Posted August 21, 2008
Without question Russia's recent moves have made the world a more dangerous place. Could this threat transform Europe from mostly a powerful trading block to the world's dominant military power predicted by Bible prophecy?
While the world was distracted by the 2008 summer games in Beijing, Russia suddenly invaded Georgia, a staunch Western ally and possible future NATO member.
What's behind Russia's muscle flexing?
Russian policy, since Joseph Stalin's time, has been to encourage Russians to resettle in its satellite states. This created the current situation in Georgia where two provinces—Abkhazia and South Ossetia (North Ossetia is part of the Russian Federation)—have large ethnic Russian populations.
Russia used these populations to foment unrest—including regular artillery exchanges between South Ossetians and the Georgian military—to essentially lure the Georgian government into a trap. When Georgian troops moved into South Ossetia on Aug. 7 in response to recent provocations, Russian armored columns and aircraft quickly poured in to counterattack. Within two days they fully controlled the province.
But that wasn't enough. On Aug. 11 Russian forces drove forward from Abkhazia, Georgia's other province with a large Russian population, while others drove south from South Ossetia, cutting the country in half by capturing its main east-west highway and rail route. And while a cease-fire agreement was signed on Aug. 14 calling for both sides to pull back to pre-war positions, at the time of this writing the Russians were digging in and appeared to have no intention of leaving.
Russia seems determined to show its former Eastern Bloc allies who's boss in the region. As Josef Joffe, publisher-editor of Die Ziet and a fellow of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford, wrote in his Aug. 12 piece in The Wall Street Journal titled "Welcome Back to the 19th Century":
"Moscow has unleashed a cyberwar against tiny Estonia, formerly a Soviet republic. It has threatened the Czech Republic and Poland with nuclear targeting if they host U.S. antimissile hardware on their soil that could not possibly threaten Russia's retaliatory potential. It has exploited small price disputes (normally resolved by lawyers screaming at each other) to stop gas deliveries and thus show Ukraine, Belarus and former Warsaw Pact members who runs [things]."
A strong message to Europe
In Russia, these actions demonstrate that Prime Minister Putin still calls the shots, though he has given up the presidency to his protégé Medvedev.
With his invasion of Georgia, Putin is sending a message not only to former Russian allies, but also to Europe. Joseph Joffe states, "Georgia is the 'last of the independents,' so to speak, a critical conduit of oil and gas that goes around Russia into the Black Sea and (with a planned gas pipeline) via Turkey into the Mediterranean. It is no accident that Russian planes are bombing throughout the country, and narrowly 'missed' pipelines. The message to the West is: 'You don't really want to invest in energy here.'"
Many European nations, Germany in particular, are dependent on imported Russian natural gas to power their economies and keep them from freezing in winter. Outside of Europe and Russia itself, few people realize that the country is the world's single greatest energy producer. It also controls crucial pipelines to Europe and has already threatened to shut off essential supplies.
With Russia controlling the oil and gas spigots, Europeans are highly vulnerable. As Joffe puts it: "If Moscow gains control over Georgia, it is 'good night, and good luck' to Europe. All of its gas and oil bought in Eurasia (minus the Middle East) will pass through Russian hands in one way or the other."
The Russian military has been a major beneficiary of Russia's skyrocketing oil and natural gas revenues. According to The Guardian 's columnist Simon Tisdall: "Russia's bullish plans, unveiled this week, to build up to six aircraft carrier battle groups and upgrade its nuclear submarine fleet are part of a worrying trend. They provide further evidence that Moscow's military revival ... may in time pose some unwelcome challenges for Europeans determined to believe the days of east-west confrontation are over" (July 31, 2008).
What's on the horizon?
Without question Russia's recent moves have made the world a more dangerous place. In his Aug. 17, 2008, article "Moscow Has Blown Away Soft Power" The Sunday Telegraph' s Edward Luttwak pointed out: "This is not a game and participation is not voluntary . . . The decision on whether to confront Russia is an enormously tough one. But that decision will have to be made. It means that Europe's holiday from serious geopolitics is over" (emphasis added).