Establishing Gog’s Confederacy

Since 2013 we have witnessed a significant increase in Russian influence in the Middle East and, more recently, North Africa. After Russia’s takeover of Crimea in February 2014, she then established a foothold in Syria in September 2015 and more recently has begun to infiltrate the political, economic and military structures of many North African countries. Russia continues to provide significant support for Iran and she has also had a prominent influence in Iraq. Russian troops in Syria are now very close to Israel’s borders in the Golan Heights. The purpose of this article is to outline some of Russia’s moves since early 2018 in light of prophecy.

Firstly, let’s briefly consider some specifically relevant Scriptures. Gog is described in Ezekiel 38:15 as coming from his “place” in “the north parts”. He is “of the land of Magog” (v2), the land of the ancient Scythians, north of the Black Sea. Included in Gog’s confederacy is Persia, known today as Iran. Persia, historically, takes in part of the ancient Medo-Persian Empire. Also in the confederacy is Libya and Ethiopia (which includes modern day Sudan). These are also both specifically named in Daniel 11:43 as being with the King of the North. A key description of Gog is that he is a “guard” or “protector” of these countries (38:7).

The prophecy of Daniel 2 is consistent with Ezekiel 38. Nebuchadnezzar’s image is a descrip- tion of what will exist “in the latter days” (2:28). The image exists as a whole when Christ returns. The four metals are broken in pieces “together” (2:35). In some way there will be a combination of these four empires when Christ returns. This includes the Roman Empire which encompassed the North African coastal regions. It also includes Babylon and Medo-Persia—areas predominantly to the north-east of Israel.

Daniel 7 is very helpful in explaining what is stated only briefly in Daniel 2. The fourth beast is destroyed at the establishment of God’s kingdom (7:9-11). This confirms that the Roman Empire is the ruling military power at Christ’s return. We can therefore expect a wider re-establishment of the Roman Empire across east and west just prior to Armageddon. The legs, feet and toes are all part of the fourth kingdom. The fourth Beast also has “nails of brass” (7:19). Brass in the image dream represents Greece (as it does in Dan 4:15). The Eastern Orthodox Church today retains the religion and cuture of the Eastern Roman Empire. In describing Russia’s latter-day conquests, Daniel 8:25 says “he shall cause craft to prosper” meaning deceit or fraud. As the latter day Roman military power, Russia will “by peace destroy many”—accomplished through clever intrigue and religious fraud. Consistent with Daniel 2 and 7, Rome is destroyed by Christ—“the Prince of princes”—at the final crisis (Dan 8:25).

Daniel 11:40-45 continues the story of a latter day re-emergence of the King of the North. Russia assumes this title when she takes control of the ancient Seleucid territory across Syria, Iraq and Iran. She will then re-establish the military capital of the empire by taking Constantinople prior to moving into Egypt. At that point, the King of the North and little horn of the goat become one and the same power. The fourth beast will at this time “stamp the residue” of the other three empires with its brass clawed feet (Dan 7:19). Russia today continues to consolidate its grip on Syria—part of this King of the North territory. We therefore should look for increasing Russian presence, alliance, co-operation and military power in Syria, Iran, Iraq, Turkey and North Africa. And in fact this is exactly what we are seeing.

Russia reasserts its power

Russia’s occupation of Crimea in 2014 was only just the beginning of Russian power projection in the Black Sea and Middle East. Since the beginning of 2018, Russia has significantly increased the number of troops, aircraft and weapons on the Crimean Peninsula. Recent satellite photos, taken in the early months of 2019, show the installation of five S-400 anti-aircraft missile batteries. Russia is clearly consolidating its base to project power southwards. In September 2018, Russia conducted massive military exercises in Siberia, with 300,000 Russian troops, over 1000 aircraft, the Pacific and Northern Fleets, the entire Airborne forces, including aircraft and helicopters, and Mongolian and Chinese troops. These exercises were close to real combat conditions. One ABC News headline said,“Russia is rehearsing for a global war, and giving an early warning to the West”. The report said, “Clearly Russia is rehearsing a large-scale war. The use of airborne forces also suggests that the initial period of the war will feature airborne invasions, something Ukraine must take note of” (ABC News, 5.09.18).

