Impressions & Insights
on The Russia-Ukraine War
Heirs of God,
Holy kisses and anti-religious hugs.
Let's talk about the Russia-Ukraine war. Geopolitics is nothing more than the psychology of a tiny handful of individuals (usually one in particular) playing out on a large-scale. Because of that, geopolitics gives us a rare opportunity, a mirror, to look at ourselves and the dynamics in our own life. Let's see what we can learn. As always, when I use the term psychology I am referring to Biblical psychology. If I reference secular psychology, I will always show it in God's Word also to corroborate its validity and correctness.
Lower News & Higher News
I follow geopolitics and the news unusually closely. I do not do this because I have hope or trust in earthly politics--I emphatically do not. All the kingdoms of this world will eventually become the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ (Rev 11:15), and before that, they will all disintegrate in a cleansing global fire (2Pet 3:7), and before that, they will all be absorbed into the final super-empire of the Antichrist (Rev 13:7,8). Yes, Revelation 13:7,8 include America, and yes, it includes the Republican party. We cannot watch the news correctly, Biblically, spiritually, prophetically, and eschatologically unless we first understand God's Word at a significantly proficient level--and accept what it says is coming. Then, and only then, can you recognize the higher news within the lower news. Do you need to be delivered from lower news?
When warning signs appear, be alarmed and act boldly.
In the spring of 2021, Russia began amassing combat personnel on Ukraine's borders. The stated intent was "training exercises". Countries often do military exercises within smelling range of enemy borders: the U.S. and South Korea vis-a-vis North Korea, China vis-a-vis Taiwan, Pakistan vis-a-vis India, Iran vis-a-vis Azerbaijan, etc. Such exercises are quite provocative, however, they rarely lead to all-out war, much less tectonic-shifting wars that change the world for generations to come. Russia's Spring 2021 buildup, then, seemed to be just another routine muscle-flex by Russia's president, Vladimir Putin.
By Christmas, commercial satellites revealed a buildup of over 100,000 combat personnel, and among them, medical units, blood reserves, and redeployments from Russia's eastern regions. Concurrently, on the political front, the Putin regime presented the U.S., the West, and NATO with a definitive list of demands, such as withdrawing troop presence and military infrastructure from eastern Europe, and, a legal decree banning Ukraine from ever joining NATO. Concurrently, in Washington, American intelligence services were increasing the frequency and urgency and specificity of reports to the White House that Russia was mobilizing for a total invasion of Ukraine. The U.S. began to publicly expose those plans to create urgency and logistical preparation, and hopefully, forestall Russia. Western allies and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, however, were hesitant and unalarmed.
Then February 24, 2022 came.
Humans have a surprisingly weak relationship with warning signs.
If you were Ukraine and the West from November 2021 through January 2022, you should have been alarmed. When medical units, blood reserves, and redeployments from Russia's eastern regions arrived, you should have been alarmed. When the Putin regime put their demands in writing, demands that were daring and felt like a showdown, demands aimed at resetting the geopolitical date to 1991, you should have been alarmed. As time and the slow-drip of information is now revealing, precious time was lost that could have more thoroughly prepared the country and its defenses, and most importantly, saved many lives.
Humans have a surprisingly weak relationship with warning signs. Call it avoiding reality. Call it fear of making bold decisions. Call it what you want, but if we had a stronger relationship with warning signs we would not have bears in our territory, or at the very least, we would minimize their damage and expel them much faster.
When warning signs appear, be alarmed and act boldly.
Solomon wrote about a wise versus simple relationship with warning signs. In Proverbs 22:3 he wrote, inspired by the Spirit of God (NKJV), A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished. The NASB says it like this: A prudent person sees evil and hides himself, but the naive proceed, and pay the penalty.
If we are catatonic and sluggish while warning signs are piling up, we make ourselves easy prey for a demonized bear. Your bear may not be an invading country, it may be a person, or a family member, or a group, or a church, or a spiritual movement, or a political movement, or a habit, or an opinion, or a way of doing things--anything that has invaded and harmed your well-being in God. If you do not appreciate when warning signs are building around you--and respond quickly, boldly, and in your own best interest--the same bear demon devouring Ukraine will devour you.
Get out while you can! Prepare while you can! Get help while you can! Change while you can! There is a window of time to be alarmed and act boldly to stop or minimize great suffering.
Dark triad individuals do not have a Stop button. You are their Stop button.
The term dark triad is a secular psychology term that refers to an unholy trinity of three personality traits: narcissism, machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Individuals possessing these unclean frogs are the terrors of the earth. They commit the worst crimes, leave the most destruction, and most relevant to this section, they do not have a Stop button. Until they are stopped by death, imprisonment, or a strong and decisive individual, they will not and cannot stop.
