Putin’s Rule Is Official Once Again—Now What?

Putin’s Rule Is Official Once Again—Now What?

Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images

The geopolitical stage is set for the Russian leader to take on a new and more dictatorial role.

The final count has Vladimir Putin crushing all his rivals with 63.6 percent of the March 4 vote for the Russian president. Yes, he rigged the elections a little. After all, it is Russia where even if a strongman’s victory is certain he still pulls some levers behind the scenes, if only for the sake of Russian political tradition. But monitoring agencies agree that, even without cheating, Putin would still have garnered about 53 percent of the vote—placing him head-and-shoulders above the second-place contender’s 17 percent.

The bottom line is that Mr. Putin has made his rule of Russia official once again, and Russians, by and large, are happy about it. But that doesn’t mean that Putin is returning to the Kremlin exactly as he left it.

A Cub Growing Up?

At his victory rally in Moscow Square, Putin gently wept (his spokesman insisted his tears were the result of wind, not emotion) as he spoke to multitudes of flag-waving citizens. He said their decision to reelect him was “a sign of Russia’s growing political maturity.” A few days earlier, Dmitry Medvedev (still Russia’s official president until May) said Russian society is growing up.”

So, Russia’s head honcho and the number two man both say the Russian bear is maturing. These comments are noteworthy because change is under way in Russia.

What does it means for Russia and for the world?

A ‘White Rider’ Resurrects a Dead Empire

When Putin took the reins in 2000, Russia had fallen into chaos after the Soviet collapse and resulting financial crisis of 1998. The nation was threatened internally and externally, but the ex-kgb agent aggressively consolidated the country socially, politically and, above all, economically. During Putin’s eight years in the Kremlin, Russia’s industry increased by 76 percent and investments grew by 125 percent. Real incomes of Russian citizens grew by over 100 percent, and the average salary increased a staggering sevenfold from $80 per month to $640. The middle class also swelled from 8 million to more than 55 million, and the percentage of Russians living below the poverty line fell from 30 percent to 14 percent. Moscow’s oil exports steadily climbed throughout Putin’s presidency, and in 2009, Russia overtook Saudi Arabia to become the world’s number one energy exporter.

The advancements were stark, and the nation rallied around Putin as Russia’s “savior,” with many even espousing the belief that he is the sole heartbeat of Russia.

Putin left office in 2008, handing the reins of official leadership to Medvedev. But Putin remained Russia’s de facto ruler throughout Medvedev’s term, and most facets of Russian life continued to improve. Dissatisfaction with Moscow’s leadership began to emerge in some circles, however. The dissatisfaction gave way to some dissent, and many pundits have regarded it as evidence that the “savior Putin” days are over.

Is a ‘Slavic Spring’ Under Way?

The dissent became stark in September of last year when Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev somewhat casually announced that, come election time, they would swap places, returning the presidency to Putin. The anti-democratic nature of the announcement soured the mood of some Russians, and the popularity of Putin’s United Russia party slid. In the December 2011 parliamentary election, United Russia lost its supermajority in the Duma. The week after the vote, demonstrations against alleged election rigging started stirring and coalesced in a December 24 rally of over 80,000 protesters.

Some nations, especially the United States, are fascinated by the volatility and strive to paint it as evidence that Putin and the Russian bear are weakening. Western groups have openly supported the anti-Kremlin movements, and Western journalists have rushed to interview Russia’s minority of smart, English-speaking, self-confident opposition supporters—while ignoring the less-affluent majority. In one instance revealing Western media’s exaggeration of Russia’s protests, Fox News “accidentally” aired video footage of fierce riots in Athens, Greece, while reporting on a peaceful rally in Moscow.

The truth is that the various anti-Kremlin protest groups have never blended into a unified force that could threaten Putin’s reelection. The demonstrators—everything from free-market reformers and radical feminists to unapologetic Communists and far-right ultranationalists—are not at all linked in their ideologies or goals. Despite Western attempts to paint Russia’s protest movements as signs of a “Slavic Spring,” the hodgepodge is far less like the effectual Middle Eastern uprisings than it is like the flaccid Occupy Wall Street movement.

The Russians who hate Putin are mostly from among the urban elite in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and they loudly criticize him from atop their ivory towers. But the average low-income Russians in Omsk, Dagestan and Chechnya and beyond continue to view Putin as Russia’s savior. They are the silent majority who made their support inescapably clear during last week’s elections. These politically silent masses have seen their incomes dramatically increase since 2000, and they can’t but attribute their improved standard of living to Putin’s leadership.

