Reproduced here with kind permission of and in association with Bro Don Pearce (Rugby UK).

This article first featured in the spring edition of the Bible Magazine 2016

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Bible Magazine Spring 2016

Can the arena of interest to Bible students awaiting their Master’s return get any more exciting? At the end of September, we saw Russia moving stealthily into Syria, pouring her advanced weaponry into the bases that she had been quietly enlarging in preparation for this move. When writing our last update, Russia was in full action in Syria, propping up President Assad and conducting bombing raids on the IS forces. Now President Putin has taken the world by surprise by saying he is withdrawing his troops, as the task is now done!

Meanwhile the tidal flow of refugees flooding Europe has grown and grown. Far from abating during the bad weather it has greatly increased. As EU countries place fences on their borders to deter these people, new routes are opened up. The main beneficiaries are the people-smugglers who ferry this mass of humanity who are fleeing the horrors of war.

As Europe struggles to deal with this seeming unstoppable problem, they are having to come to terms with what appears to be unthinkable, Britain choosing to leave the EU and striking an independent path in today’s complex world of trade and politics and defence agreements.

The hand if the IS suicide bombers reaches into Turkey, Brussels, Paris and Bonn. Where next? London? Moscow? Holiday makers are shunning Turkey in favour of Spain

Meanwhile Israel looks on anxiously at the situation in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Although number 11 in the rankings of the happiest place to life, way above Britain and America, and just trailing Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the threats from the Islamic State are very real. The alliances which she is making with her Arab neighbours indicate that her heart is still trusting in her own abilities to defend herself, rather than trusting in Israel’s God.

Angelic hands at work

So for Zion’s watchmen there is much to ponder. Behind the scenes, the angels are at work, not only in our lives but in the political world around us. Their work is to bring about the fulfilment of God’s Plan and Purpose. In shaping individuals and in ensuring nations move forward along pathways that God has already planned.

In amazing ways, we experience angelic hands in our lives, causing doors to open, or words to be spoken which, in hindsight, we recognise as being the Hand of God working in our lives. It is very humbling to appreciate that the Great Creator takes such interest in the lives of His creatures. The angels also use many and varied means to move the political and military leaders of the nations to forward God’s Purpose. We have many Biblical examples of wind, rain, hail, locusts, hornets being used under angelic control to alter the pathways planned by the rulers of this world. Those same powers are still at work today. The angels can’t just wave a wand and God’s wishes are carried out! We have a very practical example recorded in Daniel chapter 10 where it took three weeks and additional angelic help to ensure that the King of Persia was moved from his original intentions, in order to go in a different direction, which would move forward God’s Purpose.

Then said he [Gabriel?] unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words.

But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia. Dan. 10:12,13.

It could well be the persuading of Cyrus to pronounce that the Jews could return to their land, in fulfilment of God’s Purpose. This would fit the context of verse 14

Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days.

It is clear that, what-ever the context was, it was no simple matter, it needed time and help.

Britain and the EU

The big issue in Britain at the moment is Brexit – Britain exiting the EU. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, is minded to persuade the British public to remain in the EU. It is what we know, having been a member for over 40 years. Leaving has been described as ‘a leap in the dark’. In other words, into the unknown. It does take courage to leap, when, because of darkness, you can’t see what lies ahead. Smooth road or precipitous crags? Dangers or calm? There is safety in keeping the status quo. The British, however, in the main, don’t like the institutions of the EU, seeing them as corrupt and not working for the good of its citizens, but to the furtherance of the officials’ positions. Remaining a member would, it is argued, ensure that Britain had her say in this huge economic institution; leave and one would have no power to influence the decision making. And so Mr Cameron, having pledged to put the matter to a vote on Thursday June 23rd, is keen to remain within the EU, having won some limited concessions in relation to opt-outs from various EU regulations.

Where does Britain’s future lie?

Bible students have become increasingly excited at the possibilities of a Brexit. Many of us thought that Britain would never join the European Economic Community, as the fledgling EU was then called; but in 1973, Britain, Ireland and Denmark did join the original six members of the Common Market, boosting its membership and trade potential, as well as world influences. It neatly illustrates why, in spite of our interest in these things from a prophecy-fulfilling viewpoint, it is not for us to cast our votes in such matters. We have to leave all to the Hand of God. We can see in hindsight that this was a necessary step for Britain to take in order to humble her arrogance.

