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Again and again we have been told that the Consecration of Russia requested by Our Lady of Fatima was effected by Pope John Paul II's 1984 consecration of the world. And though Russia was never named in that consecration, and all of the Catholic bishops did not participate as specified by Our Lady, we are nevertheless expected to believe that the Consecration of Russia has been done, and that we are witnessing its promised results: namely, the conversion of Russia and a period of peace throughout the world.
While both common sense and the shaky state of world affairs prove the absurdity of that conclusion, a simple examination of the activity within Russia also confirms that rather than emanating the peace and faith that come from true conversion, Russia is reverting back to many of its former habits, including diligent preparations for war that have placed it far ahead of the rest of the world in weapons capabilities.
Russia recently reported that in military maneuvers described as the largest in more than two decades, it successfully tested a hypersonic weapon capable of penetrating any missile shield. According to the first deputy chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, Colonel-General Yuri Baluyevsky, this "flying vehicle changed both the altitude and direction of its flight. During the experiment we proved that it's possible to develop weapons that would make any missile defense useless." An article in the Russian Defense Ministry's newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) reported that following the large-scale strategic command-and-staff drill, Russian President and Supreme Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Putin "stated that in the not too distant future the newest technical complexes capable of hitting targets at intercontinental range with hypersonic speed and high accuracy and with the capability to maneuver greatly both in altitude and heading would become operational with the Strategic Missile Troops.
"Instead of the conventional strategic warhead which flies a preset trajectory and which is difficult but possible to intercept," the article continued, "the Russian military will receive delivery systems with multiple re-entry vehicles capable of executing maneuvers at the highest possible speeds. It's impossible to destroy them in orbit today and this task probably won't succeed in being accomplished in the foreseeable future."
The article also stated that "Russia's Strategic Missile Troops will begin to be equipped with the new complexes even before 2010."
This "almost revolutionary step," which according to a senior source in the Russian Defense Ministry "really does change the philosophy of military-strategic interaction," was acknowledged by Baluyevsky in a news conference to be "part of our unilateral response to the creation or future creation of a missile defense system by any state or bloc of states."
Baluyevsky was clearly alluding to the 50 billion dollar anti-missile shield currently being developed by the United States. Though during the Cold War Moscow and Washington formed an agreement not to develop large-scale missile defenses, in 2002 President Bush pulled out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to develop a missile shield to protect the nation from terrorists and "rogue states." The U.S. shield is still in its early stages, but according to the U.S. Missile Defense Agency it will be capable of defending all fifty states against a limited ballistic missile attack by the end of 2004.
Baluyevsky acknowledged that the Russian military's command-and-staff training exercises, which also included the launch of a military satellite, missiles from land and sea, and other traditional elements, were done "in light of the changes that have occurred in military and other threats, and on the basis of the main organizing principle of the Russian Armed Forces: strategic mobility by nuclear deterrence." He admitted that Russia is also taking into account the activity of the U.S., particularly its nuclear doctrine. "The U.S.'s new nuclear doctrine has many elements that we don't understand and must respond to," he stated.
While both President Putin and Colonel-General Baluyevsky have stated that the development of such weapons is not aimed at the United States or any other state, Russian defense analyst Pavel Felgenhauer declared in The Moscow Times that the exercise "is very Soviet in style and content, acting out a possible confrontation with the United States and its allies."
Baluyevsky confirmed that the U.S. had been informed in advance of the exercises and had raised no objections.
The Krasnaya Zvezda article further revealed that Russia's hypersonic missiles will act like "a swarm of bees," against which technology the United States' planned "umbrella" defense system, which would only protect from above, would be completely useless. Thus, with the creation of Russia's newest weapon, in continuing with the planned anti-missile shield the United States will be wasting its $50 billion, and leaving most of its citizens with a false sense of security.
Summing up exactly what the world will be up against, President Putin boldly declared: "In the near future, Russia's Strategic Missile Forces will possess cutting-edge weapons systems capable of striking targets at intercontinental range, at hypersonic speeds, and with great precision and great maneuverability in terms of both altitude and direction. No other country on Earth possesses such weapons systems."
On March 14, in what many are calling a free1 but unfair election, Russian President Vladimir Putin was reelected to a second term of office. He defeated his five opponents in a landslide victory, receiving more than 70 percent of the vote. His campaign involved no televised debates, no usage of the free air time allotted to candidates and no clear indication of his second term platform. Apparently these were all unnecessary.