The Dark Triad
Plenty has been studied and written about the dark triad, so I will keep my comments here skinny. Narcissism, stripped down to its rudimentary meaning, means the excessive love of oneself. The term is based on Ovid's mythical character, Narcissus, who loved himself so much that he died trying to become one with his own reflection in water (in one version of the story). Machiavellianism refers to a conniving personality trait that uses deception and trickery to a pathological, dangerous degree. The term is based on Niccolò Machiavelli, an Italian renaissance writer and political philosopher in the 1500s. Psychopathy refers to "a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others" (adapted from the DSM-5). What distinguishes psychopaths from sociopaths is, psychopaths are chillingly calculated, even ceremonial, in their antisocial projects (like a spider spinning a web), while sociopaths display sustained hypersensitivity, sustained irritability, and kneejerk aggression (like a rabid Rottweiler or Nile crocodile).
I have written a full-length article on narcissism and psychopathy, with detailed explanations from both Scripture and scientific research. Please refer there for the Biblical basis on both. I have not written on machiavellianism yet. Click to read: Narcissism in Scripture, Psychology, & Real Life. Click to read: Psychopaths & Sociopaths in Scripture, Psychology, & Real Life.
The Dark Triad & Vladimir Putin
Russian president Vladimir Putin is a dark triad. With chilling calculation, like a patient predatory spider, he has been spinning this web ever since the fall of his beloved Soviet Union. He made Europe dependent on Russian natural gas and oil, playacting conciliatory and peacefully integrated with the West along the way (machiavellianism). He rebuilt Russia's economy and modernized its military so it could sustain an irredentist war. In this regard, he has proclaimed himself to be a modern-day Peter the Great (narcissism). He tested how the West would respond by doing limited, but still brutal and destructive, aggressions in Chechnya (1999), Georgia (2008), Donbas (2014), and Crimea (2014). That pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others (in this case, people groups who desired independence or self-determination) is a manifestation of psychopathy.
All Putin has done, and made Russia into, is merely his own mental pathology expressed through politics. He claims this and that about making Russia great again, righting wrongs inflicted by the West, and so on, but these are just front-stories for the sicknesses and darknesses within. A man who can order the repeated bombing of kindergartens, schools, hospitals, movie theaters, and malls is not a politician or a patriot. That man is a demoniac, a dark triad, who needs to kill and destroy to feel godlike.
Dark triad individuals do not have a Stop button. You are their Stop button.
The airwaves are filled with commentary on the Russia-Ukraine war by political analysts, military experts, sociologists, psychologists, even Christian leaders. Among all this commentary, the greatest displays of blindness come from those who say Putin will stop once he has Ukraine, or will stop if land is traded for peace. People who say this have an embarrassingly low understanding of human nature, and even lower understanding of the dark triad and competitive abusers. These types of individuals do not have a Stop button. They have to be stopped by forces greater than themselves.
Competitive abusers cause so much damage because the people around them think they will stop on their own once they get what they want. Spineless, undiscerning enablers give them chance after chance after chance after chance, brainlessly believing what they say every time. You giving others too many chances is not God's Word. Read Psalm 101. Read Titus 3:10. Read 2Thessalonians 3:6. Read Romans 16:17,18. Give a dark triad sloppy agape and greasy grace, give them codependence under the excuse of "unconditional love", and they will keep taking, consuming, tricking, and destroying. That's on you.
If someone around you does not have a Stop button, you are the Stop button. Hold them accountable. Involve the authorities. Move out. Get a divorce. Get away from them as far as you can. Do whatever you have to do to get off the path of the destroyer. Psalm 17:4 (NKJV) speaks to this: Concerning the works of men, by the word of Your lips, I have kept away from the paths of the destroyer.
Keep in mind, an "addict" is someone who is addicted to anything: another person, attention, recognition, power, family, hyperactivity, substances, spending, saving, a political ideology or movement, ministry, literally anything. The Biblical term for this "idol". A dark triad is a severe, imminently dangerous addict of several things.
(photo courtesy BlueCrest Recovery Center)
Are you someone's lapdog or service mule?
Dark triads and domineering individuals need lapdogs to enable them, and mindless service mules to carry out their wishlist. In a healthy government, the highest executive receives honest, even critical, feedback from his/her cabinet and close advisors. This keeps the executive grounded, realistic, panoptic, and restrained from his/her lowest instincts.