Why did we think that Britain would never join a continental alliance? Scriptures have indicated a latter-day role for the merchants of Tarshish which was in support of Israel and the southern Arab States.

Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil? Eze. 38:13

It hinges on the fact that we strongly believe that Britain fulfils the requirements for the latter-day Tarshish trading power. This is not the place to show the supporting evidence, an earlier Bible Magazine edition Vol xx :y extensively covered these matters. And 40 years ago the evidence was more tenuous as Britain was no close friend of Israel and had withdrawn her troops from the region in the Suez Crisis of 1956. Britain was the sick man of Europe at the time.

Additionally, there are clear references to a latter-day Tyrian/Tarshish power submitting to Zion’s king.

And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift; even the rich among the people shall intreat thy favour. Psa. 45:12

The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Psa. 72:10

Again, Bible students have seen Britain as being this power. Queen Victoria spoke of her desire to cast her crown at the feet of the returned Lord Jesus. But it was not for her to perform. Queen Elisabeth is in a similar mould; this year she is celebrating her 90th birthday. In the forward to a book on her life which is due to be released shortly, she writes of her feeling of duty to God.

“The Servant Queen and the King She Serves”

English royalty rarely speak of their beliefs, but Queen Elizabeth II has written about her religious faith in a foreword to a new book entitled The Servant Queen and the King She Serves.

“I have been—and remain—very grateful to you for your prayers and to God for His steadfast love,” Queen Elizabeth wrote. “I have indeed seen His faithfulness.” CBN News 22-Feb-16

The picture of submission is in sharp contrast to that seen as the future of Europe.

Europe’s contrasting latter-day role

Europe’s latter-day role is in sharp contrast to that of the Tarshish power. Sadly, Europe will resist the coming challenge of Israel’s King. They will not wish to submit their power and authority to a Jewish ruler. Indeed, it is mainly the “Christian” countries of Europe who will rally to finally drive the Jews out of their land as the nations come to fight against Jerusalem, as depicted in so many of the prophets (Eze. 38, Joel 3; Zec. 12-14, Rev 16.) In spite of the humiliating defeat that awaits Gog’s armies on the mountains of Israel, they will not submit. It is the time of punishment for the Roman and Orthodox Churches for their long centuries of persecution against the Jews and against the true believers. The sad Biblical picture is of Europe (the Beast’s territory) becoming a lake of fire. (Rev. 19:19-21) Knowing the widespread teaching about the coming of “Antichrist”, where allegedly he will defeat the Russian armies, establish his kingdom in Jerusalem, build a Temple, etc., etc. which are the very things that we know the Lord Jesus will indeed do, one can see how they will bring upon their own heads the wrath of God as they resist the true claims of Christ, believing that he is the Antichrist!

What we had not appreciated is the time-scale. Here we are, over 40 years on, and it is Europe that is the one who is sick and it is Britain who is prospering. Britain now sees that Israel and the Middle East are key, expanding, markets, whilst the EU market is shrinking. Britain has been humbled by being shackled to Europe. Her Protestant work ethic has had the effect of making her enforce the EU regulations, so that often Britain “gold-plates” the regulations, making them much more onerous, applying them to the letter. The man-in-the-street wonders whether the majority of EU nations actually abide by much of the steady stream of legislation that pours out of Brussels!

The burden of the EU

The UK is second only to Germany as the main contributor to the EU coffers, putting in much more than she gets out. These things were hidden when she joined. She was sold the concept of joining a trade market, in which she could prosper. It was not to be. Recently released papers show that the British leaders played down the obvious politic desires of the founding fathers of the EU. As a letter from journalist and author, Frederick Forsyth, to the editor in the Daily Telegraph 01-Apr-16 pithily stated:

SIR – Anna Soubry, the industry minister (Comment, March 28), argues that the EU is about trade and prosperity, not politics. On the contrary, the EU is entirely political.

The clash beneath the verbiage is between two distinct governmental systems: Britain’s parliamentary democracy and the system of Jean Monnet, the prime visionary and instigator of a wholly unified continent of Europe. His title was President of the Action Committee for the European Superstate. The superstate is not a myth; it is the intent.

Monnet wrote: “Europe’s nations should be guided towards the superstate without their people understanding what is happening. This can be accomplished by successive steps, each disguised as having an economic purpose, but which will eventually and irreversibly lead to federation.”

