Last Days dreams and prophetic words are part of God’s upcoming oracular scenario. Joel tells us on the highest authority that the day is coming when YHVH will pour out His Spirit on all flesh: the sons and daughters of Israel will prophesy, old Jewish men will dream dreams, and young Hebrew men will see visions (see Joel 2:28).
Thirty-five years ago a minister friend, now with the Lord, shared a three-part prophetic riddle from God concerning global geopolitics. He was told that “Communism would become Commu-wasm” – that Communism would soon become ‘a thing of the past.’ European Communism’s collapse into ‘Commu-wasm’ truly took the U.S. Intelligence community by complete surprise.
The God of Jacob had many purposes connected to the collapse of the Communist empire. One exceptional purpose involved the release of Soviet Jews, imprisoned for just over 70 years in a hostile country. They would now be free to come home to Israel, in a foreshadowing of Jeremiah 16:14-15.
The conclusion of the ‘riddle’ was this: Communism would be resuscitated and again become a political system of world revolution and domination – the dictatorship of the proletariat. It would then join up with a worldwide jihadi Islamist movement, but the Islamist part would be the stronger of the two. This blended movement would be horrendously evil.
- It might be helpful to keep this prophetic riddle in mind as one considers fast-moving events in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.
This newsletter will examine the history of the people-groups of the Ukraine, including some of the terrible moments in recent history connected both to the Cossacks, the Soviet Union, the Nazis and recent military clashes between Ukraine and Russia. What do these things portend for the immediate future?
Mixing it up
A quick look at the origins of Ukrainian history shows that over the years a mix of many ethnic groups passed through and/or settled in that area, including Cimmerians, Scythians, Taurians, Sarmatians, Roxolani, Alans, Iranian tribes, Goths, Huns, Volga Bulgars, Avars, Magyars, Pechenegs, Torks, Cumans and Mongols. This region saw the ebb and flow of many wanderers, adventurers and marauders. By the seventeenth-century, the ethnicities known as the East Slavs had settled into four distinct groupings: the Ukrainians, the Belarusians, the Rusyns (Carpatho-Rusins), and the Russians, each with their own national-cultural identity and language.
The roots of Rus
The word ‘Rus’ is embedded in the names of two modern countries – Belarus and Russia. It may surprise some, however, to discover that the origins of this word ‘Rus’ are connected not with the Slavic world but with Swedish Vikings, also known as the Varangians. Traders, slavers and pirates originally from the Uppland province in the Stockholm archipelago, traveled far and wide during the 700’s-900’s A.D. in search of adventure, loot and conquest. They attacked and later settled in northern France (Normandy), raided the Frisians and sailed up the Seine, Loire, Rhine, Dnieper and Volga rivers, causing great devastation and plundering monasteries as well.
The Old Norse word ‘róðr’ refers to a crew of men who row with oars. The Swedish town Roslagen derives its name from that root word. Early Rus settlements included the northwestern Russian town of Staraya Ladoga near Finland. An archeological talisman with the face of Odin (Óðinn), the Norse god of war was discovered there from circa A.D. 750. The Frankish Annals of St. Bertin mention a group of Rhos Norsemen visiting Constantinople around 838.
The original Kyiv region in central Ukraine was at that time populated by the Polianii, a tribe of Iranian origin. Close by were the Finnish Chuds and some Eastern Slavic tribes (the Drevlians and Severians). All had been conquered by and paid tribute to the Varangians or the Turkic Khazars. In 862, there was a rebellion against the Varangians who were ruling from in the area of Novgorod, southeast of modern Saint Petersburg in Russia. After a period of civil war, the Varangians (known also as the Rus) returned to rule over these tribes. According to the ancient Ukrainian Primary Chronicle: “They accordingly went overseas to the Varangian Rus. … The Chuds, the Slavs, the Krivichii and the Ves then spoke to the Rus. They thus selected three brothers with their kinfolk, who took with them all the Rus and migrated.”
