Almost twenty years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Ukraine. While I was there for the dedication of an orphanage, I was invited to speak in a church in downtown Kyiv. More recently, my grandson Timothy was in Ukraine. He spent six months there as a part of the mission segment of his DTS with Youth With A Mission. Since I was only there a short time, I do not claim to be an expert on Ukraine, but following the war reports of this year, I have come to some conclusions that I will share with you to help us understand Ukraine. I want to share four thoughts about the situation. Firstly, to understand Ukraine, you need a brief history of the country.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF UKRAINE
In the 7th century BC, a people called the Scythians lived in what is now Ukraine. Later the Greeks settled on the north coast of the Black Sea, and they founded city-states there. Slavs settled Ukraine in the 5th & 6th centuries AD.
Then in the 9th century, Swedish Vikings sailed along rivers into the heart of Eastern Europe. Some of them settled in Ukraine. In 882, a Viking named Oleg captured Kyiv, and it became the capital of a powerful state. In 988, under Vladimir I, Ukraine converted to Christianity.
However, in the 11th and 12th centuries, the state broke up into fragments. Disaster struck in 1240 when the Mongols…conquered southern and eastern Ukraine. However, northern and western Ukraine remained independent until the 14th century, when it was taken over by the Poles and Lithuanians. They gradually drove back the Mongols… and in the 15th century, they came under the domination of the Turkish Empire…
In the late 17th century, Poland came to dominate western Ukraine while Russia dominated eastern Ukraine. Then in the 18th century Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, was determined to absorb eastern Ukraine into Russia… Meanwhile, in the 18th century, Poland was declining… Most of western Ukraine was taken by Russia… Finally, in 1783 Russia conquered Crimea…
In the 19th century, Ukraine was firmly under Russian control. But from the mid-19th-century, nationalism spread. In 1918, while Russia was engaged in civil war, Ukraine became independent for a short time. However, in 1921 the Russians forced Ukraine to become part of the Soviet Union… Stalin was determined to crush the Ukrainian peasants, and he caused a terrible famine in 1932-33 that took the lives of millions of innocent people… During 1937-39, Stalin unleashed purges in which many Ukrainians were executed or sent to prison camps. Then in 1941, the Germans invaded. They murdered millions of Ukrainians. However, by 1943 the Germans were losing the war, and the Red Army recaptured Kyiv on 6 November 1943…
In 1986, there was a disaster at the nuclear power plant at Chornobyl… Ukrainians became increasingly dissatisfied with rule from Moscow… With the collapse of Communism and the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine once more became independent. However, the transition from Socialism to Capitalism was a painful one. Ukraine suffered high inflation and economic decline for some years. However, economic growth eventually began again. The transition from dictatorship to democracy also did not go smoothly… In 2014, Russia illegally annexed Crimea. In 2022, the population of Ukraine is 44 million. On 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine (localhistories.org).
We need to recognize that Russia, one way or another, has at times ruled over Ukraine and so considers Ukraine a part of Russia. That does not mean that Russia can do that forever. The Ukrainian people have the right to independence. They may possess historical roots in Russia, but the people have the right to choose their own destiny.
Let us realize Putin is a ruthless dictator. Former President Barak Obama, speaking on NBC’s “Today” show, declared the Russian President as someone who has always been “wrapped up in this twisted, distorted sense of grievance and ethnic nationalism” (msn.com).
You only have to see the videos of the terrible scenes in Ukraine, the bombing of civilian targets, the needless death and destruction, the pictures of fleeing women and children to realize what kind of person Putin really is. He is an evil man who will stop at nothing to fulfill his dream of a united Russia once again. To understand Ukraine, you have to understand the wickedness of President Putin.
“The most common explanation for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is that Putin, burning with resentment over the demise of the Soviet Empire, is determined to reestablish Russia…as a great power that can exert influence on a global scale.
According to this theory, Putin aims to regain control over the 14 post-Soviet states — often referred to as Russia’s “near abroad” — that became independent after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. This is part of greater plan to rebuild the Russian Empire, which territorially was even more expansive than the Soviet Empire…
Putin himself described the collapse of the Soviet Empire as ‘The greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century'”(nbcnews.com).
“Those who believe Putin is trying to reestablish Russia as a great power say that once he gains control over Ukraine, he will turn his focus to other former Soviet republics, including the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and eventually Bulgaria, Romania and even Poland.
Putin’s ultimate objective, they say, is to drive the United States out of Europe. . .” (gatestoneinstitute.org).