Trade and prosperity are merely an adjunct; the EU’s true destination is post-democratic government by unelected committee.

Frederick Forsyth

In the years following membership, industrial relations in Britain were dire and her labour costs were high due to low productivity in many businesses. It truly was a rather disastrous time for Britain, climaxing in the withdrawal of the pound from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) in 1992. It is estimated that the ERM Brexit cost Britain £3.4bn, a not inconsiderable sum in those days.

When the euro was floated in 1999 as an accounting currency (although coins and notes were not introduced until 2002) Britain resisted pressure to sign up. The 1992 ERM disaster played a strong, cautionary role. There were many industrialists who pushed for Britain to sign up to the euro and join in the perceived benefits of a shared currency. If we didn’t, we would be left behind, they warned. To begin with they appeared to be right, but as time went on, Chancellor Gordon Brown’s reluctance to further integrate into Europe proved to be a life-saver for Britain. He became Chancellor in 1994, and in 1997 he set five economic tests which would have to be met before joining the as yet un-named euro. Mr Brown’s father was a minister in the Church of Scotland and had a strong influence on Gordon Brown. This may well have given him a distrust of the EU which was heavily influenced by the religious beliefs of the Roman Catholic founding fathers. Britain’s spirit of adventure and trust in the Bible served her well in carving out an independent role for the country, but this had all but evaporated under the heavy burden of the cost in lives and money of opposing Hitler in WWII. Britain never did meet the five tests and has remained outside the eurozone.

During the boom years, the euro proved to be beneficial to its members, but has shown its weaknesses in times of economic stress. There is little flexibility between countries to adjust to changing circumstances. In the past countries could devalue to improve their competitiveness, but the euro does not allow any individual adjustments. We have witnessed the crippling steps that have been imposed on Greece, Italy and Spain to improve their economic competitiveness. It has involved soaring joblessness, deep cuts in social benefits including pensions and no certainty that it will prove effective.

Few today advocate that Britain should join the euro. Outside the euro, Britain has been able to fix her own interest rates to suit her needs rather the disparate needs of the 19 members of the eurozone who have interest rates imposed upon them by their Central Bank.

Tyre singing as an harlot

Is Britain destined to come under the influence of France and Germany for ever? It is interesting that the EU started off as the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951, in order to prevent Germany from using her coal and steel resources to wage war upon her neighbours. Britain lost her coal industry several years ago and is now poised to lose her steel industry. The demise of the coal industry can be laid at the feet of the EU regulations being pursued to control CO2 emissions. Coal is regarded as a “dirty” fuel, leading to the shutting of the majority of Britain’s coal-fired power stations. Steel production sprang up in areas of coal as it is a high energy user. Is it just at such a time when EU regulations have brought much of Britain’s manufacturing base to its knees, that Britain throws off the shackles?

There is an intriguing passage in Isaiah 23:

And it shall come to pass in that day, that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king: after the end of seventy years shall Tyre sing as an harlot.

Take an harp, go about the city, thou harlot that hast been forgotten; make sweet melody, sing many songs, that thou mayest be remembered.

And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that the LORD will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth.

And her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the LORD: it shall not be treasured nor laid up; for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the LORD, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing. Isa. 23:15-18

It clearly has a latter-day application. Here we are, nearly 70 years from the founding of the ECSC and just over 70 years from the ending of WWII. Is the latter-day Tarshish power about to resume her role as a trading power? A Brexit would certainly propel her upon such a pathway. Even if the vote was lost, the rest of the EU members have lost their confidence in Britain’s role in the European project. It wouldn’t take too much to see a situation arise that sees Britain sailing off to trade with warmer climes.

Preparing for a Brexit?

It is interesting to see how Britain’s trade has changed over the past 20 years.

Based on the UK’s negative current account balance and negative trade balance with the EU, there is simply no evidence that the UK’s balance of trade has experienced a net benefit from EU membership. Quite to the contrary, the reciprocal nature of the UK’s access to the EU marketplace and the associated regulatory restrictions appears to have benefited foreign producers selling their products into the UK at the expense of indigenous British industry. 26-Mar-16

When one sees how the US and Canada’s trade has increased with the EU, the UK seems to be getting a poor bargain. (Chart 2.)Bible Magazine Spring 2016 1.0_Page_04_Image_0001Bible Magazine Spring 2016 1.0_Page_05_Image_0002



When one looks at the UK’s trade with the rest of the world, it shows positive growth whilst that to the EU is steadily falling. (Chart 3.)Bible Magazine Spring 2016 1.0_Page_05_Image_0001

There is little prospect of EU trade growing over the next few years. The core EU members, all of whom are in the eurozone, have recorded much smaller growth over the past 15 years than the non-euro EU members, but even that is considerably smaller than the average growth of non-EU countries. (See Chart 4) The eurozone is still in crisis and there is little good news on the horizon. Greece can still well exit the eurozone and that would shake investors’ confidence in the value of the euro.

