President Vladimir Putin of Russia met with President Barack Obama in San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico, as far back as June 18, 2012, according to the Life, Hope & Truth’sl News and Prophecy blog. But after two full hours together, Putin was still balking, appearing afterward with Obama before reporters in a grim tableau that seemed to express frustration on both sides.
Now, with America on the brink of striking Syria, Russia has intervened with a possible diplomatic solution. What’s behind this geopolitical turn of events? The article by Erik Jones frames it biblically, which some might believe is a bit offbeat. It is. Nevertheless, the article contains some original political insights on Putin, though I’m not in tune with all its biblical conclusions on the shape of future world powers.
Politically, it is true that in the past few weeks the escalating conflict between the United States and Syria has captured world attention. The Obama administration has been tirelessly pursuing—with little success—international, congressional and popular support for a limited military strike on Syria in retribution for a purported chemical attack allegedly carried out by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces on Aug. 21, 2013.
Enter the Russian bear
The possibility of UN participation with the United States in a war against Syria is virtually zero. Russia—Syria’s strong economic and military ally—would certainly exert its veto power. And what was a poor start to any U.S. confrontation became even more complicated earlier last week when Vladimir Putin announced a proposed solution to the Syrian crisis—an offering from Russia to lead a plan to put Syrian chemical weapons under international control.
However, it is vital to understand Russia’s role in the Syrian conflict in its larger context. It’s not all heroics on Putin’s part, certainly not biblical, but strictly politics.
Jones thinks this is actually a small part of a bigger trend of continued tension and competition between Russia and the United States that has slowly intensified over the last decade. Russia has become an increasingly aggressive global player, with Putin making no secret of his desire to lead Russia back to its former prominence and influence. That I agree with.
A recent Time magazine feature highlighted Putin’s continued emphasis on Russia’s imperial roots and rebirth, his goal being to “launch a 21st-century Russian resurgence” (Simon Shuster, “The World According to Putin,” Sept. 16, 2013, Time Magazine, P.30). I think this information is at the core of Putin’s stance.
Russia’s oil and gas industry profits have allowed the emboldened Putin to expand the nation’s role in global politics through a network of alliances with like-minded allies with the intent of creating a counter-balancing power in global affairs. Commentators are likening Russia’s mentality and aggressiveness to the Cold War-era leadership and direction of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact alliance of nations that opposed American interests around the globe.
Syria now conveniently offers Putin a decisive opportunity to increase his prominence and Russian global political power. So far, he has been successful. His vote alone stops any UN action against Syria; his voice has been the loudest in questioning and opposing the evidence presented by the Obama administration; and now he dramatically steps in with a rescue plan. President Obama announced, in address to the nation last week, that he is delaying Congress’ vote on his plan to see if Putin’s proposal can resolve the crisis diplomatically. So ‘Putin comes to the rescue’ also comes with its own deeper biblical agenda for Jones.
But we must understand that this isn’t about Syria. This isn’t about the United States, the Bible or the Koran. This is about Putin’s Russia.
If this plan succeeds, Putin emerges as the clear winner. He will get what he wants—to be viewed as the statesman and leader who can successfully check the power of the United States. He will be viewed as having the diplomatic and political clout to solve complex and potentially costly conflicts, the one with the power to bend other nations to his will.
As a recent editorial in The Economist pointed out, “The more America steps back, the more other powers will step in. If it is unwilling to act as enforcer, its own norms will fray. If it is even thought to be reluctant, then they will be tested. China already prods America; Vladimir Putin’s Russia has begun to confront it—and not only over Syria.” For Putin, America’s weariness and indecisive leadership provide a great opportunity.
The bigger picture
How the Syrian crisis will play out is still uncertain but in some respects it’s a small part of a much bigger picture.
What is certain is Russia’s growing role in international politics. Do not expect to see Russia become the world’s lone global superpower; its economy is not diversified and strong enough to take that role anytime soon. But watch as Russia reinforces its global leadership role by strengthening its ties with other nations—particularly those to the east. Its closest ally, China, has similar ambitions. They both seek to be political and economic counterweights to the United States. Ironically, down the line the U.S., after years of hegemonic pursuit, could see itself in a long-awaited defensive not aggressive role.
During the Cold War, the world was primarily divided into two blocs of power—the Eastern (Soviet) bloc and the Western (American-led) bloc. Though similarities to that situation exist in today’s global landscape, there are major differences. We are actually seeing the emergence of a multi-polar geopolitical landscape based largely on geography and culture.
As a Bible-oriented blog, News and Prophecy reveals, ala Pat Robertson, that the end-time geopolitical landscape will primarily be made up of four power blocs. This is a unique take. It breaks the world into four great blocks based on scripture.
- The European bloc—a great military power referred to as “the king of the North” and the “beast” (Daniel 11:40–42; Revelation 13:2; 17:12) that will dominate the world militarily and economically during the end times.
- The Muslim bloc—a group of Muslim nations referred to as “the king of the South” that will come into direct conflict with Europe (Daniel 11:40–43).
- The Eastern bloc—an alliance of mostly Asian nations (probably led by Russia and China) that will challenge the European beast power (Jeremiah 50:41–42; Daniel 11:44; Revelation 9:13–21).
- The English-speaking bloc—the United States and British Commonwealth nations that will be defeated militarily during the Great Tribulation and rendered powerless by the European beast power (Genesis 48:19; Jeremiah 30:7).
Frankly, I wouldn’t put money on the Bible as a political prophet, despite its recommendation to, “Watch as the first three power blocs (European, Muslim and Eastern) continue to increase in political and economic power, while the English-speaking bloc continues to decline.” I would rather evaluate this is as fact that America has worn out its barbaric “Exceptionalism” after attacking a dozen countries, creating chaos and destruction. Russia’s response has been a political one. It wants to be the Big Bear on the block.
Nor do I see this as “the end-time geopolitical landscape developing right before our eyes.” I see it rather as a long-overdue statement of self-defense coming from the world against ongoing beatings by the U.S.A. in pursuit of power, wealth, and hegemonic control. If this is guided by a higher power, good luck. For me, it seems to be answering the question, “Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” In fact, those lines are the most noted of Meditation 17 by the poet John Donne, also used by Ernest Hemingway in his novel “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” I believe whatever the article is prophesying, it may be that the bell may be tolling for us.
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer and life-long resident of New York City. An EBook version of his book of poems “State Of Shock” is now available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He has also written hundreds of articles on politics and government as Associate Editor of onlinejournal.com(now www.intrepidreport.com).