THE SMOLDERING CRISIS IN SYRIA,
A SYMBOL OF A GLOBAL CRISIS
My friend John Haller who I regularly listen to on Sundays, has just provided an excellent update on the issues in Syria and how what is happening there typifies and catalyzes the global crisis that has dramatically accelerated over the past six months.
It is one-hour long and all of it is very much worth watching. However, the Syrian presentation begins at 21.40 and runs until 50.00 (just under 30 minutes). To watch John’s presentation at his church, Fellowship Bible Chapel in Columbus, Ohio, click here. As is typical for John, he does top notch research and brings out the most important points to consider for those who often miss much of what is most important in the news.
Included within his talk are some excellent clips from an incredibly important presentation made by General Philip M. Breedlove to Congress this past week discussing the global implications of what Russia is doing in Syria and how it is attempting to “rewrite the rules of international order.”
Citing information from an article directly from the Department of Defense site:
WASHINGTON, February 25, 2016 — Russia and instability on Europe’s southern flank pose serious threats to U.S. and European security interests, the commander of U.S. forces in Europe said today.
The complex security situation in Europe “has only grown more serious and more complicated” in recent months, said Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and commander of U.S. European Command.
Speaking before the House Armed Services Committee on security challenges in Europe, Breedlove outlined challenges ranging from a “resurgent, aggressive” Russia, mass migration of refugees, and the threat of terrorism from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
As a ceasefire has gone into effect, we must remember that the ceasefire does not affect attacks on ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra (Syria’s Al-Qaeda affiliate). Consequently, Russia can and will continue to bomb in and around Aleppo, near the Turkish border, where many of the rebels opposing Syria’s President Bashar al’ Assad are holed up. Haller points out that the cease fire affects 97 (yep, ninety-seven) rebel groups in the Syria civil war (this is not like the U.S. Civil War where it was North vs. South!). And Russia could continue to bomb any rebel group and claim it is ISIS without much chance anyone can prove otherwise.
Breedlove points out what I have been saying for the past year: Russia’s internal problems precipitate its nationalist agenda – to expand its influence in Ukraine and to galvanize its resolve to protect its interests in Syria and the Middle East. Putin makes his call for focusing on the external enemy (namely the United States and its globalist aspirations) to keep the minds of his citizens off of the economic hardship that is making their lives increasingly difficult (dropping oil prices, the crumbling ruble, sanctions against Russia).
Conservative Americans that list toward nationalism rather than globalism, it is tempting to have respect for Putin’s Russian nationalism, mainly because we so mistrust U.S. leadership that seems hellbent to reduce U.S. dominance in the name of “internationalism”. However, we must not be fooled into believing that Putin stands as “OUR” Christian voice and as the opposition to globalism that deserves our unquestioned support. Putin looks out of Putin first and Mother Russia second. He has amassed one of the most amazing fortunes in the world, over $40B USD through corruption according to Frontline (PBS). Additionally, Putin may become the human leader called Gog in Ezekiel 38-39 as I argue in my latest book, THE NEXT GREAT WAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST.
Haller references another important article in Foreign Affairs Magazine. Citing from this article:
Partly because Russia’s economic problems are far more severe than China’s, Moscow’s aggression has been more naked. After President Boris Yeltsin’s chaotic rule came to an end in 1999, Putin consolidated central authority. As energy prices soared, he harnessed Russia’s hydrocarbon-rich economy to create a sphere of influence in the countries of the former Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. His goal was clear: to restore the old empire.
But since direct rule through communist parties had proved too costly, Putin preferred an oblique form of imperialism. In lieu of sending troops into the old domains, he built a Pharaonic network of energy pipelines, helped politicians in neighboring countries in various ways, ran intelligence operations, and used third parties to buy control of local media. Only recently has Putin acted more overtly on a number of fronts, encouraged no doubt by the lack of a Western response to his 2008 military campaign in Georgia. In early 2014, Russian forces seized Crimea and Russian proxy militias initiated a war in eastern Ukraine. And in late 2015, Putin inserted the Russian military into the Syrian civil war, specifically to save the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but also, more broadly, to restore Moscow’s position in the Levant—and to buy leverage with the EU by influencing the flow of refugees to Europe.
Not coincidentally, these military adventures have accompanied the sharp reversal of Russian economic power. In 2014, the price of oil collapsed, the countries of central and eastern Europe continued to wean themselves off Russian gas, slow global growth further reduced the appetite for Russian hydrocarbons and other natural resources, and the West levied damaging sanctions on Moscow. The result has been a full-blown economic crisis, with the ruble losing roughly half of its value against the U.S. dollar since 2014. That year, Russian GDP growth fell to nearly zero, and by the third quarter of 2015, the economy was shrinking by more than four percent. In the first eight months of 2015, capital investment declined by six percent and the volume of construction fell by eight percent. 
All of this adds up to expansion of unabated stress. As of the old standard says, “Something’s Gotta Give!” Expect continued tension to increase, especially as Turkey and Russia move closer to conflict, as Sunnis and Shia hatred rises, and as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey seek military solutions to ousting Syria’s current regime. For now, the U.S. is playing a vacillating and indecisive role. Our strategy to support the rebels against Assad has more or less failed. The U.S. military has grown more vocal in opposing the White House policy and recognizes that much more is at stake in the Middle East and in global affairs than a regime change in Syria. The U.S. and Russia are on the cusp of what could become a major war, perhaps involving nuclear weapons. That is why Breedlove is so emphatic when he says that Russia represents an existential threat to the U.S.
How close are we to World War III? We are already there. It has begun. The ramp up period may be weeks, months, or one year. But the game is afoot. We are in the “foothills” and the mountains stand right before us. Exactly how much terrain must be covered before we are in the mountains is not obvious.
For the time being, proxy fights will continue but there is great likelihood that we will see major escalation involving Turkey, Russia, and other Sunni state belligerents in the weeks just ahead. How long before it involves the United States and Israel directly is still anybody’s guess. But make no mistake: the fire will soon jump up to visible heights from the smoldering ashes of the thousands of bombs already dropped on Syria. It is only now a matter of time.