Is the European Union on a collision course with Russia—or rushing toward a date with destiny? Bible prophecy warns that a world-ruling power will rise before Jesus Christ’s return, and the pressures of war, shifting alliances, and risk of economic collapse may just be the dynamic forces that bring about its birth—along with a great unifying religious movement.
Is the European Union about to have a Great Reset? The term “Great Reset” comes from the World Economic Forum, which is based near Geneva, Switzerland. The WEF advocates a reshaping of “global, regional, and industry agendas” to reset world economics, energy usage, and government social policies. Tomorrow’s World magazine has reported on “The Great Reset” before (January 2021).
The European Union needs a reset. It has been struggling to maintain its unity while multiple forces operate to tear it apart. “Brexit”—Great Britain’s exit from the EU—proved that exit is possible, and perhaps even desirable, for some member states. Germany and France are very secular societies and exercise great influence over EU regulations, while more conservative and religious societies such as Poland have chafed at and even rejected some EU mandatory social policies regarding LGBTQ issues and immigration. And whereas some EU nations, such as Germany and France, are strong economically, others such as Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Greece are economically needy and press the stronger nations for expensive subsidies.
But where there are strong forces working to pull a union apart, often strong counterforces develop to offset them. Europe is experiencing such forces now.
Many influential Europeans, in particular Germany’s Angela Merkel, thought that Russian expansionism could be contained or at least mitigated by commercial engagement of the nation. They even had a word for the policy: “Ostpolitik.” Hence, Europe did not mind becoming heavily dependent on Russian gas and petroleum. That view has become much less widespread since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Wall Street Journal reported, “The Ukraine invasion has shocked Western Europe into recognizing that its reliance on Russian supplies has made it vulnerable to Vladimir Putin’s blackmail” (“A Question for President Biden on Oil and Gas,” March 14, 2022). To many Europeans, Mr. Putin appears to be “weaponizing” his control over the EU’s energy supplies and holding much of Europe’s expected oil and gas supplies hostage as he invades a European state.
Recently, Germany reversed decades of policy and committed to a substantial rebuilding of its military in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz shocked much of Europe with the rapidity of this decision. CNN reported, “Germany has announced that it will buy 35 US-made F-35A fighter jets, the first major arms purchase to be publicly confirmed since Chancellor Olaf Scholz committed to ramping up his country’s defense spending in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine” (“Germany will buy US-made F-35 fighter jets as it ramps up military spending after Russia’s Ukraine invasion,” March 15, 2022). The F-35A is America’s most advanced stealth jet and can carry nuclear weapons.
Other nations in Europe are reevaluating as well. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has admitted new member nations that were once in the Warsaw Pact and largely under the control of the old Soviet Union. Other new NATO members were formerly part of the Soviet Union but became independent when the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact dissolved in 1991. Many of these former Warsaw Pact nations and former Soviet republics joined NATO to preserve their security and political independence. They are the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland (1999); Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia (2004); Albania and Croatia (2009); Montenegro (2017); and North Macedonia (2020). Ukraine has expressed interest in joining as well.
The formerly Warsaw Pact nations are particularly nervous that Russian President Vladimir Putin may yearn for the bad old days of Russia’s military and political rule. To understand the actions and reactions of Europeans, it is necessary to remember the historical context of the Warsaw Pact.
Today, Russians and Eastern Europeans see the Warsaw Pact era very differently. The geopolitical maneuvers of post-World War II Europe are complex, but in order to understand the current events in Eastern Europe, it is helpful to have a basic overview of that period, the Warsaw Pact, and some of the major events leading to its formation.
In February of 1945, the defeat of Germany in World War II was in sight. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin—the “Big Three”—met at the Crimean city of Yalta to negotiate the reorganization of postwar Germany and Europe. Concerning the countries that the Soviets had occupied during World War II, Stalin convinced Roosevelt and Churchill that the Soviets would allow free elections in the occupied countries that would be responsive to the will of the people. That was a promise he never intended to keep.
The Allies in World War II were led by “the Big Three”—the United States, United Kingdom, and Soviet Union—but the coalition included forces from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Free French Resistance, and others. In 1945, Allied armies forced German forces back from North Africa, Italy, France, and other fronts in the west, while Soviet forces drove into Germany from the East. As Hitler’s military began to collapse in Germany, allied forces raced in from the east and the west to take as much territory as possible for post-war occupation and negotiations. Germany surrendered unconditionally at General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s headquarters in Reims, France in the early morning hours of May 7, 1945. The next day, an additional document was signed to the Soviets in Berlin.
What was called “The Iron Curtain” was a physical barrier erected by the Communist governments of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe to seal their peoples off from the democracies of Western Europe. It consisted of over 4,000 miles (7,000 km) of extensive fences, minefields, watchtowers, checkpoints, and walls (including the Berlin Wall). An unauthorized attempt to cross that barrier could be deadly for Eastern Europeans.
