Does Putin’s Narrow Window to Move Into Ukraine Mean He’ll Strike Soon?

Does Putin’s Narrow Window to Move Into Ukraine Mean He’ll Strike Soon?

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The Russian Army will be fully combat-ready only until the middle of May because of the rotation cycle of its conscripts, reports on Thursday said. If Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to mobilize troops into mainland Ukraine, he would have to do so soon or else wait months for the Red Army to be prepared for such a move again.

The reports coincided with video footage (see below) allegedly showing a substantial number of Russian tanks and soldiers moving toward Ukraine to reinforce the tens of thousands of soldiers already stationed there. The timing of these events has led to some speculation over whether the long-simmering frictions between Moscow and Kiev could come to a boil before mid-May, possibly even this weekend.

“Russian conscripts serve only one year,” npr’s Corey Flintoff reported on April 25. “[This means] they spend much of their time in training, and are only combat-ready for about half of their stint in the military.”

Flintoff quotes Pavel Felgenhauer, a Moscow-based military analyst saying, “That’s why it’s so important that we either move now, and order the conscripts to stay in units because of a war situation, or we don’t move at all.”

Felgenhauer explained that around half of the drafted troops are prepared to be discharged by mid-May, so unless Russia makes its move by then, the army will not be completely combat-ready again until sometime in August or September. This window could grant Ukraine the time required to improve its own outdated military forces, which could transform it into a slightly more dangerous adversary for the Russians.

Whether the conflict comes to a boil in the days ahead or not, these events are already having a profound impact on Europe. To learn the details and significance of the European response, read “The Crimean Crisis Is Reshaping Europe.”

A huge column of Russian armored vehicles moves toward the Ukraine border from the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on April 24.

What Is Worse, Assad or His Chemical Weapons?

What Is Worse, Assad or His Chemical Weapons?

DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images

Another chemical weapons attack exposes the problem the world faces when dealing with the Syrian civil war.

You can take Assad’s chemicals, but you can’t take his nature.

This fact should resonate with anyone who has watched footage of the latest chemical attack on rebels and Syrian civilians in the town of Kafr Zeita. The rebel-held village bore witness to a chemical weapons attack on April 11 that killed at least two and injured dozens more.

cnn cited one United States official saying helicopters dropped chlorine bombs onto the town. If this is true, Syrian President Bashar Assad must be behind the attack: Only his forces have the means and equipment to carry out such an attack. To date, there is no record of Jabat al Nusra or any other rebel group having acquired a helicopter.

This move is more than just a desperate attack by the regime: It is a poke in the eye to America and other nations that have been working to deescalate the conflict in Syria.

Ironically, the attack came only days before the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (opcw) announced that 86.5 percent of Assad’s declared chemical weapons have been shipped to the Syrian port city of Latakia to be diluted. The chemical attack may have prompted opcw to release the cheery figure, as it stated that the removal of chemical weapons was coming along with “significant acceleration.” The organization’s director general even said that the latest consignment to be delivered was encouraging.

Is that really encouraging? Even without 86.5 percent of his known chemical weapons, Assad still came up with a new way to murder civilians. Even though the international community ensured the most heinous chemicals are removed, it still failed to prevent Assad from carrying out another chemical attack! The news of the removal is good, but it doesn’t change the reality of life for the Syrian people. Assad’s actions speak louder than opcw’s words.

Chlorine was used on the April 11 attack. Because of its heavy industrial usage, it isn’t considered a weapon like sarin or mustard gas. As such, chlorine wasn’t even placed on the list of chemicals that Assad was told to give up.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6RDg1o_B5E&feature=youtu.be

Aftermath of recent gas attacks in the Syrian town of Kfar Zeita.

The problem isn’t with the chemicals, it is with the one using them. Many heads of state are firm believers that removing the chemicals will solve the problem. It won’t.

Assad has shown for years that he will use whatever he can to defeat the rebels. Consider his use of improvised barrel bombs. These drums, packed with explosives and shrapnel, are dropped from helicopters. What is the proposed solution to that? Do we create another Security Council resolution asking Assad to turn in all his barrels, nuts and bolts?