Russia is still overwhelmingly supportive of the white rider who lifted the nation from the doldrums of the Soviet collapse. But has that white rider now served his purpose?

The Russian Cycle

A look back through the annals of Russian history reveal that the country operates on a four-phase cycle. First comes a national calamity—usually the result of foreign invasion or poor internal planning. Second, from out of the ruins emerges an idealistic “white rider” ushering in an era of the thing Russians crave most: national stability. Third, after the white rider succumbs to political frustration, he hands the reins of rulership to a dark rider—bent on internal control and external aggression. The dark rider ruthlessly quashes domestic opposition and expands Russia’s unsecurable borders until the overextended empire collapses into the final phase: stagnation and decline. It declines until finally collapsing into the first phase of calamity once again, and so the cycle goes.

Where is Russia in its cycle now?

In the 1990s, Russia suffered great national calamity with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Then, Putin emerged as the heroic white rider to resuscitate the dying bear. But Russia’s changing landscape indicates that the white rider phase is rapidly coming to its end.

So, does this mean White Rider Putin is soon to be replaced by another Russian ruler—a dark rider? Or does Mr. Putin have something else in mind?

In 2007, as it became clear that Putin would be installing a puppet ruler in the Kremlin while he plotted his return to official rule, Stratfor wrote this about the Russian cycle: “Russia’s current white horse period is coming to an end. Putin’s efforts to stabilize Russia have succeeded, but his dreams of Westernizing Russia are dead. The darkness is about to set in. … In particularly gloomy periods in Russia’s past (which is saying something) the white rider himself actually has shed his idealism and become the dark rider.”

These were sobering words in 2007, and much more so now that Putin has confirmed all suspicions that his departure from the Kremlin was temporary and largely artificial.

Even during Putin’s white rider days, his economic sunshine often cast dark political shadows. He restructured Russia’s political architecture to amass his personal power, he created policies whereby the Kremlin can prevent whomever it pleases from participating in politics, and he altered the constitution to expand presidential terms from four years to six—just in time for his next term. Putin is no stranger to corruption, and now the stage is set for him to exchange his white robes for black.

Putin is well aware of Russia’s changing political landscape. It may not be “maturing” as he and Medvedev recently said it is, but it is changing, and he will use the change to his advantage. Last month, Stratfor wrote this of the shift under way in Russia:

[M]uch of the generation now coming of age was not raised under the Soviet Union or during the chaotic years immediately following its collapse. An extremist brand of nationalism has also risen across the country, leading more Russians to have no interest in a balanced government. … Now [Putin] is beginning to form a strategy to deal with the crises in the short term and formulate long-term political and social policies to take into account the shifts in Russia.

In 2004, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry explained that the most significant aspect of Russia’s resurgence would be its catalytic effect on European unification:

A more dictatorial Russian government is coming fast …. That power will be able to challenge Europe, when nobody else can, including the U.S. … Russian elections have recently moved President Vladimir Putin much closer to becoming a dictator. This strikes intense fear in Europe. The Europeans still remember how violent Russia was in World War ii, and Russia is a close neighbor with massive piles of nuclear weapons. … The Russian election is triggering a fear that will hasten the uniting of the European Union. The Russian election will cause Germany and other European nations to want a stronger leader. Throughout history, Germany has often sought a strong leader. Bible prophecy says it will do so again—for the last time!

As Vladimir Putin enters into the Kremlin once again, he does so with more power than any Russian has had since the collapse of communism. And the stage is set for him to take on a new and much more dictatorial role. History proves that once a dark rider becomes Russia’s ruler, he pulls out all stops in order to achieve national security: Domestic challengers are crushed, economic life is completely subjugated to Moscow’s needs, and Russia’s military is built up with the goal of securing and expanding the nation’s borders. Putin has long been working to rebuild Russia’s influence in its former Soviet periphery, and analysts believe his reelection will intensify these efforts. Such “dark rider” ambitions in Moscow will frighten Russia’s European neighbors, and hasten their unification.

Although these trends have sobering implications for the short term, Bible prophecy makes plain that they immediately precede the most hope-filled event ever to occur: the return of Jesus Christ! To understand how today’s headlines about Russia intricately connect to this awesome future, read Russia and China in Prophecy.

Shale-Shocked: Hydraulic Fracking Turns Into a Curse

Shale-Shocked: Hydraulic Fracking Turns Into a Curse

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America’s need for energy is growing, and it is running out of good options.

