A Czar is born.
(Washington, D.C.) — Recently, I was criticized for describing Vladimir Putin as a “Czar” and a danger to the U.S., Europe and Israel. On that charge, I plead guilty.
I do believe Putin is a Czar, and I believe he sees himself that way. It’s a case I’ve been making going back at least as far as 2004.
In the fall of 2006, I published my first non-fiction book, Epicenter. Chapter Seven was titled: “Future Headline: A Czar Rises In Russia, Raising Fears of a New Cold War.” (I’ve included excerpts from that chapter below.)
We are certainly seeing such headlines and commentaries today. Consider a brief sampling:
- Czar Vladimir’s Illusions — by Mikheil Saakashvili , who was president of Georgia from 2004 to 2013. He is now senior statesman at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
- Vladimir Putin: A 21st-Century Czar (Globe & Mail)
- A czar rises in Russia, as Putin humiliates Obama (Washington Times)
- “Mr. Putin is a simple man: He likes to hunt, fish and ride horses bareback. Those who cross him end up in cages in Siberia — or worse. Employing Machiavellian principles, he has become, over the past 15 years, a neo-czar.” — Cliff May, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies
- “By now virtually all Western policy makers and analysts agree that Vladimir Putin is pursuing a neo-Czarist policy. Like the Czars in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and, for that matter, like the United States, Putin is slowly expanding his country’s borders, exploiting his neighbor’s weaknesses and responding to call for support from his ethnic confreres in those countries.” — Dov Zakheim, former U.S. Undersecretary of Defense (The National Interest)
That said, let me be clear that it is too early to say that Vladimir Putin is in any way connected to the figure of “Gog” that Bible prophecy speaks of building a Russian alliance with Iran and other nations in the “last days” to surround and attack Israel. Such prophecies are found in Ezekiel 38 & 39. At this point, I cannot rule out the possibility that Putin could eventually prove to be “Gog,” but much more would have to happen before we could fairly draw such a conclusion.
Nevertheless, Putin poses a serious threat to U.S. and allied interests.
SELECTED PAST BLOG COLUMNS ABOUT PUTIN:
- March 1, 2104 — PUTIN SEIZES CRIMEA. We are watching a Czar rise. Russian Senate authorizes Putin to use force in Ukraine. Russian troops on the move. Debate warns of “apocalyptic consequences.” Biggest test for Obama presidency.
- December 23, 2013 — What has Czar Putin been up to in recent weeks? Where is he headed in 2014? — “Vladmir Putin sees himself not so much as Russia’s president but as an old-time Czar for the modern age. All knowing. All powerful. Unchecked power. Determined to expand his territory and grow his power and personal wealth. This is what makes him so dangerous.”
- July 24, 2013 — Putin heading to Tehran to strengthen Russian-Iranian alliance. A look back at his historic 2007 trip — “To misunderstand the nature and threat of evil is to risk being blindsided by it. A new evil is rising in the world. Ahmadinejad is the new Hitler. Putin is a new Czar. Yet the West seems to be asleep to the implications of this dangerous new alliance.”
- March 27, 2012 — RUSSIAN CZAR PUTIN SET TO VISIT ISRAEL IN JUNE: WHY?
- March 5, 2012 — A CZAR IS BORN: PUTIN RETAKES POWER IN RUSSIA
- March 1, 2012 — NEW CZAR RISING: Russia’s election on March 4 may prove a bigger deal than our own.
- September 26, 2011 — PUTIN SET TO RE-EMERGE AS THE CZAR OF RUSSIA: Will run for President March 4, 2012
- October 19, 2007 — “To misunderstand the nature and threat of evil is to risk being blindsided by it. A new evil is rising in the world. Ahmadinejad is the new Hitler. Putin is a new Czar. Yet the West seems to be asleep to the implications of this dangerous new alliance.”
- September 1, 2004 — “The image Putin has tried to cast is one of stability. Elect me and I will be tough—tough on the terrorists, tough on the billionaire oligarchs, tough on the Russian mafia. Yes, I will take away your freedoms and ignore the democratic reformers. But you need me because I will keep Russia from falling apart. But in talks with leading political analysts here . . . we hear again and again a common theme: was the deal the people made with Putin so wise?Personal freedoms are evaporating. Putin is centralizing all power to himself. He is becoming a new Czar for a new Russia.” (excerpt from a blog I wrote; that “BlogSpot” site no longer exists, but I quote that blog in Epicenter, see p. 92.)
EXCERPTS FROM CHAPTER SEVEN OF EPICENTER:
In September I was in Russia for ten days doing research for my next novel. I met with a senior member of the State Duma (legislature), senior officials at the U.S. Embassy, leading Russian political analysts, and the New York Times’ Moscow bureau chief and an economic reporter for the Times.
To each one, I tossed out a possible scenario: a fascist, ultra-nationalist coup in Moscow leads to the assassination of the democratically elected leader of Russia and leaves a nuclear-armed dictator in power itching for a dangerous new confrontation with the West. One by one, each told me there was no need for a coup; the dictator is already in place. And so he is.
Over the past eighteen months or so, Vladimir Putin has steadily turned the clock back on Russian democracy, centralizing power back in the Kremlin and slowly morphing himself into an all-powerful Czar.
He has nationalized Russian television networks; thrown political opponents in prison on suspect charges; all but threatened to seize and nationalize one of Russia’s largest petroleum companies; announced Russia’s governors will no longer be popularly elected but rather appointed by the Kremlin; and steadfastly supported a presidential candidate in Ukraine even after international observers protested the candidate was trying to steal the election.
Meanwhile, Putin is selling nuclear power plants, fuel, and technology to Iran—the most dangerous state sponsor of terrorism on the planet—has announced a 40% increase in the Russian military budget, and just announced the development of a new class of Russian strategic nuclear missiles.
“We are not only conducting research and successful testing of the newest nuclear missile systems,” Putin told commanders at the Ministry of Defense, according to the New York Times (11/17/04). “I am certain that in the immediate years to come we will be armed with them. These are such developments and such systems that other nuclear states do not have and will not have in the immediate years to come.”
The Times added that the Russian military “is widely reported to have been trying to perfect land- and sea-based ballistic missiles with warheads that could elude a missile-defense system like the one being constructed by the Bush administration.”
Which brings us to today.
During a speech in India, Putin lashed out at Washington, accusing the Bush administration of seeking a “dictatorship of international affairs.
“Even if dictatorship is wrapped up in a beautiful package of pseuo-democratic phraseology, it will not be in a position to solve systemic problems,” Putin said in New Delhi.
To be sure, the situation in Russia isn’t nearly as bad today as it was during the Cold War. And Putin has done some things right; he has, for example, been supportive of U.S. efforts in the war on terror; has permitted U.S. and NATO planes to fly over Russian territory to support war efforts in Afghanistan; opposed but didn’t directly attempt to block the U.S.-led war against Iraq; and his 13% flat tax plan, among other pro-market economic reforms, has, in fact, helped the Russian economy grow significantly in recent years and attract U.S. and Western foreign investment and companies.
That said, however, the trend lines are disturbing. Russia is lurching back in the wrong direction. Putin is a dictator in the making.