession or hit by a fundamental crisis.

More democracy means more efficiency. Europe would function better if we were to merge the Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission.

Europe would be easier to understand if one captain was steering the ship.

Having a single President would simply better reflect the true nature of our European Union as both a Union of States and a Union of citizens. On 30 March 2019, we will be a Union of 27. I suggest that we prepare for this moment well, amongst the 27 and within the EU institutions.

European Parliament elections will take place just a few weeks later, in May 2019. Europeans have a date with democracy. They need to go to the polls with a clear understanding of how the European Union will develop over the years to come.

This is why I call on President Tusk and Romania, the country holding the Presidency in the first half of 2019, to organise a Special Summit in Romania on 30 March 2019. This should be the moment we come together to take the decisions needed for a more united, stronger and democratic Europe.

My hope is that on 30 March 2019, Europeans will wake up to a Union where we stand by all our values. Where all Member States respect the rule of law without exception. Where being a full member of the euro area, the Banking Union and the Schengen area has become the norm for all.

Helmut Kohl and Jacques Delors, whom I had the honour to know, taught me that Europe only moves forward when it is bold. The single market, Schengen and the single currency: these were all ideas that were written off as pipe dreams before they happened. And yet these three ambitious projects are now a part of our daily reality.

Now that Europe is doing better, people tell me I should not rock the boat.

But now is not the time to err on the side of caution.

We started to fix the European roof. But today and tomorrow we must patiently, floor by floor, moment by moment, inspiration by inspiration, continue to add new floors to the European House.

We must complete the European House now that the sun is shining and whilst it still is.

Because when the next clouds appear on the horizon – and they will appear one day – it will be too late.

So let’s throw off the bowlines.

Sail away from the harbour.

And catch the trade winds in our sails.

Two weeks later it was the turn of the new French President to set out his plans for Europe.

Macron seeks far-reaching EU overhaul

The French President, Emmanuel Macron, laid out an overhaul of the EU on Tuesday (26 September) to make it more integrated, more democratic, and more competitive.

“The only way to ensure our future is to rebuild a sovereign, united and democratic Europe“, he said.

Macron signalled that he was ready to push forward without all member states.

Multi-speed Europe: He said that he wanted the EU to launch a “group for the rebuilding of Europe” that would include countries that are willing to move forward and would work with EU institutions.

Macron, who was speaking to an audience of French and foreign students, insisted on European cultural heritage and the need to develop a European education system.

“The Europe of multilingualism is a chance,” he said.

He said that by 2024, all European students should speak at least two languages and that half of Europeans under 25 – students and apprentices alike – should have spent at least six months in another country.

He also proposed to launch a “Sorbonne process” to create European universities and develop the harmonisation and recognition of diplomas in the secondary education system.

He laid out a vision of the EU in 2024 that is based on “common democratic values” as well as a “simpler, more protective” single market.

This EU would include a more integrated eurozone with its own budget managed by a finance minister who would be held responsible by a eurozone parliament.

The budget would be funded by a tax on internet companies – which France is currently pushing – a “green tax”, and a future corporation tax that would be harmonised. EUObserver 26-Sep-17

His dream fitted that of the founding fathers, remove national barriers, make it citizen think as Europeans. It would be a long road, but by working through students at “European” universities, this would be speeded up.

The Grand Plans to Renew the European Union

Under this headline, Stratfor 30-Oct-17 made this pointed observation on Junker’s and Macron’s talks:

“Both speeches have served their purpose: to jump-start discussions of deeper integration and to outline the grand plans for reform that Europe so desperately needs.”

Following hard on Macron’s speech came a press release from the European Commission 24-Oct-17 entitled: Commission Work Programme 2018: An agenda for a more united, stronger and more democratic Europe. The Commission is anxious to implement the 10 key ideas in Juncker’s State of the Union speech as quickly as possible. It lists 66 “Priority pending proposals requiring swift adoption by the Parliament and Council.” This includes defence matters, and what it terms “European political parties and European political foundations.”

While completing today’s agenda, this Commission will continue with work to prepare the Union of tomorrow. The 2018 Work Programme includes a number of initiatives that look further forward, towards 2025 and beyond. From 30 March 2019, the European Union will be a Union of 27 Member States, and now is the time to shape this More United, Stronger and More Democratic Union.

A More United Union will require a credible enlargement perspective for frontrunner candidates in the Western Balkans. To build a Stronger Union, the Commission will table a proposal for the future Multi-annual Financial Framework and will also propose more efficient Single Market law-making and more efficiency and consistency in implementing the Common Foreign Policy. We will adopt a Reflection Paper on a sustainable European future and a Communication on the future of EU energy and climate policy, and propose an extension of the tasks of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office to also tackle terrorism. For a More Democratic Union, we will make proposals for the creation of a permanent and accountable European Minister of Economy and Finance, an initiative on further enhancing subsidiarity and proportionality, and a Communication on enhancing efficiency at the helm of the European Union. We will also propose an initiative on the enforcement of the rule of law.