These three Viking brothers (Rurik, Sineus and Truvor) established themselves in Novgorod, Beloozero (modern Belozersk), and Izborsk. When the latter two brothers died, Rurik became the sole ruler of the territory and the progenitor of the Rurik Dynasty. After some time, the narrative mentions that two of Rurik’s men, Askold and Dir, asked him for permission to go to Constantinople (Tsargrad). On their way south, they discovered “a small city on a hill” named Kyiv (according to ancient sources). They captured the town and the surrounding country from the Khazars, populated the region with more Varangian, and “established their dominion over the country of the Polianii.”
By 882, Rurik’s successor, Oleg of Novgorod, moved to Kyiv and founded the state of Rus. What we now think of as the ‘medieval Russian kings’ were actually the Rus – Swedish Vikings who founded a kingdom – not in Moscow but in Novgorod and then in Kyiv – which over the centuries slowly morphed into the Russian Empire
Moscow at that time was an insignificant trading post, mentioned for the first time in historical records in 1147. The year 1303 saw the beginning of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, while in 1547 Ivan IV Vasilyevich (Ivan the Terrible) was the first Moscow ruler to declare himself ‘Tsar (Emperor) of all Russia.’
The rise and fall of Rus
Ukrainian Rus was founded in 882, and in 988 it adopted Greek Orthodox Christianity. From the 900’s to the 1000’s Rus was the largest and most powerful state in Europe. But mortally wounded by internecine quarrels and Mongol invasions (the Golden Horde), Rus was conquered and incorporated, first into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and eventually into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569). An autonomous Cossack Hetmanate existed in Ukraine between 1654 and 1764, after a successful uprising against Polish occupiers championed by Bohdan Khmelnystky (also responsible for the massacre of between 40,000 and 100,000 Ukrainian Jews). This Cossack region remained autonomous, though under Russian protection, until crushed by Catherine the Great in 1764.
During the latter part of the 1700’s, most of Ukraine was conquered by the Russian Empire. In 1783, Empress Catherine II signed the Manifesto for the Acceptance of the Crimean Peninsula, acknowledging that Russian troops already occupied Crimea. When czarist Russia collapsed in 1917, Ukraine enjoyed a three year independence (1917-20), but was soon reconquered by a brutal Soviet regime that engineered two forced famines (1921-23) and the infamous Holodomor [Ukrainian for ‘death hunger’] of 1932-33, in which between 8 and 10 million Ukrainians died.
The first Soviet census in 1926 showed that in all territories of eastern Ukraine, including those that are now contested by Putin, ethnic Ukrainians far outnumbered ethnic Russians. In the 1930’s the demographic devastation wrought by Stalin’s agricultural genocide (up to ten million Ukrainians died in the ‘Holodomor’ enforced famine) drastically lowered the percentage of native Ukrainians. Stalin then imported millions of Russians and other Soviet citizens to help repopulate the coal- and iron-ore-rich east, altering the demography of eastern Ukraine.
In World War II, Nazi forces murdered over 2.5 million Jewish Ukrainians, most famous of which were the murder-ravine of Babyn Yar (33,771 Jews slaughtered), and the October 1941 Odessa Massacre of more than 50,000 Jews.
The Chernobyl nuclear reactor explosion-meltdown on April 26, 1986 in southern Ukraine resulted in “the largest anthropogenic disaster in the history of mankind.” The National Research Centre for Radiation Medicine (NRCRM) based in Kyiv, Ukraine, estimates that three million Ukrainian citizens suffered radiation damage, while in Belarus around 800,000 people were registered as being affected by radiation following the disaster.
Independence for Ukraine in the modern era was achieved in 1991 with the dissolution of the USSR.