Bible Magazine Spring 2016 1.0_Page_06_Image_0001


It is clear that Britain hasn’t really prospered inside the EU. It is only in recent years when under the more pro-Commonwealth Conservative government that there has been a growth in Britain’s interest in the wider world. In previous updates we have seen her interest with trading with Israel and going back to her traditional markets of the Commonwealth and the Middle East countries; countries which are expanding.

With the referendum some three months away at the time of writing, the two main Brexit parties, Leave.EU and Vote leave have been in disarray. They do not appear to have really got their acts together. A substantial number of David Cameron’s cabinet members are opposed to their leader’s desire to remain in Europe. With Mr Cameron stating he will not stand again at the next General Election, which needs to be held by 2020 at the latest, there is a feeling that the split in the cabinet is leading to an unofficial leadership contest. Various prominent politicians like Boris Johnson, the ebullient London mayor and Ian Duncan Smith are two such contenders. With the passage of time the gap between the two sides is shrinking and several polls have put Brexit ahead of Staying.

Interestingly, I was told of a large UK company being advised by the European expert called in to address the company leaders as to whether they should be preparing for a Brexit, was that, Yes, they should! Not on economic grounds but because a study of recent referenda showed that they were all affected by sentiment rather than cold facts. In his opinion the sentiment was for a Brexit!

It is clear that the cost of membership is high. The sums that Britain is called upon to pay are mouth-wateringly high. Last year Britain paid £13bn to the EU coffers. This was after the rebate, won by Mrs Thatcher has been applied, reducing the initial demand for £18bn by £5bn. Britain does get moneys from the EU which are around £5bn., leaving the UK “out-of-pocket” to the tune of about £8.5bn! (Chart 5)Bible Magazine Spring 2016 1.0_Page_07_Image_0002

Germany is the biggest net contributor to the EU budget, the UK is the second. (Chart 6) For Germany the money is worth it as she plays a large role in the EU affairs, ensuring that, where possible, she benefits.


The migrant crisis.

Bible Magazine Spring 2016 1.0_Page_07_Image_0001

The effect of the migrant crisis

One of those almost unpredictable consequences of the Arab Spring, is that it has caused a lot of people to flee from the destruction of their way of life and to wish to come to Europe. Often people are displaced in time of war, but normally it is to travel to a neighbouring country who is friendly. The main source of immigrants to Europe at the moment are Syrians fleeing the terrible pounding of their homes, originally by President Assad’s forces or the “rebels” trying to oust him and more recently by the Russians. (Chart 7) Bible Magazine Spring 2016 1.0_Page_08_Image_0001The surprising element of this refuge crisis is that they wish to turn their backs on their neighbouring Arab countries and have chosen to attempt to come to Europe. The numbers of those fleeing the many conflict zones have been staggering, with an estimated 1.3 million claims for asylum in the EU alone in 2015. (Chart 8)

Bible Magazine Spring 2016 1.0_Page_09_Image_0001Not all make claims, many seek to live illegally. With the Syrian crisis entering its 5th year, the damage that has been inflicted by Russia has been enormous. Large areas have been bombed in order to beat those in opposition to President Assad into submission. The tide of refugees from Syria has not let up, numbers are increasing.

Public ‘must be told the truth on immigration’

Many find their way to Britain and an interesting article in the Daily Telegraph 31-Mar-16 with the above headline spoke of the concern expressed by the UK Statistics Authority watchdog over the figures published by the Office of National Statistics. The population of the UK is set to soar to 80 million by 2039, (incidentally set to overtake Germany who is currently the largest EU member, but with a falling population.) However, these projections are based on 2 year-old figures for immigration that were far lower than in the past two years. There is also a problem with the actual numbers. The ONS says that 904,000 EU nationals had moved to Britain since June 2010, yet the Department of Works and Pensions issued 2.25 million National Insurance numbers to this category over the same period. A significant difference. Also the ONS showed 617,000 non-EU nationals in the past 12 months compared to the 828,000 NI numbers issued to this group. It seems that Britain is gaining immigrants at a far higher rate than indicated. This has serious consequences on housing, hospitals, maternity facilities, school places, etc.. Many in this country are concerned as to the long-term consequences of this boost in population. It will be an interesting factor as people decide whether Britain should retain her sovereignty again by leaving the EU.