Schulz calls for ‘United States of Europe’ as SPD agrees talks with Merkel

The German elections (September 24th) turned out rather a disaster for Angela Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union Party (CDU) and their sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU). Together with their coalition partners, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), they all lost seats. Although her party emerged the strongest, it was still well short on numbers. The SPD, had said they no longer wanted to be in a coalition with her, so she had to try to find other partners. This mission broke down after ten weeks of discussions. Faced with the prospect of fresh elections, the SPD leader, Martin Schulz has just appealed to his party members to let him try to see if they could join again as junior coalition members. He made it clear that his price would be high.

He demanded Berlin join French President Emmanuel Macron and other proponents of major EU reforms in boosting the bloc and its currency union, including by raising investment and giving the eurozone a common finance minister and budget.

Pledged that any government that emerges must drive forward “the fundamental renewal of Europe”.

Schulz made a passionate call for a “United States of Europe” by 2025. Euractiv 08-Dec-17

The SPD have agreed that he can hold “open-ended” talks with Ms Merkel. We await the outcome. Meanwhile it has left Germany rather impotent at this critical time in the Brexit talks.

Re-thinking Europe

Since the last update, the COMECE (the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community) conference at the Vatican has been held with the above theme.

It was part of the Vatican’s celebration of the 60th birthday of the EU and was held in the Vatican over three days, 27-29th October.

COMECE has invited politicians including Frans Timmermans, first vice-president of the European Commission, Pat Cox, former president of the European Parliament, as well as the current president Antonio Tajani.

350 participants representing the Church, religious movements and the world of politics will reflect (anew) on the challenges currently facing the EU. Vatican Radio 10-Oct-17

The Pope also addressed the assembly with a long speech.

On Europe: Pope Francis lays out his own ‘Benedict option’

It is not new for papal speeches on Europe to refer to its patron, the sixth-century St. Benedict of Nursia. But what made Francis’s reference to the founder of western monasticism unusual was the parallel he drew between the twilight of the Roman empire then and Europe now.

For St. Benedict, said Francis, “the important thing was not functions but persons.” He pointed to a view of man radically different from classical Greek and Roman culture, one that transcended role and status, which was rooted in man as the image of God. The outworking of this novel concept became – through monasteries – the source of Europe’s cultural and economic rebirth.

Francis sees in this story both a lesson about Europe’s current moment and a signpost to the Church’s future role. The greatest contribution Christians can make, he argued, is to rescue the importance of the person in the face of a soulless technification of politics and economics.

“There are no citizens, only votes,” he complained. “There are no migrants, only quotas. There are no workers, only economic markers. There are no poor, only thresholds of poverty.”

Elsewhere, not least in his Charlemagne speech, Francis has described the Church’s role in Europe as one of service not power, watering the roots of the continent’s culture through humble service rather than hankering after lost gains. On Saturday he repeated this message, reminding those present that “Christians are called to restore dignity to politics and to view politics as a lofty service to the common good, not as a platform for power.”

Francis sums up this vision at the end, when he says Christians are called “to revitalize Europe and to revive its conscience, not by occupying spaces but by generating processes capable of awakening new energies in society” – just as, Francis said, St. Benedict did in giving birth to [the monasteries,] “an exciting and irresistible movement that changed the face of Europe.”

Pope Francis is keenly aware that the Roman Church has a vital role in rebuilding Europe, and he sees putting Christianity back at its heart, as the only way to prevent Europe being overtaken by a Moslem way of life.

Brexit talks going somewhere?

It has been a tumultuous few months for the Brexit talks. After six rounds of talks, there seems to have been little progress on making sufficient headway on the “divorce settlement costs” to move to the vital talks on a trade agreement, without which businesses both here and in the EU, cannot move forward. The UK is anxious to get matters agreed so that she can be ready to make trade agreements with non-EU countries, a matter that as an EU member, she has been unable to do. In the EU all are bound by the same rules. Any trade agreements have to be painfully negotiated to satisfy the needs of all 28 members. If Britain is to leave in March 2019, she needs to know what to plan for. The EU has been reluctant to say what they would like, putting the onus on Britain as she is the one wanting to leave. Mid-December is a critical date, this is when the next heads of government summit meeting is being held and the EU negotiators have said that unless sufficient progress is made on the divorce costs they will not be able to recommend that they can move on to the next stage.

