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America, Turkey, and Russia: expanding empires

Risk the board game of world domination by Parker Brothers, a division of Hasbro, French version (Credit: Damien Mathieu via Flickr)Three disparate themes caught my eye today.

First, the U.S. Navy is moving small, unmanned underwater vehicles to the Persian Gulf to help find and destroy sea mines.  Dozens of the German-made vehicles, known as Sea Fox, were purchased by the Navy in February.  The Pentagon has also added four MH-53 minesweeping helicopters and four minesweeping ships—bringing its total to eight.  Our military presence in the region of the Persian Gulf has been increasing for some time.

Second, Turkey is making plans to build an oil pipeline linking southern Iraq and Turkey, a move that would place Ankara in direct competition with Iran for Iraqi oil fields.  Turkey seeks to lessen its energy dependence on Russia while increasing its stature in the region.  The Turkish prime minister is also suggesting a consolidation of his political party with a rival political group, a move that would strengthen his position in Turkey and across the Muslim world.  And he is making plans to visit the United Kingdom from July 26-28 as he expands his global influence.

Third, the Russian state oil firm Zarubezhneft plans to invest $2.9 billion in the Cuban energy sector by 2025.  Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev has announced his support for Cuba's economy during its time of crisis.  And Russia is deploying a large number of warships to the Mediterranean, with plans to make a port of call at the Tartus naval base in Syria.  This is Russia's only manned naval base outside the former Soviet Union, giving Russia its lone foothold in the Eastern Mediterranean.

What do these developments have in common?  Seen as individual news items, they seem unrelated.  Seen through the lens of empire, they make sense.

America is the only nation in history to control each of the world's oceans.  This power is our first line of defense and secures the shipping and free trade essential to our economic health.  The Persian Gulf is just one of the world's naval hot spots; our presence there is essential to our global influence.

Turkey remembers the Ottoman Empire and wants to recreate its former global glory.  Economic and diplomatic expansions are just part of its ongoing expansion.  An increasing Islamism on the part of the prime minister is another element in the Turkish resurgence.

And Russia remembers its days as the Soviet Union, when it was the world's other superpower.  Military access to the Mediterranean and partnerships with Western powers such as Venezuela and Cuba are important to its larger purposes.

Like nations, Christians have a strategic purpose: the Kingdom of God.  Biblical scholar James Stewart expressed this theme beautifully: "Every new idea that has ever burst upon the world has had a watchword.  Always there has been some word or phase in which the very genius of the thing has been concentrated and focused, some word or phase to blazon on its banners when it went marching out into the world.  Islam had a watchword: 'God is God, and Mohammed is his prophet.'  The French Revolution had a watchword: 'Liberty, equality, fraternity.'  The democratic idea had a watchword: 'Government of the people, by the people, for the people.' . . .

"Every new idea that has stirred the hearts of men has created its own watchword, something to wave like a flag, to rally the ranks and win recruits.  Now the greatest idea that has ever been born upon the earth is the Christian idea.  And Christianity came with a watchword, magnificent and mighty and imperial; and the watchword was 'The Kingdom of God.'"

God is either your King or your hobby.  Which have you chosen today?

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