If you live in Russia, you must be wondering what last weekend’s coup means for your future. If you live in the US, you should be asking the same question, though for different reasons.
Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke publicly last night for the first time in two days, denouncing as “blackmail” the rebellion by the Wagner mercenary group and insisting that his nation and government are united against any threats. However, as Tom Nichols noted in the Atlantic, Russia’s “once unchallengeable czar is no longer invincible. The master of the Kremlin had to make a deal with a convict . . . just to avert the shock and embarrassment of an armed march into the Russian capital while other Russians are fighting on the front lines in Ukraine.”
Now, according to Britain’s former ambassador to Russia, Putin’s future depends on the outcome of that war. As the uprising affects military morale and his standing among his own people, the Ukrainian military is continuing its advance and has reportedly landed troops on the Russian-side eastern bank of the Dnipro River across from the city of Kherson. No one foresaw such events when Putin launched his immoral invasion sixteen months ago.
The coup matters to the US as well, for three reasons. One is the potential of chaos in the world’s largest nuclear power, reviving decades-old concerns about who might ultimately control Russia’s nuclear forces. A second is the effect on global markets; shares fell yesterday as the rebellion added to uncertainties over the war in Ukraine.
A third is the threat of even greater instability and oppression if Putin falls. As retired Gen. David Petraeus noted on CNN’s State of the Union, “I don’t think we want a country that spans eleven time zones and includes republics in the Russian Federation of many different ethnic and sectarian groupings to come apart at the seams.” He added: “Is this the beginning of the end of Putin? We don’t know. Whoever follows him, if that is the case, will he be even more dictatorial?”
The “Five Big Forces” that change the world
Ray Dalio is the founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund firm with $124 billion under management. Forbes estimates his personal net worth at $19.1 billion. He has achieved such success by studying events and cycles across history. As a result, I follow his cultural analysis for reasons that transcend their financial implications.
Dalio’s new article for Time is titled “Why the World Is on the Brink of Great Disorder.” In it, he identifies the “Five Big Forces” that compose what he calls the “Big Cycle that produces big changes in the world order”:
- Financial/economic forces
- The domestic order force
- The international world order force
- Acts of nature
In each case, the US is experiencing transformation on a historic scale.
With regard to finances, “because of unsustainable debt growth, we are likely approaching a major inflection point that will change the financial order” such that “debt/financial conditions could worsen, perhaps very significantly, over the next eighteen months.”
Regarding domestic order, he believes “we are headed into a type of civil war over the next eighteen months” in which “populist extremes” are in conflict while “bipartisan moderates are for the most part quietly staying out of [the] fight.”
The international world order is witnessing a growing conflict between the US and China with important elections in Taiwan next year. In his view, “the odds of some form of a major conflict are dangerously high.”
Acts of nature include a generational pandemic, climate change, and an El Niño phase of the climate cycle.
With regard to technology, “there should be no doubt that generative AI and other technological advances have the potential to cause both massive productivity gains and massive destructions, depending on how they are used. The one thing that we can be sure of is that these changes will be greatly disruptive.”
Two encouraging facts
Few of us are able to change the changes Dalio identifies. We are “catching, not pitching,” as a friend of mine says. It’s easy to feel like powerless victims of forces beyond our understanding or control. When we are living on “the brink of great disorder,” however, followers of Jesus can take heart from two related biblical facts.
One: Your Savior is the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16). Nothing we’ve discussed today surprises him. Rather, our Lord has a plan to redeem all he allows for his glory and our good (Romans 8:28).
Consequently, we can turn our fears to him by faith and experience that “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) which can be our most powerful witness in turbulent times.
Two: You are living in this time of “great disorder” by God’s plan. He intended you to live today, not a century ago or a century from now (if the Lord tarries).
Consequently, he has a kingdom assignment for you, a way he wants to use your life and influence to make an eternal difference in our chaotic world (1 Peter 4:10). Author and actor Alexander Woollcott was right: “There’s no such thing in anyone’s life as an unimportant day.” Your faithfulness to God’s call today can change someone’s trajectory for eternity.
“The surest way to death”
Pastor and author Paul Powell commented on the popular deception that morality is whatever I what to do: “Anything that is alive must, to remain alive, be tied to something else. A tree is fastened to the earth. If someone ‘frees’ it by pulling its roots from the ground, it is free only to die. Doing as you please is the surest way to death—spiritual, emotional, and physical.”
To what are you “tied” today?