By releasing Khodorkovsky, the Russian President seems to have added another feather to his cap.

Michel de Nostredame, known simply as Nostradamus, the renowned 16th century French physician and astrologer, had predicted the possibility of a third world war.

In some of his poetic prophecies, he mentions terrifying battles and events occurring in and around Europe.

Yes, collective human free will can alter an event, change its timing or even stop it entirely. But sometimes, even an individual’s actions can impact an event causing wide repercussions.

While Nostradamus’s divination does not indicate a precise timing of the war, the prophecies suggest that it will be preceded by an extraordinary worldwide increase in natural calamities, revolutions, political disorder, terrorist attacks and assassinations of high profile leaders.

Tensions between countries will mount and economies will be severely affected. Is that already happening?

Take a look at events that caught the attention of the world.

Sudden pardon

Just last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin pardoned Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, citing “humanitarian principles”.

The former oil magnate serving a sentence for fraud walked out of a prison camp in northern Russia after a decade of incarceration, and was flown to Berlin, leaving the world bamboozled by the suddenness of this move.

Recently, while honouring the Russian president, the chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill (Cyril had said, “Since the end of the 20th century, you (Putin), more than anyone else, are helping Russia become more dominant and powerful, helping reclaim its past glory.”

Indeed, at the moment, Vladimir Putin seems to be succeeding at everything he does. The German magazine Der Spiegel has an interesting article highlighting this.

In November, Putin’s behind-the-scenes efforts with Iranian counterpart President Hassan Rouhani to find a diplomatic solution was vindicated when a landmark accord was signed in Geneva to freeze Iran’s nuclear programme and prepare the ground for a more inclusive agreement.

In September, Putin persuaded Syria to place its chemical weapons under international surveillance.

In doing so, he forestalled an American military strike against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and “made Obama look like an impotent global policeman” as Der Spiegel described it.

In late July, Putin ignored US intimidation and granted asylum to whistleblower Edward Snowden in a move that flamed up anxiety within the Western camp.

The Germans and the French were also annoyed by the American surveillance.

Great aspirations

And most recently, Europe has stumbled upon bitter resistance from none other than Russia for the first time since the beginning of its Eastern spread-out.

President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine has been persuaded by Putin to discard — just a few days before the scheduled signing — an association agreement with the European Union that had taken years to prepare.

Instead, last week, Putin and Yanukovych signed a brutally contentious trade agreement which sees Ukraine forge closer ties with Russia rather than the EU.

The Russian president also agreed to slash the cost of gas to Ukraine and promised to buy billions of government bonds. By doing this, he brought Ukraine back into Russia’s sphere of influence, at least for now.

The Winter Olympics and Paralympics are slated to take place in February 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

With several new highways, tunnels and railroads having been constructed in the Caucasus, as well as a state-of-the-art train station and two winter resorts, it appears as though Putin is well set to reach new heights of greatness.

The Arctic Ocean is another place where the Kremlin is trying to make its mark, mainly to gain access to the mineral resources hidden under the ocean floor. Russia has been building up its Arctic military presence.

Putin has been leader of Russia for the last 14 years, but 2013, it seems, has been his most triumphant year yet. Forbes magazine has placed him at the top of its list of the world’s most powerful people, claimed that he has “solidified his control over Russia”.

According to the magazine, “Putin has replaced US President Barack Obama in the top spot because the Russian leader has gained the upper hand over his counterpart in Washington in the context of several conflicts and scandals.”

Even as the world sees a re-emergence of Cold War sentiments, it appears that if there is one leader who warrants being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, it is Vladimir Putin.

(The author is former Europe Director, CII, and lives in Cologne, Germany.)

(This article was published on December 24, 2013)
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