Jan 30, 2008

Russia Sends a Message

Koinonia House

This past week Russian warships took part in military maneuvers in the Mediterranean Sea and the North Atlantic, just off the coasts of France and Spain. It is said to be the largest operation of its kind since the fall of the Soviet Union. The maneuvers are meant to be a vivid demonstration of Russia's resurgent military might.

The drills include ships from Russia's Northern and Black Sea fleets. The flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, the Moskva, took part in a live fire drill. It launched several nuclear-capable cruise missiles, successfully striking both air and sea targets. According to news reports, all the vessels and aircraft involved are carrying full loads of combat ammunition. Russia also sent two long-range "Blackjack" bombers to the Bay of Biscay to carry out a simulated electronic test-firing of cruise missiles. Russia's air force said British and Norwegian Tornado and F-16 jets shadowed the Russian aircraft during the drills.

Russia's renewed military presence in the Mediterranean does not bode well for Israel - nor does Russia's growing entanglements with Israel's Arab neighbors. As we reported previously, Russia has plans to establish a naval base on the Mediterranean. For the first time since the end of the Cold War, Russia will establish naval bases in the Syrian port cities of Tartus and Latakia. Reports indicate that Moscow is planning to form a new squadron led by the Moskva, the Black Sea Fleet's flagship missile cruiser. The squadron would operate in the Mediterranean Sea on a permanent basis. Russia has already began dredging at the Syrian port of Tartus where it maintains a logistical supply point. It has also launched a modernization project at the port of Latakia, located about 60 miles to the north of Tartus.

Russia's Black Sea Fleet currently uses a range of naval facilities in the Ukrainian region of Crimea. They operate in the region under a 1997 agreement that allowed Russia to continue its presence in the former Soviet republic for rent of $93 million per year. The fleet is not scheduled to withdraw until 2017. However the Ukraine has voiced concerns that Russia is not paying enough for the facilities and has demanded that a new agreement be signed. Russia says that it will not make any concessions and negotiations between Russia and the Ukraine have stalled. Further complicating the matter is the Ukraine's pending bid to join NATO.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed in 1949 as a defensive alliance in which each member was pledged to come to the aid of any of its members which were attacked militarily. During the Cold War era NATO's primary role was to counter the Russian threat, and Russia still views its old adversary with suspicion. Russia has watched uneasily as NATO has continued to expand, welcoming new members, some formerly a part of the Soviet Union. Russia considers NATO's expansion to be "antagonistic" and has warned the Ukraine in no uncertain terms that joining the organization would have adverse consequences.

In recent years Russia has implemented an ambitious plan to update and expand its military. Russian defense spending has been rising steadily, with the help of high energy prices and oil revenues. Russia is in the process of deploying new intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear submarines and possibly aircraft carriers. It's all part of a 189 billion dollar weapons modernization program.

Political friction building between Russia and the Western World, combined with increased tensions in the Middle East, indicate that the famed battle prophesied in Ezekiel 38 and 39 could be on our near horizon. It is during this battle, that God will directly intercede to protect Israel from Magog and its allies.