Entering a new period of ‘Cold War’

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

English: Russian naval forces prepare to come ...

Russian naval forces prepare to come ashore during a demonstration for Russia Navy Day in Vladivostok. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

Location of Cyprus within Europe and the Europ...

Location of Cyprus within Europe and the European Union on the 1st of January 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

Please do find more of such articles in The Christadelphian

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Additional reading:

  1. A Plan spoken of in long past times
  2. Russian government has the power to shut down any sort of organisation they do not like
  3. Looming verdict for the one who dares to speak and unravel
  4. Powerful Russia rising from the ashes
  5. Negative consequences of Special Labelling and Trade-Restrictive measures
  6. Mother of Ukraine or Crimea
  7. Battling Borshct in Ukraine
  8. Ukrainians should be free to shape the future of their country
  9. When Crimean people made their choice
  10. Crimea votes overwhelmingly to join Russia
  11. Russian take-over of Crimea
  12. Swallowing up Crimea, who is next
  13. 2014 Politics all over the world
  14. Christadelphian brothers and sisters in Ukraine
  15. 2015 European Year for Development
  16. Meeting to focus on humanitarian issues for Syria

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Further Additional Reading:

  1. Baltic states
  2. Russia’s Syrian Power Play
  3. Report: Russia Preps Marines for Syria
  4. Tartus
  5. Why Russia Evacuated Its Naval Base in Syria

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  • Syria Talks to Reopen in Moscow to Focus on Humanitarian Issues, Russia’s Role (israelnationalnews.com)
    Talks on ending the Syrian civil war open in Moscow on Monday, but with key opposition figures absent, little progress is expected on resolving the shifting conflict. Instead, the discussions are expected to focus on humanitarian issues and serve as a way for Russia, a main backer of the Syrian regime, to build its profile as a potential mediator in the conflict.
  • Information Warfare: The Russian Exception (strategypage.com)
    Russian media, using government data, recently understated the number of military bases that Russia operates outside its borders; apparently forgetting about the several bases Russia has in the Caucasus and elsewhere. This came about when the Russian president, at the high-profile annual press conference was asked about the possibility of a “new Cold War” and Russia’s aggressive moves around its Western borders. The reply insisted that it was in fact the West who was being aggressive. This was emphasized by pointing out that there are a lot more American military bases abroad than Russian ones, and certainly a lot more American military personnel deployed close to Russia’s borders than the other way around. But this response neglected to mention several other bases Russia has abroad:
  • Russia’s Overseas Military Bases (matthewaid.com)
    It might be beneficial for American and European leaders to think about an actual reengagement approach with Russia and look at the rationale for the actions of their adversary. As every nation state operates in within their own self-interests, Russia is no exception to this. The security concerns stated by Russia due to possible NATO expansion into the former Soviet Union are legitimate to Russia. But the U.S. and Europe don’t accept this as this is done at the invitation of Russian neighbors that fear a return of the traditional Russian aggression against its neighbors. If this is ultimately responsible for the creation of a new Cold War it is merely a recycling of what caused the first Cold War. Russia does not accept the fact that their aggression is never acceptable to anyone. – Ryan Schinault
  • Syria and Iraq are awash with Russian, Iranian, and Chinese weapons (businessinsider.com)
    As ISIS first blitzed across northern Iraq in June 2014, the militants seized large quantities of US arms and vehicles from the fleeing Iraqi forces.

    Over the almost past year of fighting, however, ISIS has gone from fielding large quantities of US weapons to using a mixture of Iranian, Chinese, Russian, Soviet, and Sudanese ammunition.

  • Syria ‘Welcomes’ Larger Russia Presence (infiniteunknown.net)
    Following Vladimir Putin’s demands for an “immediate cessation of military activities” in Yemen, AFP reports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s comment during a recent interview that “with complete confidence that we welcome any widening of the Russian presence in the eastern Mediterranean and on Syrian coasts and ports,” including the port of Tartus. Amid the Western-backed opposition National Coalition’s planned boycott of talks, Assad pointedly remarked, “the negotiating parties must be independent and must reflect what the Syrian people want… people would not accept that their future, their fate, or their rules are decided from outside.”
  • Czech President, US Envoy Spar Over Moscow Parade (voanews.com)
    Czech President Milos Zeman has “closed the door” of Prague Castle to the U.S. ambassador, Andrew Schapiro, following the envoy’s comments comments perceived as critical of the Czech leader’s decision to attend a World War II commemoration in Moscow, according to local media reports.

