WorldWatch

From the August 2015 Trumpet Print Edition

Putin’s plan in Ukraine: Invade, wait—and invade

As reports broke on June 3 concerning a new eruption of heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine, a picture took shape suggesting that Russian President Vladimir Putin is following a blueprint of expansionism that dates back thousands of years.

It’s a blueprint that warfare historian Victor Davis Hanson calls “invade, wait—and invade.” In an article from March, Hanson explained: “From Philip of Macedon to Napoleon, aggressors … took as much as they could at any given time; then backed away for a bit, if they sensed strong opposition was building—only to go back on the offensive when vigilance waned” (National Review, March 24).

Hanson pointed out that for many aggressors throughout the ages this method of expanding territory was successful.

For modern Russia, the first part of that blueprint happened last year when Putin grabbed Crimea from Ukraine. After the annexation, opposition built from the Ukrainian government with some backing from nato and the United States. Putin backed off.

Russia then repeated several iterations of “invade, wait—and invade” in parts of eastern Ukraine. The campaigns placed most of Donetsk and Luhansk under de facto Russian control.

Then, since February, a ceasefire had quieted the Ukraine crisis considerably.

But now, Putin sees that the U.S. has basically accepted the new reality that Crimea belongs to Russia. He views this, alongside European division and American indecision on every front, as evidence that the opposition is fading.

The new flare-up of violence could mean that, for Russia, the middle part of the military blueprint—the “wait”—is over once again. It could mean Russia is ready to bring more of Ukraine under its control. If Moscow could take Mariupol, it could establish an invaluable land bridge connecting the Crimean Peninsula to the rest of Russia.

The outbreak of violence also coincides with a buildup of Russian forces about 30 miles from Ukraine’s border. These forces were spotted removing identifying marks from troops and tanks. With insignia removed, Russia could send these forces into Ukraine while denying official involvement.

Ukraine’s president said Putin is planning a “full-scale invasion.” Maybe he is right, and the violence will become an overt Russian invasion. But maybe Russia’s advance will remain intermittent, murky and somewhat tenuous: Surprise the opposition—then endure their sermons, back off and bore them with inaction. After all is quiet, do it again. Here a little, there a little. Invade, wait—and invade.

UK referendum on EU membership ignites Scottish leadership

Scotland’s top politician has warned that a future United Kingdom referendum on leaving the European Union could spark a new drive for independence in Scotland.

In Brussels on June 2, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called for a “double majority” system in the 2017 referendum that would require the support of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland before the United Kingdom could leave the EU. Under her proposed system, the UK would only leave the EU if a majority voted to leave in each of the four nations.

Sturgeon warned that a British in/out referendum “would provoke a strong backlash” if it was decided by a simple majority of Britons. Scotland is largely seen as supporting Britain’s place within the EU.

Britain to further cut defense budget

Britain will cut its defense spending by $770 million, the government announced on June 4. The 1.5 percent cut in spending comes after the country has already cut its defense budget by nearly 10 percent over the past five years.

“After an extraordinary 300-year run, Britain has essentially resigned as a global power,” the Washington Post wrote, summarizing the state of the United Kingdom’s armed forces. “Over the next few years, Britain’s army will shrink to about 80,000. A report from the Royal United Services Institute predicts that the number could get as low as 50,000, which, the Daily Telegraph points out, would be smaller than at any point since the 1770s—and, as David Rothkopf of Foreign Policy magazine notes, about the same size as the New York Police Department” (May 21).

Meanwhile, in Germany, where defense spending has long been unpopular, the government is slowly moving in the other direction and increasing spending. Berlin is recognizing that an increasingly unstable world requires more defense spending, not less.

China suspected in worst-ever hack on U.S.

Hackers stole the personal data of about 14 million current and former United States government employees in a cyberattack believed to have been launched from China.

“This is the most significant breach of federal networks in U.S. history,” House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul said on June 7.

China denies any involvement in the attack.

“In my judgment, this was an attack by China against the United States government,” McCaul said. “It quantifies to espionage. And that raises all sorts of issues that we need to deal with.” McCaul added that the “threat indicators” suggest that it was China, “and perhaps nation-state sponsored.”

Experts are calling this security breach “potentially devastating,” with one even asking, “What if Pearl Harbor happened and nobody noticed?”

The information stolen in the federal personnel records give hackers a wide avenue to intimidation, blackmail and identity theft. But that’s not the worst part of it. The specific data stolen also include information about drug and alcohol problems, arrests, bankruptcies, Social Security numbers, and sensitive information regarding spouses, relatives and friends. Possessing this kind of data gives hackers great power over 14 million government workers, past and present.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor, said, “With this sort of information, China will find it much easier to recruit agents, blackmail decision-makers and—in the event of a straight-up conflict—strike directly at Americans in the government, all without launching a single missile.”

The obvious vulnerabilities of America’s computer systems also raise the prospect of electrical grids or other computer-dependent systems being neutralized.

Since 1995, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry has warned that reliance on computer technology would become America’s “Achilles’ heel.” In the January 1995 edition, he cited Ezekiel 7:14—“They have blown the trumpet, even to make all ready; but none goeth to the battle”—and said, “The trumpet of war was blown in Israel—mainly America and Britain. It seems everybody was expecting our people to go into battle. But the greatest tragedy imaginable occurred! Nobody went to battle—even though the trumpet was blown! Will it be because of a computer terrorist?”

The Trumpet has warned for years that a major cyberattack could cripple America. This massive hack announced in June exposes that America’s cyberdependence is indeed among the nation’s most vulnerable points.