There are many subtle influences. At the moment there are crisis talks over Britain’s steel industry. Cheap Chinese imports have reduced British steel mills to a shadow of their former position. Britain can only follow EU rules. The US has imposed very high tariffs on imported steel in order to protect their own steel plants.

Many would like to see Britain take control of her once proud fishing industry, now reduced to a shadow of its former strength, due to her fishing grounds being opened up to other EU members.

Tabloid says Queen wants UK to leave EU

The majority of UK papers are Eurosceptic. The leading “popular” paper, the Sun 08-Mar-16, had the splash headline: Queen backs Brexit. It is not a done thing to report what the Queen privately thinks about political matters. I feel quite certain that indeed, in private, this is what the Queen thinks. We shall probably never know if this is what the Queen actually thinks. The matter has been referred to the Press Standards Authority, which is likely to give its ruling shortly before the vote, which again will publicise the Queen’s alleged thoughts on Europe. But this euro-sceptic paper has sown the seeds, it will be hard to refute the statement. And so in a subtle way, extra pressure has been put upon the situation in favour of a Brexit. The Queens’s remarks just before the Scottish referendum on whether Scotland should break from Britain has been credited with turning the tide against Scotland breaking up the existing Union.

What would a Brexit involve?

Nobody really knows. There has been little discussion as to how one separates from membership of the EU. It is an unknown pathway. Those who advocate a Brexit point out that the EU needs Britain far more than Britain needs the EU. If barriers to the UK trade were put up in protest to Britain’s actions, then if Britain matched those barriers it would be the EU that loses out. Yes, it is a leap in the dark, but if angelic hands are for it, Britain will surely take it in her stride. It clearly will not be the work of a moment; it will involve a lot of negotiation. Eurosceptics argue that Britain remaining is an equal step in the dark! The EU in a few years may be quite a different beast to what we see now. The eurozone could well collapse, bringing even more misery to those who remain. It is clear that the drive is for ever-closer union, an aspect which is so alien to Britain.

Napoleon’s challengers didn’t fear Brexit and nor should we

Andrew Roberts, a British historian and author of Napoleon the Great recently drew a parallel with the refusal of Britain to agree to work with Napoleon, choosing to take the short-term loses in order to have independence.

Instead, because we refused, Napoleon set up the Continental System, a gigantic protectionist organization that cut Britain out of all European Trade for nearly a decade. It was disastrous for British trade in the short run, and of course there were those in the City of London, larger business corporations and amongst the Radical Whigs in parliament who clamoured for the British Government to capitulate to Napoleon, believing as they did that there was nothing more important than protecting people’s financial security.

… If it turns out that Sir John Major, Michael Heseltine, Peter Mandelson and the other doom-sayers are right in predicting that Britain would be worse of if she left the European Union – and I do not for one moment believe they are – there are still some people in this country who would prefer to be poorer but free, as Britain was when fighting Napoleon, than better off but having their laws ultimately under the control of foreign jurists sitting in Strasbourg. The threats made by the doom-sayers that we will be punished by the European Union if we have the temerity to leave might be cowing our present-day generation, but they would have had absolutely nil purchase on the ordinary Britons of the past, although it is interesting how the people who wanted to surrender to Napoleon’s blandishments in 1806 were precisely the same kind of people who want to surrender to Brussels’ similar blackmail threats 210 years later. To set against Major, Heseltine, Mandelson, Ken Clarke, Roland Rudd et al, therefore, one can set William Pitt, Admiral Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and all the other heroes who didn’t fear being cut out of a European protectionist bloc, because they believed there were even higher duties of government than the (admittedly very important) one of protecting people’s financial security.

We await with interest the result of the forthcoming referendum; content that what-ever happens it will be under the control of God. We watch and wait for its outcome with interest. In so many ways we have recently seen the indications that at last the day of our Master’s coming draws near. We may not be here to see the outcome. The Master could well be back on earth again and calling his followers to him.