BIDEN AND UKRAINE
Biden’s approach to matters like the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been to pursue a diplomatic solution. Obviously, this did not work, and war resulted. He has used the weapon of sanctions; however, sanctions don’t always work. (They have not exactly prevented Iran from pursuing a nuclear bomb). Dictators, like bullies, do not usually respond to diplomacy. They are likely to respond to peace through strength (See Chamberlain and the Nazis in pre-war Europe).
American troops, both in Germany and the NATO contingent states bordering Russia, remain an inadequate deterrent. Also, US forces have grown terribly vulnerable.
In hindsight, it might have been better if the US had encouraged Ukraine to remain neutral and not seek to be a member of NATO rather than threaten Russia with sanctions. No one knows. Putin may have decided to attack anyway, neutral or not.
Nonetheless, Biden has come across as a weak leader of the West, who, as far as weapons and arms are concerned for Ukraine, always gives the impression that it is too little too late.
UNDERSTANDING PROPHECY & UKRAINE
There is another dimension to understanding Ukraine, the aspect of prophecy. A number of people, including Pat Robertson of the 700 Club, have linked the events in Ukraine with Biblical prophecy, especially Ezekiel 38 and 39. Dr. David Jeremiah, well known Bible teacher, in his book “The Book of Signs,” describes it this way,
“Approximately twenty-five hundred years ago, Ezekiel predicted Russia’s return to power in the latter days. In chapters 38 and 39 of his prophecy, he described the invasion of Israel by ten entities, including Russia and a coalition of mostly Islamic nations.
The nation we know today as Russia figures prominently in these scriptures. In Ezekiel’s list of ten names, the third name, Rosh, identifies the nation ruled by the leader of the coalition that will attack Israel. We have at least two strong reasons for believing that Rosh and Russia are the same. . . The prophet Daniel described the ruler who would lead an attack against Israel in the latter days as the ‘king of the North’ (Dan. 11:5-35). Ezekiel’s prophecy says the invading armies will come to Israel ‘from the far North’ (Ezek. 38:7, 15). Only one country occupies a geographical position in the ‘far North,’ in relation to Israel. That nation is Russia, whose landmass stretches from the Baltic to the Bering Seas” (Jeremiah, D., 2019, pg. 32, 33).
There are those who understand what is happening in Ukraine as the beginning of the fulfillment of the prophecies in the Bible, especially Ezekiel 38 and 39.
Newt Gingrich, a TV commentator and one-time speaker of the House of Representatives, had a controversial idea regarding Ukraine concerning a bear, a lion, and a rabbit. Let me share it with you. I realize that some people may disagree with Gingrich’s viewpoint.
“The Bear, of course, is Russia, as President Ronald Reagan brilliantly evoked in his 1984 re-election commercial “The Bear.” As the narrator said: “There is a bear in the woods. For some people, the bear is easy to see. Others don’t see it at all. Some people say the bear is tame. Others say it’s vicious and dangerous. Since no one can really be sure who’s right, isn’t it smart to be as strong as the bear? If there is a bear.” We now know the bear is real – and it is on the move.
Vladimir Putin is a classic example of a strong, ruthless Russian leader. Yet, virtually every analysis of Putin’s motives and actions are wrong because our supposed experts keep applying Ivy League standards of rationality, timidity, and reasonableness to him. Meanwhile, he reflects none of those values. Putin isn’t some pampered, born-to-be politician. He was trained by the KGB. His record is one of unending toughness. . .
Putin’s increasing levels of violence in Ukraine were foreshadowed by his use of brutal force in the Second Chechen War (1999-2000). The destruction of the Chechen capital of Grozny in February 2000 was a forerunner of the kind of city destruction we are seeing in Ukraine. The Russian use of indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Syria was another forerunner. Again, Putin suffered no serious consequences for any of his actions (remember President Barack Obama’s “red line” in Syria and the ineffective sanctions after Putin seized Crimea).
The Lion has turned out to be the Ukrainian people and their President. Their courage and willingness to fight and die for their country and freedom has come as an enormous shock to Russia – and the Ivy League educated rational leftists who dominate the American national security establishment. . .
The American Eagle apparently flew out of the White House when Biden moved in. It has been said that an army of lions led by a sheep will lose to an army of sheep led by a lion. It is clear from everything the Biden team has done that they are beyond sheep status. The Biden Bunny is the only symbol that fits the timidity, confusion, and just plain stupidity which defines the current American policy. . .
So, the powerful bear and the brave lion are fighting, while the timid bunny is pretending everything will be fine.
Meanwhile, Putin has been clear how determined he is. So, Putin believes a large, ruthless, and violent bear will wear down the lion – and the bunny rabbit will ultimately be irrelevant” (gingrich360.com).
Jeremiah, D. (2019). The Book of Signs: 31 Undeniable Prophecies of the Apocalypse. United States: Thomas Nelson.