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It's Like Deja Vu, All Over Again

Image of Catherine the Great

In our upcoming book, "The Seton Secret," the Russian grand plan to defeat the Ottoman Empire is a main element in the search for the lost Templar treasure. Ironically, there are similarities between the Russian grand plan and what is going on in the Middle East today.

Tsarina Catherine II the Great of Russia developed a long-term segmented plan to defeat the Ottoman Empire, acquire a warm water port, and project the influence and power of Russia into the Mediterranean, the Levantine, and the Middle East to India. She was determined to create a Black Sea fleet and a coordinated Mediterranean fleet to work with their Baltic fleet to control the sea lanes and become a dominant European power. She was resolved to invade, capture Constantinople, and then the rest of the Middle East.

She needed to conquer the Ukraine first and then the Crimea and its port city of Sebastopol. There she could harbor her Black Sea fleet. Then she could influence the Order of Saint John on the island of Malta south of Sicily where it commanded the sea routes of the Mediterranean Sea. The Crusading Order was the enemy of the Barbary Pirates and jihadist Wahhabi Islam.

Catherine had an ally in the person of a fellow German, the Alsatian Knight of the Hospitaller Order of Saint John, Baron Johann Baptist Anton von Flachslanden. He was the captain general of the Order's powerful Mediterranean fleet that prowled the sea lanes protecting European merchant shipping from the marauding Muslim pirates taking plunder and selling sailors and passengers into slavery. Flachslanden was also the spymaster of an intricate web of spies maintained by the Order throughout the Islamic world and the Ottoman Empire. He was also the mastermind behind the creation of the Anglo Bavarian Langue of the Order in 1784 under the leadership of Grand Master Emmanuel de Rohan Polduc.

This Langue, with the help and money of Tsarina Catherine II the Great, resurrected the Polish Grand Priory and created the Russian Grand Priories which her son Paul commanded. Paul I was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order and Catherine became its Protector.

On April 23, 1787, John Paul Jones, hero of the American Revolution, with the encouragement of Thomas Jefferson accepted a position as admiral in the Russian Navy. Tsarina Catherine II was delighted with his appointment and declared that his daring would enable the Russians to capture Constantinople and defeat the Ottoman Empire thereby increasing their influence and power in the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

Tsarina Catherine II had earlier on May 2, 1769, carefully planned for a small Baltic fleet naval squadron under the command of Admiral Spiridov to visit the island of Malta's Porto Grande in Valletta to begin joint naval exercises and training with the Order's powerful fleet and its Captain General, Baron Von Flachslanden.

Beginning a series of training exercises of the Russian naval fleet anchored in Malta allowed the Russians to gain influence in the Levantine and an anchorage at Beirut, Lebanon. This created a possibility of a pincer movement of Russian forces in the Black Sea and the joint Russian and Malta Order forces to attack the Ottoman capitol Constantinople. The Russian forces in the Black Sea could attack Turkey from the North, and the joint forces of the Order and the Russians in the Mediterranean would attack from the West through the Levantine and Syria and block the retreating Ottomans. It was a grand plan, but the Tsarina died on November 17, 1796, and her son became Tsar and Protector of the Order.

When Grand Master de Rohan died the next year on July 13, 1797, it was expected that Baron Von Flachslander would become the next Grand Master; however, he lost by a narrow vote and the German Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim was selected on July 17, 1797. But when von Hompesch abdicated as Grand Master on July 6, 1799, a majority of the Order Knights formed a Chapter General in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and chose Tsar Paul I as de facto Grand Master of the Hospitaller Order of Saint John which was accepted by the Pope who was surrounded in Italy by Napoleon's forces.

The English were appalled by Napoleon's forces now on Malta and in Egypt that threatened English interests in the Mediterranean. The British sent Admiral Horatio Nelson to Malta and Egypt to secure English influence and prevent Russia from claiming Malta by its new Grand Master, the Tsar. The English were determined to stop the grand plan of Tsarina Catherine II and her son Tsar Paul I.

Tsar Paul I was murdered in his bedroom by strangulation on March 24, 1801. Numerous conspiracy theories cropped up concerning his son, the English visitors present at the Tsars residence that night, and the reluctance of the British to give Malta and their fleet back to the Knights who were in Russia after being forced off of Malta by Napoleon. The perceived treachery of von Hompesch led to his abdication. The Treaty of Amien required the British to return Malta to the Order, but their persistent occupation of Egypt and Malta continued to recent times. This sealed the doom of Catherine's grand plan for Russia's greatness and dominance as a European and world power.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent invasion of the Ukraine is eerily similar to Tsarina Catherine’s grand plan. With Putin's zeal for history and the often studied book "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu who died in 496 A.D., we might well remember the admonition that the past is a prelude to the future: “Deju Vu, All Over Again”—Yogi Berra.

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