Focus on Ukraine - Putin: the not so great



As we focus on Ukraine, most of us will probably be feeling more drawn to pray for the people most directly affected, and the work of the Kingdom in Ukraine itself, and in the ‘diaspora.’ Some of us, though, will be concerned to zoom the prayer camera one major stage further out again as it were to pray for how this affects the world. One major aspect of this is how the West responds in terms of supply armaments at this time when the Russian military has begun to get its act together and to be making terrifyingly destructive advances right across the Donbas, achieving its aims through massively superior numbers on the one hand, and somewhat better air-sea-land coordination.

If anyone had any doubts as to Putin’s intentions re Ukraine – and many clearly did – the extraordinary talk he gave in which he declared that Ukraine does not deserve to exist as a nation should have opened everyone’s eyes, and caused all doubts be laid to rest once and for all on a bed of spikes. Even in the face of the utter destruction Russian forces have inflicted, many nations remain reluctant to take the full implications on board.

It is important to be aware of the strong ideology that underlies Putin’s actions. See this site, amongst many others, for a brief but important analysis of the implications of a more recent talk he gave in St Petersburg, which all the Russian networks relayed, and which was full of of expansionist talk and self-comparison between himself and Peter the Great, reinforcing Peter’s claims to ‘reclaim’ territory for Russia that in reality had never been its own. (Both were thinking particularly of Sweden). Let’s keep praying for leaders around the world to realise just what a danger all this poses to the freedom of Europe and beyond – not least because all this is by no means stemming from Putin alone, but from the ultra-hawks, who are now said to be in the ascendancy in the Kremlin.

Father, we are not privy to all the decision making, but You are, so we pray for Your full purposes to be outworked, and for a strengthening of the response of Western nations, even as we pray for unity and wise responses from those countries that feel most directly threatened: Estonia, Finland and Sweden. We pray in particular for Estonia, where inflation is higher than anywhere else in Europe, and where the government is in danger of imminent collapse. May the words of the Prime Minister Kaja Kallas serve as a sounding board and echo widely: that “gas is expensive, but freedom is priceless.”

See European Unity on Ukraine growing more difficult and Estonian PM removes coalition partner from government

I have never asked prayer before for a meeting of NATO Ministers of Defence, but I did ask a group to pray about this recent meeting which finishes today in Brussels, and to which ‘partner’ nations Finland, Georgia, Sweden and Ukraine were also invited. Ukraine is now desperately short of heavy weaponry – including those which should have been dispatched many months ago. Although one fully appreciates the need to be careful about escalating military action towards Russa, delay and procrastination in the West have undoubtedly made it impossible for them to hold on to much of their territory. Ukrainian forces are said to be outgunned by as many as 10-1 in terms of both artillery and troop numbers, and are admitting to taking huge number of fatalities every day.

Ukraine is now critical shortly of heavy weaponry. Not only are they in need of better artillery, but the reinforcements coming to them are of a lesser calibre. But we are so unjoined up in our thinking that we have not even got round to increasing production in the West to replace the weapons we have sent abroad. See this article on rearming the British Army.

Right at the beginning of the conflict, Ros warned presciently that refugees from Ukraine would feel huge degree of bitterness and resentment towards the West for failing to come more vigorously to its aid in its hour of need. It is far from the case that the West has done nothing; it has actually invest and sent a great deal; but it is all a matter of proportion in response to the truly massive challenge the country faces. May decisions be made at that meeting of defence ministers that heeds the continual cry coming from Ukraine to send more help, that will play a vital role in how this conflict develops.

Once again the West has been guilty of putting profit before concern for the human rights of others – and since well has that augured well in the long run? As an illustration of the scale of the compromise that is involved (many would call it hypocrisy), France has actually been increasing its supplies of gas from Russia since the invasion, despite the EU supposedly sending strong signals to the contrary. We can guess only too well that those billion dollars will be being deployed to Putin’s war chest.

The War in Ukraine

While Britain revelled in the luxury of having street parties that were certainly a great deal more sumptuous than their counterparts in the rationed austerity 70 years ago, Ukrainian forces are fighting for their lives. According to Ukrainian sources they are said to be suffering casualties at the rate of at least 100 dead a day, with up to 500 wounded – and their forces are becoming seriously exhausted after well over one hundred days of continual warfare.

The prospect of having enhanced weapons has been one of the factors that has been keeping them going. One advanced German anti-aircraft battery, for instance, could shield and defend a city). Accurate longer range rockets from the UK and the United States would be of enormous help, as would powerful Harpoon anti-ship missiles from Denmark and the UK. These could play a significant role in attempting to release the trapped grain stocks that are in danger of rotting.

Horrible though everything to do with this war is, it is really important that Ukraine has the means with which to defend itself at this time when its forces are being severely pounded and squeezed. Russia has been counting all along on the resolve of the West weakening, and our attention being taken up with other things.

Father let reinforcements reach the Ukrainians rapidly now in the form of usable weapons we pray. Keep this materiel safe from being taken out before it can be deployed. Refresh renew, reinvigorate and protect we pray. Let not an evil regime swallow this country up we pray.