The notion is ridiculous, but no more ridiculous that the belief that simply removing the chemicals will bring about a resolution of the Syrian conflict. It merely removes one of his tools and the ability to threaten world powers with chemical strikes should they intercede further. But if the goal of the U.S. and other world powers is merely to remove the chemicals then step back, nothing is accomplished.

Assad is quite capable of fighting with the current weapons at his disposal, chlorine or otherwise. The death toll in Syria has soared somewhere over the estimated 120,000 people. Roughly 1,200 of those were killed by chemical weapon attacks. That means 99 percent of all deaths in Syria have come via non-chemical means.

This shows that removing the chemical weapons won’t be enough. Shouldn’t the international community be as vocal about the 99 percent of people being killed by non-chemical means as the 1 percent killed with chemicals? Such concepts are illusive because it would mean having to tackle an issue far more challenging than chemical weapons: It would mean having to face not only Assad’s nature, but also that of the rebels.

Bashar Assad is a ruthless dictator willing to see his own nation burn in an effort to maintain power. If all Assad had left was a stone to throw, he’d throw it. Yet the international community consoles itself by saying the situation looks “encouraging” with the progress of chemical weapons removal. It fails to recognize that the chemical weapons are just one aspect of a greater problem that is fueling both sides of the civil war.

The lust for power cannot be dealt with simply by removing chemical weapons. The attitudes of the people on both sides of the civil war must be changed. But for man to bring about such a change in his fellow man is impossible. It will take a far greater power to bring about these changes. That doesn’t mean we should look at the situation in Syria with despair—great hope can be found in what comes after the dark times we live in.

Watch Gerald Flurry’s Key of David program titled “Syria’s WMD: A Sign for Us” to understand the glorious future just ahead!

Is There Life on Kepler-186f?

Is There Life on Kepler-186f?

NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

Not yet, but in the future there may be.

Scientists at nasa announced on April 17 the discovery of the first-ever Earth-sized planet that seems capable of supporting human-like life outside of the solar system. Called Kepler-186f, the planet orbits its star in the “habitable zone”—its sun may keep it at the right temperature for liquid water to exist on its surface.

Until now, the only other planets that have been discovered in the “habitable zone” have been much larger than Earth, and therefore very different from our home planet. Kepler-186f has gotten many people excited as they believe it is more likely to have life on it than any other planet discovered so far, apart from Earth.

“This is an historic discovery of the first truly Earth-size planet found in the habitable zone around its star,” University of California–Berkley’s Geoff Marcy told Space.com. “This is the best case for a habitable planet yet found. The results are absolutely rock-solid. The planet itself may not be, but I’d bet my house on it. In any case, it’s a gem.”

Kepler-186f was discovered by the Kepler space telescope (hence its name). One of the ways Kepler looks for planets is by searching for short dips in the brightness of stars. When a planet moves between the Earth and the distance star, the star becomes momentarily dimmer as the planet blocks out part of its light. Kepler uses these dips to find planets and then work out how big they are, how fast they’re orbiting their sun, and how close they are to their sun.

Kepler-186 system fly-through (Credit: nasa Ames/SETI Institute/jpl-Caltec)

Kepler-186f’s sun, called Kepler-186 (without the “f”) is a red dwarf. This means it is much cooler and fainter than our sun—about half its size and 25 times fainter. 186f is therefore much closer to its sun than we are to ours. Even so, it receives less energy from its sun than Mars does in our solar system.

Apart from this, we know just about nothing else about Kepler-186f. Current theories suggest it’s made of rock, but there’s no direct evidence of it. As Slate’s Bad Astronomy blogger Phil Plait put it: “It could be a barren rock, or a fecund water world, or made entirely of Styrofoam peanuts, or some weird thing we haven’t even imagined yet.”

So no one is claiming that it certainly contains life. After all, Mars is also in the “habitable zone” but it is a barren wasteland. More things must be taken into account than just a planet’s size and distance from its sun.

