“This was the first military strike of a rising Asian superpower—and there will be more!” This warning was issued by Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry in 2008, just after Russian leader Vladimir Putin invaded the former Soviet nation of Georgia and pulled a fifth of its territory back under Russian control.
The invasion would prove to be the beginning of something much bigger, Mr. Flurry wrote, part of a “dangerous new era” for the world.
In the 14 years since, this forecast has proved right in one former Soviet republic after another. In 2014, Putin seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and plunged eastern Ukraine into a state of protracted conflict that continues to this day as pro-Russia forces—and actual Russian forces—battle Ukrainian government troops. In 2020, Putin ensured that Belarus’s longtime dictator stayed in power despite a major uprising, effectively turning Belarus into a Russian satellite state. The same year, he stationed thousands of Russian soldiers in Azerbaijan for the first time where they will remain, apparently, indefinitely. And now Putin has ushered in 2022 with a major move on the world’s ninth-largest nation, its greatest source of uranium, and Central Asia’s largest economy: Kazakhstan.
The government of Kazakhstan started 2022 by ending its subsidies of liquefied petroleum gas, a commonly used automotive fuel. Prices soared, and on January 2, a small demonstration erupted in the Mangystau region. Within two days, protests had spread into every major city in the country and had exploded from a narrow economic grievance into a broad political movement.
“Old man, go away!” many protesters chanted. They were referring to Nursultan Nazarbayev, who led the nation in its final years as a member of the Soviet Union, presided over its transition to independence in 1991, became a close ally to Putin after the latter came to power in 2000, and clung to power through farcical elections in 1999, 2005, 2011 and 2015. He formally stepped down as president in 2019. But the 81-year-old continued to rule, only partly behind the scenes, through his handpicked puppet successor, and he continued his corruption and enrichment of himself, his family and his allies while Kazakhs continued to languish.
Kazakhs have been fuming ever since, and the gas protest acted as a spark that ignited their fury. Protesters tore down statues of Nazarbayev across the country. In Almaty, the nation’s business capital and largest city, they set fire to a presidential residence and a mayor’s office. They captured the nation’s main airport and killed at least 13 members of the national security forces, including two who were reportedly decapitated. At least 350 other security force members were injured.
January brought Kazakhstan’s deadliest violence, by far, in its 30 years of independence.
The entire government resigned, with the notable exception of Nazarbayev’s handpicked successor, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. As the country’s elites, including Nazarbayev, fled in private jets, government officials said they had killed “dozens” of rioters and arrested thousands. Tokayev pulled the plug on the nation’s Internet service in an effort to prevent protesters from continuing to organize. But as the demonstrations spread, it was clear that these efforts were insufficient. Tokayev declared the violence an attempted coup, and called on his powerful neighbor to the north for help.
Putin responded, with force.
Within 24 hours, the first of some 3,000 Russian paratroopers began arriving in Kazakhstan. They were deployed under the authority of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (csto), which is Russia’s answer to the United States-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Alongside the thousands of Russian soldiers were small numbers of troops from four other former Soviet republics. Their “main tasks,” according to a csto statement, were the “protection of important state and military facilities” and “stabilizing the situation.”
But Putin has plans for Kazakhstan that go far beyond that.
Putin once declared the collapse of the Soviet Union, of which Kazakhstan was a vital member, the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century.” While much of the world regards that massive, nuclear-armed superpower forged from 15 countries as an “evil empire,” Putin looks back on it differently. In those days, he was an agent in the Soviet Union’s ruthless spy and police agency, the kgb. In 1989, he was stationed in East Germany, possibly supplying weapons and other resources to German militant terrorist leftists in the Red Army Faction, when the Berlin Wall fell.
Now Putin is the Russian strongman, and he is rebuilding Russian power at home and in his periphery. Over the years Putin has kept Kazakhstan close, to the point of keeping Russia’s primary space-launch facility and main antiballistic missile testing site in the country. Now he has thousands of Russian troops on Kazakh soil to help him close his grip on the nation even more tightly.
Nine days after the protests first erupted, the Kazakh government said peace had been restored and that all csto troops would soon exit the country. But if you look at Azerbaijan, Georgia, Libya, Syria and Ukraine, you realize that once Putin puts Russian boots on another nation’s ground, he keeps them there for as long as he finds it useful. Given Kazakhstan’s resource wealth, population of ethnic Russians, 4,750-mile border with Russia and Soviet history, it is likely that Putin’s forces are in Kazakhstan to stay.
“Once Russians are in your house,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken correctly said on January 7, “it’s sometimes very difficult to get them to leave.”
Geopolitical strategist Peter Zeihan wrote on January 6 that in light of these facts, the best-case scenario for Kazakhstan now is to become a satellite state to Russia, similar to Belarus. He said, “Its days of being functionally independent or even nominally independent are pretty much over.”
Putin’s victory in Kazakhstan comes as tension between Russia and the West is at its worst point in recent years. Putin is now openly trying to divide Germany from the U.S. and other nato members, and has now brazenly asserted that Russia has an exclusive sphere of influence over former Soviet states, particularly Ukraine. In recent months, he has positioned some 100,000 troops near Russia’s border with Ukraine, where Russian and Russia-backed forces have already been fighting Ukraine government forces since Putin first invaded in 2014.