The Propaganda War

Meanwhile Russia is busy developing its Patriotic Youth Army as a way of raising up a huge number of young people for the militia to draw on. We know from the Hitler Youth how hard it is for people brought up in such cadres to find the Lord. May He find ways to raise up witnesses to many.

(This is the logical successor for the highly vigorous atheistic organisation The Pioneers, which basically had to disband in 1991.)

As the economic war tightens

Russian middle class are still in the early stages of feeling the effect of over a thousand western firms are leaving Moscow in droves; they will find it increasingly difficult to develop certain high tech things such as car due to the sanctions; already their firms like Renault they are having to go back to produce Lada style cars from the 1980s. Although things have been easier for some in recent decades, Russians have a long tradition of being able to hunker down and accept restrictions.

This significant and well-informed article in The Guardian, suggests that, so far from being brought to its knees through sanctions, Russia is in fact winning many aspects of the economic war.

The rebadging of Mcdonalds and relaunching of it under new Russian colours is a significant feel good factor for Russian people in cities like Moscow. Many are wearing baseball caps with the letter Z on them. There is the bread for people; the circuses are the promise of endless entertainment (given that Russia has been excluded from all sporting events) defeating the terrible Ukrainians.

Dictators, like Roman emperors before them, rule by the expedient of ‘bread and circuses’ to keep people from revolting against their heavy handed rule – in other words, people being willing to trade much of their freedom for economic stability. It fits with Martin Luther King.

As was bound to happen, many aspects of the war in Ukraine are in danger of dropping off the radar and being forgotten. Ukrainian reporting has by no means always been accurate, but President Zelensky is warning now that up to 200,000 children have been taken to Russia, along with the ongoing deportation of adults from eastern Ukraine. It is so important that we do not forget them.

What happens when Ukrainian forces and cities are overrun?

This article about Putin’s Filtration Camps makes for really grim reading, but brings home to our understanding the full horrors that await the multitudes who are being captured.

As you will see, Russia has proven ‘form’ in dealing with huge numbers of defeated foes with extreme cruelty.

To quote again the peerless words of the Estonian Prime Minister, ‘Yes, gas is expensive – but freedom is priceless.’

Keeping going in prayer and making good use of Bible verses as we do so

Concerning the whole situation in Ukraine, Lyndall Bywater has just sent us this reminder to keep praying.

“I keep getting the two words “don’t tire!” I don’t hear this in any condemning way, of “being tired is wrong” or “do better!” but rather in the encouraging way of cheering on marathon runners, and being confident that the Lord can provide fresh energy to keep going. It feels like this is the moment when many will stop praying, simply because the news seems so bleak. Those words “don’t tire” tells me that something is about to change.”

At more of less the same time, Linda Entwistle posted this message.

“I’ve been stirred once again not to tire of praying for the Ukrainian soldiers on the front line, particularly those in Severodonetsk who are on the verge of no longer being able to hold out as a result of being so greatly outnumbered and outgunned. Moreover, the reinforcements that have arrived are of a different calibre.

“Also, the fact that the West’s commitment to supporting Ukraine is on the whole waning due to the cost of living crisis, will undoubtedly have a psychological effect. We pray once again for moral and spiritual support and for angelic assistance during this crucial time. We pray for a renewed resolve by the US and Germany to make good on their promises of support”.

It is so right to harness many of the verses of the Bible for prayer at such times and about such issues and to join in the cries of the prophets and oppressed peoples everywhere.

Here are a selection we can pray:

How long, Lord, will you look on?
Rescue me from their ravages,
my precious life from these lions.

How long, LORD, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?

Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.

Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint;
heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, LORD, how long?

Turn, LORD, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.

They (those who had been slain) called out in a loud voice,

“How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their [believing] brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.

(Hab. 1:2-3; Ps. 35:17, 6:2-4, Rev. 6:10 cf 74:10-11, 119:84; Is. 6:11; Jer. 4:21, 12:4, 47:6)

Praying for the extreme PTSD that will follow this war for decades to come

I recently watched an incredibly poignant retelling of the Falklands War through the eyes of serving officers who have all had suffered extreme huge PTSD since it finished. (you have until May 2023 to watch it).

As it turned out, I had decided a couple of days before seeing this that it is extremely important for us to be praying for all who are caught up in this war, from serving soldiers to civilians for the quite incredible trauma and disorientation that lies ahead for them when it finally finishes.

When you think about just how exceptionally disturbed and disorientated these experienced British ex Paratroopers, Marines and Commandoes have been as a result of the Falklands’ war, (which, in real terms, was a very short campaign) multiply that up any number of times with regard to Ukraine, where the action has been horrendously nonstop day after day for long months, and the consequences beyond bearing. PTSD is quite simply going to sabotage many people’s lives in terrible ways, in all too many cases for the rest of their lives – and even for generations. Pray for God’s mercy for each one affected.

Britain has continued to play a foremost role in supporting Ukraine militarily, and is now sending advanced missiles. Poland and the Scandinavian and Baltic States (especially Estonia) have been punching far above their weight in terms of both their economic and military support for Ukraine, whereas President Macron and Germany’s chancellor have been far less upfront in their support. All this has served to make a complete nonsense about France’s previously grandiose idea of the EU forming its own defence force independent of Washington has been shown to be nothing more than a great deal of hot air.

