The Treacherous Trio of Ezekiel 38 - Part 3: Russia

Strategic Trends Update

The final installment of this series focuses on the most controversial member of the treacherous trio of Ezekiel 38—Russia. Parts 1 and 2 of this series discussed the rise of Turkey and Iran, respectively. Historically, each of these three countries enjoyed grand imperial pasts. All are ambitious. All are making a move to achieve a measure of their previous success.

Why Russia?

The inclusion of Russia as an ally in Ezekiel’s “Magog Invasion” has become one of controversy in recent years. Many early Biblical scholars identified the Hebrew word “rosh” in Ezekiel 38:3 with Russia; “Tubal” with Tiblisi or Tobolsk; and “Mechech” with Moscow. This interpretation would therefore point to Russia as the primary leader of the invasion force.

This interpretation is rendered: “Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal.”

However, a variant translation from the Hebrew within the Massoretic text indicates the word “rosh” should be interpreted as “chief” (as it is 423 times in the Old Testament) and not as a proper name.

This interpretation is rendered: “Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the prince, {pause} chief of Meshech and Tubal.”

If it is possible that “rosh” does not refer to Russia, why would we continue to include it in the Ezekiel 38 invasion scenario? Because of the Scythians.

The Scythians

scythiansmapThe Jewish historian Josephus said, “Magog founded the Magogians, called Scythians by the Greeks.” The most common identity for Magog is in Central Asia. The Scythians were a nomadic tribe who inhabited the ancient territory from Central Asia across the southern part of ancient Russia.

Today, this region encompasses part of the Ukraine, the Southern tip of Russia and the Islamic southern republics of the former Soviet Union with a population of approximately 60 million Muslims. The Islamic connection of the Ezekiel 38 invasion force is inescapable. It is this connection and Russia’s desire to resume “super power” status in the region that may be the “hook” that draws Russia into the conflict.

The Andropov Doctrine

In November 1982, prior to the fall of the Soviet Union, a former head of the KGB, Yuri Andropov, rose to power. Andropov knew what others had missed. The Soviet Union was losing the Cold War and was dangerously close to economic collapse.

He devised a plan to secure money, managerial skills and non-military technologies from the West to transform a new Soviet Union. His only bargaining asset was “geopolitical space.” This philosophy was the one common thread between the Russian leaders of the past 25 years as they reduced Russian influence in the hopes they could buy enough time, technology or cash to make a critical difference.

However, the loss of the Ukraine in the Orange Revolution signaled to Russia that it was in the unacceptable position of total dissolution. The western border moved east nearly a thousand miles, from the West German border to the Russian border with Belarus. From the Hindu Kush its border moved northward a thousand miles to the Russian border with Kazakhstan. From the border of Turkey, Russia was pushed northward to the northern Caucasus.

Eastern Europe was absorbed into the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU). The Baltic States were also absorbed into NATO.

Russia’s Change of Strategy

USSRAny further loss of territory was viewed by Russian leaders as putting Russia in an indefensible position. In 2000, newly elected Russian President Vladimir Putin abandoned the Andropov Doctrine, began to reform the government with loyal pragmatists, and pushed back against American and Western pressure.

Putin established his government from factions among the reformers, the siloviki, and the oligarchs who would be loyal to him. This appeared to be a cohesive team that recognized the strengths and weaknesses of the ideologies of their predecessors.

Under Putin’s direction, for the next eight years Russia began increasing its influence in three directions: toward Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan); toward the Caucasus (Georgia and Azerbaijan); and, toward Eastern Europe and the Baltics (Belarus, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania).

Medvedev’s Doctrine

In 2008, Russia’s presidency transferred to Dmitri Medvedev, Putin’s protégé. Putin was then appointed as Russia’s Prime Minister and assumed the power base behind Medvedev.