We will now briefly look at events in Syria – a Russian withdrawal, or a Russian double bluff?

Putin playing chess again!

Most commentators were startled when Mr Putin announced that he had finished the job in Syria and was withdrawing his forces. What had changed? President Assad was still in a weak position, although he had made some significant territorial gains following the extensive Russian bombing campaigns. IS too, was still a threat.

On March 14, the day of the announcement of its withdrawal, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu; during the meeting, he ordered the Defense Ministry to begin withdrawing the main part of Russia’s military group from Syria and asked the Foreign Ministry to step up Russia’s participation in organizing the peace process to resolve the Syria crisis. Putin then specified that Russia’s naval base at Tartus and its strategic Hmeymin airbase will continue operating as before, saying, “They must be protected securely from land, sea and air.” In a phone conversation the same day with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, Putin said that Russia will maintain an aviation support center in Syria to monitor all parties’ compliance with the ceasefire. MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No.1235 15-Mar-16

So it was clear that he was there to stay, it was to be a limited withdrawal only.

As time passed it was clear the little had changed. Some of the planes withdrawn have been replaced by helicopter gunships. In fact, according to Debka 01-Apr-16, Russia has increased her sorties against the “rebel” forces and with the fall of Palmyra from IS control, was planning to take Raqqa some 170 km to the east. Raqqa is the IS main control centre and if Putin succeeds in his plans would deal a heavy blow to IS.

Putin’s “Sacred Mission” in Syria

This was the headline to a fascinating article on Putin’s strategy written in the BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 335, 27-Mar-16. Here are a few extracts.

In 1453, the Byzantine Empire was defeated by the Turks. In Russia, the fall of Constantinople was seen as a divine punishment to the Greeks for straying from true Orthodoxy. In 1492, Metropolitan Zosimus called Moscow “the new city of Constantine,” the original capital of Christianity. In the first quarter of the sixteenth century, Philotheus, a monk in the Pskov monastery, wrote a memorandum to Tsar Vasilii III in which he developed this idea further.

The “first Rome” and the “second Rome” (Constantinople), Philotheus claimed, had lapsed into heresy and ceased to be the centers of the Christian world, and should be replaced by Moscow. Because of their great sins, the “two Romes have fallen, a third stands, and a fourth there will not be.” Until the day of final redemption, Philotheus wrote, Moscow would be the spiritual center of the whole Christian world. This idea became known as “Moscow—the Third Rome.”

Russia’s role was to be properly messianic, with Moscow taking upon itself no less than the “special responsibility … [for] the salvation of all humanity.” For centuries, this doctrine remained an integral part of the Russian national mythology and the “fundamental principle of the official ideology” of the Russian state. The dogma justified Russian imperial ambitions, insofar as it legitimized the idea that it was Russia’s destiny to be a “light unto the nations” and to lead the world, which had lost true faith, to its final salvation.

Ever since this dogma crystallized in the sixteenth century, Russians have been persistently taught that their political history is “suffused with sacred significance,” representing “the culminating chapter of a sequence of historical events leading up to and including the apocalypse.” Many experts regarded the “reality of the apocalypse as an historical event . . . [that] can be seen with great frequency through the records of Russian history.”

Putin’s nationalist supporters emphasize the sacred aspirations that supposedly guide Moscow’s policies in faraway lands. The ever-popular stage star Zhanna Bichevskaia, for example, sang in a hit performance in May 2014 that “[we] will recapture Russia’s Sevastopol. The Crimean Peninsula will be Russian again [as well as] our sovereign Bosporus, our Constantinople, and Jerusalem, the shrine of humanity.”

Putin’s sudden statements of a few days ago about partly disengaging from the Syrian conflict caused much commotion in the press and a great deal of speculation as to what the Russians might be up to now. But a partial military disentanglement does not by any means imply that Putin is about to give up on the Middle East.

As former US Naval Intelligence officer J.E. Dyer notes, Russia has already “punched a military air route to Syria through Iran and northern Iraq”—an option it has tried in vain to secure for itself since the end of WWII, and in which it was consistently thwarted by the US. Furthermore, “by not settling Syria through force of arms,” Putin is netting all the numerous advantages of fishing in the muddy waters of the Mediterranean crisis. Like the leaders of Iran, Putin sees the entire region as part of a worldwide “theater of war and influence,” and acts with long-term and visionary goals in mind.

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