    European Union leaders are boycotting the ceremony in May over Russia’s role in the Ukraine conflict, though Zeman – who frequently has departed from the EU line – has said he would attend.

  • Czech president ‘bans US ambassador from Prague Castle’ over Russia visit (theguardian.com)
    Schapiro told Czech television earlier this week it would be “awkward” should Zeman attend the ceremony as the only statesmen from an EU country.

    Zeman, a former prime minister, has criticised sanctions against Moscow. The Czech government, which is responsible for foreign policy, has held the EU line.

    The Czech presidency is largely a ceremonial role but Zeman – the first president to be directly elected, taking office in 2013 – is outspoken on his views on both domestic and foreign policy.

  • As Syrian Civil War Rages On, Chemical Weapons Use Persists (foreignpolicy.com)
    recent days have made clear just how tenuous the dream of eliminating Syria’s stockpile had been all along. Earlier this week, Syrian rights activists reported the Syrian government forces had dropped barrel bombs containing chlorine gas on the city of Sarmin. The Syrian government has — of course — denied responsibility and blamed the attack on rebel groups.

    On Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the regime’s reported use of chlorine. “While we cannot yet confirm details, if true, this would be only the latest tragic example of the Assad regime’s atrocities against the Syrian people, which the entire international community must condemn,” Kerry said in a statement.

    And as chlorine has reappeared on the Syrian battlefield, the weapon has apparently also made its way into Iraq. Over the weekend, Iraqi Kurdish officials alleged that Islamic State forces had used chlorine gas — the origin of which is unclear but was probably pilfered from Syrian government stocks — in an attack on their troops.

  • Czech president bans U.S. ambassador from Prague Castle (yalibnan.com)
    A presidential spokesman told local media that Schapiro could still attend social events at Prague Castle, the official residence of the Czech president.

    Schapiro told Czech television earlier this week it would be “awkward” should Zeman attend the ceremony as the only statesmen from an EU country.

    Zeman, a former prime minister, has frequently departed from the common EU line onUkraine and criticized sanctions against Moscow. The government, which is responsible for foreign policy, however, has held the EU line fully.

    The Czech presidency is largely a ceremonial role but Zeman – who was the first president directly elected when he took office in 2013 – is outspoken on his views on both domestic and foreign policy.

  • Meeting to focus on humanitarian issues for Syria (christadelphianworld.blogspot.com)
    The war in Syria is going on already much too long, having demanded lots of innocent civilians and having made the rebel fundamentalist groups stronger but also more divided. In the four years the battle is going on there seems to be more loosers than gainers.

International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue

The King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) is based in Vienna and is an alliance seeking to turn the tide of religion inciting violence and fueling conflict, by bringing adherents of different faiths together, to overcome – through dialogue – the chasm between ‘Your God’ and ‘My God’ in the hopes of achieving a truly inter-religious international community.

Faisal Bin Abdulrahman Bin Muaammar, secretary-general of the intergovernmental organisation KAICIID, says

“There is no such thing as a religious conflict”

but than I wonder if he is blind for all those groups who misuse their religion to oppress others.

Throughout the ages people have used the name of their god to get more power themselves. Most often that god was used as an excuse or hiding what they really want to get. Several people fighting in the name of their god loved to treat others badly, not minding raping young and older females or even boys and torturing lots of people so that they could show their power.

Holy men and their holy books have etched a trail of tears and blood in the annals of human history. From the depths of peaceful temples, mobs have been dispatched with flaming torches; from steeples and minarets messages of hatred have floated down upon pious heads bent in prayer. The last few years once more it looks like there are several religious wars going on. For too long religion has incited violence and fueled conflict.

English: Based on data from a 2006 poll by the...

Based on data from a 2006 poll by the Pew Research Center, this graph records the distribution of feelings of U.S. Muslims on the topic of suicide bombings, separated by age group. Pew Research Center release at http://pewresearch.org/assets/pdf/muslim-americans.pdf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The centre, formed in 2012, estimates that eight out of every 10 people in the world identify with some form of organised religion and most all of them are likely to classify themselves as peace-loving individuals. When we look at the ciphers of terrorist acts we also can see that it is only a very tiny minority which took to terrorism to get their believes spread. Most terrorist acts were done by non-believing people. Agnostic had as such also no god or anybody else to pay responsibility.

