Russia Rising: Tracking the Bear in Bible Prophecy

Mark Hitchcock

RUSSIA RISING

TRACKING THE BEAR IN BIBLE PROPHECY

To my first granddaughter, Cameron Joy Hitchcock, who brings unspeakable joy to my life and to our entire family. May our gracious God bless you and keep you all the days of your life.

Chapter 1: There Is a Bear in the Woods

A BEAR WILL NOT ASK ANYONE FOR PERMISSION.

VLADIMIR PUTIN

During the 1984 presidential campaign, candidate Ronald Reagan used a television commercial that’s become known for its compelling opening line—“There is a bear in the woods.”

The ad featured a grizzly bear wandering menacingly through a forest while 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.”

A man appears in the closing scene, and the bear takes a step back. The captivating ad concludes with a picture of Reagan and the tagline “President Reagan: Prepared for Peace.” Reagan took the Bear seriously, and in December 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed, no longer dominating Eastern Europe.

Fast-forward almost thirty years, and no one doubts there’s a bear in the woods. Russia is back. The Russian bear has roared out of hibernation and into the headlines. The Bear is back—but what does that mean for our world?

The movie The Revenant depicts one of the most savage, vicious scenes in cinematic annals. Not far into the movie, frontiersman and fur trapper Hugh Glass (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) unwittingly gets between a mother grizzly bear and her cubs. Without warning, he’s slammed to the ground by the charging grizzly. It happens so quickly he doesn’t have time even to turn and raise his rifle. The ferocious mauling is so brutal and unrelenting, it’s difficult to watch. Glass’s broken, lacerated body is left near death. The lesson is clear: get between a mother grizzly and her cubs, and the result won’t be pretty.

BACK TO THE USSR

Since 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Putin and others of his ilk have felt like a mother bear robbed of her cubs, willing to maul anyone who stands in the way of restoring Soviet greatness. Putin, a former KGB lieutenant colonel, became Russian prime minister in August 1999 and president in May 2000. He was reelected in 2004, then bowed out for his pupil Dmitry Medvedev to assume the presidency. But Putin ran successfully again in 2012. There’s no sign now that he will ever step down again. Forbes ranked Putin as the world’s most powerful person for the fourth year in a row in 2016.[1]

During his 2005 State of the Nation address to parliament, Putin lamented that the demise of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the century.[2] Ukrainian foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin wrote in the Guardian, “Reversing the breakup of the Soviet Union and restoring the Russian empire have now become an obsession for the Kremlin.”[3]

The obsession has gone so far that the Kremlin is commissioning new statues of Joseph Stalin, one of the twentieth century’s worst mass murderers.[4] This is certainly a chilling window into the current Russian psyche.

Putin seizes every opportunity to stoke smoldering resentment within Russia and to draw attention to the perceived threats against his nation in order to take more and more aggressive actions to reestablish the empire. With every passing day, the Bear gets more bellicose. Putin has launched a crusade to rebuild the empire that fell along with the Berlin Wall.

President Obama promised a Russian reset in 2009 when he took office, but the opposite has occurred. US-Russian relations have relapsed into a Cold War 2.0, and some say the current situation is even worse than the Cold War. Slowly and subtly Europe and the West have sleepwalked into a new era of danger and instability. In just a little more than a decade, “the unthinkable has become a reality. Russia, seemingly finished after its defeat in the Cold War, now is emerging as a prospective great power challenging the West.”[5]

Russia is on the march. General Sir Richard Shirreff, the former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, said of Vladimir Putin, “[he] is calling the shots at the moment.”[6]

That the Russian bear is on the prowl is clearly evidenced by the steady stream of world headlines:

“Russia’s Rising Empire”

NATIONAL REVIEW, AUGUST 9, 2016

“The Russian Bear Is Rising”

HUFFINGTON POST, SEPTEMBER 2, 2016

“Beware: The Russian Bear Is Getting Bolder”

WASHINGTON POST, DECEMBER 1, 2016

“Russia’s Rising Role in the World”

FOREIGN POLICY NEWS, DECEMBER 30, 2016

Russian aggression has moved into a new phase that threatens international order and stability. General James Mattis, the US defense secretary, has called Russia the world’s top threat, and Senator John McCain agrees, calling Vladimir Putin “the premier and most important threat, more so than ISIS.[7] In all the Bear’s bluster, we sometimes forget that Russia possesses the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, with more than seven thousand nuclear warheads.[8]

Putin’s grand goals are to destroy the West by breaking up the European Union, dividing NATO, frustrating and unnerving the United States, and expanding Russia’s global influence. On all fronts Russia seems to be succeeding.

The Bear is on the move, leaving its footprints across the globe. First, it was Georgia in 2008. Next, the Bear invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014 and supported separatists in eastern Ukraine. In 2015, Russia, working in tandem with Iran, sent armed forces and especially air power into Syria to prop up Bashar al-Assad’s crumbling regime. We’re facing a new “Red Dawn.” Russia is pulling the strings in the Middle East. Putin is trying to break NATO. He yearns to bring Eastern Europe and the Baltic States back into the Russian orbit.

Despite that Russia is the world’s largest nation,[9] the Bear is hungry for more. Putin is busily canvassing the globe in search of weak prey and willing allies. And he’s finding no shortage on either front. The Kremlin, with assistance from Iran, is arming the Taliban in Afghanistan. There are reports of Russian activity in Nicaragua. Putin’s territory grab extends even to the Arctic Circle, which holds more than one-quarter of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas. He visited the area in 2017, and plans are under way to construct a massive military base there. The top of the world is a top Russian priority.

FANCY BEAR AND COZY BEAR

While many Americans may not be fully aware of all that Russia is doing around the world, Russia has dominated US headlines in 2017 because of its meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. By now everyone is well aware Russia has perfected cyber-terrorism and cyber-espionage. Global technological dependence has been weaponized.

The computer-hacking scheme and interference in the US elections has been directly tied to Russian spy agencies and was part of a larger strategy that included hacking computers of the Democratic National Committee. Nearly twenty thousand e-mails hacked by the Russians were dumped by WikiLeaks on July 22, 2016—just three days before the Democratic National Convention—and embarrassed many Democratic Party leaders.

The cyber-security firm CrowdStrike gave these Russian cyber-criminals names—“Fancy Bear” and “Cozy Bear”:

Traditionally, Cozy Bear targets potential victims with phishing attacks—email messages that appear to be from a legitimate, trusted friend or associate. Those messages may contain malicious software that scans a machine for antivirus software, then plants malware on the target machine that make it possible for attackers to monitor keystrokes, communications, documents and other sensitive material on target computers. Fancy Bear is known for stealing targets’ usernames and passwords by setting up dummy websites that appear real enough to convince users to input their email and password information.[10]

Russian attempts to influence American politics are nothing new. In the 1960s “Soviet intelligence officers spread a rumor that the U.S. government was involved in the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.” In the 1980s “they spread the rumor that American intelligence had ‘created’ the AIDS virus, at Fort Detrick, Maryland. They regularly lent support to leftist parties and insurgencies.”[11] Russian intelligence services have been sifting through computer networks in the United States for more than a decade.

One of Russia’s strategies is known as dezinformatsiya, “false information ...

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