It should surely be concerning that the EU is seriously considering accepting Serbia into its ranks, where support for Vladimir Putin has, until very recently, been almost unanimous, just as its dependency on Russian is energy is total. On the day of the invasion, the main tabloid newspapers actually reported that Ukraine had invaded Russia!! They have subsequently backtracked on this, however, as a result of discovering that Putin has been sticking a knife in their backs too, and so have toned down their support for him). Even so the EU needs to be careful. It has already discovered that EU membership for countries such as Hungary is a very mixed blessing.

Aid, of course, is about much more than the number of weapons donated, but the US has provided far more materiel in that direction than the entire EU combined, largely as the result of President who is a veteran of the Cold War, and who recognises the dangers that Putin poses to the whole world – whereas future American presidents may be more concerned with the Pacific arena, and leave Europe to face its own difficulties on its own.

Looking East

America is right to be concerned about the scale of the threat now arising in the Pacific region, where Chinese (and North Korean) belligerence is increasing. In the last few days an Australian fighter plane has been damaged as a result of close contact with a Chinese jet. Canadian planes too have been seriously harassed by Chinese planes, which came within a terrifying few feet of them, forcing them to change course to avoid a mid-air collision.

With North Korea firing whole salvoes of missiles in the last few days, too, at a time when it should be devoting its energies and resources to containing with its first devastating outbreak of Covid amongst its unvaccinated population, the Far East theatre remains every bit as tense and volatile as the Russian-Ukrainian front.

Lord, have mercy – and cause the leaders of the nations to make wise decisions at this time when an ever-increasing number of dangers and provocations are looming on so many fronts.

Come in power to the people of all these countries we have mentioned, every one of which is being subjected to intense propaganda efforts that owe nothing to the truth of your Word.

In recent days the words and attitude of President Macron have felt dispiritingly reminiscent of the sort of compromises associated with Vichy France – and while President Stoltz, under pressure from the United States, finally agreed some months ago to send heavy armaments to Ukraine, nothing has yet actually been despatched. Moreover, Germany has now intervened to prevent Spain from sending some mothballed Leopard tanks because they were German built.

Doubtless with people in mind such as Lord Halifax, who favoured suing for peace with Germany in the aftermath of the fall of France, Churchill once described appeasers as ‘someone who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.’ Lord Halifax, who had no stomach to lead the country in a war with Germany, came within an inch of being appointed Prime Minister to replaced Neville Chamberlain. We can never be too grateful for God’s overruling at that time.

Jesus specifically said that genuine peacekeepers are blessed (Matt. 5:9), but there is a world of difference between ‘peacekeepers in the flesh’ who fail to recognise the existence of genuine dangers, and the importance of maintain strong defence and boundaries, and those who simply compromise, whether out of fear of the consequences, of disappointing others or because they were in such of popular endorsement. Every significant step we have to take for the Lord is almost bound to clash with somebody else’s agenda and expectations for us.

We dare not define ourselves by other people’s demands, for they will often clash with the Lord’s purposes. If the Lord is leading us, what is best for us will ultimately be best for others too – and will keep us from limping along, being pulled in all directions. In the meantime, the dangers of trying to walk forward whilst looking over our shoulders all the time to see who is following us should be too obvious to need spelling out.

Macron trying to put right his gaffe

President Macron visited Romania on Tuesday and Moldova on Wednesday not only to show his support for these countries, but also to counter the remark he made that he doesn’t want to do anything to humiliate Putin. Romania is important in this respect because the NRF is stationed there. “The NATO Response Force (NRF) is a highly ready and technologically advanced multinational force made up of land, air, maritime and Special Operations Forces (SOF) components that the Alliance can deploy quickly, wherever needed.” (copied from NATO website).

NATO forces in Romania has recently been reinforced by French and Belgian troops and artillery. Macron recently reported that he is “ready to unblock the port of Odessa” and in meetings with NATO troops in Romania and key leaders in the region has loudly protested his support for Ukraine, in a bid to reverse the widely held view of him – as prompted by his repeated statements that ‘Russia should not be humiliated during diplomatic attempts to bring the conflict to an end.’ May this visit to the region have constructive outcomes, and inspire Macron to make good his promises and to prove his true willingness to oppose Ukraine. See this article in Radio Free Europe.

Meanwhile we pray for protection for farmers in Ukraine, who are facing constant peril from mines, shelling and cluster bombs as they attempt to go about their work in continual danger of their lives. The menace to the wider world from the ensuing grain shortages is well known and very real.

Exactly as Putin had been calculating all along, the West’s commitment to supporting Ukraine is at risk of waning due to the cost of living crisis. This too will take a significant psychological demoralising effect on the Ukrainian defenders, and increase the probability that Ros discerned from the start that very many will become resentful of the West for not having done more to defend and supply them.

Pray again for moral and spiritual support and for angelic assistance during this crucial time – as well as renewed resolve by the US, Germany and other nations to make good on their promises of support.