But if we’ve discovered one planet that resembles Earth and resides about the right distance from its sun, could there be more? The answer is almost certainly yes. Data from Kepler and other projects indicate that billions of such planets exist in our galaxy alone.

The Bible clearly reveals there is not currently life on other planets. While that won’t stop nasa from looking, it does raise another question for Bible-believing Christians: If the universe has a purpose and design, what’s the point of all these billions of planets that are just dead rocks, icy balls or dense, gassy clouds? It’s not simply to look pretty—we can’t even see them from the Earth.

The Bible gives the answer, if we can expand our minds to accept it. Isaiah 45:18 says God created the heavens and the Earth “not in vain” and that “he formed it to be inhabited.” That’s not just the Earth—God created the universe and all its distant planets to be inhabited too. In Isaiah 51:16, God says that He will “plant the heavens.”

“Think about what that is saying,” said Trumpet executive editor Stephen Flurry said in a Key of David special. “When you plant something, that means you are laying down seeds that you expect to grow into a crop. Isaiah 51:16 tells us that God is going to plant the heavens—the abode of the stars—the universe! He is going to seed it with life, expecting that it will grow into a greater, more impressive harvest in time!”

Those planets are empty for now. But there will come a time when Kepler-186f will probably be renovated, shifted to exactly the right spot in orbit around its star, given the right atmosphere, and planted with life. And not just Kepler-186f—many, if not all, of the other planets could be planted with life too. It’s a dizzying vision when you think of the billions of planets that probably exist in our galaxy alone.

For more on the inspiring future of these planets, read our article “Planets, Planets Everywhere”.

Tension Rising Over the Falkland Islands

Tension Rising Over the Falkland Islands

DANIEL GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images

Tension between the United Kingdom and Argentina over the Falkland Islands rose further when Britain revealed its plans for military exercises in the disputed islands. The military drills, taking place from April 14-27, are “routine,” biannual exercises that the British have conducted for years, according to the United Kingdom Foreign Office.

Buenos Aires summoned the British ambassador to Argentina to protest Britain’s display of force. The Falklands is one of the world’s most militarized regions in terms of military personnel per capita, according to Argentina, which sees the military maneuvers as threatening. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner accused the British of using the Falklands as a “nato military nuclear base in the South Atlantic.”

Secular history proves that these islands legally belong to the British. Last year, almost all Falkland Islanders voted to remain under British sovereignty. The UK has remained steadfast in its position over the disputed islands.

But so has Argentina. Just three weeks ago, on the 32nd anniversary of its invasion of the British-occupied islands, Argentina launched a new 50 peso banknote proudly displaying a map of the islands.

Even as Argentine pressure mounts against Britain, U.S. support for the British cause is waning. The same day Argentina launched its 50 peso bill, a British House of Commons’ report decried the souring “special relationship” between Britain and the United States over the Falklands: “We are disappointed that the U.S. administration fails to give priority to the principle of self-determination in its position on sovereignty of the Falkland Islands.”

The U.S. has received criticism for taking a neutral stance over the dispute. Some observers believe the U.S. has already crossed the neutral line toward Argentina’s side.

Also on Argentina’s side is the Vatican. Recently released documents have shown John Paul ii’s papal politicking over the islands when he unsuccessfully tried to persuade Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to leave the Falklands to Argentina. With an Argentine pope now heading the Vatican, more help can be expected. Kirchner has already worked to recruit Pope Francis in the Falklands dispute.

Pope Francis and Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner meet at the Vatican. (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images)

With so much pressure against them, it looks certain that the British will eventually budge and lose the Falkland Islands. Bible history and prophecy show that the Falklands are part of the global empire God bestowed on Britain in fulfillment of an ancient promise. The Bible also prophesies that God will remove those blessings from Britain to teach the importance of obedience.

The current dispute over the Falklands is directly tied to the fulfillment of these prophecies. To understand more about our basis for these predictions, read our article “Britain on Course to Lose Falklands.”

