The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that the FBI has spent the last several years working with Eastern European authorities to address a growing problem with the black market sale of nuclear materials to extremist groups. Over the last five years, they have interrupted four such attempts with the last known case coming in February.
In a particularly troubling development, some of the sellers appear to have connections with the Russian FSB, the successor to the KGB. The FSB was directed by Vladimir Putin before he became President of Russia and has seen its responsibilities expand to include “countering foreign intelligence operations, fighting organized crime, and suppressing Chechen separatists.” They have official responsibilities that often take them into potentially fertile areas for such transactions, and oversight in such regions can be difficult. That is not to insinuate that the Russian government is involved with the sales but rather to point out the systemic nature of the problem and the degree to which addressing it is likely to prove difficult.
As Constantin Malic, a Moldovan police officer who took part in all four investigations, warned, “We can expect more of these cases. As long as the smugglers think they can make big money without getting caught, they will keep doing it.” Part of the problem is that even the arrests that have been made have failed to apprehend those most responsible. The arrests often take place early on in the process, before those orchestrating events get more directly involved. As a result, it is difficult to know just how much the interventions have accomplished. Even those who have been arrested usually serve only brief sentences—the middle man in a 2011 deal who said it was imperative that the nuclear materials reach “an Islamic buyer” because they are most likely to use it against the United States is already out of prison.
Ultimately, the issue isn’t going to be solved until those most responsible are captured. As long as the root of the problem is allowed to persist, it doesn’t really matter how many middle men are arrested or sales are thwarted because there will always be another one.
Our spiritual lives work in a similar way. As long as we spend our time addressing the manifestations of our sins rather than the root cause, we will continue to commit the same errors. To complicate matters, root causes of sin can differ from person to person. For me, it most often comes down to pride, but for others it could be lust, anger, selfishness, or any number of other issues. Fortunately, we serve a God who knows us better than we know ourselves (Psalm 139:1-4) and longs to help us overcome those issues that most trouble our walk with him (1 Corinthians 10:13).
So what is the source of your greatest struggle? If you don’t know, or even if you think you do, pray and ask the Lord to help you gain better insight into the nature of your sin, and then ask him to help you deal with it in his power and strength.
Managing our sin rather than dealing with its root cause takes up far too much time in our Christian walk and keeps us from focusing more effort on the things to which God has called us. It doesn’t have to be that way. It shouldn’t be that way. But is it that way in your life today?