Medvedev quickly announced his foreign policy in five succinct points:

  1. Russia recognizes the primacy of the fundamental principles of international law, which define the relations between civilized peoples. We will build our relations with other countries within the framework of these principles and this concept of international law.
  2. The world should be multipolar. A single-pole world is unacceptable. Domination is something we cannot allow. We cannot accept a world order in which one country makes all the decisions, even as serious and influential a country as the United States of America. Such a world is unstable and threatened by conflict.
  3. Russia does not want confrontation with any other country. Russia has no intention of isolating itself. We will develop friendly relations with Europe, the United States, and other countries, as much as is possible.
  4. Protecting the lives and dignity of our citizens, wherever they may be, is an unquestionable priority for our country. Our foreign policy decisions will be based on this need. We will also protect the interests of our business community abroad. It should be clear to all that we will respond to any aggressive acts committed against us.
  5. As is the case of other countries, there are regions in which Russia has privileged interests. These regions are home to countries with which we share special historical relations and are bound together as friends and good neighbors. We will pay particular attention to our work in these regions and build friendly ties with these countries, our close neighbors.

Medvedev concluded, “These are the principles I will follow in carrying out our foreign policy. As for the future, it depends not only on us but also on our friends and partners in the international community. They have a choice.”

Russia is creating a new structure of relations within its former sphere of influence. The Russians want to use this new regional power to be part of a global system in which the United States is not the dominant power. Ambitious as these goals may seem, the U.S. is not in the position to respond effectively.

The Middle East Perspective

When the U.S.-jihadist war was begun, it was assumed the U.S. was free to focus on what appeared to be the current priority—the defeat of radical Islamism. The strategy did not anticipate the resurrection of a resurgent Russia.

Presently, Russia can strike at the heart of American strategy in the Islamic world. The Russians have a long history of supporting Middle Eastern regimes with weapons shipments.

As a measure against any American interference in their strategic goals, Russia could conceivably send weapons to factions in Iraq that do not support the current regime, encourage Iranians to withdraw support for the Iraqi government, supply weapons to the Taliban to further destabilize Pakistan, or arm and place groups such as Hezbollah in critical areas to cause disruption.

The crux of the problem is not just the deployment of U.S. forces in the Islamic world; it is the Russians’ ability to use weapons sales and covert means to deteriorate conditions significantly. Add Russian hostility to the current reality in the Islamic world and “strategy” could rapidly spin out of control.

The Obama Factor

By all accounts, July’s meeting in Moscow between U.S. President Barack Obama and Russia’s Medvedev and Putin did not produce the assurances Russia was looking for on three key issues:

  1. American recognition of Russian power in Eurasia;
  2. Neutrality of Poland without ballistic missile defense systems; and,
  3. Curtailment of U.S. support for pro-Western Ukraine and Georgia.

Obama wanted assurances that Russia would exert real pressure on the Iranian regime to cease nuclear enrichment and stop providing Iran and other regimes with advanced military technology like the S-300 air defense system. These assurances were not forthcoming.

The Russians see Obama as a weak leader with no clear policy for withdrawal from the Middle East and no strategic potential to stop their expansion within their former borders of influence. Any effort to interfere will potentially be countered with Islamic violence against American targets or its allies.


Is it possible that Magog is “hooked” into providing weaponry and strategic personnel to assist in an invasion force designed to wipe Israel off the map in an effort to regain and secure their position of leadership in their neighborhood?

Ezekiel states in chapter 38 verse 10, “Thus says the Lord God: On that day it shall come to pass that thoughts will arise in your mind, and you will make an evil plan...”

As the world watches, the treacherous trio is falling into place. Just forty years ago, this was not a possibility. Both Turkey and Iran, although Islamic, were allies of the United States and the West. Russia and the U.S. were locked in the stalemate of the Cold War in which neither side wanted to push too far.

The world is now watching as the Ezekiel players are in place and it doesn’t look like anyone is in a position to intervene on Israel’s behalf. But then again, we know why.