Ever feel like America is cursed? Take our addiction to fossil fuels. It’s a conundrum. America desperately needs an inexpensive and clean source of energy. America has plenty of coal—it even has oil—but they are dirty. Conversely, America has geothermal, wind and solar, but most of it is comparatively expensive.

Lately, natural gas has been hailed as an energy savior. But is it?

America has been harvesting traditional sources of natural gas for decades. At one time it was so abundant and cheap that when energy companies drilled an oil well and accidentally encountered natural gas, they would burn it to get rid of the worthless stuff.

But demand for natural gas grew. By 2006, prices reached $15 per cubic meter. Five short years later, however, they have crashed to nearly $2. During this time, the energy industry was thrown into chaos. Companies floundered. Others skyrocketed in value.

What happened?

America got its wish. It found a cleaner and abundant source of energy: shale gas. Coal prices plummeted, and mines closed as utilities switched to the cheaper and cleaner fuel to produce electricity.

A technological advance called hydraulic fracturing (fracking for short) allowed energy companies to harvest shale gas (a type of natural gas) trapped deep within the earth. It changed the United States into a natural gas superpower. Recent estimates indicate America now has as much economically recoverable natural gas as Saudi Arabia. It is enough, experts say, to power America’s current electricity needs for 100 years or more.

Six years ago, who would have thought that America would be planning on exporting natural gas to other countries? What a blessing, right?

Not so fast. As it turns out, there is a catch. And the catch is big.

Unlike in conventional gas fields where the gas is trapped in bubble-like caverns, shale gas is trapped in billions and billions of tiny pores dispersed throughout the shale. To get the gas, energy companies literally blast apart the underground formations to create billions of tiny fractures for the gas to escape.

In each high-volume hydraulic fracking event, anywhere from 1 to 8 million gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals are forced into the underground shale formation to crack it and keep it open. Approximately half of the water-chemical mix will flow back up the well, is considered industrial waste, and needs to be disposed of. Each well may go through up to 10 fracking events in its lifetime.

Eighty million gallons of water—per well. Currently, more than 150,000 wells have undergone hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania alone. And analysts say shale gas drilling is only getting started.

That’s a lot of water—a lot of polluted, unusable water.

The gas industry describes fracking fluids as containing ingredients like soap and oil. However, because recipes are highly guarded secrets, the public never knows what is in them until an accident happens. Samples from some spills have revealed that the fluids contain more than 200 different chemicals, many of which have been linked to cancer and birth defects. USA Today reports that municipal waste water systems can’t handle the chemicals in the waste water, which can contain radioactive elements.

Instead of paying to clean up this polluted water, gas companies instead chose to bury it in the ground. There are about 144,000 disposal wells in the U.S., into which about 2 billion gallons of waste fracking water are injected daily. This is the new “safer” disposal method. Previously, gas companies just let the polluted water sit in lagoons until it seeped away.

Water is a precious commodity. Only 3 percent of the world’s water is fresh. Most is locked away in glaciers and icecaps. Of the water that is available, the vast majority is in the ground. But it is unevenly distributed.

Groundwater is a huge blessing for America. It makes much of America agriculturally habitable. It is why ranchers can run cattle and farmers grow crops in parts of the country considered desert. It is what sets apart Arizona from parts of North Africa.

America’s groundwater is so precious that President Obama supposedly cancelled the proposed Transcanada pipeline because it transversed the important Ogallala water aquifer. The risk of contamination was just too great, he said. There are thousands of pipelines already dissecting it, but one more is one too many.

Yet with hydraulic fracking, America is not only purposefully polluting huge amounts of water to frack rock formations, but it is then purposefully disposing the wastewater by pumping it back down other wells—and potentially into contact with groundwater aquifers. And once groundwater gets polluted, it can take generations to clean it up.

Of course, gas companies will tell you that fracking fluid does not escape into the environment or pollute groundwater supplies. James Northrup, a former manager for oil company arco, calls that theory “junk science.” He says that 25 percent of frack wells leak after five years and 40 percent after eight. “Everybody in the industry knows that gas drilling pollutes groundwater,” he says. “It’s not … whether they leak. It’s how much.”

The shale gas blessing has turned into a curse.

Most people probably don’t believe in curses today. Yet the more you look at America—the economic collapse despite astounding natural resources, the crazy weather, the military defeats by nations fractions of our size, and so on—it is getting harder and harder to believe anything else.