Sadly, according to Bin Muaammar, politicians and extremists have ‘hijacked’ the inherently tolerant and peaceful nature of religious practice for their own – often violent and divisive – ends.

Only through sustained dialogue, he said, can people be empowered to overcome their fear of the ‘Other’, and work towards a more inclusive and tolerant world.

Over 2013 and in January 2014 Pew Research Center has been presenting a record of the tracking of religious restrictions and hostilities around the world since 2007. Their report found that a third of the 198 countries and territories studied in 2012 had a high or very high level of social hostilities involving religion, the highest share in the six years of the study. These hostilities – defined in the study as acts of religious hostility by private individuals, organizations or groups in society – increased in every major region of the world except the Americas. The religion-related terrorist violence taking place in one-in-five countries, in 2012 went up from 9% in 2007 to 20%.

What we noticed more, even in Europe’s capital Brussels was that there where certain Islamic figures finding it all right to bother women. Women were harassed because of religious dress in nearly a third of countries in 2012 (32%), up from a quarter in 2011 (25%) and less than one-in-ten (7%) in 2007.

While there may not be a direct causal connection between government regulations and social hostilities involving religious attire, the data of the Pew Research Center show that harassment of women over religious dress occurs more often in countries where the wearing of religious symbols or attire is regulated by any level of government.

Globally, sectarian violence took place in nearly one-in-five of the world’s countries in 2012 (18%), up from 8% in 2007, though the Middle East and North Africa was the most common region for sectarian violence; half of all countries in the region in 2012 experienced this type of violence.

In a single year, between 2011 and 2012, the number of countries experiencing a very high level of religious hostilities went from 14 to 20. Six of those countries – Syria, Lebanon, Bangladesh, Thailand, Sri Lank and Burma – experienced relatively few hostilities in 2011 compared to 2012.

Things also worsened for religious minorities, according to the study, with 47 percent of the countries studied reporting incidents of targeted abuse of minorities, up from 38 percent in 2011.

On paper, the U.N. is already committed to the issue of inter-faith understanding and peace through dialogue. Agencies like its Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC) have as their mission statement the goal of “promoting understanding between countries or identity groups, all with a view toward preventing conflict and promoting social cohesion.”

But high-level visions cannot become a reality without focused efforts to engage the grassroots, as KAICIID’s work has highlighted. Only in its second year of operations, the organisation already boasts tangible results, including a successful interfaith dialogue on the Central African Republic, where hundreds have been killed and over 500,000 displaced since the outbreak of a conflict in 2012.

Hillary Wiesner, KAICIID’s director of programmes says the organisation wants to work with religious communities from the inside, not as a secular institution from the outside, adding this approach helps foster a sense of trust between the organisation and local faith leaders.

According to her

“Religion is not reducible to a subset of culture; the religious and spiritual dimensions in the lives of individuals and society are much deeper than that. We need to promote responsible ways of living out these beliefs for the betterment of all people.”

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Additional reading:

  1. Key findings about growing religious hostilities around the world
  2. Are you religious, spiritual, or do you belong to a religion, having a faith or interfaith
  3. Do you believe in One god
  4. Anti-church movements and Humanism
  5. More Mexicans start questioning Catholic doctrine and the concept of the Trinity
  6. Identification with Catholicism has declined throughout the Latin American region
  7. More Muslim children than Christian children growing up in our cities
  8. Amount of Muslims living in your country
  9. Malaysia requires sole use of God’s title for Muslims
  10. The world Having to face a collective failure
  11. Do Al-Qaeda, Islamic State, ISIS and ISIL belong to true Islam
  12. ISIS, Mosul Dam and threatening lives of those who want to live in freedom
  13. Condemning QSIS or the self-claimed Islamic state ruler, al- Baghdadi their extremist ideologies and to clarify the true teachings of Islam
  14. Quran can convert to Christianity
  15. 34th World Congress of the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF)
  16. African misery and women inequality
  17. Europe and much-vaunted bastions of multiculturalism becoming No God Zones
  18. Brussels’ Jewish Museum re-opened on Sunday
  19. Abdelhamid Abaaoud brain of Molenbeek’s network dismantled in their hideaway at Verviers
  20. Niger churches burned in Charlie Hebdo protest
  21. Israel not building up their weaponry for nothing
  22. Faith because of the questions
  23. Looking for something or for the Truth and what it might be and self-awareness
  24. Improving the world by improving the Faith