Cuba dropped from U.S. terrorism list

President Barack Obama formally removed Cuba from the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism on May 29. The decision advanced the president’s goal of thawing relations between the former Cold War enemies.

In 1961, the United States cut its ties with Cuba; in 1982, it designated the nation as a state sponsor of terror after the Caribbean nation sponsored Communist rebels in Latin America and Africa.

On April 14, the Obama administration announced its intention to change Cuba’s designation but gave Congress 45 days to oppose it. Congress declined, but did oppose the president’s request to lift an economic embargo on Cuba.

It is expected that the U.S. and Cuba will reestablish diplomatic ties and normalize relations in the near future, despite the nations’ radically different worldviews and political systems. The Obama administration even acknowledged that, aside from repealing Cuba’s terrorism status, the U.S. still harbors “significant concerns and disagreements with a wide range of Cuba’s policies and actions.”

The Bible prophesies of a deadly economic siege against America (Deuteronomy 28:52). That siege is certain to involve enemy nations controlling trade routes—so it is not difficult to see how Cuba could play a strategic role. Request a free copy of our booklet He Was Right for a detailed explanation of this prophecy.

China surveys waters off Hawaii

China has deployed maritime surveillance vessels to the waters off the coast of Hawaii, according to a May 30 report by the Want China Times. The Taiwan-based publication says the provocative Chinese move is a “countermeasure” against United States activities in the South China Sea.

Over the last 18 months, China has assumed a more aggressive posture in its claims of more than 90 percent of the vast South China Sea. During this time, Chinese forces have built approximately 2,000 acres of artificial landmass on disputed reefs in the area. China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy is building military facilities on the islands and has issued threats to U.S. surveillance planes tracking the construction.

China’s deployment of surveillance vessels near Hawaii comes on the heels of an announcement by pla Senior Col. Wang Jin saying the strategy of coastal defense can no longer adequately serve China’s national interests. Wang made the remarks during a May 26 press conference about the release of China’s ninth defense white paper. The implication of the white paper is that a blue-water navy is needed for Beijing to pursue its overseas interests.

The defense white paper also said China must ready itself for a conflict with U.S. forces in the South China Sea.

Bashar Assad: The beginning of the end

“Based on current trend lines, it is time to start thinking about a post-Assad Syria.” That was the estimate of a United States intelligence official based on events that occurred in Syria in May.

On May 21, the Islamic State captured the ancient city of Palmyra in central Syria—four days after the same terrorists seized the city of Ramadi in central Iraq. With the capture of these two cities, the Islamic State gained control of the vast region between them, ensuring the group’s supply routes for weapons. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Islamic State now controls 38,000 square miles in Syria—more than half of the country’s territory.

The rest is essentially a battlefield where Assad is fighting on four fronts, against the Islamic State; Jabhat al-Nusra, backed by al Qaeda; the Southern Front, backed by the United States and Jordan; and the Army of Conquest, sponsored by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.

Reports in late May indicated that Assad was temporarily fighting alongside the Islamic State in Aleppo, northern Syria. Analysts view this as Assad’s strategy to help eliminate the rebel groups that have greater international support and thus leave the world with only two options: a barbarous Islamic State or his own regime. In such a scenario, Assad believes he would be chosen as the lesser of two evils.

Israel’s Channel 2 Arab affairs analyst Ehud Ya’ari has a different view. “Assad no longer has enough troops to move around,” he said on the channel’s news program. “Unless Iran does what it hasn’t done so far—send in their own forces in significant numbers—Assad is finished” (June 3).

This assessment aligns with editor in chief Gerald’s Flurry’s forecast in his September 2012 Trumpet article “How the Syrian Crisis Will End”: “Right now, Bashar Assad’s Syria is closely allied with Iran—but [Bible prophecy] shows that these two nations are about to split. This will have a domino effect on other nations. These events will really shake this world and dramatically alter the course of history!”

U.S. says Jerusalem is not Israel

The United States Supreme Court struck down a law on June 9 in what was simultaneously a blow to Israel and a win for President Barack Obama.

The law, passed by Congress in 2002, said that people born in Jerusalem could list “Israel” as the country of birth on their passports. But the court ruled that only the president can decide which countries are listed on passports and consular birth registries. The president does not recognize Jerusalem as being an official part of Israel. His position is to list no country on passports of anyone born in Jerusalem.

The 6-to-3 split deferred to President Obama, who had said Congress’s law encroached on his executive power. The ruling was also a blow to efforts to strengthen Jerusalem’s status under U.S. law as an undisputed part of Israel. And it highlights a growing divide between Israel and America.

Obama threatens to limit support of Israel

Prior to his reelection in March, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that a Palestinian state would not be founded under his watch. In a May interview, United States President Barack Obama said ominously that such comments “make it hard” for the U.S. to maintain its support of Israel, especially within the United Nations.

Speaking with Ilana Dayan for Israel’s Channel 2, Obama said “[U]p until this point, we have pushed away against European efforts for example, or other efforts” to recognize “Palestine” unilaterally. But Israel “loses its credibility” with such comments as Netanyahu’s, Obama said.

Israel is surrounded by enemies including Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Islamic State, which are determined to destroy it. Yet, Obama said that Netanyahu is “somebody who’s predisposed to think of security first; to think perhaps that peace is naive.” He continued: “I understand [Netanyahu’s fears], but … what may seem wise and prudent on the short-term, can actually end up being unwise over the long-term.”

As the Obama administration limits its support for Israel while appeasing those who threaten Israel’s peace and security, expect Israel’s vulnerability and isolation to increase.