In Russia's government, however, men like Peskov, Lavrov, Shoigu, and others close to the executive are not honest and critical sounding boards. They are nothing more than Putin's selfobjects, functional extensions of himself. This is one reason Putin's initial invasion of Ukraine failed so badly. He was told what he wanted to hear, not actual facts and truths about the country he planned to invade, or the actual competence of his military, or the actual feasibility of the complex logistics required for such a multidimensional invasion.
The Narcissist's Undoing: Reality
Advanced narcissists--in politics or in everyday life--need lapdogs and service mules to maintain or expand their sphere of domination. Lapdogs and service mules, however, are also the narcissist's undoing. Because they cannot speak honest or critical truths to the emperor, the emperor settles into an illusion, an illusion that eventually collapses when reality does what only reality can do. Reality has forced Putin to fire at least six generals since the start of the war, and in recent days, Shoigu (Minister of Defense) has been backseated and operational control given to the commanders on the ground.
Being Owned, Directly or Indirectly
Are you someone's lapdog or donkey? How do you know? There are some pretty simple common sense ways to know, the very best one is how you answer this question: What happens if you try to think and act for yourself? If that person in your life thinks they own you, they will react in one of three ways: (1) anger, (2) self-pity, (3) trickery.
If you try to think and act for your own best interest, the controlling person will almost always react with some degree of anger. If the person is advanced in their darkness and sickness, they will react with demon-level rage or even violence. If they sense anger is not working to scare you back into subservience, they will almost always swing to self-pity and woe-is-me. They will cry dramatically and tell you sob stories, tell you how much they have suffered, tell you how unappreciated they are, tell you they are going to harm themselves...anything to bait and hook you into sloppy agape. If they sense "poor little me" is not working to guilt you back into subservience, they will almost always swing again, this time into trickery. They will create false storylines and misrepresent facts to trick you back in. They will lie about or mischaracterize others you associate with. They will lie about or mischaracterize situations or opportunities that could help you pull away from them. If a person's darkness and sickness is advanced enough, I have even seen them fake a suicide attempt.
The Puppy Within, The Donkey Within
If someone in your life thinks they own you, they will resort to varying degrees of (1) anger, (2) self-pity, and (3) trickery to keep you there. Realize this and start planning your exodus with God. You are no one's dumb sheep. You are no one's lapdog. You are no one's service donkey. 1Corinthians 7:23 warns us to not become anyone's slave (NKJV): You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.
Planning your exodus with God requires more than just logistics; you will have to pinpoint what makes you so subservient inside. It could be a yearning for approval, especially from a parental figure. Maybe you want someone to be strong for you, or shield you from the harsh realities of this world (dark triads and domineering people will gladly do that for you). Maybe you are semi-trapped with this person because you need their financial help (another go-to trick of controlling people). Is it low self-esteem, that you feel you are not worth more and better than this puppet-master? Is it your golden retriever personality type way, way, way out of balance? If you and God do not pinpoint and heal the puppy within, and wisen out of the donkey within, you will keep being vulnerable to one dark triad after another, one faux-Mommy or faux-Daddy after another.
Overwhelming size and force versus cleverness, flexibility, precision, and opportunism.
If you are David fighting Goliath, how do you fight...and win? If you are Spartacus' band of rebels fighting Rome, how do you fight...and win? If you are the Taliban fighting the U.S. from 1999-2021, how do you fight...and win? If you are Ukraine fighting Russia, how do you fight...and hopefully win?
Asymmetric warfare. You use cleverness, flexibility, precision, and opportunism. You use guerilla tactics. You bleed out the kraken with a thousand cuts. And you hide really, really, really well.
Elephant vs Snake
Ukraine does not have the industrial might, military personnel size, or quantity of weaponry that Russia does. The Russian army is like an elephant: towering, lumbering, overwhelming, crushing, but also surprisingly inefficient (their tanks often ran out of gas, and their soldiers out of food), at times surprisingly stupid (using commercial cell phones to communicate battle plans, instead of secured encrypted lines), their supply lines are constantly vulnerable (too long and too slow), and their equipment regularly malfunctions or breaks down completely. Though Russia wishes itself a magnificent bear, it has waged war in Ukraine like a drunk elephant.
Ukraine, fighting for its very life, has had to fight asymmetrically. It has to function like a snake: clever (creative and sly offensive ideas), flexible (led by commanders on the ground who can act spontaneously and opportunistically, not rigidly and monolithically), precise (with limited weaponry, every strike has to hit bullseye and the targets have to be high value, like Goliath's forehead), "a thousand cuts" minded (bleeding out the kraken instead of killing it quickly), and hiding really well (a system of trenches dug for years since 2014). In watching Ukraine fight, Genesis 49:17 enters my thoughts (ESV): Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse's heels so that his rider falls backward. What a great passage illustrating asymmetric warfare.