Things looked very grim in early December as the UK government is very split over what they want. Mrs. May still hopes that Britain will remain part of Europe. The Irish border became the final touchstone for the talks. At the moment, Northern Ireland, as a member of the UK, is a member of the EU, as are the Irish Republic. Trade freely flows across the border. With Britain leaving the EU what will happen? There is a very strong feeling on both sides the border that they want things as seamless as it is now. But with Northern Ireland out of the EU this theoretically can’t happen. There have to be border crossings and customs posts etc.

There was talk of N.I. remaining in the EU, but if special treatment was to be meted out then Scotland, Wales and London wanted that same treatment. The Ulster Democratic Party who are being relied on to support the government are fearful of a move for Protestant Northern Ireland to be absorbed into Roman Catholic Irish Republic. Mrs May has promised this won’t happen.

At the beginning of December an agreement had apparently solved this seemingly intractable problem and Mrs May had a morning meeting scheduled on the 4th December with European Commission President, Jean-Claude Junker, to see if sufficient progress had been made. At the last moment there was talk of an agreement and she flew off for her meeting. The news was good, there were smiles all round. Then as they sat down to lunch there was an urgent phone call from the leader of the DUP, saying that they had seen the leaked details and it didn’t accord with what they had agreed to. It remained for May and Junker to announce that there were still a few loose pieces which needed to be dealt with, and although December the 4th had been set as the absolute deadline, a few more days were granted. There followed several days of frenetic negotiations until a “fudge” wording was agreed.

The wording on Northern Ireland and the border with the Republic is general and about principles. It will fall to later talks to work out how the “detailed arrangements” will work. This, as the UK has often pointed out, needs decisions on the general arrangements for UK trade with the EU before anyone can finalise the border arrangements. There will be considerable debate about the meaning of this statement “In the absence of agreed solutions the UK will maintain full alignment with the rules of the internal market and customs union which now or in the future support North-south co-operation, the all island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement” John Redwood Diary 08-Dec-17

We now turn to Israel and Mr Trump’s declaration regarding Jerusalem.

Trump Recognizes Jerusalem as Israeli Capital

During his election campaign, Mr Trump had made clear that he recognised Jerusalem as being the capital of Israel and intended to arrange to move the American Embassy there. America has long acknowledged the reality of Israel’s capital, but had feared an Arab backlash for such a move. It was back in 1995 that the American Congress adopted the Jerusalem Embassy Act, urging the US government to move the Embassy to Jerusalem. This had resulted ever since in a 6-monthly ritual of signing a waiver postponing this step.

Although Mr Trump has been in office for nearly a year, this matter has continued to be fudged. However, much to Israel’s joy he at last signed the necessary recognition in December.

The president also announced that he has instructed the relevant teams to begin planning the relocation of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, yet did not state when such a move will take place.

Finally, Trump stressed that the American recognition of Jerusalem is not tantamount to a position on the issue of Israeli borders and sovereignty in Jerusalem. Those, he said, will be decided upon in negotiations.

“It is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Trump said, adding that the move was “a long overdue step to advance the peace process” between Israel and the Palestinians.

He said recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is not only a “necessary condition for achieving peace,” but also “in the best interests of the United States of America.” Haaretz 06-Dec-17

There was a storm of protest from the Palestinians, the lights of the Christmas tree in Bethlehem were extinguished and many clashes with the Israeli military. However, the threatened intifada hasn’t materialised at the time of writing. Many Arab nations have been muted in their opposition, acknowledging that as they need to have Israel on their side, the reality is that they go to Jerusalem when they want to meet the Israeli government. Jerusalem has never been the capital city of the Palestinians. Even the call that this is the third holiest site for Moslem’s doesn’t fit with history. Only after Israel’s capture of it in 1967 did it suddenly assume interest in Moslem eyes.

Mr Netanyahu visited France to see President Macron and also held a meeting in Brussels with EU leaders, asking them to accept the reality of Jerusalem being Israel’s capital. It can be no true obstacle to peace talks as there can be no meaningful talks until Israel’s control of this city is recognised. It was telling that no EU leaders were prepared to agree with him! If we need evidence of the undercurrent of dislike for Israel, this brought matters to the fore. It reinforces the Biblical picture of Europe being part of the confederacy of nations that comes against Jerusalem.

Saudi Prince to White House: Jerusalem issue is no bar to our engagement with Israel

On the other hand, the Saudi Crown Prince had been in touch with Mr Trump.

Official White House sources disclosed Tuesday that Saudi Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman had informed President Trump that, while Riyadh publicly objects to Jerusalem’s recognition as Israeli capital and the US embassy’s move to Jerusalem, neither is a bar to Saudi engagement with Israel; nor should it be detrimental to Trump administration steps in the Middle East. DEBKAfile 05-Dec-17

There have been many reports recently on the improving relations between Israel and the moderate Middle East Arab countries. These moves are being led by the Saudi Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman (known as MBS). He was appointed as the Minister of Defence in 2015 and retained his existing role of Minister of the State. The 32-year-old was chosen by his father, King Salman to be his successor in June 2017. He has acted swiftly to eliminate the widespread corruption in the country and put under house arrest, in a very expensive hotel, many of his rivals, insisting that they pay-back what they are alleged to have embezzled as the price of their freedom! He has pledged close cooperation with President Trump and has made it clear that he wants to work with Israel, declaring that his countrymen are free to visit Israel.