After the end of World War II, there were various security crises that alarmed the governments of Western Europe about the political and military expansion of the Soviet Union. The blockade of Berlin, a Soviet-sponsored communist coup in Czechoslovakia, and other events added to concerns about Soviet aggression and expansionism in Europe. The North Atlantic Treaty was signed in 1949. Its purpose is summarized by NATO’s Historian’s Office:
In this agreement, the United States, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the United Kingdom agreed to consider attack against one an attack against all…. The collective defense arrangements in NATO served to place the whole of Western Europe under the American “nuclear umbrella” In the 1950s, one of the first military doctrines of NATO emerged in the form of “massive retaliation,” or the idea that if any member was attacked, the United States would respond with a large-scale nuclear attack. The threat of this form of response was meant to serve as a deterrent against Soviet aggression on the continent. Although formed in response to the exigencies of the developing Cold War, NATO has lasted beyond the end of that conflict, with membership even expanding to include some former Soviet states. It remains the largest peacetime military alliance in the world (“North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), 1949,” Office of the Historian, History.State.gov).
The post-war stability provided by NATO and the U.S. nuclear umbrella permitted the economies of Europe to prosper and to pursue joint trade agreements. As early as the 1950s, Winston Churchill, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and others were advocating the formation of a “United States of Europe.” That was not realized in their lifetimes, but in 1993 European Union citizenship was established by the Maastricht Treaty. The EU currently consists of 27 member states, which includes some former Soviet republics and Warsaw Pact nations. The United Kingdom left the EU on January 31, 2020.
After the defeat of Germany, the Soviet army occupied most of Eastern and Central Europe. Some states were incorporated into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, including Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Eastern Poland, Belarus, Moldovia, and Kaliningrad. Others were formed into a Soviet-dominated alliance called the Warsaw Pact—Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and the Soviet Union.
The Warsaw Pact provided the Soviets with an opposing force to NATO and implemented the systematic political and military hegemony by Russia over the participating countries under a unified military command. Around its rim, the Soviet Union had other satellite nations, such as Mongolia and Afghanistan, over which it maintained hegemony or sympathetic socialist governments.
Liberalization of Communist rule was not permitted. When Hungary tried to leave the Warsaw Pact in 1956, Soviet tanks and troops entered and crushed the revolt. In 1968, Alexander Dubcek’s liberalization of Czechoslovakia—the “Prague Spring”—was crushed by an invasion of about 250,000 troops from the other Warsaw Pact nations.
By 1989, there was much discontent among the peoples of the Warsaw Pact nations and other Soviet Bloc nations. By the time the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991, the nations of the Warsaw Pact had already declared the Pact ended the same year.
This was a period of military and political competition between the liberal democracies of the West, supported militarily by NATO, and the totalitarian socialist Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. During this period, the Mutual Assured Destruction doctrine of nuclear war—“MAD”—prevented large-scale military conflict. The Cold War decades were dangerous times and there were instances such as the Cuban Missile Crisis that nearly resulted in a full nuclear exchange. It is generally agreed that the Cold War ended, at least temporarily, with the breakup of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact.
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) began in 1922 and was presented as a federal union of various smaller states. In fact, the Soviet economy and government were a highly controlled and centralized one-party communist state dominated by Russia. When Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1985, the Soviet Union began a period of reforms and restructuring of the ailing Soviet economy, called perestroika. He later introduced glasnost, meaning openness, which allowed more freedom of the press and greater political freedoms—hence, more criticism of the government—and the inevitable result was more contact with the freer societies of the Western world. A series of spiraling events lead to the formal dissolution of the USSR on December 21, 1991.
Ukraine has expressed interest in following the example of some other former Soviet republics by joining NATO, to strengthen ties with the liberal democracies of the West and for security relative to any future ambitions Russia might have. NATO nations, however, aware of the sensitivity of Ukraine’s position, have so far refused to admit the nation.
The EU nations, particularly Germany, have until recently advocated integrating economically with Russia, reasoning that doing so would reduce the likelihood of armed conflict. They have seen Russia as an economic partner more than as a military and political adversary. But having been under Soviet domination after the end of World War II, the Eastern European nations that are in the EU or NATO have a different view.
Now, with the invasion of Ukraine, all the EU nations—not just many of the former Warsaw Pact nations—are uneasy about the Russian bear. They are concerned that Russia will try to reestablish its former empire by hegemony, destabilization, or outright military force. The Associated Press reported from Belgrade, Serbia:
For some European countries watching Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine, there are fears that they could be next. Western officials say the most vulnerable could be those who aren’t members of NATO or the European Union, and thus alone and unprotected—including Ukraine’s neighbor Moldova and Russia’s neighbor Georgia, both of them formerly part of the Soviet Union—along with the Balkan states of Bosnia and Kosovo.
