Beyond Crimea - A review

Beyond Crimea - The new Russian Empire


Reviewed by Philip Weatherall


CHRISTADELPHIANS HAVE long shown
an interest in the political movements and
policies of Russia. Brother John Thomas
published an informative article by a New York
evangelist entitled “Present Aspect of Russia.”1
To quote from the opening paragraph: “Russia,
with an ambition that knows no bounds,
with resources almost inexhaustible, and secret
policy intriguing at every court in Europe, seeks
to extend her territory over all of central Asia,
and to out vie ancient Rome in the extent of her
dominions and in the majesty of her power.” By
reading Agnia Grigas’s excellent book on very
recent Russian history, we see that regarding
foreign policy not much has changed in nearly
170 years.
A wake-up call
Beyond Crimea is a detailed analysis of Russian
strategy since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Written soon after Russia’s annexation of Crimea,
it is a wake-up call to the West to be aware of the
movements and machinations of the new Russia,
which is nothing other than the old Russia in disguise,
still with the same objectives of expansion
of territory and strengthening of power. When
the Soviet Union fell in December 1991, the fifteen
countries forming that Union went their separate
ways and became independent states. Each of
them had and now has varying attitudes towards
Russia itself. Agnia Grigas shows the interaction
between Russia and all the former states, how far
each has travelled politically, and how Russia has
applied the brakes when many of these countries
leaned towards the West.


Reimperialisation strategy
The author identifies “a seven-stage reimperialisation
policy” (p. 26) which Russia uses to exert
its influence in the post-Soviet ‘space.’ By looking
at individual states and groups of states with a
similar outlook, Grigas shows how successful
Russia has been in seeking to control the politics
of governments and the opinions of its compatriots.
By means of inducements, some weaker states
have moved closer to their former ally without
feeling wholly comfortable. These seven stages
are: soft power, humanitarian policies, compatriot
policies, passportisation, information warfare,
protection and finally annexation. Each of these
stages is well explained and documented in the
book. Progress in the staged process has varied
in each of the former Soviet states. What is remarkable,
however, is the way in which Russian
President Vladimir Putin views those who are
Russian-speakers, using this as a lever to provide
support to them through various policies. This
feature is common to almost all the fifteen former
states, but is confined to specific geographical
areas in most.
Whilst the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and
Lithuania moved relatively quickly to the West
and joined the EU and NATO in 2004, Russia still
exerts a degree of influence in each of them. Of
prime concern to Russia, as Grigas points out,
is the political stance taken by Estonia and Latvia
not to grant automatic citizenship towards
Russians who emigrated during the Soviet era.
This left a sizable part of their populations as
non-citizens who were issued with ‘alien passports.’
This status “significantly restricted their
civic rights compared to full citizens” (p. 152).
Through this situation Russia has increased its
‘humanitarian’ policies in seeking to protect the
compatriot Russian-speakers.
Suspecting that other former Soviet states
showed leanings towards the West, Russia has
interfered in creating unresolved internal problems,
in particular in eastern Ukraine. By such
policies in Ukraine, Russia can interfere with “domestic
affairs, torpedo Kiev reforms and hinder
any plans to join the EU and NATO” (p. 133). In
Moldova, although Russian troops are stationed
in the region of Transnistria, this self-proclaimed
‘independent state’ is not recognised by Russia
or internationally. Nevertheless, Russia’s presence
once again precludes any moves directed towards
the West. The position in Georgia’s breakaway
‘republics’ of South Ossetia and Abkhazia (also
not recognised internationally, but recognised by
Russia and a few friendly countries) is clearer,
in that nothing is likely to change in the near
future apart from closer ties with Russia. In fact,
Grigas points out that there are signs that South
Ossetia, originally part of Georgia and in dispute,
will eventually be merged with North Ossetia,
part of Russia.


“. . . and many people with thee”
From a Bible perspective, Russia, whom many
Bible students identify with ‘Gog, the prince of
Rosh’ of Ezekiel 38, is of great interest, as we look
to her for signs characterising this invading power.
In verse 8, the prophet says, “be thou a guard
unto them,” and this is exactly what is happening.
The Russian diaspora provides the circumstances
for such an event. Indeed, the penultimate stage
in the list shown above is protection.
Many Russians emigrated in the 1990s, taking
the opportunity to seek a new life in other lands.
A number of these have gone to countries unconnected
with the former Soviet Union. This set of
circumstances is not covered in Beyond Crimea, but
knowing that there are 1.5 million Russian Jews
in Israel, and also how Putin, who will remain
in post until 2024, views his Russian-speaking
population, might this not be his motivation for
invading Israel? There are, of course, several additional
reasons that may be suggested for Putin’s
future southern expedition; indeed, the prophecy
provides one in verse 13: “Art thou come to take a
spoil?” Let us remember, however, that Zechariah
informs us that, when Jerusalem is taken, “half
of the city shall go forth into captivity” (Zech.
14:2). May this verse be telling us that Putin will
seek to take back his ‘lost people,’ diverting their
intelligence and expertise to enhance his ‘New
Russian Empire’?


Conclusion
I found this book fascinating and a clear insight
into Russia’s modern-day attempts to regain as
much as possible of the former Soviet space.
Whilst a little repetitive in places, it is undoubtedly
a thoroughly well-researched book supported
by references running to sixty-seven
pages. It is very readable and provides remarkable
confirmation of our traditional understanding of
prophecy at the time of the end, and as such is
highly recommended.


1. “Present aspect of Russia,” Herald of the Kingdom and
Age to Come, vol. 1, no. 11 (Nov. 1851).

 

This review was first published in The Testimony magazine January 2020

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