The following three articles are drawn from addresses given at the Adelaide Prophecy Day held on 7 August 2021.

The Russian Ruse

Russia is referred to both pointedly and indirectly in many parts of the Bible. The most familiar is that of Ezekiel 38:2 where we read of the prophet’s proclamation against the prince of Rosh (NKJV, NASB, YLT) – a title which Gesenius says is “undoubtedly the Russians”.

The prophet Daniel speaks of the same power in Daniel 11:40-45 where he describes the northern invader as the king of the north at “the time of the end” in a very similar way to the Gogian strike outlined in Ezekiel 38 and 39. He had previously described the latter day role of the king of fierce countenance in Daniel 8:23-26—a reference which highlights the deceitfulness of this tyrant as he stands against the Prince of princes.

There is an indirect reference to Russia, too, in Revelation 16:13 where we read of the unclean spirits emanating from “the mouth of the dragon”—a reference to Constantinople and also to the inheritor of the Byzantine culture, which is Russia.

There are a number of less obvious but equally interesting references, each requiring some application to fully grasp their significance to Russia. These include the head (singular, rosh) in Psalm 110:6, the destruction of the “proud man” Gog by Christ, and a number of “latter day Assyrian” applications where the prophecies could not possibly apply to the literal Assyrians (Num 24; Isa 30; Isa 31:8-9; Mic 5:4-7; and Nah 1).

In piecing together these references, we find some common descriptions of what Russia will be like, namely immense and proud; fierce, violent and oppressive; yet advocating peace; using dark sentences, crafty, deceitful and dishonest; and imagining evil thoughts against God’s people. Let’s explore how modern day Russia fulfils these biblical descriptors perfectly.

Background

It helps to appreciate that today’s Russia is just one of 15 ex-USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) states. The USSR was the largest country in the world, covering nearly one sixth of the earth’s land surface. It was dissolved in 1991 in a state of financial and political decay, and the member states all became independent.

For years after the collapse of the USSR, it was usual to regard Russians as losers. President Putin has stated that he saw the breakup of the USSR as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century” and “an absolute tragedy”.

Mr Putin would love to have these states back together again—a process known as re-imperialisation. He is a kind of contemporary tsar and has the political power and time to pursue his goals. The Economist magazine of 14 March 2020 described him as “Vlad the indefinite”.

Immense and proud

The Russian Federation has certainly recovered from the poverty-stricken region surviving on potatoes in 1991. By 2020, Russian national debt had reduced to 18% of GDP (compare 108% in the US, 97% in the UK, 91% in the EU, 71% in Israel, and 67% in China).

At the end of 2020, its overall international reserves stood at US$596 billion, equivalent to nearly two years of imports. Russia’s share of reserves in the US fell from 30% in 2013 to 7% in 2021 in its efforts to hedge against sanctions. It now has more reserves in gold than in US dollars!

Mr Putin seems intent on uniting the Russian diaspora and territories. Russia is big, and once these other states are included, that nation will become very, very big! This desire for expansion includes Ukraine—often called the breadbasket of Europe, where 25% of all agricultural output in the former Soviet Union was produced. Russia relies on the Ukrainian domestic military industry for manufacture of helicopters and cruise missile engines.

It is interesting to note that one of these territories, Kazakhstan, emerged in the 2000s as the world’s leading uranium producer. In 2019, it was responsible for 43% of global production.

Another critical consideration is access to seaports through the Black Sea in the south and the ice-free port at Kaliningrad, making some of these ex-Soviet neighbours very important to national security.

Fierce, violent and oppressive

One only has to look at the annexation (ie: taking by force) of Crimea in 2014 to see how aggressive Russia has become. Taking over the parliament, illegally naming a new Prime Minister, holding an illegal referendum for Crimea and Sevastopol to join Russia, and illegally signing a treaty of accession for Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, all combined to complete this mind-boggling act. Over 14,000 Ukrainians have since been killed.