But analysts warn that even NATO members could be at risk, such as Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania on Russia’s doorstep, as well as Montenegro, either from Moscow’s direct military intervention or attempts at political destabilization…. But the Biden administration is acutely aware of deep concerns in Eastern and Central Europe that the war in Ukraine may be just a prelude to broader attacks on former Warsaw Pact members in trying to restore Moscow’s regional dominance. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has said that “Russia is not going to stop in Ukraine” (“After Ukraine, Europe wonders who’s next Russian target,” AP News, March 10, 2022, emphasis added).
Under the NATO treaty, an attack on one NATO member is treated as an attack on them all. So, an attack by Russia on one of the Baltic states that used to be in the Eastern Bloc, such as Latvia or Estonia, would necessarily become a much larger confrontation between Russia and the rest of NATO—particularly with the United States, which would bear the brunt of the fighting. EU officials understand that they need to take serious measures for their security, and they need to move quickly.
“Who controls the Rimland rules Eurasia, who rules Eurasia controls the destinies of the world” (Nicholas Spykman, The Geography of the Peace, p. 44). The “Rimland” is the crescent of nations that surround the Eurasian continent. This theory has had prominent adherents in the last century. Does Russia see its potential greatness in this context?
Vladimir Putin hopes to use his invasion of Ukraine to reassert Russian dominance in Eastern Europe, to divide NATO, and to stop former Warsaw Pact nations, including Ukraine, from joining the alliance. However, the unintended consequence has been strengthening the unity and resolve of the EU nations, and that can go far beyond military and political matters.
Retired Pope Benedict XVI, an influential and prolific writer, has a distinctive view of Europe. Shortly before he became pope, a collection of his speeches and papers was published in a book, Europe: Today and Tomorrow. In it, he asks, “Europe—what is it exactly?” And he answers, “Europe is not a continent that can be contemplated neatly in geographical terms: rather, it is a cultural and historical concept” (p. 11). He then explains that the very idea of Europe arises from its spiritual roots in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.
Benedict, like popes before him, believes that Europe is not so much a geographic place, but an idea. And historically, that idea has determined Europe’s identity. Benedict points out that Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches provided the pre-political ethic that preceded the formation of the states of Europe and from which the very idea of Europe arises. In his mind, no church means no Europe. He and many others think that the EU should be declared a Christian state.
Like previous popes, Benedict XVI sees the continent of Europe extending not only to the western border of Russia, but all the way to the Ural Mountains, which form a north-south divide well inside Russia. Russians west of the Urals have long identified as much with Europe as with Asia. Is it possible that in seeking to divide Europe, Vladimir Putin also seeks to avoid the division of Russia?
As a former KGB agent, Mr. Putin surely remembers the political effect that Pope John Paul II’s nine visits to Poland had on the Warsaw Pact nations. In 2019, a conference was held to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of his first visit. At that conference, “Dr Jarosław Szarek reminded [them of] the Pope’s memorable words of Europe’s two lungs, the East and the West, words which reverberated for years. He also mentioned that ‘John Paul II addressed the issues of our identity and heritage, spoke about our tradition, culture and history. It is here in Gniezno, that we heard his words about the spiritual unity of Europe, words which influenced the fall of the Iron Curtain’” (“40th anniversary of the first pilgrimage of Pope John Paul II to Poland,” Institute of National Remembrance, IPN.gov.pl, May 31, 2019, emphasis added).
In the view of many in the EU, there must be a strong church for there to be a strong, united Europe. The stronger the presence of the church, they feel, the more united the EU nations will be. In recent decades, the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches have had closer communication. A religious revival—a religious “great reset” in Europe—could bring both churches and the peoples they represent closer together politically. Does Mr. Putin see something coming in Europe that the U.S. does not?
An unintended consequence of the sanctions against Russia is the growing Russia-China alliance. Throughout the last century, the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China were often in conflict. But because of economic sanctions by the nations of the West, Russia is having to rely more and more on the assistance of China. Whether intended or unintended, an alliance between these two great powers is deepening and a realignment of world powers is in process, producing a major division between East and West. Perhaps this is Mr. Putin’s goal and not unintended at all.
Additionally, an unintended consequence of U.S. sanctions on Russia may be the weakening—or replacement—of the dollar as the international reserve currency. China is already promoting its yuan as an alternative, and no one knows what the ultimate impact of digital currencies will be. Will a new European power move to fill the vacuum from the de-dollarization of the world? Clearly, China and Russia would like to.
Tomorrow’s World has long pointed out that biblical prophecy tells us of a ten-nation alliance in Europe that will arise as a dominant world power, particularly in trade and finance. The ten could be ten individual nations or ten groups of nations that give their power to one great autocrat, who will also be supported by a great religious institution. Could an unintended consequence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine be the solidification of a European common identity and a European Great Reset? For the answer, be sure to request a free copy of The Beast of Revelation: Myth, Metaphor, or Soon-Coming Reality? or read it online at TomorrowsWorld.org.