Putin's established popularity had already guaranteed him victory. His only possible setback would have consisted in a less than 50 percent total voter turnout, which would have invalidated the election, but many argue that Putin's supporters were able to guarantee an adequate turnout by means of coercion.
The newspaper Izvestia reported that the governor's office in Russia's southern Krasnodar region had been ordered to produce a high voter turnout. "Sixty-six percent minimum, or else the firing squad," the unnamed official who supplied the information stated.
Putin's opponents claimed that ambulance crews had been told not to pick anyone up unless they could prove they had voted; workers were warned they could lose their jobs, and college students were threatened with eviction from their dormitories if they did not vote in the election.
Opponents also complained that their own campaigns were hindered. Most notably, while Putin received plenty of state-controlled television coverage, coverage of the other candidates was practically nonexistent: in the first two weeks of campaigning, Putin was given two hours and 28 minutes of coverage, while his five opponents combined received only 22 minutes.
One report from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), an independent group that analyzed the election, cited that in the four weeks preceding the election the state-controlled First Channel provided Putin with four hours of prime-time political and election coverage, almost all of it "overwhelmingly positive." The most prime-time coverage allotted to any of the other candidates was a mere 21 minutes. Without adequate television coverage it was impossible for the candidates to reach the mass audience: "I am voting for Putin because I don't know the names of any of the others," Ludmilla Alexeyevna admitted at a polling station on the outskirts of Moscow.
One candidate, Sergei Glazyev, argued that his campaign was obstructed constantly. Auditoriums and other places he rented for meetings would suddenly cancel his contracts, and sometimes the electricity was even cut during his speeches. According to the OSCE report, Glazyev had become a thorn in the side of the Kremlin due to his growing success among nationalist-minded Russians.
"Everything is under Putin's control," Glazyev stated in an interview.
Another interesting twist in the campaign drama was the strange February 5 disappearance of candidate Ivan Rybkin. Rybkin was backed by one of Russia's most notorious oligarches, the exiled Boris Berezovsky. Berezovsky, who was an influential member of Boris Yeltsin's government, is said to possess hidden information concerning Putin's involvement in the 1999 invasion of Chechnya, which he planned to utilize in Rybkin's campaign.
Prior to his disappearance, Rybkin told radio "Svoboda" that Russian secret servicemen had followed him during his travels abroad, and he predicted that they would try to stop him from participating any further in the election campaign.
On Sunday, February 8, Rybkin's wife reported him missing, and the following day a murder investigation began. Two days later he mysteriously resurfaced in Kiev, in the Ukraine, and in his phone call home explained that he had driven there to see friends.
In the days immediately before his disappearance, Rybkin had been escalating his criticisms of Putin. Yet subsequent to his return from Kiev he dropped out of the presidential race. Later, he claimed that he had been lured to Kiev under false pretenses, drugged and threatened with disgrace by "perverse" films taken while he was under the influence.
Though Ivan Rybkin did not seem to pose any serious threat to Putins reelection, he was too outspoken and perhaps possessed too much information for the comfort of Putin. Thus, in classic Soviet style, Ivan Rybkin was neutralized.
President Putin declared boldly: "In the near future, Russia's Strategic Missile Forces will possess cutting-edge weapons systems capable of striking targets at intercontinental range, at hypersonic speeds, and with great precision and great maneuverability in terms of both altitude and direction. No other country on Earth possesses such weapons systems."Since coming to power, Vladimir Putin has been systematically extending his control over Russia. A career GRU and KGB officer, in 1998 Putin was appointed head of the FSB, the successor to the KGB. He was appointed prime minister in 1999, and on New Years Eve of that year President Boris Yeltsin resigned and appointed Putin as his successor. In March 2000 he won the Presidential election.
During his first term as President, Putin seized the independent television stations and tightened censorship of other media, filled the Russian parliament with members obedient to his directives and appointed his own loyal administrators to control Russias regions.
Furthermore, Putin has also made sure that his government is loaded with loyalists and former (KGB) intelligence colleagues. One report by sociologist Olga Khrystanovskaya estimates that one in every four in Putins government has a background in the military or security services. Commenting on a visit she received from a Kremlin official over her report, she stated: "The message was clear. Keep quiet."
Jacques Amalric of the leftist French daily Liberation noted that Putin has placed former KGB officers in almost 60 percent of all presidential administration posts.