Who will win? No one knows. But this we do know: the snake has inflicted serious damage on the elephant. Of the 150,000-plus military, medical, and logistical personnel Russia began with, roughly 80,000 (and climbing) have been killed or wounded to the sideline. A few days ago Putin ordered a nationwide increase in troop levels by 137,000. Also, he is lowering the requirements for military recruits and applicants, which, in a telling sign, now includes prisoners. On the weaponry side, Russia has increased its use of older, Soviet-era munitions, again a telling sign that it is either running low on more modern munitions, or, it cannot resupply them quickly enough because of western sanctions. Furthermore, Russia has just purchased attack drones from Iran (which have had numerous malfunctions, much to Russia's irritation), again a telling sign it is a bleeding kraken looking for new ways to beat Ukraine once and for all.
You do not need to be big to win and keep winning in life. You need to be clever, flexible, precise, and seize every window of opportunity.
Oh how true this is. In Matthew 10:16, Jesus did not say be as big as a bear and as forceful as a lion. He said to be as clever, as creative, as smooth, as flexible, as precise, as opportunistic as a snake. As the prophetic blessing on Dan describes, one strategic bite on a horse's heel can send the rider flying and falling backward (Gen 49:17). It does not matter that the horse is much bigger, much stronger, much faster. Make this your prayer statement of faith for the next thirty days: one strategic bite wins the moment.
Being as wise as a serpent, as Jesus commanded, means we have to pray and contemplate and strategize twice as much as we act. A serpent lies in wait, patiently and quietly and in hiding, for advantageous moments. While Russia bombards Ukraine daily with endless artillery salvoes (40,000 to 60,000 artillery pieces a day), one snake-like strike from Ukrainian special forces knocked out half of Russia's Black Sea fleet of combat jets. One strike! One strategic bite! In life, that is how you have to pray, think, and act.
So, stop talking so much? Stop running around like a headless chicken? Stop constantly doing, calling, texting, going, fixing, attacking, defending, whatever? Be as wise as a serpent. Make every word and every action one of intentional strategy. Identify the most important targets, and stay fixed on those. Seize opportunities when they come; they rarely come around again. Learn to live asymmetric warfare.
Some wars can never be won without powerful, benevolent allies.
Goodness. Ukraine sure has some powerful and rich friends.
No matter how sneakily and stealthily Ukraine fights, no matter how precise and opportunistic, no matter how much morale and gusto, Ukraine still needs western materiel and money to have a chance against Russia. The disparity of industrial might, military personnel size, and quantity of weaponry is simply too great. Some wars can never be won without powerful, benevolent allies.
Once western nations realized Ukraine actually had a chance (they completely repelled and humiliated Russia's initial invasion of Kyiv), once they saw Russia's drunk elephant of an army displaying systemic incompetence and rookie errors, they began pouring materiel and money into Ukraine. Ukraine, now flush and emboldened with donated resources from nearly fifty countries, has begun a gradual counterattack to retake the Russian-occupied south. Some wars can never be won without powerful, benevolent allies.
If you are hyperindependent and hyperprivate, you will lose your most important wars, and keep losing.
It is healthy and godly to be emotionally and financially independent. We are to be no one's slave, Paul said in 1Corinthians 7:23, and to owe no one anything, he said in Romans 13:8. It is also healthy and godly to be private about sensitive personal matters and the deeper layers of our life. Like Zion, we are to have towers and ramparts protecting our lives (Ps 48:12-14), or as Solomon put it, guard your heart with all diligence (Pr 4:23).
But these are upper-tier ideals that take time to grow up into. To get there, you will have to fight nearly impossible wars with the help of powerful, benevolent allies in the kingdom. You will need the help of those who are ahead of you spiritually, in knowledge and understanding, in decision-making ability, in emotional wholeness and freedom, in finances and resources, in connections and opportunities.
Who do you need to listen to? Who do you need to cultivate a relationship with? What church do you need to commit to? Some battles and minor wars you can win on your own with God. Some wars, however, are too asymmetrical, too impossible, to win by yourself. God will not let you win those without powerful, benevolent allies. Additionally, you cannot be legalistic or rigid about what your allies should look like. If your mental model is too rigid that your ally has to be like this or that, you will miss God's deliverer. You do not have a choice in the helpers God sends. You need to be humble and accepting of whatever gender they are, whatever age they are, whatever race or ethnicity they are, whatever denomination they are, whatever political preference they are, and so on. War-winning allies are usually outside of our box of expectation and experience. And that is precisely why they are outside of our box: the box is why we are in an impossible war in the first place.