The Bear’s Headache

The Russian bear has been licking its wounds for almost a decade since the Soviet Union collapsed. Will Russia ever rise again to great-power status?
From the November 1999 Trumpet Print Edition

Chechnya, Abkhazia, Dagestan. Where are they? Chances are, you’re not sure. Yet, daily, bombs are being lobbed, shots are being fired, civilians are dying and being displaced, as Russia is challenged by its former Soviet satellite states.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, a whole rash of ex-Soviet nations have sought to reassert their nationality, religion and sovereignty, with widely varying results. West of the Ukraine, huge strides have been taken by many ex-Soviet nations toward linking with the West and shunning any continuing economic or political attachment to old Mother Russia. Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and the Balkan states, for all intents and purposes, are now firmly attached to the West. Most aspire to membership in the EU. The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland all gained accession to nato in March this year. Further East, the Ukraine has been openly flirting with nato, much to Russia’s chagrin. In June, Robert Kocharian, president of Armenia, visited nato headquarters, further disturbing leaders in Moscow.

Russia has suffered international ignominy due to the massive and demonstrable failure of its command economy under the former Soviet regime. Fraud conducted on a global scale by the corporate and governmental power elites in Russia has only served to further darken the already tainted Russian image. Added to its gigantic economic woes, Russia has had to police border wars on a wide front as religious and ethnic factions within many petty nation-states comprising the Commonwealth of Independent States (cis) seek to assert their independence.

From Nagorno-Karabakh in the South, abutting Iran, through the isthmus of the Caucasus, joining Asia Minor to Russia, between the Black and Caspian Seas, tumult has reigned since the Soviet collapse. Countries which never once rated a mention in the press have almost become household names—Azerbaijan, Georgia, Abkhazia, Balkaria, Ossetia, Chechnya, Dagestan—all boil in a melting pot of mutually destructive warfare that is proving to be a giant headache for the Russian bear.

There is no doubt that the Russian bear has been off balance during much of the past decade. But history proves that this lumbering giant of a nation will only take so much trouble from its smaller neighbors and so many insults from the West before it comes lumbering out of its occasional political stupor to grab its wayward cubs back into its den and fire a warning shot at its gloating Western antagonists.

The signs are that Russia has had its fill of the West chipping away at its old empire. It is ready to draw the line. Will that line be east or west of the Ukraine? Will Russia snatch back the Baltic states, or let them go to the European Union? Will it isolate itself in the Balkan Peninsula, surrounded by a powerful European Union, bent as the EU is on rapidly developing a state-of-the-art defense capability, or will it seek concessions to withdraw as gracefully as possible?

One thing is for sure: Russia will soon cry “enough” and move to draw the line of separation between east and west.

Two crucial situations hold the key to the timing of its move: the duration of President Boris Yeltsin’s inevitable demise, and Germany’s willingness to reveal its hand as to how far east it is prepared to stretch the EU umbrella.

Confusion in the Camp

Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova are currently joined in a security alliance which operates under nato’s Partnership for Peace program.

This is an interesting liaison. Georgia, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan have opted out of the cis’s collective security treaty in favor of attachment to nato, whereas Ukraine and Moldova are still members of the cis Security Treaty. Further, cis member states Kazakhstan and Belarus earlier this year proved unwilling to assist Russia with its military commitments in Tajikistan and Georgia. Clearly, nato has become a central issue in cis division, particularly following the announcement last May that nato was considering Georgia a possible candidate for associate membership.

In addition to this, added stress on the nato-Russia relationship was posed by Azerbaijan’s earlier request for nato to station its forces on its territory in an effort to seek closer cooperation with the Western alliance.

There is a limit to just how far the tensions posed by nato’s aggressive inroads into ex-Soviet territory will be tolerated by Russia before the break-point is reached.

In addition to ethno-religious rivalries and border conflicts in the Caucasus, Russia has a concern for limiting Islamic extremism in the area east of the Caspian Sea. Moscow recently positioned troops in an effort to take advantage of the outbreaks of violence in the Central Asian region bordering China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. Most recently, the insurrection in the Caspian coastal state of Dagestan has shown that Russia will use future tensions and conflicts in the region of the Caucasus as an excuse to deploy troops; if Russia can maintain a presence of force in the area. This will ensure that they progressively seek control and eventual political dominance of their old Soviet satellites in the region.