Russian suppression of Ukrainian language and culture
Under Catherine the Great’s rule, Imperial Tsarist Russia tried to crush Ukraine’s and Crimea’s national, cultural and linguistic identities. Three modern terms describe these processes: cultural genocide; ethnocide; linguicide. These are defined as acts and measures undertaken to destroy nations’ or ethnic groups’ culture through spiritual, national, and cultural destruction; the destruction of culture while keeping the people alive; the eradication of a people’s language. It is sobering to note that Stalin took these measures against the Jewish people during his reign. Imperial Russian, Polish, Austrian and Communist authorities directed similar attacks against Ukrainians. These included 60 prohibitions against the use of Ukrainian language and culture in 337 years of foreign rule. Modern Ukraine is attempting to overcome the negative legacy of these policies and to undo the centuries of repression. Here are a handful of examples:
1720 – Tsar Peter I bans book printing in the Ukrainian language
1763 – Empress Catherine II bans teaching Ukrainian in the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy
1863 – Tsar Alexander II prohibits Ukrainian (‘Little Russian’) literature: “A separate Little Russian language has never existed, does not exist and cannot exist”
1876 – Tsar Alexander II bans Ukrainian theatrical performances and sheet music
1881 – Tsar Alexander II bans Ukrainian in public schools and in church sermons
1884 – Tsar Alexander III bans all Ukrainian theatrical performances
1888 – Tsar Alexander III bans Ukrainian in all official institutions and the baptizing of people with Ukrainian names
1895 – Tsar Nicholas II prohibits publishing children’s books in Ukrainian
1910 – Tsar Nicholas II closes all Ukrainian cultural associations, publishing houses
1914 – Tsar Nicholas II bans celebrating prominent Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko’s 100th birthday; bans Ukrainian press
1922 – USSR. The Central Committee of the Communist Party declares that two cultures are fighting in Ukraine – the urban (Russian) and the village (Ukrainian) cultures, in which the Russian must win
1933 – Stalin terminates Ukrainization.
1984 – USSR. Russian language teachers receive 15% salary raise over Ukrainian language teachers
In light of this anti-Ukrainian mindset demonstrated throughout history by Russian tsars and commissars, consider the statement of Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, when he addressed the Kremlin on March 18, 2014 concerning the ‘unshakeable brotherhood between the Russian and Ukrainian people’: “We are not simply close neighbors but, as I have said many times already, we are one people . . . We cannot live without each other.”
A fitting German proverb comes to mind: “Und willst Du nicht mein Bruder sein, so schlag’ ich Dir den Schädel ein” (‘If you won’t be my brother, I’ll beat your skull in’).
An iron curtain has descended
- “We understand the Russian need to be secure on her western frontiers by the removal of all possibility of German aggression. We welcome Russia to her rightful place among the leading nations of the world. Above all we welcome constant, frequent and growing contacts between the Russian people and our own people on both sides of the Atlantic. It is my duty however, for I am sure you would wish me to state the facts as I see them to you, to place before you certain facts about the present position in Europe. From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe.”
Whereas Churchill was still able to remember better days in that speech (“I have a strong admiration and regards for the valiant Russian people and for my wartime comrade, Marshal Stalin”), times had changed and alliances were shifting. The Cold War officially began with the announcement of the Truman Doctrine on March 12, 1947, its primary goal being the containing of Soviet revolutionary geopolitical expansion. The Cold War ended on December 26, 1991 with the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
In the West, the collapse of the Communist Empire was greeted with shouts of jubilation. Roger Waters, formerly of Pink Floyd, led 350,000 fans in a Potsdamer Platz rock concert based on their LP “The Wall.” Deutsche Welle declared that this was a historically significant event: “The crowd at the Potsdamer Platz and those watching at home weren’t just united by a huge rock concert. Together, once again, they’d toppled the Berlin Wall.”
But to many Communist leaders, it was not a time to laugh and to dance, but a time to weep and to mourn: they were watching the uprooting of all they had planted (Ecclesiastes 3:2-4). In his Annual Address to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation at the Kremlin on April 25, 2005, president Putin remarked:
- “Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century. As for the Russian nation, it became a genuine drama. Tens of millions of our co-citizens and compatriots found themselves outside Russian territory. Moreover, the epidemic of disintegration infected Russia itself. Individual savings were depreciated, and old ideals destroyed. Many institutions were disbanded or reformed carelessly. Terrorist intervention . . . damaged the country’s integrity. Oligarchic groups – possessing absolute control over information channels – served exclusively their own corporate interests. Mass poverty began to be seen as the norm. And all this was happening against the backdrop of a dramatic economic downturn, unstable finances, and the paralysis of the social sphere. Many thought or seemed to think at the time that our young democracy was not a continuation of Russian statehood, but its ultimate collapse, the prolonged agony of the Soviet system.”
