Has Putin Found His General Sherman?

Russian President Vladimir Putin presents an award to Col. Gen. Sergei Surovikin.

Has Putin Found His General Sherman?

If Russia’s new supreme commander—Sergey Surovikin—is able to keep shifting the war to a more total approach, it could eventually make it impossible for Ukraine’s smaller forces to maintain their resistance.

Russia’s war on Ukraine, now well into its 10th month, is shifting into a new phase. For the first several months, Russia was fighting what President Vladimir Putin insisted on calling a “special military operation.” A combination of hubris, bad intel from his ranks of yes men, and being hornswoggled by his own propaganda convinced Putin that most Ukrainians would offer little resistance and many would actually welcome the Russians as liberators—with flowers and cheers. Most Russians thought this too. So they fought with a force limited to 190,000 troops and expected to capture Ukraine’s capital in days or weeks, decapitate the West-leaning government, and install a puppet regime. Easy as AБЖ.

But that wasn’t how it turned out.

When the Russians arrived, the Ukrainians saw them not as liberators but as cruel invaders: thieves come not but for to steal, kill and destroy.

Instead of greeting Russian soldiers with flowers and cheers, it was bullets and bombs. Ukrainian civilians met them with Molotov cocktails and weaponized hobby drones. And from Ukrainian military forces there was every imaginable kind of counterattack. And those counterattacks were backed by remarkably robust support from the United States, the United Kingdom and many European nations.

The resistance was a surprise to Putin and most Russians. But even still, for the first several months Russia continued mostly using those same original 190,000 troops, just rotating their slowly declining numbers through different parts of Ukraine as Putin tried to expand the areas Russia controlled. And Russia continued hoping it could conquer Ukraine without utterly destroying the entire nation. There was utter destruction on some cities, such as Mariupol and Lyman, and a great deal of psychotic barbarity visited upon civilian populations in those cities. But it seemed that the Russians hoped those cities might serve as cautionary tales for the rest of Ukraine and persuade it to quickly raise the white flag.

During the first seven months, there were two different supreme commanders over the Russian war. First, Army Gen. Aleksandr Dvornikov, and then in June command was transferred to Col. Gen. Gennady Zhidko.

But in late September, after Russia had suffered all kinds of defeats and had been pushed out of vast areas it had previously conquered, Putin realized the enormity of his miscalculation. He saw that nothing about the war effort was going to be remotely easy and that he would have to escalate. So he ordered a “partial mobilization” of reserve forces, which brought 300,000 additional Russian troops onto the battlefields. He also gave an address to his nation, saying Russia would use “all means necessary” to achieve its takeover of Ukraine. A few weeks later, Putin appointed a new man as supreme commander of the war effort: Army Gen. Sergey Surovikin.

Surovikin cut his teeth in Russia’s second war on Chechnya and in Syria, where he led the notorious bombing of Aleppo that razed the city to rubble. In Idlib, his attacks killed some 1,600 civilians and displaced 1.4 million. It’s no wonder why Surovikin is known in the Russian military as “General Armageddon.”

It’s no coincidence that around the time Surovikin was appointed, we began seeing an increase in large-scale missile attacks on Ukraine’s civilians and civilian infrastructure, including power grids and water pumping stations. In fact, it was just two days after Putin made him supreme commander that Russia began relentlessly shelling these kinds of targets across Ukraine and rockets began hitting Kyiv again for the first time in months.

Surovikin is pulling out all the stops. In his view, anything that can help Ukrainian troops, even indirectly, needs to be destroyed. If every vestige of Ukraine’s infrastructure, economy and society need to be flattened for Russia to win, then every vestige will be flattened. His philosophy is total war.

It is a dark turn of events for the Ukrainians. And if we want to see how it may turn out, history offers us a potentially instructive analogy: the American Civil War.

In the early 1860s, in the early months of the conflict, the North fought a limited war with a high level of restraint. Under Gen. George McClellan, the North aimed to use “maneuver and siege” tactics to win battles at minimal cost to both sides. The North didn’t want the South’s economy or infrastructure to get caught in the crossfire, so they did their best to leave it in tact.

Historian J. L. Harrison says McClellan and other Union leaders thought this measured approach would “compel Southern leaders to abandon the idea of secession.”

It sounds reasonable. But the North soon discovered that this was a faulty strategy, especially as they fought against Robert E. Lee’s Southern forces. Lee would attack Northern forces full-throttle even when he was decisively outgunned and outnumbered, and his superior tactics and intimate knowledge of the land enabled him to win victory after victory. So the North soon realized that the measured approach that McClellan had been using was doomed to fail. Maybe that approach would have worked in an earlier, more reasonable epoch, but not now. “The dogmas of the quiet past,” President Abraham Lincoln said to Congress in 1862, “are inadequate to the stormy present.”