INFOGRAPHIC: Where to Draw the Line

INFOGRAPHIC: Where to Draw the Line

Trumpet

From the May 2014 Trumpet Print Edition

How Judo Shapes Putin’s Foreign Policy

How Judo Shapes Putin’s Foreign Policy

ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images

Westerners often call attention to Vladimir Putin’s prowess with judo. For many, it has taken a place alongside his bare-chested horseback riding, tiger tranquilizing and hang gliding to become a kind of running joke: There he goes again, the portrait of silly Russian machismo and power.

But to the Russian president, judo is no joke.

He has practiced it since age 11, earned a black-belt in it, written a book about its theory/practice, and even released an instructional dvd called Let’s Learn Judo With Vladimir Putin.

Putin’s deep-rooted interest in the martial art lies at the very foundation of his identity, and, as such, has shaped more than just his physique. A case can be made that the principles of judo are also shaping Vladimir Putin’s current foreign policy toward the West.

Practitioners of most martial art forms focus mainly on using their own power against opponents. But judo adherents strive to use their opponent’s strength, weight and movement against him—to unbalance and defeat him. This focus allows a weak or light judo practitioner “to overcome a physically superior opponent” (Columbia Encyclopedia, sixth edition).

What are the strengths, weights and movements of the United States and the other Western nations that Putin is challenging? At least on the surface, they are respecting the “voice of the people,” adhering to international law, protecting threatened minorities, and using military force only when necessary.

Economically and militarily, Russia is weaker than the United States. But by using the West’s often lumbering movements against it—like the judo master he is—Putin is punching above his weight, and making some staggering gains for the motherland.

The Large Wheel Throw

Here’s what Putin didn’t do in Crimea: He didn’t march battalions of clearly marked Red Army troops onto the peninsula, brandishing the Russian tricolor and singing “God Save the Tsar!” He didn’t say that Moscow utterly rejects the Western-made systems of law, morality and ethics that have steered international geopolitics almost unchallenged since the demise of the Soviet Union. He didn’t hoist the Russian flag in downtown Simferopol without consulting local authorities and citizens.

Those kinds of moves would have been more like the kicks and punches of a geopolitical kickboxer or karate guru.

Putin is a judo man, so, after deploying undercover agents to destabilize Crimea, he held a referendum to decide whether the people of the peninsula wanted to return to Mother Russia. He basically said, Give the people a voice; let the individuals most affected make this weighty decision; let not my will, but theirs, be done!

After the vote, Putin even spouted off a line that could have come straight out of a Hillary Clinton press conference: “[It was] in full accordance with democratic procedures and international legal norms.”

Of course, the truth is that Ukrainian law unambiguously forbids any such referendum. Its constitution explicitly states that Crimea is “an inseparable constituent part of Ukraine,” and its laws are subservient to those of the central government in Kiev.

But the people spoke.

And remember January 2011, when a referendum resulted in the establishment of South Sudan? At that time, President Obama called it “an inspiration to the world and a tribute to the determination of the people and leaders of south Sudan to forge a better future.” The Sudanese vote was more internationally legitimate than that in Crimea, but that recent history still puts a serious judo leg lock on America’s ability to criticize Crimea for wanting to “forge a better future” for itself.

The referendum in Crimea—regardless of how unfairly it was actually conducted—allows Mr. Putin to say he remained within the boundaries of international law, and that he let the power of the people prevail. He used the West’s weight against it, in something like a standard judo large wheel throw.

Putin: 1; The West: 0

The Shoulder Throw

Perhaps the most blundering geopolitical lunge in the modern era was in the 1990s and early 2000s when the U.S. bombed the Serbs to rubble so that Kosovo and other states could break away from Yugoslavia. For Germany—who orchestrated the bloody maneuver from behind the scenes—it was anything but blundering, but it still set a dangerous precedent.