Russia is also forging close energy links with European countries, some of which has been in secret. Donald Trump last year told NATO leaerds that “Germany is captive of Russia because it is getting so much of its energy from Russia. They pay billions of dollars to Russia and we have to defend them against Russia.” Germany has resisted pressure from Trump to block the Nord Stream 2 Project, which is due to be completed in 2019 (Russia Today, 11.07.18). Similarly, Turkey is becoming increasingly dependent on Russia for its energy supplies. Turkey derives 55% of its natural gas needs from Russia, the majority of which is for electricity generation (Stratfor, 14.11.18).

Russia consolidates its position in Syria

Russia has established herself in Syria for future power projection as King of the North:

“RUSSIA STAYS IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT IN SYRIA: From Moscow’s perspective, things are going mostly according to plan. Russia’s intervention in Syria in September 2015 turned the tide of battle. Backed by Russian air power, the Syrian regime has been able to topple rebel strongholds and assert control over all of the country’s major cities.The rest of the world’s zeal to oust Assad has faded, with a grudging acceptance of the Russian-authored status quo taking hold in Western capitals” (Washington Post, 12.07.18).

A recent news documentary by The Washington Post (21.04.19) made the following insightful observations about the religious significance of Russia’s occupation of Syria:
“In 2015 Russia waded into Syria’s brutal conflict and single-handedly turned the tide in Assad’s favour. Since then Russia has been present at almost every important juncture in the war. But Russia’s interest in Syria extends beyond its backing of Assad. Its interest is also deeply rooted in Russia’s efforts to redevelop the Orthodox Church, a key unifier at home and central to Putin’s grip on power. In essence, Russia has a religious interest in Syria. On the global stage Russia is aggressively pursuing its message that it is the saviour of the Christian world. Assad seems to agree. Shortly after Russia entered the Syrian war, Assad said Putin was the only defender of Christian civilisation one can rely on. The Christian holy lands of course include Syria.

There are two cities in Syria significant to Russia’s Christian history. First Palmyra, a prominent city during the Roman Empire and home to some of Christianity’s oldest churches. Catherine the Great, the influential 18th century Russian leader often compared herself to Zenobia, the legendary third century queen of Palmyra. She also compared her courts in St Petersburg, then the capital of Russia, to the court of Palmyra. Today, St Petersburg is still widely known as the Palmyra of the north. Second, the city of Maaloula, one of the only places in the world that speaks Aramaic, the language of Jesus. An ancient church in Maaloula destroyed by the Islamic State has been recently rebuilt by a Russian Government linked veteran’s charity. Victory in Syria is part of Russia’s plan to be seen as a serious powerbroker all over the the world. Syria is its entrance into the Middle East, but it is also a key part of Russia’s rise and prominence. Today, the Syrian war has arguably become part of the cultural makeup of Russia. It has been without question already a Russian victory.”

There have been numerous Israeli air strikes on Syria in 2019, including an Iranian weapons warehouse. One Israeli news site described Russia’s response with this ironic headline: “Moscow positions itself as ‘final judge’ in Syria amid Israel-Iran tensions” (Breaking Israel News, 4.04.19). Consider this particularly succinct summary of these events: “The civil war in Syria is turning into a regional conflict with the potential to become a world war” (Israel National News, 31.11.18).

Russia’s recent incursions into North Africa

This is one of the most extraordinary news stories of the last 12 months. Russia has begun establishing military ties to the majority of Africa’s nations, including Ethiopia, Libya, Niger and Chad. It has upped its political influence in Zimbabwe, Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and is working on oil and gas projects from Algeria to Nigeria. The leader of this Russian intervention is Putin ally and Russian billionaire businessman, Yevgeny Prigozhin, generally known as “Putin’s chef”. He was indicted by the US for interfering in the 2016 US election. He is also alleged to have helped Russia seize parts of Ukraine and turn the tide in the war in Syria. He’s now the man spearheading a deep push into Africa with an army of mercenaries. His army of soldiers and operatives are providing security, arms training and electioneering services in exchange for increased control of the region. The news started filtering in during the second half of 2018. Here are three of these showing dramatic changes:

“RUSSIA’S SCRAMBLE FOR INFLUENCE IN AFRICA CATCHES WESTERN OFFICIALS OFF GUARD: Russia is engaged in a frantic new scramble for influence in Africa, which is being spearheaded by a rash of military cooperation and arms deals signed across the continent in 2018. The most recent (is) an agreement for a planned Russian logistics base in Eritrea, which would give it access to the Red Sea. ‘Honestly if anyone had said last autumn that this was going to happen and that there would soon be so many Russian people on the ground, no one would have believed it’ (said one international official). ‘Everyone has been struck by the speed at which this has got going’ (an observer told the Guardian). ‘In January this year we got word the Russians were training the president’s security forces in Berengo. It went from rumors on social media to a sizeable Russian presence at an incredible speed’.” (The Guardian, 11.09.18)

“RUSSIA SENDS TROOPS AND MISSILES INTO LIBYA IN BID TO ENFORCE STRANGLEHOLD ON THE WEST: Intelligence chiefs have told Mrs May that Vladimir Putin wants to make the war-torn North African country “his new Syria”. Two Russian military bases are already now up and running in the coastal towns of Tobruk and Benghazi, using the cover of the controversial Russian private military company the Wagner Group which already has outposts there. Russia’s devastating Kalibr antiship missiles and state of the art S-300 air defence missile systems are also now believed to be on the ground in Libya.” (Fox News, 10.10.18)

“LEAKED DOCUMENTS REVEAL RUSSIAN EFFORT TO EXERT INFLUENCE IN AFRICA: Russia is seeking to bolster its presence in at least 13 countries across Africa by building relations with existing rulers, striking military deals, and grooming a new generation of ‘leaders’ and undercover ‘agents’ leaked documents reveal. The Kremlin has recently stepped up its ground operation in Libya…Another key territory is Sudan.” (The Guardian, 11.06.19)

Typically Moscow has been offering a “package” to African rulers. Russia has also revealed a deal signed in May 2019 allowing it to use Sudanese ports. This is significant as it gives Russia a launching pad for naval manoeuvres in the Red Sea just south of Israel. The purpose of the deal is also “to develop military co-operation between the two countries”of Sudan and Russia (Middle East Monitor, 25.06.19). No wonder Daniel 11:43 says that the “Libyans and the Cushites shall follow in his train” (ESV). The Cushite territory includes modern-day Sudan.

A senior UN security official made the following comments about the Central African Republic: “The Russians want to implant themselves in the CAR so they have an axis of influence through Sudan in the north and southwards into Angola.”A senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations in Prague provided this summary: “It’s a free country for the taking. This fits into the Russian approach of being opportunistic in their attempt to inject themselves into areas of Western interest and project a great power image—but all on the cheap” (Newsweek, 8.09.18).

Meanwhile in Libya, pro-Russian Major General Khalifa Haftar has continued his advance on the capital Tripoli and has taken most of the oil ports in the country. Two headlines summarise the state of the country in the past 12 months: “ RUSSIA MOVING INTO LIBYA” (The Washington Times, 11.07.18) and “COULD LIBYA BE RUSSIA’S NEW SYRIA?” (Deutsche Welle, 10.04.19). Intelligence reports indicate that Russia is planning to expand its two Syrian bases into Libya. Haftar’s forces, the Libyan National Army, control eastern Libya. Russian private military forces have been operating in eastern Libya since March 2017 (The Washington Times, 11.07.18).

The nations prepare for the final drama

Russia and Israel have been recently negotiating over security in Syria. Russia has offered Israel and the US a deal involving Iran’s withdrawal of its forces from Syria in exchange for a reduction in American sanctions. Meanwhile British commandos have seized an Iranian oil tanker in Gibraltar. The tanker was bound for Syria. Iran has threatened retaliatory action against British ships if their tanker is not released. This follows British claims that Iran “almost certainly bears responsibility for the attacks” against tankers in the Gulf of Oman. The Middle East is on a knife edge.

In Ezekiel 38:13, Great Britain is allied with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states at Armageddon. There are numerous references specifically to the “ships of Tarshish” (Psa 48:7; Isa 2:16; 23:1; 60:9) indicating a British naval presence. With Russia increasing its naval activity in the Mediterranean and Red Sea, the final showdown between the King of the North and King of the South is looming. Meanwhile Putin has again reached out to the Pope in the Vatican to “discuss protecting Christians in the Middle East” and also the crisis in Syria (Tass, 5.07.19). Russia and the Papacy will soon bring their “holy war” into the Middle East and ultimately to the city of Jerusalem.

“Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives… the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee” (Zech 14:3-5).