It was around this time that Lincoln started putting men like Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman over the Northern forces. Under such leaders, the Union Army abandoned the restraint it had previously shown. General Sherman in particular was the antithesis of restraint. His forces, instead, followed a “scorched earth” policy, targeting not just military targets but also civilian property, industry and all manner of infrastructure. In 1864, he led the famous “March to the Sea,” cutting a path through Georgia 300 miles long and 60 miles wide. Within this path, all bridges, railroads and public buildings were obliterated.

The North’s shift toward something much closer to total war is a big part of what eventually won the war for the North.

Newsweek published an opinion piece by David Rundell and Michael Gfoeller on December 6 that draws parallels between the shift now underway in Russia’s approach to conquering Ukraine and what happened in the U.S. Civil War. They wrote:

Putin had not counted on Ukraine’s stiff resistance or the West’s massive military and economic intervention. Faced with a new situation, Putin changed his strategy. Now he is about to unleash his own General Sherman and make Ukraine howl. … Armies need railroads and while Sherman systematically tore up the tracks leading to Atlanta, Surovikin is destroying the electricity grid which powers Ukrainian railroads. This has left Ukrainian cities cold and dark, but Surovikin seems to agree with Sherman that “war is cruelty, and you cannot refine it.”

Rundell and Gfoeller wrote that with Surovikin now in charge, and with Russia now pushing toward total war, it means a Ukrainian defeat is near:

Once Ukraine’s rich black soil has firmly frozen, a massive Russian onslaught will commence. In fact, it has already begun at the important transportation hub of Bakhmut, which has become something of a Ukrainian Verdun. We expect Bakhmut to fall and predict that without much more Western support, Russia will recapture Kharkov, Kherson and the remainder of the Donbas by next summer.

The analogy is not perfect. In the Civil War, manufacturing also played a decisive role because the North could steadily manufacture arms and ammunition for its troops, while the South could not. And at present, due to Western backing, Ukraine’s access to manufacturing is deep and broad. Russia on the other hand—due to Western sanctions and endemic corruption that has hollowed out armories—is increasingly struggling in this area.

It is also inaccurate to imply that in the early months of the war the Russians intentionally and mercifully restrained themselves to minimize destruction, the way the American North did in the Civil War’s first chapters. The Russians initially miscalculated by underestimating both Ukrainian resistance and Western backing. And it has contended with endless organizational and logistical struggles. So although the Russians have not mustered their full firepower in every battle, this has been more a result of unpreparedness than of some kind of noble, McClellanian clemency. With the exception of the nuclear weapons that Putin keeps threatening to use, the evidence shows that there’s little his forces have held back.

Despite the areas where the analogy breaks down, it is potentially informative. If Surovikin is able to keep shifting the war to a more total approach, it could eventually make it impossible for Ukraine’s smaller forces to maintain resistance. This Russian strategy could bring an end to this war that has dragged on far longer than most anyone expected.

However the situation pans out in the short term, and as bitter as it is to say, we should expect Putin to win the war. And this is because of what Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry has said about Putin’s role in Bible prophecy. There are many Bible passages about an end-time, multinational, Asian military alliance. This military bloc is discussed in the books of Daniel, Joel and Revelation, as well as a particularly detailed passage in Ezekiel 38 and 39. Verse 2 of Ezekiel 38 says that this Asian bloc will be led by a “prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal” (Young’s Literal Translation). And Mr. Flurry has said since late 2013 that these three names refer to Russia and two of its key cities, and that this passage is describing Vladimir Putin.

In his booklet The Prophesied ‘Prince of Russia,’ he writes:

[Putin’s] track record, his nationality and his ideology show that he is fulfilling a linchpin Bible prophecy. The time frame of his rule also shows that nobody else could be fulfilling the Ezekiel 38 and 39 prophecy. … We need to watch Vladimir Putin closely. He is the “prince of Rosh” whom God inspired Ezekiel to write about 2,500 years ago!

So whether it is by Surovikin’s “scorched earth” approach, or some other set of factors, we should expect Putin to survive the war and to go on to lead a vast Asian juggernaut. Mr. Flurry’s booklet shows that this means some truly dark times lie ahead for Ukraine, Russia and the whole world. But he also emphasizes that this darkness will not last long, and will give way to a hope-filled future. He writes:

Vladimir Putin is a sign, literally a sign, … of 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! … A great transition is about to occur.

To understand the details of these Bible prophecies and what Mr. Flurry calls “the most inspiring message in the Bible,” order your free copy of The Prophesied ‘Prince of Russia.’