Breaking your brother’s leg
For a significant percentage of Russians, to this day there remains a festering open wound when remembering the collapse of the Soviet Union. Many suffered humiliation and poverty, but many in the prosperous West crowed triumphantly about the collapse of their Russian communist enemies. The Germans have a word for it – schadenfreude, a response of joy at other people’s misfortunes.
For Putin, then a KGB officer based in East Germany, this was a personal defeat, and he suffered the same misery as his compatriots. In a December 12, 2021 excerpt from an upcoming film by Russian broadcaster Channel One, dubbed ‘Russia. Recent History.,’ President Putin revealed that just after the collapse of the Soviet Union he occasionally moonlighted as a taxi driver to boost his income: “Sometimes I had to earn extra money. I mean, earn extra money by car, as a private driver. It’s unpleasant to talk about to be honest but, unfortunately, that was the case.” To Putin, the collapse of the Soviet Union was “the collapse of historical Russia under the name of the Soviet Union”
As Putin watched continuing developments, NATO relentlessly expanded eastward:
- 1999 – Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic
- 2004 – Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia
- 2009 – Albania, Croatia
- 2017 – Montenegro
- 2020 – North Macedonia
In 2021 NATO officially recognized three new aspiring members – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, and Ukraine. It would not be surprising that this former 16 year veteran KGB foreign intelligence officer would not be pleased at such a development.
Of course, at the same time Russia was making its own unilateral moves involving military muscle:
- 2008 – Russia invades Georgia
- 2011 – Russian boots on the ground in Syria and Libya
- 2014 – Russian non-uniformed forces seize Crimea
- 2020 – Russia invades South Caucasus
- 2021 – Russian troops subdue popular revolt in Kazakhstan
Putin’s childhood may reveal some clues about his personality which could have a decisive effect on how he views threats and challenges. The Jewish high-school schoolteacher who taught the German language to Putin, Vera Gurevich, noted that when a 14-year-old Putin broke one of his classmate’s legs, he said at the time that some people “only understand force.”
In a 2015 interview, Gurevich was asked what she saw as the essential element of Putin’s personality. She said this: “If people hurt him . . . he reacted immediately, like a cat . . . He would fight like a cat – suddenly – with his arms and legs and teeth.”
Addressing the annual Valdai Club conference on October 23, 2015, Putin explained his decision to confront ISIS militarily. “In a classic Putin turn of phrase the Russian president said he had learned on the streets of his home town of Leningrad 50 years ago that ‘when a fight is inevitable, you have to hit first.’”
Red lines for Red Russia
Just before NATO’s 2008 summit, Putin warned that steps to bring Ukraine into the NATO alliance “would be a hostile act toward Russia.” A few months later, Russia invaded Georgia.
In Putin’s March 2014 address to the State Duma he said:
- “Like a mirror, the situation in Ukraine reflects what is going on and what has been happening in the world over the past several decades. After the dissolution of bipolarity on the planet, we no longer have stability . . . But there is a limit to everything. And with Ukraine, our western partners have crossed the line, playing the bear and acting irresponsibly and unprofessionally.”
In December 2021 Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs and chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, noted that “the issue is not so much Ukraine but the underlying principle: if a military alliance seeks to expand, it has to consider the interests of those who are opposed . . . That’s the red line, and, if crossed, Russia will respond.”
Putin has made it one of his historical missions to stop Western advances into what he believes are Russia’s regions of influence. Any NATO moves towards bringing Ukraine or Georgia into alliance with the West (officially or surreptitiously) are considered the crossing of a red line.
Rolling back the changes
President Putin stressed in his speech to the Munich Conference on Security Policy (February 10, 2007): “I consider that the unipolar model is not only unacceptable but also impossible in today’s world . . . One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way.”
Putin is looking to roll back all European developments which have occurred since the fall of the Berlin Wall. He is championing the re-establishment of Russia as a Great Power whose perspective and interests must be honored – a decisive new role for Russia as the nation casting the deciding or blocking ballot regarding political realities. These demands, called the Putin Doctrine, include:
- the exclusion of American or NATO forces from the borders of Russia and from countries bordering Russia (like Ukraine/Crimea, Georgia, Belarus, etc.)
