According to CNN“Florida has yet another spring in town: Scot, a huge great white shark, was recorded swimming off the Gulf Coast. The shark is over twelve feet long and weighs sixteen hundred pounds.
A ‘massive great white shark’ swimming just offshore looks like a metaphor for everything happening in our culture, from rising inflation to a more contagious version of COVID-19 to deepening partisan divisions . But, of course, the “shark” that dominates the news every day and has captured so many of our hearts is the horrific invasion of Ukraine and the untold suffering it is causing.
As face-to-face talks between Ukraine and Russia Continue this week, many analysts are asking how Russia’s aggression in Ukraine will end (assuming it does). In this context, three recent articles have greatly shed light on Vladimir Putin’s thinking and are therefore of interest to us today.
A “personal diet”
In one New Yorker article titled “What does Putin think?David Remnick recalls the failure of democracy in Russia after the fall of the USSR in 1991. The oligarchs bought up the country’s most valuable state enterprises and made their fortunes while the people struggled. A historian said at the time: “These last four or five years in Russia have produced nothing but pure hysteria.
In response, when Putin came to power in 1999, he established what Remnick calls “a personalist regime built around his patronage and absolute authority.” Remnick explains that the national identity that Putin created in opposition to the West “played a vital role in his brutal invasion of Ukraine”.
He also cites thinkers such as Nikolai Berdyaev and Ivan Ilyin who believed in the exalted fate of Russia and the artificiality of Ukraine, both hugely influential to Putin.
Cultural commentator Andrew Sullivan takes us further into the story in “The strange rebirth of Imperial Russia.” He quotes Russian intellectuals who asserted after the fall of the Soviet Union that Russia was not just a nation-state, but a “civilization-state.”
Sullivan explains that it’s “a whole way of being, straddling half the globe and enveloping countless other nations and cultures in the spiritual bosom of Mother Russia.” This worldview claims that Russia has always had such a destiny and civilizational mission that the West has countered and sought to undermine. Aleksandr Dugin popularized such theories in The foundations of geopoliticswhich Sullivan calls “perhaps the best guide to understanding where Putin is from and what Russia is today.”
In light of this worldview, Putin in 2011 proposed a “Eurasian Union” to counter the European Union, reject US strategic control, and resist Western liberal values. His invasion of Ukraine is just the next step in his passion for rebuilding Imperial Russia.
An occupying force
Journalist Jonathan Tepperman conducted a very enlightening investigation interview with Alexander Gabuevformer diplomatic correspondent and editor of a Russian newspaper, now Russia specialist at the Carnegie Moscow Center.
Gabuev explains that Putin thought his invasion would demoralize the Ukrainian army and that “one part of the country would greet Russia with flowers and the other part would not resist”. He was clearly wrong.
When Tepperman asked Gabuev if he could imagine a deal that could end the war, he replied that Ukraine “would not agree to a peace settlement that made them semi-dependent on the aggressor, even if ‘he saves their cities’. To achieve Putin’s imperialist agenda, Gabuev predicts that the Russian leader will seek to “occupy Ukraine, and there will be an Iraqi-type insurgency, and eventually it will end badly, because there is no way Russia can occupy Ukraine forever.
“A villain will not go unpunished”
In Romans 1 we read that God “delivered them to a base spirit to do what was wrong” (Romans 1:28). It’s the permissive judgment of God by which he allows us the consequences of our abused freedom. Tragically, the innocent are also often harmed by these consequences.
If nations and peoples do not repent, then God moves to his punitive judgment by which he works directly to punish sin and lead sinners to repentance. We see it with the plagues of Egypt, the divine judgment against King Herod (Acts 12:23) and the cataclysmic judgments described in the book of Revelation.
Since we know that God judges the nations (Psalm 110:6), it is plausible that Russia will suffer God’s permissive judgment on its immoral invasion. If Putin persists, he and his people could see punitive judgment from God.
Here is what we can know for sure: “A wicked person shall not go unpunished” (Proverbs 11:21) for “vengeance is mine, I will repay it, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19). Whether in this world or the next (cf. Luke 16:19-31), God’s judgment on sin is certain (Hebrews 9:27).
A missionary prayer that I have not forgotten
How does the thought of God’s judgment on Vladimir Putin resonate with you?
Your first thought might be, “The sooner the better.” Obviously, the fewer Ukrainians who suffer or die at his immoral hands, the better.
But we must not forget that God loves Russians as much as he loves Ukrainians. He loves North Koreans as much as he loves Americans and Iranians as much as he loves Israelis (cf. Galatians 3:28). He loves each of us as one because he East love (1 John 4:8).
If we loved the Russians as God does, we would fervently pray for their nation and their leaders to repent of this culpable invasion. If we love Ukrainians as God does, we would pray fervently for their protection and their future. If we loved all nations as God does, we would fervently pray that every person on earth would know Jesus as Savior and Lord.
I will long remember the time I heard a missionary pray, “Lord, break my heart for what breaks your heart.
What breaks your heart today?