Putins KGB past, his administrations secretiveness and his ever-increasing governmental control have many worried. Ilan Berman, a senior scholar from the American Foreign Policy Council, declared that "The character of Russia under Putin has been a steady gravitation toward a security state." And Secretary of State Colin Powell said after Marchs election that the United States "was concerned about a level of authoritarianism creeping back in the society."
Nevertheless, the majority of Russians are enamored with their president: some polls show his popularity to be as high as 80%. Why is this? Because to a people who remember all too well the social and economic instability that accompanied the supposed "fall" of Communism, Putin represents order. Under Putin, the Russian economy has been steadily growing: according to government and international financial institutions, since his 2000 election Russias gross domestic product has grown 29.9%. Last year alone it grew 7.3% (due primarily to rising oil prices). Wages and pensions have risen and are being paid on time. In only three years the minimum wage has quadrupled, and the unemployment rate has dropped by one-third. To a country in which one-fourth of its people live below the poverty line, the improved conditions are worth the loss of certain freedoms.
Alexander Shaposhnikov, a biology professor in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, earns a mere $200 a month, but says that at least he can be sure that his salary will be paid on time. "Now, the people at least have felt stability in their own purses," he said. "Were at least crawling somewhere. Thats a big improvement.
"What is democracy, really?" he continued. "I think in this country, democracy has been successfully superseded by the fear of a notion called anarchy. You have to remember, freedom is worth something only if youve got something. If your only thought is how to support yourself and feed your kids, why do I need freedom like that?"
"I was surprised to learn what a majority of Russians [said] when asked, What do you expect from your government? " noted the editor of the weekly Moskovshiye Novosti, Yevgeny Kiselev. "I thought they would say, First of all, we need an improvement of our life. More security, more jobs, better payment, better social services. No. They want Great Mother Russia. They want the government to turn Russia back into a great power."
Therein lies the key. Russians yearn for the days when their nation was an obvious force: in world affairs, influence and military might. While todays Russia may be quietly reestablishing itself, the Russian people are eager for their nation to be once again recognized as a world power. And that potential is what Putin represents to them.
"Putin is espousing ideas larger than himself," Ilan Berman explained. "He is espousing a Great Russia. Whether its regional or ideological, it re-establishes Russia as a central player in the Middle East, in the Asian theater, even in places like Latin America. The idea is that Russia is reassuming its natural place as a great power. That is very appealing to Russians who have suffered from a decade of decline."
Immediately after the presidential election, Boris Berezovsky was compelled to publish an open letter addressed to world leaders in papers such as the New York Times and Canadas Globe and Mail. In this letter Berezovsky warned the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan and the United States that the election "confirms the reversal of Russias democratic development, pushing it back into the Soviet past. Mr. Putin had destroyed the constitutional divisions of powers by subordinating the legislature and the judiciary to himself. ... He has effectively restored a one-party system.
"The sovietization of the Russian state has resulted in growing instances of the repressive measures favored by totalitarian regimes illegal arrests, political assassination, suppression of different view points, terrorist operations by secret services now both in Russia and outside its borders."
Berezovsky's letter concluded with a chilling warning to the world leaders: "If you value the freedom and safety of the world, the freedom and safety of your own citizens, then, before you send letters of congratulations, stop and think you are going to congratulate the man for his victory against young Russian democracy."
Despite this warning, as well as his own Secretary of State's misgivings, President Bush was quick to phone Putin to congratulate him, as were, doubtless, other leaders addressed in the open letter. It seems that Russian citizens are not the only ones enamored with Vladimir Putin.
Putin's focus on readying the Russian military and building weapons incapable of being defended against is unsettling in light of the warnings of Our Lady of Fatima that "various nations will be annihilated". The uncertainty of how the secretive Putin will continue to wield his growing power, and where he plans to lead Russia, is leaving many uneasy. One presidential candidate noted: "Putin has got the amazing quality of being able to tell people exactly what they want to hear. But he's got no political course. No one has a clue exactly what Putin aspires to build." Yet for those familiar with the prophecies contained in the Message of Fatima, it is not at all difficult to envision what President Vladimir Putin is building.
1. It is important to note that elections were still held - and considered to be "free" - under Soviet rule, but that coercion tactics were systematically used to guarantee the Communists' desired outcome. The Putin reelection resembles the old Leninist-style Soviet elections, though in a much milder form.