Peace and Safety: What Happens When Russia and China Lose?

The war in Ukraine has been going on for some 78 days, and during that whole time analysis has been going on at the speed of war, so even though the war is (unfortuantely) quite young, some things are beginning to become clearer with each passing day.  The first of these is that Russia will very likely lose this war and be profoundly crippled for the next decade, much to the relief of everyone in the region.  This crippling will result from the way the war is changing the world; going forward very few nations will entrust their energy security to Russia, and since Russia has very limited industrial capacity, limiting oil exports means they will have only a few ways left to make money (mostly gold and other natural resource exports, along with the third-rate weapons that have been on display in Ukraine).  Add to this the fact that no one will take Russia’s word on anything for the next eight to ten years or longer, and that is assuming Putin departs (or is helped off) the stage earlier instead of later.  If Putin remains, and for as long as he remains, Russia will be an international pariah in the company of North Korea, Syria and Venezuela; that is a dead-end road for every nation that goes down it.

When Russia is defeated the country may come apart at the seams and function as a series of states or provinces more than as a federally-controlled country.  And of course the economy will be tremendously harmed – the nation will essentially de-industrialize for the next five years unless an ally steps in with a massive cash and technology infusion.  Some might say that China will likely do just this, especially since Russia and China announced a “partnership without limits” shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine.  But if Russia will be a loser coming out of this war – the victim of its own corruption, hubris and brutality-oriented culture, then China is an even bigger loser.  Even though China is not a combatant (and, note, has provided little or no assistance to Russia under their “unlimited partnership”), it is still losing massively.  China had partnered with Russia in what it hoped would be the new cold war that would undercut US global power.  Russia was very much the junior partner in this alliance, but China still relied on them to play their part.  Now China is looking at the embarassing Russian losses on the battlefield at the same time they reassess the weapons they have purchased from Russia and the result is a deafening silence coming out of Beijing.  China’s ability to attack, defeat, and re-absorb Taiwan is suddenly looking much diminished, especially as the US keeps supplying cutting-edge weapons to the island nation.

But more than anything on the battlefield, China has been paying attention to the sanctions.  We can confidently assume that China has been at work calculating the cost of sanctions from a united west and the answer is clear: it would be ruinous.  China is the low and middle-tier manufacturer to the world, and it can ill afford to by boycotted by its biggest customers.  But even more than this is the fact that China is increasingly being understood to be a paper tiger.  A massive paper tiger, but still a paper tiger.  China had a 40-year explosive expansion of its economy and during that time it essentially re-invented its economy, its infrastructure and, yes, its society, at least four times ( lived in Mongolia and then China and witnessed first-hand seven years of this massive change).  China converted from an agrarian society to a technical, industrial, and manufacturing society and it did so on the backs of the millions of rural young men and women who had little education but an epic work ethic.  These people were willing to take very difficult, repetitive, low-wage manufacturing jobs.  In doing so they enriched their country (if not themselves) as they worked and worked and worked.  What they didn’t do was have kids.  This was partially because of China’s one-child policy and partially because their lives were so work-oriented.  As a result, China now has a rapidly-aging population where the young adult cohort is very small in relation to what the country needs them to do.  At the same time, it should be remembered that these young adults were almost all only-childs and, often enough, the only grandchildren in the family.  Most of these children were pampered and coddled; their worst tendencies were tolerated without correction.  As adults, they have replaced work ethic with a massive sense of entitlement.  They are, in a word, selfish and not the stuff out of which a nation is propelled onward and upward.  To put it succinctly, China has peaked and is even now being thrown into reverse, especially with the coming semi-collapse of their financial system and economy.

