During the past two weeks Russia has made a surprise military move into the Middle East, bringing planes, helicopters, tanks and troops into active service in Syria.
This past week White House Press Secretary John Earnest made the following statement:
CNN reported on Wednesday September 23rd:
Russia may be preparing to station troops at two new sites in Syria as it continues its rapid military buildup in the conflict-ravaged nation, a research firm says….
The Jane’s analysts said they had observed “a substantial increase” in Russian combat jets near Latakia, counting four Su-30SM multirole combat aircraft, 12 Su-25 ground attack aircraft, 12 Su-24M attack fighters.
That chimes with an assessment provided to CNN by a U.S. official earlier this week that Russia has more than 25 fighter and attack aircraft, 15 helicopters, nine tanks, three surface-to-air missile systems and at least 500 personnel on the ground in Syria.
The article points out key American figures are sounding the alarm bells against America’s lack of decisive action in the region:
Retired Gen. David Petraeus, the former commander of U.S. forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan, said Tuesday that he believed Moscow was trying to shore up the al-Assad regime in order to preserve Russian influence in the Middle East.
“Russia’s recent military escalation in Syria is a further reminder that when the U.S. does not take the initiative, others will fill the vacuum, often in ways that are harmful to our interest,” Petraeus said before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
This isn’t an insignificant event, as The Hindu reported on September 24th:
President Vladimir Putin seems set for a grand bargain over Syria. Going by reports from U.S. officials and satellite images released by various organisations, including private intelligence companies, Russia has sent offensive aircraft, advanced tanks and hundreds of troops to Syria to defend the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, its ally. The deployment, which represents the largest overseas military presence for Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union, indicates Moscow is preparing for its first major military operation outside its neighbourhood since Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989.
Commenting on the significance of this move the article stated:
This war is not just one between a ruthless dictator and his opponents; it is a complex geopolitical confrontation in which several countries are involved, directly or through proxies…. The question is whether the two powerful groups — the West and its Gulf allies and the Russia-Iran-Syria trio — can find common ground on Syria.
It is very interesting that the writer should identify the groups along scriptural designations defining them as “The West and it’s Gulf allies” which the scriptures indicate as the powers of the King of the South in Daniel and in Ezekiel 38: 13 define them as:
“Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof…” (Ezekiel 38:13)
The other power block described in the article is the Russian-Iran-Syria trio which also is indicated in Daniel as the King of the North and in Ezekiel 38 (NKJV):
“Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh (Russia), Meshech (Moscow), and Tubal (Tubolsk), and prophesy against him…” (v2)
“Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet:” (v5)
The west seems surprised that Russia is all of a sudden bringing its forces into the region. The Huffington Post carried an article on September 9th entitled “The Surprising Resurgence of Russia as a Great Power”, where it stated:
…one of the greatest surprises of all has been the sudden rebirth of Russian power under Vladimir Putin….
Russia has re-established itself as a great power courting authoritarian and often corrupt regimes all over the world….
With its strong military capabilities, Eurasian geographic location, capable leadership, conservative nationalism and resuscitation of old Cold War relationships, Russia has become a major player in the world…
Alone among the major global powers, Russia is on the offensive and willing to intervene to help its allies.
The world has been caught completely by surprise, yet the scriptures warn otherwise, and Bible believers should be well aware that we are heading toward the final conflict that will see Russia’s invasion of the Middle East:
“But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1–4)
How big is the threat?
Many politicians have been celebrating the demise of the Soviet Union, believing the Cold War adversary was defunct. America has been able to assert its role in a veritable vacuum since 1989. However, America is now pulling back from the region, and Russia is awakening and moving back in.
It isn’t eager Bible Prophecy enthusiasts who are sounding the alarm bell. Listen to America’s brass. Here is Ashton Carter, American Secretary of Defense:
“Vladimir Putin’s Russia behaves in many respects… as antagonist. That is new, that is something, therefore, that we need to adjust to and counter…. Russia poses an existential threat to the United States, by virtue simply of the size of the nuclear arsenal it has had.”
