Eye on the Middle East Jun/Jul 1998
The Russians are back. And, as far as what Americans might expect, with a vengeance. During the crisis with Saddam Hussein, the Russians were vocal in letting the United States know that any attack on Saddam could start World War III—meaning, of course, that U.S. troops might be facing Russians on the field of battle. This was enough to cause some consternation among American planners in the administration and create second thoughts about an attack.
After U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan returned from his visit with the Butcher of Baghdad, he declared a breakthrough in the negotiations. Iraqis made promises, the United States backed off, and everyone, including the Russians, claimed to come out a winner.
Kofi Annan later declared that any future military action against Iraq must first be approved by him and the members of the Security Council. This puts the United States in an extremely difficult position. Russia, France, and China will have their say about what action will be allowed against Hussein. Their response is a guaranteed nothing. Like it or not, Russia will again be positioned as an international superpower.
Most ominous is the fact that the Russians have just signed a $780 million deal with the Iranians to finish the nuclear reactor begun by Germany some time ago. Washington, fearing Iran’s developing nuclear weapons as a result of the deal, asked Russia to drop the program. The Russians, in essence, said, “Forget it!”
Historians can ponder whether saving Russia’s economic skin was worth risking America’s future in the Middle East. Time will tell. But the fact is that Russia is back as a major player in the Middle East, which only serves to remind us that they are being precisely positioned where the Word of God says they will be in the last days.