But China’s problems go way, way beyond demographics and economics.  China is the most food-insecure nation in the world.  Industrialization absolutely chewed up land formerly used to produce food for China’s 1.3 billion people and it was not until quite late in the game that China passed a law mandating that the existing agricultural land had to be left untouched by development.   Now, “outlaw” villages and industrial buildings are regularly bulldozed in line with this law.  In addition to land, China is short on fertilizer, too; though they are a large producer of phosphate and other fertilizers, China has criminalized the export of these fertilizers, mandating that they be used within the nation.  But it isn’t just a matter of available land and fertilizer.  As I have extensively commented in my writings on this site, China essentially turned its air, water, and land toxic in their drive to industrialize; their land struggles to produce even in the best of years and with sufficient fertilizer.   For a country that still remembers the roughly 30-million deaths by starvation during the “great leap forward” food insecurity is a very big deal, and this is particularly true as China increasingly perceives the magnitude of the bomb on which Russia has lit the fuse.

Ukraine is the second-largest exporter of wheat in the world.  Russia is the largest.  With Ukraine unable to plant (and also unable to ship the grain in their storage system, where it is now rotting), the world will be short of food by a tremendous amount.  Remember: at any given time the world only has a 90-day supply of food at hand; several production or weather crises can throw the whole world into a food crisi.  It is a somber thing to look at  the crop damage being done by the current endless and killing heatwave in India and Pakistan and the drought in the American west and the dozens of pestilences and other struggles farmers are facing around the world.  It is easy to see that, even with food prices globally at all-time highs, the inflation in food prices has only just begun. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) warns that more than 20 million people are currently at risk of starvation in the Horn of Africa alone.  And here is the thing: food price spikes result in protests and other actions against governments that in turn lead to governmental collapse.  Food price spikes also lead to resource grabs through military action.  When a group of people that have one tribal identity – let’s randomly choose Hindus in India – finds that they are starving, they will blame people they don’t like regardless of the facts and will move to take food or productive land (or water or whatever) from those people.  This could mean “ethnic cleansing” in India as Hindus go after Muslims.  Or it could mean India’s continual conflict with Pakistan turns into a hot war.  And any such conflicts could potentiate the crises in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, bringing the whole region into open conflict.  The important thing to remember is that if we get into a global food crisis (and that is what it seems will happen) then there are hundreds of flash points around the world where one group of people will go into conflict with another, dissimilar group of people in order to take their resources.

So lets take all of the above and boil it down:  I think America is going to be the clear winner of the conflict in Ukraine, and Russia and China wil move to the edge of the stage.  America will be the only real super-power in the world, and all the world will wonder after it.  When the extent of the shift in global order becomes apparent, some might say “peace and safety” but when they do, beware because the whole world is moving toward a boiling point where conflict between nations and people groups will be epic.  At least, that is my opinion based on what I see playing out now.  Let’s turn from my opinion to something more solid – let’s turn to scripture and try to understand what might happen if America is the premier superpower that dominates the world stage.  In Thessalonians 5:3,4 we read “3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.”  Note the reference to labor pains.  In prophecy such labor pains are almost always linked to the last days.

Let’s turn to the key verses in Matthew 24 that I often point to.  Compare the world situation I have outlined above to what Christ Himself told His disciples would happen in the last days in verses 6-8:  “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”

Many times I have pointed out how “nations” are entities with land and a flag and “kingdoms” are people groups.  We know that in the last days as the earth becomes full of crises and creation itself turns from nurturing to hostile, people groups and nations will turn on each other.  And of course, we know that this time of profound trouble and suffering is because of the effect of sin on people and the planet itself.  Lets look at one more scriptural reference, this time from Romans.  In this verse we see labor pangs again and we see that earth is hurtling toward the logical conclusion of Satan’s rebellion – pain, suffering, disease and complete destruction.  Satan’s system of selfishness as the organizing principle for earth has been – and will be universally perceived as – a complete and total failure.  From Romans 8:22 “22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.”

Keep watching.  If, as the world order changes you hear people saying “peace and safety” then you will know that the final days – times of profound trouble and trial – are upon us.  But also keep in mind what that actually means: that Christ is coming for His own. Or, as it says in Luke 21:28 “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

–Scott Christiansen