The world erupted with another economic volcano of fear and dread this week as Cyprus stands on the brink of financial collapse that could drag Europe’s economy into another dive. The curtain is being drawn back on Russia's interest in the region.
The world erupted with another economic volcano of fear and dread this week as Cyprus stands on the brink of financial collapse that could drag Europe’s economy into another dive. The crisis is so dire that banks have been closed in Cyprus all week – and only ATM machines available for people to withdraw their money.
The CrisisWhat is the problem? When the Greek economy almost collapsed the refinancing and restructuring of Greek debt and the banking system meant that Cyprus, heavily linked to the Greek economy, had to go elsewhere for money. For all intents and purposes Cyprus is bankrupt, but is borrowing money from a so-called troika of lenders — the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank. In the past few weeks these three lenders have been tightening the economic thumbscrews on Cyprus. Cyprus has to raise 5.8 billion euros to ensure the extension of a 10 billion euros, ($13 billion US Dollars), lifeline that Cyprus needs to keep its banks from collapsing.
The Cyprus government doesn’t have the money. The EU has demanded that Cyprus introduce a tax that would confiscate between 9-25% of the private money held in Cyprus banks to raise the capital. The deal put before the Cyprus government was rejected due to a huge backlash from the Cypriot citizens who would see up to quarter of their savings being robbed out of their accounts by EU through banking legislation.
The European Central Bank, controlled by Germany, has imposed Monday as a deadline on Cyprus to raise 5.8 billion euros.
A simple biblical principle is at play:
The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” (Proverbs 22:7)
Cyprus is servant to its creditors and is being forced – very strongly into servitude to the EU, or whoever will lend it the money.
There is grave concern that when Banks open on Tuesday there will be a run on them that will bring the Cypriot banking system down, and the government along with it – the country would be bankrupt.
Draw Back The Curtain
What is fascinating to Bible students – is Russia role in the situation. The New York Times reported:
Russian money flowing into Cypriot banks dwarfs the island’s $25 billion economy. About 25 percent of Russian foreign direct investment moves through Cyprus, according to an estimate by Morgan Stanley, frequently in a “round-trip” process that serves to lubricate the Russian economy. Cypriot entities, often owned by rich Russians, lent $40 billion a year to Russia from 2007 through 2011….
The stakes are particularly high for wealthy Russians: Moody's, the rating agency, has estimated that Russian deposits in banks and loans to Cypriot companies total $70 billion, or about 4 percent of Russia's gross domestic product. Some 42 percent of the value of Cypriot bank deposits is in accounts with more than half a million euros.So all of a sudden – Russia is at the heart of the Cyprus banking crisis. Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president expressed extreme concern about the EU deal with Cyprus, which was made without Russia’s knowledge at all. Putin has been quoted as saying, “Such a decision, if taken, would be unjust, unprofessional and dangerous."
Russia jumped into the fray very quickly. The Cypriot finance minister, Michael Sarris, went immediately to Russia to seek help – and stayed there for several days to try to secure a deal. Although a deal was not initially reached, what was interesting was the revelation of the cost of a deal with Russia.
"It might be possible for part of this loan to be convertible over time to equity in Cypriot assets, such as privatized state assets and hydrocarbon rights," Jacob Nell, a Moscow-based economist, said.
"There are precedents in Belarus and Ukraine for similar deals involving Russia," said Nell, referring to deals with Russia's ex-Soviet neighbors in which debts owed to state gas export monopoly Gazprom were swapped for assets.
Sky News reported the following, under the article headed “The Russians Are Cooking With Gas In Cyprus”
Gazprom, the world’s largest extractor of natural gas has offered to bail out the Bank of Cyprus in return for effective exclusive control of the gas reserves off the coast of the island.
If Cyprus did accept the deal, then Gazprom beats the world’s other energy companies to a very attractive piece of real estate. If that costs $10bn (£6.6bn) or so, that is not too big a deal for Russia’s largest company.
But the offer is not purely commercial.
The Russian government owns 50.02% of Gazprom and its chairman is a former prime minister of Russia.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 Russia’s influence in the Mediterranean and the Middle East has waned. It was ten years until a weakened Russia began to try and re-establish itself in its ‘near abroad’, never mind on the global stage.