If you believe the Bible, you know that God promises blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. The curses are getting harder and harder to discount. Don’t be shale-shocked if they keep on coming.

I Was Sacked for Intelligent Design, Says NASA Scientist

I Was Sacked for Intelligent Design, Says NASA Scientist

NASA

Former team leader of the Cassini mission to Saturn, David Coppedge, claims he was demoted and eventually lost his job because he preached intelligent design to his co-workers, according to a court case in Los Angeles Superior Court. Opening statements were held March 12, after Coppedge was demoted from his job as team leader at nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (jpl) in 2009 and then lost his job in 2011.

“It’s part of a pattern. There is basically a war on anyone who dissents from Darwin, and we’ve seen that for several years,” said John West from the Discovery Institute, who is supporting Coppedge’s case. “This is free speech, freedom of conscience 101.”

Josh Rosenau, programs and policy director at the National Center for Science Education, which promotes the teaching of evolution in public schools, disagrees. “It looks like a pretty straightforward case,” he said. “The mission that he was working on was winding down, and he was laid off.”

Coppedge says his conversations about intelligent design and distribution of dvds on the subject, along with protesting the naming of the annual party a “Holiday Party” instead of a “Christmas Party,” and his opposition to homosexual “marriage,” led to his demotion. jpl said he was officially warned after his co-workers complained he was harassing them, and that he was demoted because of conflicts with other staff.

Israel, Gaza Strip Erupt in Violence

Cross-border violence has erupted between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The fighting so far has killed 21 Gazans, including 18 terrorists, and two Israelis have been seriously wounded.

The outbreak started when Israel killed a top Palestinian militant leader on Friday. Since then, Palestinians in Gaza have shot more than 240 rockets at Israel, according to the Israeli government. The Israel Defense Forces have responded with nine air attacks against rocket-launching sites and a weapons storage facility.

Although the violence shows no immediate signs of subsiding, both Hamas and Israel seem inclined to avoid a repeat of the warfare that erupted in Gaza three years ago during Operation Cast Lead.

As it has since that conflict, Hamas continues to stay out of the current clashes for fear of provoking a harsh Israeli retaliation.

While the current outbreak of violence in Gaza may be more or less contained, continue to watch the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This ongoing clash—along with its equally dangerous “peace process”—will ultimately lead to an explosion of war that will engulf Israel and spark another world war.

Lone U.S. Soldier Kills Afghan Villagers

A U.S. soldier murdered 16 Afghan villagers on March 11, according to numerous reports. The veteran army staff sergeant left his base in southern Afghanistan and walked to a village where he methodically shot Afghan civilians, including women and children. He appears to have made no attempt to conceal his actions.

President Obama called Afghan President Hamid Karzai to express his condolences, and nato officials have apologized for the shootings.

The relationship between the United States and Afghanistan is already shaky. Last month, six U.S. soldiers were murdered by Afghan soldiers who were supposedly their allies. The killings were apparently a retaliation against Americans burning copies of the Koran at Bagram Air Field on February 20.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also gave her condolences during a previously planned one-day trip to visit German troops in Afghanistan on March 12. While there, Merkel said that after Germany withdraws in 2014, it will continue to help reconstruct Afghanistan.

This latest round of violence has damaged America’s international image, and it will likely hasten an early U.S. withdrawal in 2013. On the other end of the spectrum, Germany’s international prestige is on the rise. Watch for Berlin to continue filling the leadership vacuum that America is leaving behind.

The Power of the Two Marios

The Power of the Two Marios

Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images

Two Jesuit-educated technocrats, Mario Draghi and Mario Monti, hold sway amid Europe’s crisis.

It was hardly headline news outside of Europe, yet the most recent European Union summit was one of the most historic and prophetically significant for some time.

“A new treaty to impose greater fiscal discipline on eurozone members and eight others (but not Britain or the Czech Republic) was signed today after being negotiated in record time” (EU Observer, March 2).

In fact, given the reality that this treaty is by deliberate design of the German elites presently charting the course of the European financial crisis, one could even muse that this treaty was signed according to blitzkrieg timing.

Ever the subject of bickering and arguing when this fiscal union was first mooted by Germany, it is amazing how, when push came to shove, 25 disparate EU member nations—including eight not even part of the eurozone—rolled over like Rover and supinely yielded to the will of Berlin.

In the wake of the signing of this latest EU treaty, the press and mass media in Europe reported that Europe as a whole, and as a consequence the world, breathed somewhat easier. The banking sector was stabilized for the moment and the stock markets commenced an upswing.

