(Washington, D.C.) — The Russian Bear is back.
A growing number of journalists, political leaders, and foreign policy analysts are noting that Vladimir Putin is aggressively positioning himself as a new and increasingly influential force on the global stage generally, and in the Middle East, in particular.
Consider recent headlines:
- Russia re-emerges as Mideast player (Associated Press)
- Putin shoves Obama aside as he seizes Syria agenda (New York Times)
- Syrian weapons deal helps Putin and Assad, say Russian observers (Los Angeles Times)
- Vladimir Putin New York Times op-ed sparks tension ahead of talks
- Sen. John McCain: Russia deserves better than Putin as president (UPI)
- Putin plans to diminish U.S., Obama (Clifford May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies)
Are such headlines warranted? I believe they are. The Russian leader had actually been fairly quiet over the last several years. But he is suddenly re-asserting himself in international affairs with a boldness and an arrogance we have not seen in some time. Consider his moves just in recent days:
- Putin has announced he will soon make a state visit to Iran to further strengthen Russian ties to the Persian power.
- Putin and his team are hinting they will increase arms sales to Iran
- ‘Russia to sell Iran anti-aircraft system, nuclear reactor’: S-300 deal said back on track; Moscow legislator threatens further weapons sales to Tehran if US strikes Syria
- Putin blames Israel for the Syrian stockpile of chemical weapons — “Putin said on Thursday that Israel’s alleged nuclear weapons stockpile only serves to make the Jewish state “a target” and creates ‘foreign policy problems.’ Putin’s comments…came in response to questions from reporters on the US and Russia-brokered deal to put Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal under international supervision,” reported the Jerusalem Post.
- Amidst a growing movement at the United Nations to force Israel to disclose and destroy its alleged stockpiles of nuclear and chemical weapons, Putin seems to be positioning himself to be the “peace-maker” in the Middle East, the one trying to rid the epicenter of WMD, and thus a sharp critic of Israel’s unwillingness to discuss what strategic weapons systems it may or may not have. (shades of The Ezekiel Option?)
- Putin convinced Obama to strike a deal with Syria regarding chemical weapons, even though he says he’s not 100% sure Assad will actually comply — many analysts believe Putin has played the American President, prevented an American military strike, and protected Assad, a key Russian ally, from being toppled.
- Putin: Russia to reopen Soviet-era Arctic military base
- Putin has announced he is considering running for a 4th term — that would make him modern Russia’s longest serving leader since Stalin, but why announce this now when elections are not until 2018?
Such moves fit a clearly emerging pattern. As I recently mentioned in this blog, Putin smells blood in the water — he has used the Syrian crisis to seize global leadership from Obama. Consider some of the other moves he has made in recent weeks:
- granted former-NSA contractor Edward Snowden asylum in Russia and refused to extradite him to the U.S.
- hosted the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia
- insisted Obama and U.S. has no evidence of chemical weapons being used by the Assad regime
- called Kerry a liar
- moved Russian warships into the Med
- promised to resupply Assad in case of war with the U.S.
Where is all this headed? What are Putin’s objectives? What will he do next? It’s hard to say at the moment, but Putin’s moves are troubling and it’s important to be watching him closely.
Some are asking me if Putin’s moves are leading us rapidly to the fulfillment of Bible prophecies, such as those found in Ezekiel chapters 38 & 39, what Bible scholars call the coming “War of Gog & Magog.” In such prophecies, a Russian dictator forms an alliance with Iran and other Middle Eastern and North African countries to attack Israel in the “last days” of history before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Others are asking me if Putin is “Gog,” the Russian dictator of whom Ezekiel writes. My answer is that it is too early to draw such conclusions. Putin is certainly Gog-esque. That is, he is making moves that would be consistent with the preparing for the fulfillment of Ezekiel prophecies. That said, we must be cautious. We simply don’t have enough data yet to draw conclusions. It is important not to overreach. Perhaps someone far worse is going to emerge to lead Russia. Perhaps the fulfillment of the Gog & Magog prophecies is still many years off.
The important thing is to:
- help more Christians and non-Christians become aware of the prophecies of Ezekiel 38-39
- keep a close eye on Putin and his colleagues in the Kremlin
- watch particularly to see if Putin intensifies his alliance with Iran, and begins taking the lead in denouncing Israel and calling for Israel to be disarmed
- pray for Putin and for the people of Russia
- continue praying for Netanyahu and the people of Israel
- pray for the Khamenei, Rouhani and the people of Iran
- encourage and strengthen the Church in the Middle East and in Russia, so that they can be a light in the darkness right now, regardless of how soon or faraway the prophecies will come to pass.
“Vladimir Putin has accepted an Iranian invitation to visit the country and meet with newly elected President Hasan Rouhani, a spokesman for the Russian president confirmed,” reports the Times of Israel.
“Putin has been invited to Iran, and he will certainly take advantage of this kind invitation,” the Interfax news agency quoted spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying on Friday. “The dates of the visit will be agreed upon through diplomatic channels.”
“The announcement came on the heels of a report that Russia had agreed to sell to Iran the advanced S-300 air defense system and construct a new nuclear reactor at the Bushehr site,” the Times noted. “Putin met with Rouhani on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan on Friday. During the meeting, Rouhani extended an invitation to Putin, who accepted, the Iranian semi-official Fars news agency reported. In July, there were reports that Putin would travel to Iran in August to revive negotiations over the country’s controversial nuclear program, but those plans appeared to fall through.”
This will be the second time Putin has traveled to Iran. The first was a two day trip on October 16-17, 2007. I wrote about the historic nature of that trip at the time. It was, after all, the first time a Russian leader had made a state visit to Tehran for the purpose of meeting with Iranian leaders in modern history. It thus raised many questions, including whether we were slowly but surely moving step-by-step towards the prophecies of Ezekiel 38-39 in which Russia and Iran form an alliance against Israel in the “last days.” It so happened that I was speaking about such prophecies at an event for military officers at the Pentagon and in private meetings with Members of Congress just days after Putin’s visit.
- What is the “War of Gog & Magog”? Detailed study notes on Ezekiel 38 & 39.
- What is the future of Damascus? 24 pages of study notes on Isaiah 17 and Jeremiah 49.
- NYT best-selling novel, Damascus Countdown
- NYT best-selling novel, The Ezekiel Option
- Sermon on Bible prophecy and the future of Damascus — delivered at Topeka Bible Church (9/8/13)
- Interview with Fox’s Neil Cavuto on the Bible and the future of Damascus (9/9/13)
- Interview with Fox’s Martha MacCallum on the Bible and the future of Damascus (9/10/13)
- Answering those who dismiss Isaiah 17 & Jeremiah 49 regarding the future of Damascus.
- Growing number of media stories focus on Isaiah 17 & Jeremiah 49 prophecies on the future of Damascus.