Almost certainly Mr Putin had his mentor, Boris Berezovsky, killed; the man who had been instrumental in orchestrating Putin’s rise to power.

Opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, has been attacked, imprisoned, and poisoned with Novichok on his underwear—his body was so toxic with poison that he had to be transported to hospital in a sealed stretcher!

Liberal politician, Boris Nemtsov, was gunned down on a bridge outside the Kremlin. Mr Putin’s former propaganda chief was found beaten to death with a baseball bat.

British High Court Judge, Sir Robert Owen, has concluded that an apartment bombing that killed almost 300 people in Russia was “the work of the FSB, designed to provide a justification for war in Chechnya and, ultimately, to boost Mr Putin’s political prospects”.

Advocates peace

Russia performs this in a cunning way, using soft power to attract and co-opt. It has state-funded the Russkiy Mir (Russian World) Foundation, which seeks to promote Russian language and culture across the globe. It was established in 2007 by decree of President Putin himself. It includes books and films praising the greatness of the Russian nation and whitewashing the more sinister aspects of the USSR, such as the Stalinist crimes.

The use of the church is another way Putin passively promotes Russia. Mr Putin has identified himself with the Orthodox Christian Faith and has learned that the priest who baptised him was the father of Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill! A report says that “From 1991 to 2008 the share of Russian adults identifying as Orthodox Christian rose from 31 per cent to 72 per cent” (Beyond Crimea by Agnia Grigas, page 32). Which western country can claim that?

Russia is also promoting citizenship. It established a Federal Agency for Compatriots Living Abroad in 2008 by order of President Putin. One of its aims is the “advancement of Russia’s political and economic interest in foreign states”. Passportisation (ie: the systematic distribution of Russian citizenship) entitles benefits such as education in Russia, child support payments, free health care, pensions, and the right to vote in Russian presidential elections. Anthropologist Florian Muhlfried says that passportisation is a clear case of “a new form of imperialism by civic means”. Amazing!

The London School of Economics prepared a paper on the weaponisation of Russia, stating that “the annexation of Crimea brought into focus…a ‘cold peace’. The term ‘cold peace’ refers to a situation in which the underlying tensions and conflicts characteristic of a cold war are present, but where these conditions…are concealed under the rhetoric of peace”. This is certainly Russia at work.

Uses dark sentences, crafty, deceitful and dishonest

Russia aggressively uses propaganda to destabilise, demoralise or manipulate a target audience. People are presented with a Moscow-version of events, either current or historical. Events have a Kremlin bias and justify Russia’s policy choices. It blurs the line between fact and fiction.

In St Petersburg, there’s an internet comment factory which employs about 250 people working 12 hour shifts around the clock writing pro-Kremlin blogs. Some write posts, others comment on them. Content praises Mr Putin and condemns the West, for example, alleging that Ukraine is run by pro-American Nazis.

In July 2021, Mr Putin outlawed comparisons between the terrible atrocities of Stalin and those of Hitler. It’s now against the Russian law to compare them! The Australian newspaper said, “it’s their latest attempt to massage historical discourse”.

Many cyber experts agree that, since the 2000s, Russia has acquired the greatest cyber warfare capability in the world and uses it primarily for foreign policy aims. Examples of manipulation include: Russia influencing the 2016 Brexit vote; Russian hackers disrupting the 2016 US presidential election in favour of Donald Trump and meddling in the 2020 US election; Russia reporting on completely unsubstantiated claims of genocide and ethnic cleansing being carried out by Georgians—and then using that as justification to invade in 2008!

In late 2014, the Ukrainian President stated, “Every day we are witnessing new Information Warfare Attacks and the target is our people. They are being told not to trust their government, their history, military, membership in the EU and NATO”.

“Through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand”, said Daniel in chapter 8!

We don’t categorically know whether Mr Putin is the Gog, but we do know that Mr Putin and Russia are doing everything that a careful reading of the Scriptures said they would. And that is so faith affirming.