Since then it has succeeded in pushing its influence back out into the world and it keeps a close eye on opportunities to do so.
The eurozone crisis was one such opportunity.
Well right way, we are reminded of the words of Ezekiel 38:4
“I will turn the back, and I will put hooks into thy jaws and I will bring thee forth…”
Russia’s revival is a fulfillment of this prophecy. To bolster its “return to the world stage” we see that Russia is looking to get its mitts on the massive gas reserves that sit off the coasts of Cyprus.
The German news service Spiegel outlined the Russian interests in Cyprus:
Gas: In exchange for Russian support, Moscow may demand that state-owned Gazprom be given rights to exploit potentially lucrative natural gas fields off the coast of Cyprus.
Behind the scenes – the high stakes poker game has been going on for some time. The angels have used the Cypriot banking crisis to draw back the curtain to allow us to see what is really going on.
What Russia wants is access to the gas and oil reserves off the coast of Cyrpus so that it can control Europe.
Waiting for the Right Moment to Strike
For the moment, Russia has walked away from a deal with the Cyprian government. On Friday, the Cypriot finance Minister Michael Sarris returning empty-handed from Moscow.
Reuter’s columnist Felix Salmon stated,
Russia is doing absolutely nothing which might help the EU. It’s making a risky and aggressive move to essentially seize Cyprus from the hands of Europe, and to gain an important geopolitical foothold in the eurozone. The downside to that move is that… a lot of Russians, especially the ones with deposits at Laiki, could lose a lot of money. But even if that does happen, Russia will be waiting patiently on the sidelines, with a lot of new money if needed, ready to snap up Cypriot assets at fire-sale prices… There’s no doubt that the best outcome for Cyprus, and for the EU, would be for Russia to extend its help now, before Cyprus’s banks reopen on Tuesday. But Russia doesn’t want what’s best for Cyprus, or for the EU: Russia wants what’s best for Russia.
Russia is coolly holding its cards for the right moment. Their intentions have now become clear. Russia is just waiting on the sidelines for the right moment to strike.
The goal is the sew up the oil and gas market. Canada’s Financial Post reported,
Germany is also captive to Russian natural gas and oil, with its high prices. It also would not welcome a Russian takeover of Cypriot gas fields but would favor Turkey’s involvement. This would diversify sources and the competition would lower prices throughout Europe, now inordinately high because of Moscow’s hegemony.
The natural gas issue is material. Between Cyprus, Lebanon and Israel is an estimated 122 trillion cubic feet of gas offshore. Enough has been discovered in Cypriot waters to cover 40% of the European Union’s annual gas consumption.
What we have to realize is the proximity of all this activity to Israel. The Cyprian gas field border the Israeli ones – and Russia now has huge interests in this area, much greater than propping up a few ideological Arab puppet states.
In February, Russian natural gas giant Gazprom signed a deal with Israel's Levant LNG Marketing Corp to buy liquefied natural gas from the Tamar offshore gas field in the Mediterranean Sea, about 80 km off Israel's west coast city of Haifa. Gazprom will buy 4.2 billion cubic metres of liquefied natural gas annually from the Tamar field for the next 20 years.
There is a struggle to control the gas market – and who the players and partners are. The publication Oil Price reported a few weeks ago,
Russia is also keen to avoid seeing Israel and Cyprus get too much closer in terms of energy cooperation because this would sever Russia’s hold on the European market, which it can’t let go until it diversifies. With this in mind, Russia also has its eye on the Leviathan field (450 billion cubic meters of gas) and it is heavily courting both Lebanon and Syria in the meantime, which are also privy to the Levant Basin (122 trillion cubic feet of gas and 1.7 billion barrels of oil).
We see clearly that Russia is interested in sewing up the gas market – and getting its claws into Cyprus would help it do so.
This is where the plot thickens. Russia is not out of the game with Cyprus… just waiting. The New York Times reported,
Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian prime minister, assured the Cypriots Moscow “has not closed the door” on possible future assistance. But, he added, “this will only come after there is a final plan of support for Cyprus from the European countries.”
Russian Military Interests
From a Biblical perspective we know the way things must turn out in the end.