Mr. Carter is not alone in his assessment. General Joseph Dunford, Incoming Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman stated the following:
“If you want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to the United States, I would have to point to Russia. If you look at their behavior it is nothing short of Alarming
Added to this is General Mark Milley, U.S. Army Chief of Staff:
“I would put Russia, right now, from a military perspective, as the number one threat.”
The National Post carried an article on September 16, 2015 under the headline “The Russian bear in sheep’s clothing” with the subhead “Why we shouldn’t trust Putin when it comes to Syria”. Even the newspapers can see the mask on the face of the ‘peace loving’ Putin who claims to be fighting terrorism for altruistic and humane reasons.
What Draws Russia Down?
Analysts all over the world are scurrying to explain why Russia is moving into the area. The Bible clearly states that it is God who will draw Russia down:
“And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords: Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet:” (Ezekiel 38:4–5)
The motive is partially economic:
“To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land.” (Ezekiel 38:12)
It is interesting to read the analysis of Russia’s current move in light of the scripture. Yaroslave Trofimov, writing for the Washing Post on Thursday, September 24th stated:
Russia’s return to the Middle East, with its lightning military deployment to Syria, has rekindled memories of the Cold War when Moscow and Washington confronted each other across the region.
An opportunistic pursuit of national interests lies at the heart of Russia’s Middle Eastern strategy. Atop them is the goal of reviving Russia’s economy, dependent on energy exports—and hit by the double whammy of cheap oil and Western economic sanctions imposed after last year’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The Soviet Union was an ideological empire locked in a global confrontation with the West. Russia today is not trying to spread its own model of life—in part because there is no such model,” said Andranik Migranyan, a professor at the Moscow State Institute for International Relations who is close to the Russian leadership. “What’s happening now is Russia pragmatically pursuing its interests.”
“For Russia, the fall in oil prices represents an immediate threat to national security,” said Pavel Baev, a professor at the Peace Research Institute in Oslo and a former Soviet academic. “The only thing that can push up the oil price is the development of the Middle East conflicts. That’s why it’s in Russia’s fundamental interest for the region to remain unstable.”
The pragmatic pursuit of interest is exactly the picture painted by Ezekiel as drawing Russia into the region, gathering its company to take a “spoil” and a “prey.” Michael Oren, author of the book “Six Days in June” made similar observations about the 1967 and 1973 wars:
“The Soviets appeared to want to maintain a low boil in the Middle East, aiming for “tension without explosion,” for “small rather than big trouble.” (p43)
Being a Guard
The other factor that has come out in the news this past week is the goal of Russia in guarding its geo-strategic interests in the region. Russia is propping up the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad and support Iran in the region. The Huffington Post commented:
Alone among the major global powers, Russia is on the offensive and willing to intervene to help its allies…. The United States under President Obama is staging a semi-withdrawal from key areas of the world…. Syrian President Bashar Assad owes his survival to $4-5 billion of Russian military aid as well as Iranian help. Russia played a key role in ensuring a lenient nuclear deal for Iran. Russia is the main weapons supplier to Iran and will build more nuclear power plants like Busheir.
This is in perfect harmony with the words of Ezekiel 38 that describes Russia’s behaviour to its client states at the time of the end where we read in v7:
“Be thou prepared, and prepare for thyself, thou, and all thy company that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them.” (Ezekiel 38:7)
The Beginning of the End
We are not witnessing Armageddon taking place in the Middle East, but the setting of the stage as summarized by the prophets
- Russia is resurgent as an existential threat to world peace
- America is retreating (in measure) from the Middle East, creating a power vacuum
- Russia is being drawn by economic reasons into the region
- Russia is actively arming and guarding its allies
It may well be that the battle with ISIS will serve as the pretense for a Russian presence. The coming battles may bring a greater degree of peace and security to the region, setting the stage for the evil thought Russia will have, and its invasion of Israel.
The power blocks are being assembled in the Middle East according to the words of the prophets penned many years ago.
As Russia prepares itself, we need to prepare ourselves for the stealthy advent and coming of the Lord – which will catch the world by surprise, but should not come upon us as a thief in the night. We continue to watch the Bible in the News.