Russia Invades Ukraine: One Year Into the War
“And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him, and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal” (Ezekiel 38:1-3 Revised Version, Improved and Corrected — RVIC).
A year into the war with Ukraine, Russia has suffered a major strategic defeat, Ukraine has achieved a strategic victory, and the West has demonstrated an unexpected resolve and cohesion. But as Winston Churchill observed after the first major victory in World War II, “This is not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning.” Russia is accelerating major offensives through the Wagner group of mercenaries, but Ukraine has stood fast. Yet there is no end in sight. Russia’s failure to win in an early blitzkrieg and predictions of a Ukraine victory now have given way to a protracted stalemate.
Russia’s Adapting Strategy
Vladimir Putin remains steadfast in his goal to conquer Ukraine. Following the sanctions of the West, he has been restructuring Russia’s government, including moving young technocrats with deep knowledge of the West into power positions. They have opened new markets for oil and gas and reversed the decline in GDP (seven percent of GDP is energy revenue). Educated and employed in the West, but with a shared loyalty to Russia’s reemergence, the newcomers bring negotiating experience and a knowledge of global markets. Alexey Sazanov, appointed deputy finance minister, studied at Oxford and spent years with Ernst and Young, most recently in its Moscow office. New deputy energy minister Pavel Sorokin matured in the financial district of London, groomed under the tutelage of Morgan Stanley investment bankers Sorokin played a key role in developing OPEC, a partnership between Russia and Saudi Arabia (Saudi Arabia and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council view the war as a complicated European conflict and have not spoken out against Russia). According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, Mr. Putin calls Sorokin Russia’s “secret weapon” and claims that Putin “has increasingly turned to these newcomers who speak fluent English but adhere to his nationalist ideology.”
Considering the three obvious outcomes for the war: victory for Russia; victory for Ukraine; or a stalemate, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hypothesized that in a long war, the correlation of forces favors a victory for Russia. Before the war, its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was nine times larger than Ukraine’s. The decline of 3-4 percent in 2022 was temporary, with slow growth projected to resume in 2023. Russia’s adaptation to sanctions with alternative supply chains, lower-tech replacements and substitutes for components it can no longer get, has allowed them with the help of this new brainpower to sell record volumes of oil to India and China, and to acquire a fleet of tankers allowing Russia to bypass Western sanctions.
The prewar population of Russia was three times larger than that of Ukraine. Russia’s territory is intact and not under the constant threat of bombardment. Its defense factories are operating 24-7 and Putin has pledged to spend as much as it takes to supply his troops. Hundreds of thousands of its troops in Ukraine have been drawn from prisons, according to the US National Security Council, with no option for the soldiers but victory or death (one video showed Commander Yevgeny Prigozhin executing a retreating soldier with a sledgehammer).
Although a brave and resilient people, Ukraine’s ability to sustain its defense depends totally upon the EU and NATO. GDP has declined by one-third since the start of the war, and reconstruction costs now exceed a trillion dollars according to the Carnegie Institute. Many citizens have been permanently displaced.
Putin understands the gravity of a nuclear strike, but analysts say that the prospect of losing Crimea might be the trigger for such an action in order to avoid a humiliating defeat. A Ukrainian breakthrough in the south might not end the war, but dramatically escalate it, the Carnegie group concluded.
Russia’s Role in End Time Prophecy
“In those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat … assemble yourselves and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together … and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat; for there will I sit to judge all the heathen” (Joel 3:1-12 KJV).
Joel writes of a great confederacy of nations bearing down on Israel to fight a decisive battle at some time in the future, prior to God’s revealing Himself to the nations through a miraculous rescue of Israel. “Therefore, son of man, prophesy, and say unto Gog… and thou shalt come from thy place out of the uttermost parts of the north, thou, and many peoples with thee … a great company and a mighty army; and thou shalt come up against my people Israel … it shall come to pass in the latter days, that I will bring thee against my land, that the nations may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes” (Ezekiel 38:14-16 RVIC). The prophet Ezekiel gives a detailed and precise description of this military invasion led by the forces of Gog, but adds also that God is interested in what it can gain from a defeat of Israel: “I will go to the land of unwalled villages (an open country) … to take the spoil and to take the prey” (Ezekiel 38:10-12 RVIC).
God told Ezekiel to prophesy against Gog, the chief prince of the multitudinous host that would come down against Israel. Ezekiel was facing north, signifying that, generally speaking, the peoples comprising the forces of Gog would come from that quarter. Gog is the leading character from the land of Magog (Russia), accompanied by Meshech and Tubal.1
(1) for the identity of the nations in this prophecy, see the footnote of Genesis 10 in the RVIC.
The Septuagint indicates a long preparation period before this invasion of Israel takes place: “He shall be prepared after many days and he shall come at the end of years” (verse 8 LXX). “And thou, son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: and I will turn thee about, and will lead thee on, and will cause thee to come up from the uttermost parts of the north; and I will bring thee upon the mountains of Israel” (Ezekiel 39:1-2 RVIC).
Gog will be turned around and hooks put into his jaws, and then he will be pulled down to Israel. The wording suggests that a strong influence will be brought to bear to make this figurative or symbolic personality called Gog come down to the Holy Land. Precisely what that will be remains to be revealed.
Divine overruling of the timing of this invasion is evident from the Hebrew word for “turn thee about.” It is the Hebrew shub, meaning “to cause to come in,” or make the actual attack. The three major prophecies regarding this battle can be found in Joel 3, Isaiah 34, and Revelation 16. All describe the same event from different perspectives — one great battle, and more than just a military attack. The Church of this Gospel Age must first be completed (Revelation 7:1-3). During the past generation, we have witnessed much of the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy. Russia has emerged as an aggressive and viable power, consistent with this prophecy. We do not know how many years remain before the world witnesses the consummation of the prophecy. It is then that the people will acknowledge God and learn righteousness through the New Covenant, first established with the seed of Abraham (Genesis 22:17).