The Russian Bear--Where Is It Headed?
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Under international law, the nations ringing the Arctic—Russia, Canada, the United States, Norway, and Denmark (which owns Greenland)—are limited to a 200-mile economic zone around their coasts. In direct defiance of other nations, and the International Seabed Authority currently administering the zone, Russian President Vladimir Putin recently ordered his Navy to place a marker on the seabed near the North Pole in order to lay claim to the area for Russia.
One newspaper printed a map of the "new addition" for Russia—a triangle five times the size of Britain! Why is Putin interested in claiming this region? The obvious answer is that the reserves of oil and gas in that triangle are at least twice as large as those of Saudi Arabia.
The London Daily Mail reported that in a recent speech Putin stated that he "... wants a strong Russia, and Western dependence on it for oil and gas supplies is a key part of his strategy. He no longer cares if it upsets the West" (29 June 2007).
Only days after this stunning defiance of the West by Putin, Russian long range bombers resumed making cold-war style reconnaissance flights near the borders of other nations—especially the US and Europe. These flights had been halted in 1992 because Russia could not afford the fuel.
Today, however, Russian coffers are full of petrodollars. Putin is using much of the new revenue to rebuild his military. At joint military exercises with China and four Central Asian states last month, Putin stated, "We have decided to restore flights by Russian strategic aviation on a permanent basis" and he put the blame on other nations for his action.
What is going on in Russia? Should we be concerned about it?
Putin is frequently accused of rolling back the fledgling democracy left by Boris Yeltsin, replacing it with autocratic rule. Russia has returned to the Soviet-style control of most industries, especially television, banking and oil.
By expelling critics of his policies from public office Putin has succeeded in reshaping the Russian parliament into a rubber stamp of his political views. He now is overtly trying to project Russian power around the world, even though the nation he controls is in rapid decline from within.
Russia has one of the lowest birth rates of any nation on earth. According to the Federal State Statistics Service, Russia had a birth rate of less than 1.17 births per woman in 2004 (2.4 is needed to maintain population levels). Russia is quickly becoming a much smaller and older nation.
Abortion is a big cause of the problem. The abortion rate in Russia is staggering. BBC news reported that in 2003 Russia had "13 terminations for every 10 live births." Some published reports indicate that 70% of all pregnancies are terminated and that the average Russian woman will have between five and seven abortions during her lifetime.
Putin is aware of the baby crisis. He has offered cash incentives and family subsidies to mothers who have a second child. However, when interviewed about having additional children, Russian women say it is difficult to find a decent husband, nearly impossible to find a place to live, and challenging to get enough food to eat. Life is so difficult that much of Russia's educated population would prefer to emigrate to Western Europe or the United States if possible.
From one perspective oil revenues are bringing enormous wealth to the Russian state. But the Russian people are benefiting very little from it. Instead it is being poured into military expansion, making the rest of the world very nervous.
Bible prophecy doesn't specifically identify Russia's role in world events at the time of the end. But Russia's past history, its current emphasis on military expansion and its close relationship with radical Islamic states whose governments support terrorist organizations send troubling signals to the rest of the world.
God reveals in the writings of Daniel a series of events prophesied to happen in rapid succession shortly before Christ returns. An alliance of ten Western nations, identified in Revelation as "the beast," will be provoked by another alliance (probably including mostly Islamic states) led by a "king of the south" (Daniel 11:40). Is Russia today unwittingly linking its future to that coming Middle Eastern alliance and its crushing defeat by the more powerful European-based "beast" described in the book of Revelation?