Those who are perceptively following the unprecedented sanctions the West is imposing on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine realize their terrible implications for Vladimir Putin’s country. Slowly, persistently, and mercilessly – no more merciless than the Russian advance on Ukraine has been – the rope is being tightened around the throat of the Russian economy. The lifeblood of the nation is being steadily cut off. Right before our eyes is the making of a giant North Korea – a behemoth pariah nation, a burden that may become too heavy for the world to ignore.
The Flipside of the Sanctions
Gratifying to the West and crippling to Russia as the sanctions may be, they have an ominous flipside for the entire world. The West is doubtless aware of this dangerous potential consequence of the sanctions and is preparing for it. The Western leaders realize that the worst kind of adversary you don’t want to take on in a high-stakes conflict is a lethally armed one with nothing to lose.
I am no Russia apologist; indeed, the havoc Putin is inflicting on Ukraine would have been unimaginable a few months ago, and it is perhaps the most mindless thing the world has witnessed in recent times. Nevertheless, just as he warned the NATO alliance about its activities in East Europe before ordering his military to invade Ukraine, Putin is again warning the West about the potential fallout of the economically disastrous sanctions being imposed on his country. He considers them an act of aggression that will require a proportional response. What the world is currently witnessing in Putin’s intensified and mindless bombing of Ukraine, in which no distinction is made between military and civilian targets, is partly a reaction to the Western sanctions. Unfortunately, the worst may be yet to come.
A recent CNN.com article gives a glimpse into the merciless sophistication of the Western sanctions on Russia, using the example of the nation’s aviation sector. A quotation of Richard Aboulafia, managing director of AeroDynamic Advisory, sums it up: “Within a year Russia will cease to have any kind of viable airline industry.” That may be true. But the corollary question is, within a year, will the world even have a viable global industry – short of world leaders calling a truce of some kind to check the increasingly precarious global situation emerging from the sanctions? As Michael A. Cohen of The New Republic predicts, “Crippling and catastrophic sanctions imposed by the West will cause horrible suffering among the Russian people, and the ripple effects could spark a global downturn and harm countries and peoples thousands of miles from Ukraine.”
However, the more ominous fallout of the United States-led Western sanctions on Russia is the possibility of an unbridled and more expansive military retaliation by Putin – a last defiant act of a condemned rebellious sailor to take the ship down with him. As Cohen further warns, sanctions can have the perverse effect of escalating a conflict to disastrous levels. There is no more depressing example of this than the WWII United States–Japan conflict, which snowballed into the first and only previous use of nuclear weapons in the catastrophic dual bombing of Japan’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Is the Russia–Ukraine conflict setting the stage for the revival of the Cold War-era nuclear specter of “mutually assured destruction”?
Things Fall Apart
As implied, world leaders may be forced to avert the world’s worst nightmare – a nuclear conflict between the United States and Russia, the two most nuclear-armed nations. This would likely take the form of a truce, or agreement, or “covenant,” involving the currently warring factions and other major global players. They have put too much into making the present world order to allow its upending on the perverse whim of one man. However, such a truce will only amount to postponing the evil day and the termination of the global experiment. The sociopolitical tremors that have plagued the world since the 20th century can be reduced to the age-long West–East conflict, currently epitomized by the “Tom and Jerry” shenanigans between the United States and Russia, or China, depending on the lens through which we view global mechanics. Any truce that is called to stem the tide of the current global threat will actually be a pretense, and its days will be numbered. Just as clay and iron will not mix, it's practically impossible for these two global axes to fully trust each other or achieve enduring harmony under the present world system.
As Scripture declares, “Both these kings’ hearts shall be bent on evil, and they shall speak lies [deceptive platitudes] at the same table [the negotiation table]; but it shall not prosper [the agreement will not last], for the end [the inevitable global holocaust they are destined to cause] will still be at the appointed time” (Daniel 11:27; cf. 9:27). As the poet William Butler Yeats wrote in The Second Coming, “Turning and turning in the widening gyre, The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” The time will come when they stretch each other to their limits and throw caution to the wind.
As these unsettling global events unfold, I cannot help mentioning something very personal, a dream I had long before the Russian–Ukraine fiasco blew up. There had been a terrible flood that caused catastrophic damage to the world, at least my perception of the world in the dream, and those who survived it had to start all over again somewhere that seemed like a new place. I don’t know what the dream means – maybe I drank more than my usual cup of tea before getting into bed that night – but Scripture exhorts us, “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).
Horror Scenes from Mariupol – A Wakeup Call
One of the most horrifying episodes of the Ukraine war was Russia’s bombing of a maternity and children’s hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine. Among the harrowing scenes was the evacuation of a pregnant woman who regretfully died eventually. A CNN.com contributor providentially wrote of this episode, “A bomb had struck a hospital, destroying the maternity and children's wards. Grainy images and video showed an ARMAGEDDON-LIKE SCENE: vehicles on fire, the outside grounds singed and a crater large enough to accommodate two men head to toe. A dazed, bloodstained, PREGNANT WOMAN was being led out by rescue workers” (emphases added).
This distressing report about the pregnant woman and other nursing mothers and children caught in that terrible event brought to mind the words of Christ: “But woe to THOSE WHO ARE PREGNANT AND TO THOSE WHO ARE NURSING BABIES in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:19-21). We are not yet in the Great Tribulation, but what we see in Ukraine should be a wakeup call, especially for those who bear the name of God. It is Ukrainians today – which people will it be tomorrow? Incidentally, some are already worrying that they are next in the crosshairs and getting their acts together. “The ox knows its owner And the donkey its master’s crib; But Israel does not know, My people do not consider” (Isaiah 1:3).
Only God knows when the end of the present world system will be. However, as Christ said, “these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8), and that when we see these things happening, we should lift up our eyes to the horizon and look for His return (Luke 21:28). “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:32-35).
Some are already scoffing that this has been the tune of “apocalyptic Christians” for ages. Suffice it to say that the least a true believer could do is to ALWAYS be prepared and look out for his Lord and Master in his day (see Luke 12:35-40). Noteworthily, no other age has witnessed the convergence of biblical prophecy like ours, and it is not a coincidence that the current globally destabilizing conflict is coming right on the heels of a traumatic pandemic that the world may be yet to see the last of. Similarly instructive is the fact that our generation is the one witnessing the greatest effort to discredit the Scriptures and lull believers to sleep with seemingly rational postulations and arguments (see 2 Peter 3:3-9). “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6).
Talking about flying Russian aircraft being grounded by Western sanctions, and the threat of missiles flying across a much broader swath of the skies with an escalation and expansion of the Russia–Ukraine conflict, the Apocalypse introduces flying angels into the mix: “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people—saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water. And another angel followed, saying, ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication’” (Revelation 14:6-8).
Indeed, this is a time for us to rediscover the fear of God and give ourselves to genuinely worshipping and serving Him, for inescapably perilous events are ahead of the world.
© David Olagoke Olawoyin