A forty-mile-long Russian military convoy is moving toward Kyiv today, threatening Ukraine’s capital as major cities across the country face increasingly heavy shelling. The Wall Street Journal is reporting this morning that Russia, frustrated in its plans for a quick victory, is switching to a new strategy of pummeling civilian areas in an attempt to demoralize Ukrainian resistance.
Where will this conflict end? Geopolitical experts are discussing three outcomes; let’s consider them in escalating order.
One: Is this a new Cold War?
Many observers believe that Putin at a minimum wants to decapitate the government of Ukraine and replace it with a puppet regime loyal to himself.
To this end, more than four hundred Russian mercenaries have reportedly been sent to Kyiv to assassinate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. A list identifying Ukrainians to be killed or sent to camps illustrates the Russian desire to replace Ukraine’s leadership structure with those loyal to Putin.
Taking control of Ukraine would give Russia access to the Black Sea warm water port, control of Ukraine’s substantial wheat and agricultural production, greater ease in moving energy products across the Ukrainian region to market, control of the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, and control of 90 percent of America’s semiconductor-grade neon, a product critical for lasers used in chipmaking.
Not to mention a political “win” at a time when Putin is facing anti-war rallies at home and presidential elections in two years.
As NATO countries escalate their unified response to the invasion, many believe that this conflict is the beginning of a new “Cold War.” Over the weekend, the twenty-seven nation European Union decided for the first time in its history to supply weapons to a country at war, sending 450 million euros ($507 million) of weaponry to Ukraine. Germany said it would increase defense spending massively.
British oil major BP announced it would give up its nearly 20 percent stake in Russian oil giant Rosneft, writing off up to $25 billion. Shell decided that it would also exit all Russian operations. Yesterday, Switzerland joined the European Union in adopting further sanctions against Russian leaders and banks.
The Wall Street Journal reports today that the crisis in Ukraine has stoked turbulence across global markets, sending the S&P 500 lower for a second straight month and Russian markets plunging. If this “cold war” continues, the US could experience significant Russian cyberattacks that could target critical US infrastructure systems, along with energy disruptions, economic uncertainty, and the ongoing threat of further escalation.
Two: Are we in World War III?
Many historians liken Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939.
Putin claims that the 1991 collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” Ukraine was part of the USSR from its composition in 1922 until its dissolution in 1991.
If Putin wants to rebuild the old Soviet Union, he will likely seek to make Ukraine part of Russia. But he may not stop there, seeking to capture Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to the north of Ukraine.
However, these countries are NATO members. This would trigger Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty (an attack on any NATO member is an attack on all its members), bringing the US and our allies directly into military conflict with Russia.
It’s hard to imagine that Putin wants direct war with the US and NATO, but it was not long ago that many believed he would not actually invade Ukraine.
Three: Could Putin use nuclear weapons?
One analyst warns that if Putin can win his war against Ukraine only by destroying the country, the West could respond with such force that Putin’s regime would be threatened. In that scenario, he might consider nuclear escalation.
A longtime military analyst believes we are already in World War III and notes that Putin previously ordered the use of a nuclear weapon—radioactive polonium—to poison the dissident and defector Alexander Litvinenko. She adds that the Russians have used a weapons-grade nerve agent, Novichok, at least twice. She concludes, “If anybody thinks that Putin wouldn’t use something that he’s got that is unusual and cruel, think again.”
We can add the possibility of mistakes made when nuclear weapons are on high alert and growing concerns for Putin’s emotional and mental stability. Sen. Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, stated, “It’s pretty obvious to many that something is off with Putin. . . . It would be a mistake to assume this Putin would react the same way he would have five years ago.”
“There was a great calm”
One evening, Jesus and his disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee in a boat. A “great windstorm arose,” so that the boat was filling with water. Then Jesus “rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!'” And the Bible says, “The wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:37–39).
Your storm may be the escalating crisis in Ukraine or something closer to home. But know this: Jesus is in your boat. He is experiencing everything you’re experiencing. Because you’re in his hand, nothing can come to you without coming first through him (John 10:28–29).
The key is to trust our storm to our Savior, every time. To help us do this, my wife has written A Great Calm: Finding God’s Peace When You Need It Most.
Janet is the most anointed Bible teacher I have ever known. Her gift for explaining and applying God’s word is evident on every page. When I read her amazing book, I found myself time and again turning to Jesus for his calm in the storms of the moment. I discovered that the promises she explains and the steps she suggests lead us to the One whose word still calms the waves of our world and our souls.
I hope you’ll order your copy today. And I encourage you to name your storm this morning and give it by faith to your Lord. The calm he will give you in response will be a powerful witness to our broken world. And “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
What storm do you need to entrust to Jesus today?