New Leadership

This whole scenario has, up to recent times, lacked a consistent and coherent policy and direction from Moscow. Some of the best analysts, however, believe that the appointment in August of Vladimir Putin, head of Russia’s intelligence service (fsb, formally kgb), “represents a breakpoint in recent Russian history and may well be a defining moment” (Stratfor giu, Aug. 23).

This view holds that Putin’s appointment is part of an effort by Russia’s intelligence and defense elite to “arrest the catastrophic slide of Russia into the abyss” (ibid.). If this is so, then the months ahead will see the lumbering rise of old imperialist Russia, reaching out to take a much firmer hold on its tattered possessions. Why will this be so?

Putin heads the nation’s security force, the only institution in Russia to remain largely intact and least affected by the disruptions of the last decade. As Stratfor points out, the kgb, now fsb, are the elite lords of Russia—Soviet men with imperialistic ambitions. This gives Putin a significant power base.

At this point it is critical to note that Vladimir Putin is a Gorbachevite. As Christopher Story, editor of Soviet Analyst, has long claimed, the Perestroika (restructuring) philosophy touted by ex-Soviet Premier Gorbachev, was just another in a long line of deceptive Soviet propaganda exercises designed to hoodwink the West into thinking that the Russians had become “good guys,” successfully pulling massive capital inflows into Russia from the West in the process of reforming their defunct economy. At the same time they were intent on preserving the state apparatus—and Russia’s national interest.

As a Gorbachevite, Putin, head of Russian intelligence, is a Leninist through and through. Thus he religiously abides by what Gorbachev describes as “the essence of Perestroika … that it … revives the Leninist concept of Socialist construction both in theory and practice” (Mikhail Gorbachev, Perestroika, pages 11-12).

These Gorbachevites, or reform communists, have not given up their goal of a socialist world order. They’ve just changed their tactics. But there is a great problem with the Leninist revolutionary utopian philosophy. As Christopher Story so aptly puts it, it is simply that “in this revolutionary, mind-controlled [communist] utopia, man is at the center, there being no place for God, the transcendent, at all” (Soviet Analyst, Volume 25, nos. 8 and 9).

Slinking around the Duma, the Russian parliament, and waiting in the wings to observe the outcome of the Gorbachevites taking on the Russian challenge, is the Zhirinovsky factor—the radical communists led by extremist Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Their reactionary and rabidly anti-Western approach contrasts markedly with the Gorbachevite reformist communists. Observers in the West fear the prospect of Russia’s nuclear arsenal falling into their hands. But if the Gorbachevites fall under Putin’s leadership, the Zhirinovsky wild card could well come into play with dramatic consequences for both East and West.

Whichever style of leadership prevails in Russia, one thing is certain. As Bible prophecy indicates, Russia will become, once again, a great power wielding such influence on the world stage. It will challenge the strength of the European Union in the prime of the EU’s future military power, and it will wound that “Eurobeast” deeply.

In the meantime, Germany holds the trump card. The Germans concluded a secret pact with Russia in 1990. Few details of this historic alliance, predicted for decades by Herbert W. Armstrong, have reached the press. We have highlighted some in our previous editions. This deal guarantees Russia much-needed investment capital. European investment continues to flow, at Germany’s convenience, to Russia and its ex-Soviet satellite countries.

Oil, the driving force which energizes industrial economies, will continue to be a major issue in Siberia and the Caucasus region. It is foreign investment which will buy security for Germany from Russian interference while the EU consolidates its eastward push. The gain for this massive outlay by Germany is a security agreement with its old enemy.

But Russia will not retain its current messy status quo. “The current situation in Russia is intolerable and cannot continue. The idea that somehow this will remain the permanent condition in Russia is absurd. Russia has its periodic flirtations with the West and Western culture and then invariably returns to its own course” (Stratfor giu, Oct. 14).

Signs of Russia charting that course are emerging, as it begins to intensify expansion of its influence into the old Soviet Empire. This move is being encouraged by China. Watch for a summit meeting between the Russian and Chinese leaders in November. Watch for a strengthening of alliance between Russia and China in resistance to, in particular, the United States.