- rolling back the post-WWII international order (amending Western-dominated power arrangements)
- an internationally acknowledged Russian sphere of interest encompassing the former Soviet Union and much of Eastern Europe (amending the European security architecture)
- the ‘protection’ of the political and cultural rights of Russian speaking minorities in these border countries
NATO would be required to cease all further expansion to the east, and to not help countries (such as Ukraine) that are presently outside the alliance. NATO and the USA would have to severely limit training and exercises in areas that Moscow prohibits, and refrain from deploying nuclear weapons anywhere in Europe. As a result, of course, all Eastern European countries that joined NATO after 1997 would then be virtually defenseless, forced to defer to Russian wishes or suffer the consequences.
Putin’s moves have triggered a renewed great-power rivalry that many analysts say will dominate international relations in the decades ahead. This conflict marks a clear shift in the global security environment – from a unipolar period of U.S. dominance to one defined by renewed competition between great powers. Russia’s present aggression in Ukraine has triggered the greatest security crisis in Europe since the Cold War. It is worth remembering that Russia’s recent seizure of Crimea in eastern Ukraine was the first time since World War II that a European state annexed the territory of another state. By seizing Crimea, Russia has solidified its control on the Black Sea. It can project more power into the Mediterranean, Middle East, and North Africa.
- ‘Commuwasm’ is no longer. The tremors being felt worldwide point to the rebirth of a totalitarian dictatorship which is boldly flexing its muscles in preparation for what God has in store
From shame to vengeance – Make Russia great again!
There is an interesting philosophical parallel between Putin’s goals and the language of former President Donald Trump’s famous campaign slogan ‘Make America Great Again!’ “It was always Putin’s goal to restore Russia to the status of a great power in northern Eurasia,” writes Gerard Toal, an international affairs professor at Virginia Tech, in his book Near Abroad. “The end goal was not to re-create the Soviet Union but to make Russia great again.”
In 1994 former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski described Ukraine as a strategic lynchpin: “It cannot be stressed strongly enough that without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire, but with Ukraine suborned and then subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire.”
Playing poker with the Godfather
In a recent address on July 20, 2021 titled ‘On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians,’ Putin made threats which would do honor to Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather:
- “We will never allow our historical territories and people close to us living there to be used against Russia. And to those who will undertake such an attempt, I would like to say that this way they will destroy their own country . . . I am confident that true sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with Russia”
In his article ‘What the West gets wrong about Putin,’ Harald Malmgren (a geopolitical strategist, negotiator and former aide to Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford) describes a 1992 conversation he had with Vladimir Putin when the latter was serving as head of the Committee for External Relations under St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak. Putin shared with Malmgren his own unique perspective on how to solve disputes between sovereign nations:
- “In Russia . . . disputes are usually resolved by common sense. If a dispute is about very significant money or property, then the two sides would typically send representatives to a dinner. Everyone arriving would be armed. Facing the possibility of a bloody, fatal outcome both sides always find a mutually agreeable solution. Fear provides the catalyst for common sense.” He used his argument in the context of disputes between sovereign nations. Solutions often require an element of fear of disproportionate responses if no deal is struck. The idea of forcing adversaries to face horrific alternatives seemed to excite him. In essence, he was describing to me the current Ukraine impasse between the US and Russia. Putin knows Russia cannot afford a prolonged ground war with Ukraine. He also can see Biden is facing crucial midterm elections with a domestic congressional impasse, and cannot afford a major foreign crisis distraction. The two sides have no choice but to strike a deal. Putin did seem to have the instincts of a Sicilian mafia boss: quick to reward but quick to pose mortal risk in the event of non-conformity to the family rules.
The Rand Corporation released a scholarly article in 2020 dealing with Russia’s Mafioso tactics, titled ‘Russia’s Hostile Measures: Combating Russian Gray Zone Aggression Against NATO in the Contact, Blunt, and Surge Layers of Competition.’
The present ‘Mexican standoff’ between Russia and the West is Putin’s calculated poker bluff, an elegantly prepared ‘dinner party’ meant to resolve the dispute in his favor. Yet, as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has stated, “Putin should come to realize that, whatever his grievances, a policy of military impositions would produce another Cold War.”