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  • MSF Offers Rape Counseling to Hundreds of Victims in Bangui (voanews.com)
    A rising number of women have experienced sexual violence since the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) descended into a spiral of sectarian conflict in 2013. Many are left with lifelong trauma. But the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders has opened centers for rape victims to give care and psychological support in several locations in the capital Bangui. Emilie IOB has more on the effort for VOA News.
  • Obama’s ‘problem is he was born a Muslim,’ Rev. FranklinGraham says (gunnyg2.wordpress.com) > View original
    The influential Evangelical leader Rev. Franklin Graham said President Barack Obama was “born a Muslim” since the religion is “passed through the father’s seed,” in a CNN interview Friday.Graham’s comments came in response to the recently released Pew Research Center survey that showed nearly one in five Americans incorrectly believed Obama was a Muslim.
  • Manufactured Terror, Not the Economy, Will Dominate 2016 Election (sgtreport.com)
    Propaganda and the endless horror of ISIS sensationalized by the establishment media will overshadow worries about the economy during the next election. According to McClatchy, terrorism is the number one issue dominating the political debate leading into next year’s election.
  • Report: Jews continue to leave Europe (whitenewsnow.com)
    The last several decades have seen a precipitous drop in the number of Jews living in Europe, according to a poll published Monday by the Pew Research Center.

    The report estimated that there were 3.2 million European Jews in 1960, which fell to 2 million by 1991, and to 1.4 million in recent years.

  • Jew Writer Cries As Jews Continue To Flee Europe (dailyslave.com)
    A Jew named Ethan Epstein writing for the Weekly Standard is crying about how Jews are fleeing Europe like the rats that they are.  He even had time to cry about some comments made about the Jewish Holocaust hoax from the Pew Research Center that he wasn’t happy with.
  • Most US investigative journalists fear their government spies on them (theguardian.com)
    Reporters who covered national security, foreign affairs or the government were the most convinced., with 71% of them saying they believed data was being collected from their communications.

    Despite their concerns about surveillance, it hasn’t stopped the journalists from pursuing stories. Just 14% claim to have decided not to continue with an investigation or to reach out to a source.

  • Pew Research Report: A Third Of Millienials Have No Religion (addictinginfo.org)
    The religious right will be quaking in their boots, or perhaps saying that atheists are lying, when they read a new report (PDF) from the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life. A third of Millennials, particularly the under 30 group, are declaring themselves religiously unaffiliated. That is an unprecedented number, and it is on the rise. Right now, according to Pew, 46,000,000 Americans are non-religious. Now, more than ever, America is on the road to eradicating religion. Perhaps the rabidly religious know this, too, which could be why there has been so much gnashing of teeth regarding “sins” such as abortion and marriage equality lately.
  • Thousand of Communists attack ballroom dance in Vienna (topconservativenews.com)
    The Antifa gang network, which is glorified by American left-wing groups like the SPLC, carried out mass violence in Vienna.

    Thousands of masked Communists attempted to storm a ballroom dancing event in Vienna. The event is attended by leaders of the conservative Austrian Freedom Party.

  • Arms transfers to South Sudan ensure a violent future for a people desperate for peace (trendingnewsz.com)
    Recent conflicts in Liberia and Sierra Leone have taught us that the supply of arms to one side during a conflict triggers demand for replenishment on the other side. The inevitable arms race that follows only escalates and prolongs the conflict. Any arms shipment to either side is a step backwards on South Sudan’s pathway out of the crisis and ushers in the prospects of pushing the country into an ungovernable theatre of armed violence, including ethnic cleansing and organized crime.

    These conflicts have also shown that arming one side in the conflict is tantamount to arming all sides. In South Sudan there is already a wealth of evidence that the arms and ammunition acquired by the Government of South Sudan have fallen into the hands of opposition forces. We have seen government forces defect to join the opposition, taking their arms and ammunition with them. And opposition forces have captured government arms during battles.

  • Japanese PM: We Will Never Forgive Terrorists (teaparty.org)

    A visibly upset Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has vowed to “never forgive terrorists” after the Islamic State (ISIS) released a video purportedly showing the beheading of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto.

    “I am extremely angry about these heinous and despicable terrorist acts. We will never forgive terrorists,” Abe told reporters in Tokyo on Sunday morning (local time), according to the AFP news agency.

    “We will cooperate with the international community to make them atone for their crimes,” he declared.