Daniel 11 depicts the way the King of the North will eventual come down into Israel:
“And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.” (Daniel 11:40)
The King of the North will come with many ships. There has to be a build up of Russian Naval presence in the arena – and this is one of the outcome being suggested by the German news source Der Spiegel as a goal of Russia in negotiations with Cyprus, when it wrote of Russias request for a Military Presence on the island:
Russia would like to pursue ambitious plans for its own Mediterranean fleet, but only has access to a single harbor in the region: a small Navy base in Tartus, Syria. The possibility that Russia might demand tighter military cooperation in exchange for financial aid cannot be ruled out.
The Financial Times reported the concerns of Western diplomats,
“some of whom wonder whether the Kremlin could use the island to challenge their security interests in the eastern Mediterranean.”
The business daily wrote,
“If Russia were to provide a large rescue package, or if Cyprus was to plunge out of the euro zone, diplomats would certainly begin to ponder the diplomatic consequences.”
The interesting thing to note is that Cyprus is a former British Crown Colony. This is where the British sent the Jewish refugees they did not allow to enter Palestine during the time of its mandate there. There are British Forces stationed in Cyprus today to defend British bases. Cyprus is home to the RAF base Akrotiri the only full-fledged Royal Air Force air base in the Mediterranean. The two Sovereign Bases on Cyprus are a British overseas territory. This raises the stakes in the whole struggle between the powers of the North and South as described by Daniel.
Drawing Russia into Conflict with Turkey
Another issue tangled up in this web is the Turkish claim to northern Cyprus – and its oil and gas reserves. The International Herald Tribune stated,
The Russian state news agency RIA Novosti quoted analysts as saying Cypriot offshore gas projects were likely to be a hard sell in light of possible opposition from Turkey.
Turkish officials, quoted by Reuters, had warned that Ankara might challenge any unilateral move to speed up offshore exploration that ignored the rights of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which only Turkey recognizes.
If Russia is really interested in the gas off the coast of Cyprus, it may well have to contend with Turkey to do it. The scriptures are clear that Turkey will have to come under Russian control before the final invasion of Ezekiel 38.
The reading of Daniel 11:40 has been understood the following way:
“And at the time of the end shall the king of the south (Britain) push at him (Turkey): [fulfilled in 1917] and the king of the north (Russia) shall come against him (Turkey) like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.
He shall enter also into the glorious land (Israel), and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.” (Daniel 11:40-41)
Brother John Thomas wrote in the Exposition of Daniel in anticipation of this, back around 1867:
“As to the Ottoman (The Turk), his existence in Constantinople is exceptional. His mission was to punish the Greek Catholics, and the Latins also to some extent, for their excessive superstition and idolatry, with the loss of their sovereignty over “a third part” of the Latino-Greek Babylonian empire; and not to extinguish temporarily or finally the Little Horn Power…. The existence of the Ottoman regime in the Kingdom of Babylon must be regarded by way of illustration, as a splint upon a broken leg. It remains therefore the support of the limb until the fractured ends shall be reunited by the callus, after which it is removed as useless…
The time is now about to come, when the Ottoman splint may be removed, and the Latino-Greek Leg of the image repaired by Russian callus be permitted to stand under a regime more in consonance with the catholic constitution of the kingdom of Babylon…
When the Autocrat (Russia) gains Constantinople, and Russianizes Italy and the West; and having superseded the Ottoman regime in Asia, comes as Gog to invade the Holy Land and to besiege Jerusalem, the Little Horn of the Goat will again represent the power of the whole dominion briefly united under one chief, and he the proudest that ever exalted and magnified himself above all the rulers upon the earth.
So as we watch the nations of Europe reeling over the pending financial crisis, we see great biblical significance. We rejoice that the angels have pulled back the curtain to show us the purpose of God being advanced, fulfilling the words of the prophets, and turning to sight the faith of generations of Christadelphians – ultimately bringing the son of God to Israel to save it from the Gogian invader.
Cyprus may well be little spark that ignites the fuel in the area – bringing into place all the pieces as dictated by the prophets. How the pieces are moved remains to be seen, but the end result of the game is sure.
For the Bible in the News this has been Jonathan Bowen.