If Russia concludes a security deal with China in the East to add to its treaty with Germany on its western flank, and then mounts a strengthened military presence in the southern Caucasus, the old bear may finally turn its energies, under stronger leadership, to cleaning up its mess back home. This Russia must do before having any hope of rebounding on the world scene as a great power.

Why Russia Must Rise Again

Our readers well know that the Trumpet’s focus on world events is directed by a visionary understanding of biblical prophecy. Without the vision of God, one can only guess at the outcome of the international machinations of global geopolitics. Bible prophecy, however, gives a clear perspective of the future outcome of major world events due to the fact that the transcendental Controller, the Father of the universe, has predetermined certain outcomes. He has not left mankind without a vision for the future, a reason for the past, and a hope for the present. He has coded His whole universal plan into a book which is the perennial best-seller of all books—the Bible.

Russia’s leadership will stabilize. It must—for the enlightened prophecy of the prophet Daniel reveals that Russia, in alliance with China, will pose such a threat to the globally dominant European Union (Rev. 13:17; 18:3), that the EU will be distracted from its major military initiative at the time, the Middle East, and find itself yet once again caught on two fronts! (Dan. 11:41).

Russia, then, just as it did in World War II, will break its pact with Germany, but this time there will be no alliance between Russia and the Western Israelitish powers. For at that time, your Bible says, they will be in slavery to the Eurobeast—a German-dominated union of West and East Europe (Jer. 17:4). This time, Russia aligns with the Oriental hordes to deliver a crushing blow to the European Union (Rev. 16:12).

Russia would simply not be in a position in the future to lead such an onslaught from the northeast if it had not by then revived as a significant world power. You see why we can be so confident in our predictions. It’s all predetermined by an all-wise God who knows human nature so well, and who knows the evil spirit which powerfully influences the minds of the leaders of this world’s nations (Eph. 6:12).

But the Bible is a coded book. The Bible itself reveals that “with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people” (Isa. 28:11).

Even when we get access to that “unknown tongue” and get beyond the “stammering lips,” we find that much labor is involved in piecing together the images of the vision contained in the Bible—“For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (v. 10).

And the reason for hiding this wondrous truth in coded form? “That they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken” (v. 13). It is simply not God’s time to reveal it to the masses. Jesus Christ deliberately hid the meaning of His instruction from the public, and revealed it only to those who forsook all to follow Him as His disciples. “And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Matt. 13:10-11).

Keys to Understanding

It is possible to crack the biblical code. But to do so, one must follow a very precise formula. “Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts” (Isa. 28:9). One must be “weaned from the milk”—willing to mature into accepting reality! It takes a strong spiritual character to absorb, digest, understand and live by the words of this book—and an even stronger character to hold fast to it, and let nothing shake you from it! (Rev. 3:10-11).

But even before we can take the milk of the word, we must seek the truth with all our might and cry out to God to open our minds to understanding (Isa. 55:6-9).

Then, if God sees a humble, teachable attitude, He may choose to reach down and lead you to repentance (Rom. 2:4). That gift of repentance will bring you to the starting point for gaining knowledge of the truth—a right and reverential, deep respect and awe of God, which will motivate you to submit to His rule over your life. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments” (Ps. 111:10).

Solomon contrasts the two basic attitudes which prevail in this society, the former being attained by the few, the masses being victim of the latter: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7).

He sums it all up in Ecclesiastes 12:13: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” Then, through the process described by the Apostle Peter in Acts 2:38-39, God gives freely of His Holy Spirit, His mind power, by which we can understand the truth, the reality of His prophecies (John 16:13; I Pet. 1:19-21).

That’s the simple process by which we of the Philadelphia Church of God, which sponsors this magazine, understand how the events of today are shaping the future of nations such as Russia and why, with such confidence, we can declare in advance the final outcome of major world events.

If you understand what we are writing and you can really see and comprehend it, you are simply being called by the eternal, all-wise and loving Creator God to do something about it. Why not take it a step further, write in, call or contact us via e-mail and share your thoughts with us? Who knows? You too could soon share in the unsurpassed satisfaction, personal fulfillment and great peace of mind that comes from having a part in the Work that is destined to do, today, just what it did in the days when the early apostles trod this earth—the Work that one day will turn this world upside down (Acts 17:6) in preparation for it being turned right side up!