Moscow Puts the Soviet Squeeze on Neighbor Nations
The European Union will hold a summit in Lithuania on November 28 to offer several former Soviet nations economic and “association” deals under its Eastern Partnership program. Russian President Vladimir Putin wants these nations to instead join the Eurasian customs union that Moscow created with Belarus and Kazakhstan. And he is not above bullying them into joining up.
In August, Russia halted all Ukrainian imports crossing the Russian border for tedious customs examinations. After a week the Kremlin removed most of the restrictions, but said it might permanently reinstate them if Ukraine accepts the EU deal.
Armenia has long been dependent on Moscow for security, and the country’s President Serzh Sargsyan was apparently reminded of this during a September meeting with Mr. Putin. He emerged from the talk saying Armenia would ditch years’ worth of efforts it made toward joining the Eastern Partnership program, and instead join Russia’s group.
Meanwhile, in Georgia, Russian forces have worked over the last few months to build barricades along the border of South Ossetia, the breakaway region that Putin’s forces have occupied since the 2008 war. Georgia sees the barricades as a gradual annexation.
Last month, the Kremlin banned Lithuania’s dairy products, and temporarily doubled up customs inspections on the nation’s other goods. Since Lithuania is already an EU member, the moves are apparently just punishment for its decision to host the upcoming summit.
Then there’s Moldova. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin recently said it would be “a grave mistake” for Moldova to try to build warmer ties with Europe. The impoverished nation is completely reliant on Russian gas for heat, and Rogozin threatened to cut off that supply, adding, “We hope that you will not freeze.” Russian then outlawed Moldovan wine and brandy, some of the nation’s chief exports, and said it may ban apples and other produce too. Rumors have also circulated that tens of thousands of Moldovans who hold jobs in Russia may be kicked out, severing the financial lifeline for myriad Moldovan families.
The 20th Century’s Greatest Catastrophe?
The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 reversed a development that had been in the works since the 17th century when the Russian Empire first emerged. This development was the systemic integration and centralization of Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Siberia and the Caucasus. Its core was Moscow. Its goal was challenging European powers.
Although economically brittle, Russian forces were militarily powerful enough to heavily contribute to Napoleon’s and Hitler’s defeats. Russia even held its ground for more than four decades against the mighty United States during the Cold War.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, the Western world rejoiced, heralding it as a victory for liberty, a triumph for democracy, and evidence of the supremacy of capitalism over socialism. Most of the former Soviet nations were optimistic and inspired by goals of rebuilding and democratizing.
But not everyone saw the collapse as a positive event.
“[T]he demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century,” Putin said in 2005.
The aftermath of the collapse presented hardships, not just for Russia, but also for several of the former Soviet states that initially rejoiced when the ussr fell. Those countries without energy to export suffered a colossal decline in standard of living, followed by a period of economic stagnation.
The strain was enough to nudge some of these nations back into Russia’s arms, as demonstrated most plainly by the establishment of Putin’s Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan trade union. Mr. Putin intends the partnership between these three countries to be a permanent feature within the sphere of the former Soviet Union, and is bent on absorbing other nations into it.
Under Mr. Putin’s reign, Moscow is laboring to recreate the geography of the Soviet Union, and to reassert Russia’s influence in the region. The goal of reversing the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century” undergirds almost every facet of the Kremlin’s foreign policy. And Russia’s focus is not lost on Europe.
The ‘Spark’ to Unite Europe
An increasing number of European leaders recognize Putin’s determination to recreate the Soviet Union’s former glory. Last week, 6,000 nato soldiers participated in drills in Estonia to defend the nation against invasion from a fictional country called Bothnia. The fact that the drill—nato’s largest in seven years—took place in one of only three former Soviet states now in the EU demonstrated Europe’s ongoing suspicion of Russia.
The nato exercise came weeks after Russian troops simulated fending off an invasion of Belarus, a former Soviet country still under Russia’s sway.
Russia and Europe wield critical influence over each other, which forces them to choose either to respect each other as friends or to compete as foes. For now, the two are mostly cooperating, but Europe is increasingly anxious about the squeeze Russia is putting on its former satellites. This anxiousness was evident in the drills in Estonia. The more pushy and power-thirsty Moscow grows, the more the European nations feel forced to forfeit political and economic autonomy in exchange for the EU’s militarily assurance.
“What Russia is doing will be the spark to bring the heads of nations in Europe together with the Vatican to form a ‘United Nations of Europe,’” wrote Herbert W. Armstrong (co-worker letter, Jan. 23, 1980).
Russia’s belligerence is spawning fear among Europeans that will hasten the rise of a European Union sufficiently unified to confront Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The more Putin squeezes the former Soviet states in his quest to recreate the former empire, the greater Europe’s urgency toward this unification will become.
Putin said the re-creation of the Soviet empire is “inevitable.” Bible prophecy corroborates this view—although the Asian bloc prophesied to congeal will be quite different from the Soviet Union, primarily because it will include China and other East Asian nations. These prophecies make plain that Asia’s rise and the unification of Europe will lead into the darkest and bloodiest chapter in mankind’s history. But the same prophecies say that just beyond this bleak future lies an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity for Asia, Europe and the entire world! To understand the awe-inspiring details of Russia’s resurgence and how it ties to this future time of true peace, read Russia and China in Prophecy.