Could Russia Lose the Ukraine War?
TGP Prophecy Letter – March 28, 2022
So far, the Russia-Ukraine War has not gone according to Putin’s plans. While it is possible that Russia will still come out victorious or the current crisis will escalate to World War 3, there are mounting reasons why this might not be the case. At the current time, we personally believe the chances of Russia coming to “terms” with Ukraine and withdrawing are just as great as further escalation. Many news outlets are publishing conflicting information, but countless headlines are showing the possibility of a stalemate (‘Neither side here can win’ - NBC News). We have not personally heard this scenario spoken about in Christadelphian circles as most of the talk regards further escalation. Therefore, we would like to discuss the growing possibility of de-escalation and its prophetical implications, for it’s possible that a Russian pull-out of Ukraine might better set the stage for Ezekiel 38-39 than a Russian victory!
As some might not be aware of these specific aspects of the crisis, allow us to explain the situation. It’s critical to understand the political aspect for both Putin and Zelensky as they both look for a “good” way to end this conflict:
Why is a stalemate a possibility? Essentially, Putin bit off more than he thought he would have to chew. What was intended to be a three-day take-over of Ukraine is now over a month old without a shimmer of victory in sight. It is clear that things have not gone as Putin intended. He is increasingly finding himself between a rock and a hard place with no easy way out.
Putin expected a quick triumph in Ukraine where the Ukrainians would welcome his rule and the Russian people would rejoice in their strong leader. However, Russia has now lost more troops in one month of fighting in Ukraine than they did over an entire decade in Afghanistan (The Jerusalem Post). Putin also believed he would have the backing of the Russian people, but many of his own citizens are turning against him as protests continue to mount. Even some of the Russian troops are turning on Putin, for they believed him when he said it was merely a “military drill.” Ukraine is fighting much harder than he thought they would, in some cases even pushing back the Russian forces (Arutz Sheva). Not only this, but the sanctions placed by the other countries of the world are adding to the unrest, crippling the Russian economy (Yahoo! News).
It seems that Putin can no longer “win” this war in the true sense of the word. If he takes over Ukraine, he will face the never-ending problem of the people of Ukraine who will continually war against his rule. Their fighting spirit will likely only intensify with Russian rule. Putin’s popularity has drastically dropped, and his political position could be at stake as there is growing talk of assassination and/or replacement (though we believe he is likely the “Prince of Rosh” when Gog comes against Israel and will be preserved until the Lord Himself sends fire on the land of Magog - Ezekiel 39:6).
Furthermore, it appears Putin had intentions of another invasion after Ukraine was taken, but as Ukraine has cost far more troops, resources, and money than anticipated, this is increasingly less likely. Consider too that if Russia takes Ukraine, the crushing sanctions on the Russian economy which will likely not be lifted. The world has suffered some from the sanctions on Russia, but it appears that they are making plans to keep Russia out of the picture. One example of this is seen in regard to gas: EU signs US gas deal to curb reliance on Russia - BBC News. The point is, it is difficult to see how Russia – and therefore Putin - will prosper to any degree if they successfully complete their assault on Ukraine.
If Putin does not take over Ukraine and decides to de-escalate, things might begin returning to normal on the world scene for Russia, but not so easily for Putin. This was a war waged by one man, not the entire country. Putin did not have the backing of the people, nor even of most of his military. This puts his political position at risk. The topic is discussed in the following news article from Yahoo! News, An exiled oligarch who spent almost a decade in a Russian prison predicts the Ukraine war will end Putin's regime. Putin apparently wants out of the situation, but has yet to find a way to do so that will preserve himself and his political stature.
For this reason, we are seeing news items like the following: Ukraine: Putin will search for a way to save face - BBC News. This article, which we highly recommend reading, was published on March 16th, and it suggests the possibility that Russia and Ukraine would agree to specific terms to end the conflict:
For Ukrainian President Zelensky, “there's one overriding objective - to make sure that Ukraine comes out of this appalling experience a united, independent country, not a province of Russia, which is what President Putin originally seemed to think he could turn it into.”
For Putin, “all that counts now is that he can declare victory. No matter that everyone in his entire administration will understand that Russia has been given a bloody nose in this unnecessary invasion.”
The article then describes how both sides can declare “victory” and go their separate ways while still intact. The most important agreement would be for Ukraine to not seek NATO membership. This promise not to join NATO would likely be held up by Putin as his trophy, for he would likely claim that a non-NATO Ukraine was his objective “all along.” Russia, then, would allow Zelensky to remain in office and pull their forces out.
