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The Word on the Week

Vladimir Putin

There has been a ruthless progression in the career of President Putin whereby he has now a firm grip on all the levers of power in his native Russia. He has been in the news this week for ramping up his efforts to obtain “independence” for Crimea.

The Russians are famed for their skill at chess and Putin has used pieces called army (with anonymous uniforms) and navy to set up a referendum in Crimea on the 16th March which will give him checkmate!

Perhaps Alex Salmon viewing his faltering campaign for Scottish independence might take a leaf out of Putin’s book and raise a tartan army to encourage the people to vote for a separation from England!

There are one or two similarities between the two situations. Both can use oil and gas as a means of gaining the other sides attention. Both view “Independence” as a stepping stone to a fresh alliance. In Scotland’s case with the EC and Crimea a return, after 60 years apart, to Russia.

Of course Alex Salmon is no Putin. The latter was sited as the most powerful man in the world by the influential Forbes Magazine. With his Crimean army of 11,000 recently increased to 30,000 (Putin calls them self-defence volunteers) it seems that the Russian speaking population need a lot of protecting!

As the de facto Czar of Russia Putin has shown in the past how to win elections. His formulae should produce a vote in favour of joining Russia.

Then there will be the slight problem of access as Ukraine happens to be in the way. Again Putin has arranged his pieces well. With Ukraine unable to pay its gas bill of €1.36 billion it gives him a number of options.

Putin at age 62 could be said to be a man with ambitions and one of them is not to retire!

What has the Bible to say to all this?

The annexing of lands belonging to a weaker neighbour was a common practice throughout the Old Testament. What made Israel different was that she was able to conquer lands and defeat armies which were much stronger. This enabled the people to see God fulfilling what he promised in providing them with a land of their own. Their biography, until the time of King David, is written in Psalm 78. The Psalm concludes with this description, “He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds;
from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance. With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand”.

The model of the Ruler who cares for his people reached its fulfilment in Jesus of whom St John quoted “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep” (Chapter 10 verse 11).

This may be a far cry from Putin’s present style but never underestimate the transforming power of the Gospel when applied by the Holy Spirit to Putin or us.