This is another example of prophecy always being correct and specific. When the Soviet Union broke up - Russia appeared weak and crumbling and many people questioned the prophetic interpretation that Gog-Magog represents the leader and the land who will invade Israel per Ezekiel 38-39. We knew Russia would rise again towards the end of the age and indeed that has happened in a big way. Almost every day we read about Russia's increasing military power and movements around the world:
At the end of a long, narrow tunnel into the mountain, in a cavernous room filled with computers and radar monitor screens, intelligence specialists stare at blinking icons marking the movement of aircraft around Norwegian airspace. On an all-too-typical afternoon recently, they watched as two nuclear-capable Tu-95 Russian Bear Bombers floated like fireflies across the top right of their monitors. A few desks away, an airman picked up phone and called Bodø, a military base on Norway’s northern coast. Moments later, two F-16s rose to eyeball the intruders.
It turned out the Russian bombers were just practicing some kind of circling maneuver outside of Norway’s Arctic air space. But on January 28 two more Tu-95 bombers, escorted by tankers and Russia’s most advanced MiG-31 fighter jets, showed up off the coast. One of them was carrying “a nuclear payload,” according to the , which cited intercepted radio traffic. And last fall, a Russian Tu-22 supersonic bomber skirting Norway’s northern airspace was photographed carrying a cruise missile in launching position, according to the Barents Observer blog. Similar examples abound.
But late last year, with the world’s attention riveted on Ukraine, Putin put a little-noticed exclamation mark on his Arctic strategy. For the first time, the Kremlin’s announced military doctrine included instructions to prepare to defend Russia’s interests in the Arctic. Plans for two new Arctic army brigades were drawn up. An abandoned military base at Alakurtti, Russia, less than 30 miles from the Finnish border, was reopened. And military construction crews began refurbishing a string of Cold War–era bases on islands in the Arctic. “Our main objective is research and evaluation of conditions in the Arctic and the suitability of our weapons and equipment this far north,” Vladimir Kondratov, commander of the surface ships group of the Northern Fleet, told Russia Today.
No one knows what Putin's endgame is. And while the Norwegians would rather prepare quietly than stoke fears of a Crimean-style Russian grab in the Arctic, the country's memory of the Nazi invasion 75 years ago remains fresh.
But “the worst” is a mystery. “I'd agree that the Russians have been very active,” says Keith Stinebaugh, a longtime Defense Department civilian intelligence specialist who is now a senior fellow in Arctic Security Policy at the Institute of the North in Anchorage. But “aggressive” may be overstating it, he adds. “You'd have to define what is meant by aggressive and compare it to what they did during the Cold War.… They are certainly more active around the world, not just in the Arctic.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades signed an agreement on Wednesday that will allow Russian navy ships regular access to ports on the Mediterranean island nation.
The move comes as ties between Russia and the West have soured over the Ukraine conflict. Putin told journalists that the ships that will dock at Cypriot ports would mostly be used in international anti-terrorism and piracy efforts.
"Our friendly ties aren't aimed against anyone," Putin said, adding, "I don't think it should cause worries anywhere."
Moscow just had a more solid legal basis for docking its ships in Cyprus. Earlier this week Russia restructured a 2.5 billion euro loan ($2.8 billion) to Cyprus from 2011, reducing the interest rate from 4.5 percent annually to 2.5 percent.
Russia has attempted to create stronger ties with individual members of the European Union, including Cyprus, Hungary and Greece, in the wake of the 28-nation bloc imposing cumulative sanctions on the Kremlin for its alleged role in stoking the Ukraine crisis. Moscow has offered financial assistance to Athens, and last week Putin received a warm welcome in Budapest.
The EU authorities in Brussels worry this policy is aimed at weakening resolve to pass a further tightening of sanctions.
The Cyprus deal solves a problem facing Russia since it lost its Syrian Mediterranean base to the conflict between rebels and the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Russian news agency Tass reported that besides the navy deal, Putin and Anastasiades were also discussing the possibility of Russian planes using an air base near the town of Paphos for humanitarian relief missions.
Russian and Nato troops took part in rival exercises on either side of the Estonian border on Wednesday, highlighting fears that the tiny Baltic state could be the next target of the Kremlin’s territorial ambitions.
Nato forces put on a show of strength within yards of Estonia’s Russian border, with armoured personnel carriers, tanks and 1,300 Estonian soldiers forming a military parade. The parade, which also included 100 troops from Britain and other European nations, followed warnings from David Cameron on Tuesday that the Baltics could be next in Russia’s sights for a Crimea-style annexation.
The parade took place in the snow-bound Estonian frontier town of Narva, where a majority of residents are ethnic Russians. The choice of location was a pointed warning to Moscow, which regards the Russian community there as de facto evidence that Estonia is part of Russia’s “back yard”.
The Kremlin responded with its own military drills, sending 2,000 paratroopers into Russia’s western Pskov region, which borders both Estonia and neighbouring Latvia.
The military exercises came amid fresh political wrangling in Britain over how to respond to Russia’s renewed assertiveness. Ken Clarke, the former Conservative Cabinet minister, attacked Mr Cameron’s plan to send 75 British troops to provide logistical advice to Ukraine’s beleaguered forces as pointless.
“Military conflict doesn’t help,” he said. “I don’t have strong feelings about retraining the Ukrainian army, but it’s not going to solve anything because no matter how well trained and equipped the Ukrainian army are, the Red Army could defeat them by the end of this week if they wanted to.”
Kiev troops have started the long-promised withdrawal of heavy weapons from eastern Ukraine, a step required by the fragile ceasefire agreement signed earlier this month. The rebels have been criticizing their opponents for stalling the disengagement.
“In accordance with the agreement reached in Minsk on February 12, today Ukraine begins withdrawal of 100mm artillery from the disengagement line. It's the first step towards withdrawal of heavy weapons, which will only be carried out under OSCE monitoring and verification,” the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The order to withdraw heavy weapons was given on Thursday after the Ukrainian military confirmed that they had not been shot at for a day. No combat casualties have been reported for a second day in a row.
“If there are any attempts to launch an offensive, the withdrawal schedule will be changed. The Ukrainian troops are fully prepared to defend the country,” the statement added.
About 800 families have taken refuge in the city of Hasakeh and 150 in Qamishli, a Kurdish city on the border with Turkey, Edward said, adding that the number of displaced individuals came to about 5000.