The significance of this precedent was not lost on Putin, and he cited it for his recent maneuvers in Ukraine. “[T]he Crimean authorities referred to the well-known Kosovo precedent—a precedent our Western colleagues created with their own hands in a very similar situation—when they agreed that the unilateral separation of Kosovo from Serbia, exactly what Crimea is doing now, was legitimate and did not require any permission from the country’s central authorities.”

In fact, Putin is right that there is little difference in what he did in Crimea and what the U.S.—at Germany’s behest—did in Yugoslavia. Here again, judo master Putin is using the strength, weight and movement of the West against it, making it quite difficult for his adversary to take the moral high road against him. By citing the Kosovo precedent, judo master Putin has performed something like a crippling two-arm shoulder throw.

Putin: 2; The West: 0

The Rice Bail Reversal

Next, consider the “Responsibility to Protect,” a norm in international law saying nations must protect their peoples from various man-made atrocities. The U.S. has cited this norm as cause for intervention in such nations as Kenya, Ivory Coast and Libya. “Make no mistake,” President Obama said at the outset of the last of these interventions, “we are answering the calls of a threatened people.”

Compare that to Putin’s April 17 statements regarding the turmoil in eastern Ukraine and the threat it presents to the minority of ethnic Russians living there: “[W]e definitely know that we have to do everything to help these people to protect their rights and decide on their fate. This is what we are going to fight for.”

In the same breath, Putin emphasized his legal right to send in soldiers, and made mention of his reluctance to do so, which almost sounded like it could have been uttered by Jimmy Carter himself: “I sincerely hope I will not have to use this right, and we will use political and diplomatic means to resolve all the critical issues in Ukraine today.”

Under Responsibility to Protect, the U.S. and its nato partners have lunged themselves clumsily across the international stage several times. The precedent set by those lunges now places a judo thrust choke on their ability to criticize Russia. And Putin is in a prime position to harness the momentum of those lunges to execute the geopolitical equivalent of a classic rice bail reversal upon his adversaries.

Putin: 3; The West: 0

Sweeping Wraparound Throw

Since the earliest stirrings of the Arab Spring, President Obama has urged most any leader accused of dictatorial behavior to relinquish power. His strongest of such statements came in February 2012 when he said Syrian dictator Bashar Assad “must step aside and allow a democratic transition to proceed immediately. … Every government has the responsibility to protect its citizens, and any government that brutalizes and massacres its people does not deserve to govern.”

This precedent would make it quite easy for Putin to support an overthrow of Oleksandr Turchynov, the man who became Ukraine’s president after the ouster of Viktor Yanukovych. After all, isn’t all the ongoing unrest and conflict in eastern Ukraine the result of Turchynov’s rule? No, but Putin can say it is if such a claim serves his purpose, and he can persuade ethnic Russians living there to follow suit.

Putin also continues to recognize Yanukovych as Ukraine’s leader. This means that if the Russians currently working to destabilize Ukraine are proven to be there under Putin’s orders, he can say it was the desire of “the lawful leader of Ukraine” to send them in. That would enable him to label the presence as legitimate in terms of international law. The same would be true for a full-scale intervention.

Once again, Mr. Putin has harnessed the momentum of the U.S.’s blundering foreign policy. He has Washington off balance, and is positioned to administer a sweeping wraparound throw.

Putin: 4; The West: 0

We Have a Winner

The examples could go on. But the important thing is that in his struggle against the militarily stronger and heavier U.S., Putin is winning. The annexation of Crimea is a fait accompli, and Putin has his adversaries off balance.

His strategy of justifying his invasions by citing Western-esque rationals such as enabling popular sovereignty, following international law, and protecting threatened minorities has placed him in a dominant stance. Now he is eyeing mainland Ukraine, and may not even need to invade in order to destabilize its eastern regions to a degree that gives him de facto control over them.

Alarmingly, neither the U.S. nor Europe seem to be in a position to regain their footing against Putin any time soon. For the U.S., we shouldn’t expect any leader to emerge who can challenge the Russian judo strategist. But in Europe, the emergence of such a warrior is sure, and will happen soon. For details, read our article, “Europe Will Get Its Vladimir.”