Gas Explosion Erupts Across Europe and in the Middle East
Europes energy requirements, Russia's energy dominance, and Israel's energy finds set the world on a collision course.
Saturday, March 10, 2018
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During this past week headlines once again brought the dispute between Ukraine and Russia into focus. A headline in CBC news read, “Standoff between Russia and Ukraine over natural gas leaves Europe on edge.”
Russia is Europe’s main supplier of natural gas, but it is transported through the Ukraine, which obviously is not friendly to
Russia following Russia’s invasion and annexation of the Crimea. On March 1, Russia turned off the gas. According to CBC:
The tense standoff between Ukraine and Russia also left Europeans on the edge of their seats, asking what's next when it comes to their future supply of the highly lucrative resource
Ukraine and Russia rely on each other to deliver gas to Europe. The Russians pump natural gas through pipelines in Ukraine and deliver it to Europe, but the deep-seated distrust that has turned into hatred between the two countries is causing chaos…
Russia’s energy grip on Europe has politicians throughout the EU scrambling. The article continued:
Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller announced the company intended to withdrawal from all contracts with Naftogaz, including the all-important transit contracts supplying gas through Ukraine to Europe.
What has this to do with Bible prophecy? Well, what is interesting is the alliances that are being formed to solve this problem, which we’ll come to in just a moment.
Before we do, let’s consider the picture the Bible paints at the time of the end. The scriptures speak in certain terms of a Russo-Germanic alliance at the time of the end. Ezekiel 38 clearly states who is in the confederacy that invades Israel:
Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him, And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords:” (Ezekiel 38:2–4)
The word “chief” in this passage is a proper noun, and the RV interprets the passage, “the prince of Rosh”. Rosh is the ancient name for Russia. The land of Magog cuts into Germany as has been identified by numerous historians and geographers. The prophecy also includes lands of both France and Germany when the tribes of Gomer are mentioned:
Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee. Be thou prepared, and prepare for thyself, thou, and all thy company that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them.” (Ezekiel 38:6–7)
Josephus pointed out a few millennia ago, that the tribes of Gomer settled in what we now term France and Germany. So from this passage we see an alliance between the Russians and the Germans, which will include the French too, along with other nations.
We have been watching the predicted alliance continue to grow between Russia and Germany, and this alliance forming around joint projects that are looking to control the energy sector in Europe – namely the transportation of gas.
The political turmoil between Russia and Ukraine, plus the odd war every now and again, has prompted Russia and Europe to explore other solutions. Russia and Germany have made an alliance and are in the process of building two more pipelines between Russia and Germany under the Baltic Sea that would bypass Ukraine. The project is called Nord Stream 2 and would have the capacity to carry enough gas to cut the Ukraine out of the equation.
This project is not without its political issues, as CBC pointed out:
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former secretary general of NATO who now works as a consultant for Ukraine, told CBC News that, "after years of trying to present itself as a reliable supplier to Europe, the mask slipped and its true face of Gazprom as a platform for Kremlin influence was exposed."
Others are enthusiastic about Nord Stream 2, like newly elected Austrian leader Sebastian Kurz, who has indicated he'd like to strengthen ties with Russia.
Germany, the largest player in Europe and coincidentally the endpoint of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, is steadfast in its commitment to the multibillion-dollar project. The issue has created another in a series of seemingly endless rifts in the EU.
This gas pipeline has seen Germany repeatedly oppose sanctions against Russia. It wants to maintain close relationships and keep the gas flowing. It is no surprise either, as Gerhard Schroder, the last chancellor of Germany prior to Angela Merkel, is currently chairman of the board of Nord Stream, whose majority shareholder is Gazprom, Russia’s energy giant. Gazprom is the sole shareholder in Nord Stream 2, although there are other investors. If the pipeline terminates in Germany, this also gives Germany leverage with the rest of Europe. Britain’s Gas supply also comes from this pipeline.
Europe is divided over Nord Stream 2, but the German powerhouse will likely sway Europe in favor of it. However, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline will not be ready until late 2019 at the earliest. The current European Union Council President, Donald Tusk, is not so enthusiastic about the project, as the EU Observer reported in December 2015:
“In my perspective, Nord Stream [II] does not help diversification, nor would it reduce our energy dependency,” he said at a press conference in Brussels on Friday (18 December), wrapping up a two-day summit which he chaired.