Here are some comments from respected analysts of the situation:
- Stockholm Free World Forum senior fellow Anders Åslund branded Putin’s July 12, 2021 article ‘On the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians’ as “one step short of a declaration of war”
- Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets described the essay as Putin’s “final ultimatum to Ukraine”
- “Ukraine holds the key to Putin’s dreams of restoring Russia’s great power status. He is painfully aware that without Ukraine, this will be impossible. The current conflict is not about control over Crimea or eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region; it is a war for the whole of Ukraine.” Oleksiy Goncharenko, Ukrainian MP, European Solidarity party
- “Putin wants to have the last word in determining Ukraine’s approach to history, culture, language, and identity. These are the decisive fronts in Russia’s war against Ukraine.” Yevhen Fedchenko, Chief Editor, StopFake
- “Modern Russia remains an empire in essence. Before annexing new territories, the Kremlin seeks to annex history and assimilate its neighbors by denying their existence as separate national identities. Putin’s current bid to promote assimilation in Ukraine is incredibly dangerous as it opens the way for a new wave of Russian expansion. Moscow is already increasingly absorbing Belarus, while claiming that this neighboring country is actually part of the same Russian nation.” Volodymyr Yermolenko, Chief Editor, UkraineWorld.org
- “The Kremlin is counting on using the threat of war in Europe to impose on the West a final rejection of further NATO expansion” Vladimir Frolov, Carnegie Moscow Center analyst
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, newly independent Ukraine inherited the third largest nuclear stockpile in the world. The country possessed 130 ICBMs with six warheads each, 46 ICBMs with ten warheads apiece, as well as 33 heavy bombers, totaling approximately 1,700 warheads – all on Ukrainian territory. Ukraine had physical control of the weapons, but operational control was dependent on Russian-controlled command and control systems. In 1992, Ukraine agreed to voluntarily remove over 3,000 tactical nuclear weapons. Following the signing of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances with the U.S., the U.K., and Russia, Ukraine agreed to destroy the rest of its nuclear weapons, and to join the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. By 1996, all remaining Soviet-era strategic warheads had been transferred to Russia.
Ukraine’s post-2014 foreign policy was based on the security guarantees that there would be a Western front united against Russia, efficacious sanctions as a means of neutralizing Moscow, and a swift NATO membership for Ukraine. These expectations have failed to materialize.
Peter Pomerantsev, Senior Fellow at SNF Agora Institute, Johns Hopkins University, points out some awkward overreach in Russia’s strategic thinking:
- “Russia, already the world’s largest country, deserves territory far beyond its gargantuan reach. This sense of fluid borders ranges from the far-right fantasies about a Eurasian Empire from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic, to the more common ‘Russo-sphere.’ In Russia’s case the term ‘sphere of influence’ doesn’t only denote something hard and defined, which can be hammered out with other ‘great powers’ in some grand new geopolitical deal, but something that swells and swings with the pistons of suppressed resentment and emotional dynamics.”
Tatyana Stanovaya, the founder of the political analysis project R.Politik and a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center, brings this striking perspective:
- “According to Putin’s logic, the 100,000 Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s border are not a threat. The Russian leader, she said, has always believed that the Ukrainian people are themselves pro-Russians that have been the subject of manipulation. In [the Kremlin’s] understanding, war would not be an attack on Ukraine, but a liberation of the Ukrainian people from a foreign occupier” . . . Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov made this position clear back in December 2021: ‘It is not possible to lose a brotherly nation. It will remain brotherly.’ In essence, Russian authorities see it as their mission to bring Ukraine back onto its natural course.”
On April 8, 2021 discussing a possible Ukrainian military offensive to recover occupied Donbass (a region in eastern Ukraine), Deputy Head of the Russian Presidential Administration Dmitry Kozak, declared, “I believe, and there are already such assessments – I support those assessments that exist inside Ukraine, that the beginning of hostilities is the beginning of the end of Ukraine. This is a crossbow – a shot not in the leg, but in the temple.” Kozak added that Ukraine’s entry into NATO would also lead to the collapse of Ukraine.
Some analysts fear that the United States will lose credibility around the world if it sidesteps the blunting of Russian aggression, especially after its recent stumbling retreat from Afghanistan. There are concerns that this will embolden U.S. rivals. Matthew Kroening, of the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, suggests that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan or Iranian development of nuclear weapons are two possible blowback scenarios here.
