A View to the North
(Signs of the Time - April 2000)

Since the fall of Communism in 1991, Russia has witnessed the rise and fall of several political parties, has seen several presidents and prime ministers and overall has experienced a general feeling of political instability. Somehow, despite the turmoil, Russia continues to plod along. The recent war in Chechnya, the continued stockpiling of war implements, the reports of human atrocities in the Caucasian region and the continued chilled relationships toward the European Union (EU) are signs of Russia’s direction. This month’s article will take a look at Russia (at time of writing the Russian people are heading to the polls to elect a new president), the political machine, the current situation and the overall desires of the Russian people.

At odds with the EU
Last month’s article highlighted the difficulties that are beginning to arise within the European Union as a result of the rise of Austria’s far right Freedom Party. The article described how 14 of the 15 member EU are at odds with the Freedom Party’s promotion of fascism. Despite the recent resignation of Freedom Party leader, Jörg Haider, punitive measures taken by the EU against Austria are continuing. It is interesting to note that not only is Austria at odds with the EU, but because of the prolonged war and reported atrocities by Russia in the Caucasian region, Russia, too, is at odds with the European Union. Russian commanders claim the military campaign against separatist fighters in the Caucasian province is virtually over; resistance is limited to a few isolated pockets in the mountains of the south. It is the accusations of indiscriminate violence against civilians that has brought forth the wrath of the European Union. The New York Times reported on March 2, 2000, "The European Union kept up pressure on Russia over its fierce war in rebel Chechnya on Thursday, insisting international humanitarian organizations be given broad access to the region."

The article continued to state that if full unfettered access was not made available on a timely basis, sanctions imposed on Russia in February, 2000, would continue. Although the sanctions are mild, they do force continued hardship on Russia as the EU sends the much needed Euro dollars elsewhere. It is interesting to note the reported atrocities that occurred in Chechnya while Russia was basking in the new leadership of Vladimir Putin. It can be concluded, therefore, that Putin knew about the atrocities and quite possibly authorized the military to take whatever means necessary to conclude the war in a timely fashion.

Putin’s advantage
As the New Year commenced, Boris Yeltsin stepped down as Russian president and appointed Putin as acting president. Not only did Yeltsin appoint Putin as President, he also helped stack the deck by making it difficult for anyone else to be elected as president in March, 2000. Yeltsin’s final act as President moved the election forward, from June to March, while at the same time changing the criteria for presidential candidates. In order to run for office of the president, a candidate must collect one million signatures. As a result of these changes, only Putin and Gennadi A. Zyuganov of the Communist Party were able to enter the election.

For the most part, Putin remains a mystery to the West. Having spent 15 years with the KGB largely as an intelligence officer based in East Germany, his official KGB record is unavailable. All that can be indicated about Putin, therefore, is what he has accomplished in his short tenure as acting president and a former prime minister. Some of the accomplishments include: ordering that a bust and plaque honoring the late spymaster and Soviet ruler, Yuri V. Andropov be replaced at KGB headquarters. A decree that allows the government to monitor all electronic transmissions (including the Internet) that transits through Russia, and a desire to implement mandatory military education in the schooling system.

Russia considers NATO
As Putin approaches the presidential office he brings with him some interesting and significant ideas. By far the most important idea Putin desires to implement is having Russia apply for membership in NATO. An article that appeared in the March 6, 2000, issue of the New York Times notes that Putin "argued that the expansion of NATO that has brought Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into the military alliance should not be conducted without taking Russia’s strategic interests into consideration. ‘When we talk about our opposition to NATO’s expansion, mind you, we have never, ever declared any region of the world a zone of our special interests,’ Mr. Putin said, adding, ‘I prefer to talk about strategic partnership.’ When asked directly whether from Russia’s standpoint it would be possible to join NATO, he replied: ‘I don’t see why not. I would not rule out such a possibility, but I repeat if and when Russia’s views are taken into account as those of any equal partner.’"

Looking to past glory
In addition to his wishes to join NATO, Putin desires to restore Russia to its former glory. Quoted in the New York Times, Putin stated: "Anyone who doesn’t regret the passing of the Soviet Union has no heart...Anyone who wants it restored has no brains." In other words, Putin is envious of the power that the former USSR wielded on the world front, yet not desirous of the baggage that the other republics brought with it. Putin is very careful not to upset Western powers in his desire to rebuild Russia into a "strong, powerful state." He indicates this desire to rebuild Russia into a new powerhouse has nothing to do with aggression. "If we again and again go back to the terminology of the cold war, we are never going to discard attitudes and problems that humanity had to grapple with a mere 15 to 20 years ago."

Restoring Russia to her former glory would be a challenge for any leader. The new leader of Russia, however, will have a vast arsenal of nuclear weapons at his disposal. The US government has indicated talks are underway in order to reach an agreement with the Russians on changes to the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty. These changes would attempt to put teeth into the treaty such that missile quantities would be reduced. To date, these talks are not scheduled to commence until after the election.

Power from the north
During the latter days we are informed a power from the north will come upon Israel and its unwalled villages. It is difficult today to understand how the traditionally staunch allies of Israel could step aside and literally watch an attack of this nature formulating. (Ezekiel 38:13). Yet if Russia should proceed with NATO membership, the prophecy of Ezekiel becomes more likely in that other NATO members would be understanding of aggression by a fellow member.

Will this scenario come to pass? Only the Divine Creator knows the details of the working out of His plan. Our prayer is that that day may come quickly.

George Rayner

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