The fighting in eastern Ukraine has already claimed the lives of more than 13,000 soldiers and civilians. And with the recent buildup, Putin is showing Ukrainians and the world that he could wage major invasion at any time—unless.
On Dec. 20, 2021, while threatening a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin published an ultimatum to the United States and the West:
- No nato membership expansion for Ukraine or any nation east of existing members;
- No nato military activity in the Caucasus, Central Asia or Eastern Europe;
- No new nato forces deployed into East European nations that joined the alliance after 1997;
- No nato military exercises in Eastern Europe without Russian approval;
- No United States nuclear weapons deployed abroad, including those already in Europe;
- No United States short- or medium-range missiles stationed within range of Russia.
Surrendering to these demands would obviously render nato powerless. It would leave Ukraine entirely at the mercy of Putin, and it would trigger the most dramatic change in the world order since the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union collapsed, and the Cold War ended. But that is exactly the point.
Russia says if the U.S. and the rest of the West refuse, it will wage a “military response” comparable to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, when the Soviet Union attempted to station supersonic nuclear missiles on the Communist island, minutes away from American cities. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on January 10 that if the U.S. does not comply with the demands, it will be “playing with fire.”
Whether the government of Joe Biden gives in to Putin partly or altogether, Ukraine’s future is looking more and more like its Soviet past.
Some have argued that the upheaval in Kazakhstan has placed limits on Putin’s options on Ukraine, since he may struggle to engage in two simultaneous conflicts. Potential flashpoints in the Baltics, Caucasus and Belarus only add to the view that Putin is overextended. “The Russians are now actively engaged in geopolitical conflicts that are turning hot on almost all of their borders,” Zeihan said on January 17. “The Soviets went out of their way to not face this many foes down at the same time. Now Russia’s doing a bigger carry with fewer resources.”
But these analysts are likely underestimating the potency and importance of Putin’s political and military will. Over the years, the former kgb agent has deftly threaded such needles with a mix of strategy, opportunism, duplicity and force.
His troops in Kazakhstan, for example, defeated the rioters in a matter of days without the nation or the rest of the world rising up in protest and demanding freedom for Kazakhs. It is possible Putin even helped spark the protests in the first place, not only as an excuse to forcibly subdue anti-Russia sentiment among Kazakhs but also as a means of pressuring Biden over Ukraine. (The Bidens have questionable business ties to the Nazarbayev regime, and Putin may well be using that as leverage to blackmail America.)
The facts show that Putin has not been caught off guard by the various clashes along Russia’s borders. And we should expect him to welcome—and even create—such situations and use them to assert more power over his neighbors as he works to undo that “greatest geopolitical catastrophe.”
‘Prince of Russia’
Time has proved Mr. Flurry was right when he said Putin’s 2008 strike on Georgia was only the start. He accurately forecast Putin’s ongoing dominance of former Soviet nations because Bible prophecy teaches about an Asian alliance that will form in the years ahead.
Around the year a.d. 90, the Apostle John prophesied of a future conflict involving an enormous force: “And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand” (Revelation 9:16). This military of 200 million troops will be about 15 times larger than any army ever assembled in mankind’s blood-drenched history.
Scripture provides several key details about this force. Revelation 16:12 calls it “the kings of the east,” showing it to be a group of mainly Asian countries. Ezekiel 38 and 39 state that it will be led by the “prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal” (Young’s Literal Translation). Meshech and Tubal are ancient names of the modern cities of Moscow in Russia’s west and Tobolsk toward the east. Rosh is a variation of an ancient name for Russia, as shown in the Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary and other Bible aids.
In his 2017 booklet The Prophesied ‘Prince of Russia,’ Mr. Flurry asserts that the “prince” prophesied in these passages is Vladimir Putin and writes: “The use of all three names [Russia, Moscow and Tobolsk] shows that this is an individual ruler of all the peoples of Russia, from the west to the east. The reference to the cities of Moscow and Tobolsk helps us see how vast Russian territory is in these latter days. This giant swath of land indicates the prince will probably conquer more nations of the former Soviet Union.”
In the years since that was written, Putin has asserted more and more power over several former Soviet nations. His latest move in Kazakhstan is a major victory in that strategy.
Mr. Flurry explains that Putin’s leadership of Russia, including his conquests over former Soviet states, shows that a major world conflict is fast approaching. But he emphasizes that there is also great hope at the heart of these prophecies. Putin’s fulfillment of the “prince of Rosh” prophecy proves the Bible true—and the Bible also prophesies that the bloodshed by the kings of the east and their hundreds of millions will give way to the most hope-filled event in human history. “Mr. Putin’s warfare is going to lead directly into the Second Coming of Christ. … Vladimir Putin is a sign, literally a sign, that Jesus Christ is about to return!” he writes. “This is one of the most inspiring messages in the Bible.
“What we are seeing in Russia ultimately leads to the transition from man ruling man to God ruling man! And it is almost here! It is just a few short years away. … We have to realize that this is all good news because Jesus Christ is going to return to this Earth at the very end of the coming world war. … Jesus Christ is about to return—biblical prophecy makes that clear. Surely we ought to be studying our Bibles and understanding these prophecies.”