Aug 25, 2008

Russia, Syria, And Things To Come

By Terry James

Russia emerged from its post-Cold War Soviet hibernation this past week. Russia’s top general, Anatoly Nogovitsyn, warned that Poland is risking attack--possibly a nuclear one--by deploying the American missile defense system, Russia's Interfax news agency reported. The bear’s angry growling came amidst Russian military incursions into and occupation of the former Soviet republic of Georgia. The outburst, engendered by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, has the region and the world on edge, wondering what happens next.

One thing on the hungry bear’s agenda is to do business with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. That Russia will begin looking more and more toward the Middle East has been the subject of many of Todd’s and my Nearing Midnight columns. This is so, of course, because Russia, the land of “Rosh” as it is termed by the prophet Ezekiel in chapters 38 and 39, is predicted to lead an assault into that region in order to take great “spoil,” according to the KJV translation of the prophecy. So, prophecy students who look at things to come from a pre-trib view of eschatology haven’t been surprised by Vladimir Putin’s increasingly bellicose attitude that has resulted in his invading Georgia, and now turning his attention to a former key Soviet Union Cold War Mideast Islamic ally.

Russia’s cuddling up with Syria presents profound prophetic possibilities, more about which we will look at momentarily. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gave journalists his thinking about the latest Russian/Syrian embrace–a closeness that his father, the late Hafez al-Assad had with the likes of Soviet dictators Kruschev, Brezhnev, Chernenko, Andropov, and even with Gorbachev before the USSR’s dissolution. One report frames Assad’s welcome to the Russian alliance overtures.

“The Syrian leader told Russian newspapers: ‘I think Russia really has to think of the response it will make when it finds itself closed in a circle.’ Mr. Assad said that he would be discussing the deployment of Russian missiles on his territory. The Syrians are also interested in buying Russian weapons. In return Moscow is expected to propose a revival of its Cold War era naval base at the Syrian port of Tartus, which would give the Russian Navy its first foothold in the Mediterranean for two decades... Yesterday’s rapprochement raised the possibility that Moscow intends to re-create a global anti-Western alliance with former Soviet bloc allies" ("Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appears to be keeping his options open," Kevin O’Flynn in Moscow and James Hider, Middle East Correspondent, London Times, 8/20/22).

Many observers within Israel, the report says, have growing concerns that the two powers that once, in combination, wielded strength in the region surrounding the Jewish state will again try to exert their sphere of influence militarily and politically as in the days of the Cold War. They worry that America’s support of Georgia and placing the defensive missile shield in Poland will cause the Russians to use their alliance with Syria to try to assert dominance on an expanding scale.

And, the concerns go deeper.

“Already, Israeli observers worry that the chaos in the Caucasus may disrupt gas supplies to Europe and Turkey from the Caspian Sea region, creating a greater energy reliance on Iran and its vast reserves. The crisis could in turn allow Tehran to exploit splits in the international community and use Russia as a backer to advance its nuclear programme. Russia has wooed Syria in recent years, as it has tried to increase its influence in the Middle East and increase arms sales” (London Times).

Fears are growing of another Syrian-led attempt to retake the Golan Heights, which Israel won in the 1967 Six-Day War. Israel’s holding the Golan prevents any enemy force from using the area to easily rain fire down upon the nation’s heartland. Russia’s support, it is feared, might convince Assad and the other Israel-hating Arab Islamic enemies to make such a move. Several prophecies come into play when considering the dynamics of current goings-on with regard to the Russian/Syrian reunion.

The Russians (Rosh), as stated above, are looking southward into the area Ezekiel calls “the mountains of Israel.” Remember, in God’s economy all of the region given Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is included in the “mountains of Israel," regardless of the geographical configuration of the tiny Jewish state as it exists today. The Gog-Magog attack of Ezekiel 38 and 39 still seems to be somewhat in the distance, but all of the stage-settings are in place that portend such an assault at some point.

And, we must not forget the chilling words of Isaiah 17:1 predicting that Damascus is scheduled prophetically to be destroyed swiftly and completely. With all of the major terrorist organizations headquartered in that city, that prophecy comes into sharp focus today.

The European Union (EU) at this particular time is acting like it is no more than a weak-kneed protectorate of the U.S, not wanting to face down the huffing and puffing bear. America is footing the bill and providing the technologies that are deterrents to the newly emerged Russian bear, fresh from its hibernation.

Bible prophecy foretells, we of the pre-trib view believe, that the EU, however, will become the powerful and murderous heart of Antichrist’s regime at a point during the tribulation period. More stage-setting is obviously in the making. Will there be an interim war between Israel and the Arab Islamics? Increasingly, this seems a question worth pondering while we think upon what is next on God’s prophetic timeline.

The Psalm 83 prophecy is one that must at least be offered for consideration in the mix of conjecture involving the stage-setting for prophecy yet future.

I’m still reading through the fascinating new book, Isralestine, by Bill Salus on this topic. Israel continues to be a powerful military force–by far the strongest in the region because of its nuclear capability. The Psalm 83 prophecy definitely points to a time yet future (meaning it has not yet been fulfilled) when Israel will defeat the specific Arab enemies it faces today. That prophecy indicates that Israel will win back in battle most, if not all, of the land God granted Israel’s patriarchs. And, as Salus points out, there are no Arab states mentioned that will join in the assault in the Gog-Magog attack.

So, the Russian/Syrian lovefest that seems in the making presents intriguing possibilities in consideration of what Bible prophecy has to say about things to come.