After the Soviet Union fell in 1991, Russia had no seat at the table of major world affairs. Then came the 2000 Russian elections.
Vladimir Putin took office. Things changed.
The Russian strongman—who called the Soviet implosion the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century—has brought the Russian bear back to power as a force to be reckoned with. And the Europeans have taken sharp notice. They still remember how violent Russia was in World War II—and it now has massive piles of nuclear weapons.
Europe and World War II-foe Germany watched closely as KGB veteran Putin consolidated his own power and then his country’s. In the 2003 parliamentary elections, he staged his own coup, used his presidential powers to manipulate the process, decimated the anti-authoritarian opposition in both chambers and won a two-thirds majority for his United Russia party. He would later consolidate even more power in the Kremlin. Consider modern Russia now post-democratic.
But Putin was about to grab control of something besides his own government: oil. In 2003, the government began pressuring and even arresting the country’s richest energy oligarchs, and taking over their companies at rock-bottom prices. The Kremlin forced foreign companies to sell out or face heavy fines for trumped-up charges.
Energy prices soared from 2003 to 2008, and cash flowed into the world’s second-largest oil supplier, much of it from Europe, which depends heavily on imported Russian energy. Europe soon learned, however, that Russia could also use its energy as a potent weapon.
In the winter of 2005 to 2006, Putin turned off the pipeline to Ukraine for flirting with the EU and the West and demanded far higher prices.
The message was not lost on Germany, Italy and France, who import 90 to 95 percent of their energy and the vast majority of their natural gas.
But the new Russia isn’t afraid of even more overt aggression. In 2007, it launched a massive electronic attack against Internet-reliant Estonia. Later that year, the Russian Air Force resumed Cold War-style nuclear bomber patrols. At the end of his second presidential term in 2008, Putin became prime minister and from there went to outright war on Georgia to keep Western influence away from Russia-controlled energy infrastructure and to maintain Russia’s ability to pull Europe’s plug whenever it pleases.
Russia’s bold moves are triggering a fear within Europe. This is another factor that will hasten the uniting of the European Union. It demands a strong, united response. The powerhouse of Europe, Germany, cannot help but react. Fear will motivate Germany and other European nations to want stronger leadership. Throughout history, Germany has often sought a strong leader. Bible prophecy says it will do so again—for the last time!
Adapted from Russia and China in Prophecy, 2009 edition