Yet, the hidden reality here is that there’s another power in action behind the scenes exerting great influence on the European, and thus the world, economy to which few are paying any real attention at this juncture.

EU Observer noted that “If Europe can breathe more easily it is thanks in large part to two Italians called Mario. First, Italy’s technocratic prime minister, Mario Monti, has started to pull Italy back from the brink through budget cuts and structural reforms.

“More importantly, Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, has administered a double shot of financial morphine—cheap three-year loans to any eurozone bank that asks for the money—that has eased the acute pain” (ibid).

The power and the influence of these two Jesuit-educated sons of Rome—and, even more importantly, the spirit that moves them—in crafting Europe’s financial and economic future is not yet fully realized by most commentators.

Some time ago we pointed our readers to these two men and advocated watching them closely. What the two Marios represent is the beginning of a change in the leadership of Europe from a Franco-German nexus to a Romano-German leadership.

This is powerfully prophetic.

As EU Observer notes, “Mr. Monti wants to break the Franco-German duumvirate.” To do this he is “building alliances with northern liberals on the issue of the single market.”

By referencing the “single market” concept, Monti is signaling that he will be pushing for the old Common Market idea, on which the EU was built, to be further crafted into a centrally controlled market. “Mario Monti, the Italian prime minister, says that as well as a ‘fiscal compact’ the EU needs an ‘economic compact’” (ibid).

You see the progression here. The strategy is being brilliantly played out by EU elites, while the world at large remains blindingly ignorant of the grave danger it ultimately poses to global stability. A danger that poses the greatest of threats to the Anglo-Saxon nations.

Consider.

The elites forced monetary union on the majority of EU member nations in a devious plan that, as Bernard Connolly has clearly proved, was set up to deliberately fail. The inevitable failure of monetary union would force the eurozone nations to become dependent on Europe’s most powerful nation—the very nation that crafted the concept of monetary union—for financial bailout. The bailouts would come with conditions attached which would leave EU member nations ultimately yielding up control of their economies to the diktat of Berlin. This it would do via the enforcement of a fiscal union.

With the fiscal union now blitzkrieged into place, this leaves the way clear for the negotiation of yet another EU treaty—the one that Mario Monti is now touting—an “economic compact,” opening the way for the creation of a command economy centrally controlled by EU elites.

If you truly understand Bible prophecy for these times, your mind will already be turning to Revelation 17:12-13 and 13:17.

Those prophecies foreshadow the rise of a northern power bloc of 10 nations, in a “compact” with an overarching “duumvirate” consisting of an economic-politico-military power and an overriding spiritual power, operating as though with one mind with the single-minded purpose of global domination.

Decades before it became a present-day reality, we long identified Germany as the leading economic-politico-military power that would lead this European combine. Now a plethora of secular headlines declare that fact. The Fourth Reich is a reality in substance, if not yet in fully asserting its power.

But what has not been so apparent is the behind-the-scenes influence of Rome.

Since the appointment of the two Marios to highly influential positions within the EU last year, the power of Rome’s influence over the EU and its financial-economic structure is becoming highly evident.

Once more we reiterate, watch the two Marios. They are in the vanguard of Rome’s push for spiritual dominance over the Eurobeast.

As you watch, remember the words of that visionary servant of God who long ago declared of the rising European power: “It has started already, through the economic Common Market and the recently implemented ems (European Monetary System). Its leaders talk continually of political union—which means, also, military. So far they have been unable to bring about full political union. This will be made possible by the ‘good offices’ of the Vatican, who alone can be the symbol of unity to which they can look. Two popes already have offered their ‘good offices’ toward such union” (The United States and Britain in Prophecy).

A third pope, a German pope, is now stepping up the initiating of the further “good offices” of the Vatican via his publicly announced program for an aggressive “new evangelization” of Europe, garnering the wayward back into Rome’s fold in Europe.

As France fades into the background in the leadership of the European Union, watch for Rome to increasingly strengthen its bonds with Germany and rapidly come to the fore in partnership with Berlin to bring about the rise of the “king of the north” to full power—church and state—as exactly prophesied in your Bible.

As you watch these events unfold, keep in mind what a powerful sign they are of the very imminence of the return of Jesus Christ. He will not only subdue this “king of the north,” as your Bible prophesies, at His return. He will overcome any and all resistance to Almighty God by each and every nation through the imposition of His Kingdom, under His law, and establish peace among all nations, universally forever!