In 2016 he set out his vision for the future of Saudi Arabia under Vision 2030. He is seeking to greatly reduce the power of the religious authorities and make Saudi more open, more Westernised. Women have now been given permission to drive, and cinemas are now permitted.

Neom, Saudi Arabia’s proposed Mega City

In one of his efforts to diversify away from shrinking oil-based revenues, the young Crown Prince unveiled plans for a new Mega City called Neom. The question is whether it will reach the light of day. The scale is breath-taking; it is situated close to Jordan, Egypt and Israel, in a huge tract of land. It will operate under liberal rules, with men and women working side-by-side, thus making it possible for Israeli participation, which he seeks.

He unveiled this $500bn project before 3,500 of the “who’s who of business, corporate executives and government officials from 88 countries”. (Hindustan Times 26-Oct-17) The money is to come from Saudi’s Wealth Fund, plus the sale of part of the oil giant Saudi Aramco.

It includes bridges across from Saudi to Egypt, utilizing the islands in the mouth of the Gulf of Aquaba, which Egypt has recently given control of to Saudi. This project, based upon the “free zone” which has brought great wealth to Dubai, is potentially of great interest to Britain, who has the skills to manage big projects. It is in the region of the Dedan who was Abraham’s grandson. It would give a big boost to the proposed high-speed railway link from Eilat to Beersheba to link up with the existing high-speed line to the port at Ashdod, which the Chinese and the Indians are interested in financing. It would enable goods to be transported to the Mediterranean coast, avoiding the costs of the Suez Canal. Egypt might not be too thrilled!

Russia’s unexpected military victory in Syria

When Mr Putin announced in 2015 that he was coming to the aid of his friend President Assad of Syria, it was thought that Russia would get bogged down in this seemingly intractable war.

Two years on, it is safe to say that Syria has not become a repeat of the Soviet Union’s failed campaign in Afghanistan. The military and political situation of the Assad regime, which seemed almost hopeless in the summer of 2015, has radically improved. The Syrian government is now in control of over 90 percent of the country’s territory. The self-proclaimed Islamic State is on the brink of extinction. Many other radical Islamist groups have been left in a severely weakened state. The more moderate anti-Assad opposition, which receives massive military assistance from the United States and Gulf monarchies, is not doing much better, either. President Assad’s political future is no longer in any doubt.

The greatest surprise is not the success of Russia’s intervention in Syria, but the very limited forces and assets that have proved sufficient to achieve that victory. Moscow did not deploy any large numbers of troops on the ground. Its losses in Syria have been negligible. The Russian expeditionary force has remained very small throughout the entire campaign. The amount of military hardware Russia has deployed in Syria is also very limited.

The Russian Air Force group in Syria is not very large, either. It was estimated at various periods at 30-50 combat aircraft and 16-40 helicopters.

The Syrian campaign has not been very long, but almost all senior Russian military commanders have been involved. Russian officers gained valuable, real-life experience of complex modern warfare in a remote theater.

The availability of these experienced commanders, a record of a successful and victorious military campaign, and the lessons learned from using air power, modern technology and special operations forces will provide a major boost to the Russian military machine for years to come. Additionally, the confidence gained by the Russian military in Syria may steer Russian foreign and military policy toward a more assertive and interventionist course. Defense News 11-Dec 17

Whirlwind Putin Tour Highlights Moscow’s New Reach in Mideast

In mid-December Mr Putin paid a surprise visit to Syria on his way to Egypt. He declared that as victory had been achieved he could pull back some of the troops and equipment, though he emphasised that Russia was there to stay in Syria.

He then flew to Egypt and announced the resumption of flights between the two countries which had been suspended following the shooting down of a Russian plane over Sinai in October 2015, and the signing of the contract to supply Egypt with a $30bn nuclear plant. At the time of writing there is no more news of the use of shared military bases.

He then departed to Turkey for his 8th meeting with Mr Erdogan just this year! The supply of the Russian S-400 is on the agenda together with talks on Syria. (New York Times 11-Dec-17)

Once again, we wonder at the behind-the-scenes work of the angels which ensures the events we see unfold in a seeming natural way because the right person is in the right place at the right time!

We take courage for we see the complexity of these things and are assured of the incredible mind of our God. We continue to wait for our Master’s coming and pray for an answer of peace in that day.