He added, on Friday: “The [European] commission has assessed that if Nord Stream II were to be constructed, it would increase Europe's dependence on one supplier and concentrate 80 percent of Russian gas imports on one route.”
“It would also lead to a dominant position of Gazprom [a Russian state firm] on the German market, by increasing its share to over 60 percent.”
The Ukraine crisis has underscored the need for another route, which bypasses the conflict area, and is hasting the completion of the Nord Stream 2 line. In the journal Commodities, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak stated:
In my opinion, we should speed up (the completion of projects) to mitigate the risks we’re having today, including the Nord Stream 2, which is the most economically viable.”
The CBC summed up the situation following the Ukrainian gas crisis:
Gazprom's actions set off alarm bells for analysts like Thierry Bros, a senior research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies who told CBC News that although the move was brutal, it was not totally surprising.
"We do not have the capacity to bring Russian gas to Europe in the quantities that we need without Ukraine," said Bros, "and the other effect of this crisis is what is Europe going to do vis-a-vis Nord Stream 2."
"If this contract was terminated, it means that technically Europe is short of 50 billion cubic metres of Russian gas overnight. We can't afford to terminate the contract but if it happens, from where do you replace that supply?"
It just so happens a solution is presenting itself in the Middle East. This week saw gas explode onto the headlines
throughout the Middle East. Israel National News reported this week :
In Israel's biggest export deal to date, Egyptian company Dolphinus Holdings has agreed to buy 64 billion cubic metres of Israeli natural gas for US$15 billion during a 10-year period. The gas will be delivered to Egypt from Israel's Tamar gas field, and the larger Leviathan gas field which is expected to be operational in late 2019.
The gas deal has been praised by both Israeli and Egyptian leaders. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the deal "historic" and said it would bring billions to Israel in taxes that it would use towards investing in education, health and welfare.
The gas deal is also significant because it represents Israel's new position as a gas exporter, with additional export deals reportedly in the works with Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria and Cyprus. It is also strategically important because it is the second deal that Israel has signed with an Arab neighbour, the first being with the Jordan Electric Power Company in 2016.
The discovery of major gas fields of the coast of Israel is not new. It means that Israel will be self-sufficient when it comes to natural gas, and that it has an over-abundance which it can export. The closest market is Europe, as Bloomberg reported this week:
The race to develop offshore energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean has accelerated since Israel discovered the Leviathan and Tamar gas fields. Egypt is developing the giant Zohr field, with help from Italy…. Together, the finds position the region as a potential gas-producing hub on Europe’s doorstep.
The problem has been getting the gas to market.
The journal Natural Gas News published a debate on March 7 examining the transportation of gas from the Middle East to Europe. According to the experts there are three options for moving gas to Europe from Israel:
The debate considered each of the possible routes.
1. The Direct EastMed Pipeline.
According to almost all parties in the debate this is not a viable solution. Gallia Lindenstrauss, Research Fellow, Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv summed up the issues:
The substantial technical difficulties and the economic cost of building the EastMed pipeline will continue to keep the option of Israeli gas export to Turkey (and from there possibly to Europe) open.
Tim Boersma, Senior Research Scholar and Director of Global Natural Gas Markets at the Center on Global Energy Policy, Columbia University, New York stated:
Despite governmental agreements, the construction of major trunk lines to ship natural gas through the Mediterranean seems challenging, because of deep seas, high costs, and uncertainties regarding territorial waters.
2. An Israeli-Turkey-Europe Pipeline
In the debate, Defne Sadıklar-Arslan, Executive Director of the Istanbul Summit stated:
The pipeline from Israel to Turkey, currently under negotiation, remains the most economically viable and realistic way of transporting natural gas from the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe… Geopolitics are still an obstacle standing in the way of a pipeline to Turkey, however. The issue of Cyprus, whose territory the pipeline would have to pass, and continuing tensions between Turkey and Israel still remain.
According to Theodoros Tsakiris, Assistant Professor for Energy Policy & Geopolitics at the University of Nicosia, this option is not possible even if Israel and Turkey could put aside their differences:
Turkey does not have the capacity to even transport the gas from its southern provinces to its EU border, let alone export it further afield. If Leviathan gas reaches Turkey, it will be consumed in Turkey!
This week also saw Turkish war ships blockade drilling by Cyprus, as the Academic journal, The Conversation reported:
The Turkish navy blocking a drilling ship from exploring for gas off Cyprus ought to make international headlines, but it has gone almost unnoticed at a time of such conflict in the region. The ship has been marooned while diplomats from several European countries try to broker a solution between Turkey and Cyprus.