At the time of its publishing, the article was merely conjecture. However, these terms are now coming out of the leaders’ mouths:
As sanctions bite, how much economic pain is Putin willing to take? - Euronews
Putin shared his demands for ending the war, including Ukraine not joining NATO and the status of occupied territories: report - MSN
Russia ends demand to oust Zelensky, disarm Ukraine, but large gaps remain, Bennett says - World Israel News
Bennett: Russia no longer wants to replace Zelensky - The Jerusalem Post
Ukraine President reveals ‘compromise’ he might accept to end invasion - Daily Telegraph
These last two were published just today (3/28/22):
Ukraine would consider referendum on staying out of NATO, says Zelenskyy - Euronews
Zelensky says Ukraine prepared to discuss neutrality in peace talks - BBC News
Both parties agree that a compromise is a ways off, but it appears we are seeing the groundwork for one being paved. Again, the situation might still escalate to a terrible extent and lead to NATO becoming directly involved, but it might also de-escalate and ultimately lead to a Russia withdrawal of troops back to the homeland.
Possible Prophetical Relevance
Now to the important information! We want to consider the prophetical implications of this scenario, should it occur. We note that in Ezekiel 38-39, Gog is spoken of as being pulled or turned back, and that is when they come against Israel:
Ezekiel 38:4 – “And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords:”
Ezekiel 39:2 – “And I will turn thee back, and leave but the sixth part of thee, and will cause thee to come up from the north parts, and will bring thee upon the mountains of Israel:”
This gives the impression that Russia will have been in a particular vicinity, be on their way from that vicinity back to Russia, but then be caused to change direction by the Lord’s hand and come against Israel. Our Brother Wayne Tanner has suggested that a Russian withdrawal of Ukraine might comprise this “turning back.” Brother Wayne has also pointed out that the present sanctions on Russia appear to be creating both the need and desire for spoil that is said to be sole goal of Gog in coming against Israel:
Ezekiel 38:11-12 – “And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates, To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land.”
What is this “spoil” and great wealth that Israel has when Gog comes down? Where does Israel obtain it? We submit that it is not anything that Israel presently has, but what they will have in the future. We believe Scripture tells us when, how, from whom, and by whom this great wealth is acquired. Consider the following passages as we try to wrap up our comments:
Zechariah 14:14 – “And Judah also shall fight at Jerusalem; and the wealth of all the heathen round about shall be gathered together, gold, and silver, and apparel, in great abundance.”
Zechariah 12 and 14 expound upon the same event, dealing with a final war between Israel and “the heathen/people round about” (Zechariah 12:2,6). Zechariah 14 is often used to refer to the Gogian invasion, but there are a number of issues with this interpretation, the chief of them being the enemy. Israel has enemies that are close to her and afar off. The term “heathen/people round about” is defined by Scripture to relate not to any nation who decides to surround Israel, but to those that border her:
Deuteronomy 13:7 – “Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth;”
Here, we learn that the phrase “round about” is applied only to nations that border or are close to Israel. Nations who are “far off”, which would include Russia, are not described in this way, but as being “from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth.” In Zechariah 12 and 14, it is “the heathen round about” that come against Israel. These refer to Israel’s thorny Arab neighbors as detailed with incredible precision in Psalm 83.
It is from these nations that Israel is said to gather great wealth: “gold, and silver, and apparel, in great abundance” (Zechariah 14:14). This victory is said to be attained not by Israel alone, but by the Lord and his saints (Zechariah 12:5-7, 14:4-5). Thus, we read a snapshot of the aftermath of this war earlier in Zechariah:
Zechariah 2:4-5 – “And said unto him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein: For I, saith the LORD, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.”
These verses create the Israel of Ezekiel 38 in precise detail. Israel is finally safe from the enemies around them, they have neither bars nor gates as the Lord is their defense, and they are greatly increased with riches and cattle. It is only after these criteria are met that Scripture says Gog will come down. It is because of the wonderful detail and clarity of Scripture that we confidently believe that Russia will not come against Israel at this time. The Scriptures lead us to conclude that Christ must first return, the saints must be gathered and judged, the nations of Psalm 83 must come against Israel and be destroyed by Christ and the saints, and their wealth must first be gathered. Then, we believe, Gog will come seeking spoil.
Will Putin decide to pull out of Ukraine? Though it is possible, a humiliated and desperate Putin is a dangerous Putin. Many are fearing that instead of choosing to de-escalate, he will do anything and everything to achieve victory and save his pride, which likely means using nuclear weapons (All Israel News). This would almost certainly start World War 3.
However these events transpire, may we never forget that it is our Father in heaven who is directing these affairs. May we be consoled in knowing that nothing is ever out of His control! These signs in the political heavens are given to warn us that our Lord draws nigh. Though our faith might soon be tried in the fire, let us rest and confide in the promise of his coming, for “it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (Isaiah 25:9).