Military analysts have set out what the coming order of battle might look like. Russia’s expanding military footprint includes T-80U main battle tanks, self-propelled howitzers, infantry fighting vehicles, multiple launch rocket systems (MLRSs), heavy flamethrowers, short-range ballistic missile systems (SRBMs), towed artillery, surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), and support vehicles.
Russian military forces – including elements of the 41st Combined Field Army and 144th Guards Motorized Rifle Division – would outmatch Ukrainian conventional forces and overrun Kiev in a matter of hours. Russian army personnel and equipment are garrisoned 160 miles north of the border, well within striking distance of Ukraine. Military analysts note that the massing over one hundred and seventy thousand troops on the Ukrainian border indicates that Putin has no intention of turning his troops around unless Russian demands are accepted.
Russia’s main actions in Ukraine up to this point have involved irregular warfare – clandestine support to irregulars, cyber warfare, and a heavy emphasis on special operations forces and intelligence units. Ukraine’s projected response to a regular military invasion would end up being the time-honored tactics of guerilla warfare fighting against a larger conventional force. In the 1980’s the Russian bear was brought to its knees through such tactics in Afghanistan.
Both the United States and European allies are unlikely to engage Russia directly over Ukraine. Indeed, US forces are at present only symbolic, and NATO forces are not able to prevent a Russian blitzkrieg. Ukraine’s status as a non-NATO member means that the alliance is not obligated to respond militarily to a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Threatened deterrence by crippling sanctions from the West would probably not be supported by Germany and Austria, who have clearly noted their desire to remain neutral in a war with Russia (the stone-faced supplier of much of their natural gas). Caught in a power struggle between major adversaries, the Ukrainian people find themselves in an extremely shaky predicament.
Golden eagles and tourist brochures
Putin presents a public image of himself to the Russian people as a tsar-like figure. It seems that he wants the history books to describe him as the Great Unifier of Russian lands and as the hegemon of the Russian world. In the massive and opulent palace which he has built on the Black Sea, Putin has placed statues of gold-plated double-headed eagles (a classic Imperial Russian symbol) throughout the structure.
Vladislav Surkov was once known as Putin’s Rasputin, the Grey Cardinal of the Kremlin or the Puppet Master. He was the Kremlin’s main ideologist and the mastermind of Putin’s current Ukraine policy. A few days after retiring from government service, he gave an interview on February 26, 2020:
- “There is no Ukraine. There is Ukrainian-ness. That is, a specific disorder of the mind. An astonishing enthusiasm for ethnography, driven to the extreme . . . [Ukraine is] a muddle instead of a state . . . But there is no nation. There is only a brochure, ‘The Self-Styled Ukraine’, but there is no Ukraine.”
Enemy at the Gates
Joshua Yaffa, Moscow correspondent for The New Yorker, sums up the current imbroglio: “Tens of millions of Ukrainians have become the unwitting hostages in Putin’s attempt to wrest a better deal.”
Mary Elise Sarotte, a historian and professor at Johns Hopkins University, and the author of ‘Not One Inch: America, Russia, and the Making of Post-Cold War Stalemate’ confesses: “There’s a non-insignificant chance we could see, in 2022, a massive European land war that is a result, at least in part, of the way Russia believes the West handled the end of the Cold War.”
Olivia Ward, former Toronto Star foreign affairs reporter, concludes: “Ukraine . . . has found itself between Eurasia and the EU. That’s where the metaphor ‘The Gates of Europe’ comes from . . . Ukraine . . . is at the crossroads of east and west.”
In the famous words of Karl Marx in his Introduction to ‘The Communist Manifesto:’ “A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of communism.” Indeed. A reborn communism is preparing its armies to move in the direction of ‘The Gates of Europe.’
How should we then pray?
- Pray for the leaderships of Ukraine, Russia, the USA and NATO to receive God’s perspectives on these matters as well as His strategies
- Pray for the enemy’s schemes to be blunted and come to naught
- Pray for the preservation of many lives in this European theater
- Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s prophetic Jewish army throughout the earth
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,
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