Turkey does not seem like a viable or stable player to invest money in by Israel, or Europe.
3. An Israeli-Egyptian Pipeline
The only viable option seems to be an Israel-Egyptian pipeline which would terminate in Egypt, where the gas would be liquefied and shipped to Europe via tankers . Theodoros Tsakiris concluded his thoughts stating:
The only viable option to reach the EU, and one not without difficulty, is to reach the idle LNG terminals in Egypt that can accommodate the entire production capacity of Leviathan’s Phase 2 and leave room for the liquefaction of some Cypriot gas from Aphrodite.
This is what was announced this week between Israel and Egypt, with both sides hailing it as a victory of economic cooperation. The
When Russia comes down it targets Egypt, travelling through Israel on its way:
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. He shall enter also into the glorious land, 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. He shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape.” (Daniel 11:40–42)
The “him” in this prophecy is the Turks, who were pushed at by the British in 1917, and correspond to the Euphratean power which was dried up (as required by Revelation 16:12). But note that the King of the North invades Turkey, and then overflows and passes over into the glorious land (or Israel), and the land of Egypt does not escape, whereas Edom, Moab and Amon (modern day Jordan) do. This would imply a latter day alliance between Israel, Egypt and Jordan along with the King of the South, (or Tarshish powers, Ezekiel 38:13), which is challenged and partially overrun by the King of the North. The invasion of Egypt is also recorded in Isaiah 19 where we read:
And the Egyptians will I give over into the hand of a cruel lord; And a fierce king shall rule over them, Saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts.” (Isaiah 19:4)
However, Egypt is eventually delivered when they cry to God:
… they shall cry unto the LORD because of the oppressors, And he shall send them a saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them.” (Isaiah 19:20)
The current gas deal tying Egypt and Israel together speaks to this alliance. According to Israel National News, the new gas
deal has broad reaching ramifications:
While the gas deal has been met with skepticism within Egypt, it could pave the way towards normalizing commercial relations between the two nations - which have very limited economic commerce despite their longstanding peace treaty, largely due to what has essentially been in the past an unannounced boycott of Israel by Egyptians, with tacit government acquiescence.
Meanwhile, the deal is a sign that diplomatic relations between Israel and Egypt have never been better. Egypt was the first Arab country to make peace with Israel 1979, but for many years the relationship was considered to be a "cold peace". Today Israel and Egypt are cooperating on a range of fields, including Israel's military assistance against Islamist fighters in the Sinai Peninsula.
So the cooperation over the commercialization of gas production in the Middle East is cementing the peace between Israel and Egypt with some monetary mortar.
Back in Russia, oil and gas are having a more volatile effect. The Russian economy is like an oil and gas junkie. As write John Detrixhe stated this past week in the business journal Quartz,
Russia’s economy is far from strong. It remains reliant on its oil and gas industry, and its fiscal prudence partly reflects the potential for shocks to that market.
It has not been able to diversify. Putin’s investment in the military requires higher oil and gas prices. If Israel and Egypt are capable of mounting a viable alternative to Gazprom, Russia’s grip on Europe will be threatened.
While prosperity through gas may bring peace to Israel and its neighbors, it will jointly act as an impetus to draw Russia down to protect its economy and its power position on the continent and in the world:
And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords:” (Ezekiel 38:4)
Specifically what these hooks are we do not know, but we do know a portion of the evil plan is an aggressive economic offensive upon an otherwise peaceful state of affairs:
Thus saith the Lord GOD; It shall also come to pass, that at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought: And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates, To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land.” (Ezekiel 38:10–12)
In the news this week we the seeds of this plot germinating… the prospect of monetarizing gas bringing peace to the Middle East, while at the same time creating competition for Russia and Germany, sowing the seeds of future rivalry.
So, when we see the global struggle for power continuing on both military and economic levels we are encouraged that we are living in the time of the end, and the long looked for stealthy advent of the Lord Jesus Christ is at the door.
As the nations prepare themselves, we too must prepare ourselves. We need to open our hearts to our Lord, and let him into our lives:
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)
We need to be opening our minds and hearts to him now so that when he returns we will recognize him – and more importantly, he will recognize us:
Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.” (Luke 12:35–36)
For the Bible in the News, this has been Jonathan Bowen joining you.