Throughout the 1990s, South Ossetians aggressively pushed for independence from the Republic of Georgia, ultimately seeking reunification with North Ossetia in Russia. Then on 12 November 2006, South Ossetia held a referendum which resulted in an overwhelming “yes” vote for independence from Georgia. In response both the Republic of Georgia, and the international community in the West, ignored the voting results. Why? Because a fairly large oil pipeline ran through the region of South Ossetia and the United States was courting Georgia with NATO membership in exchange for access to that pipeline. Then in August of 2008, Russian forces responded to military clashes between Georgia and South Ossetians in what came to be called the Russo-Georgian War. Most Americans were oblivious to the circumstances leading up to the conflict which led to the common (albeit false) perception that Russia simply invaded Georgia and took a section of their territory against the will of the people who lived in South Ossetia. The 12 November 2006 referendum tells a different story. South Ossetia wanted this, voted for it, and welcomed the Russians as “liberators.” Why? This seems to go against all of our assumptions in the West.
The current conflict in Ukraine also has echoes of familiarity. The most recent general election in Ukraine saw the victory of the ethnically Russian half of the country. It wasn’t long before protests and rioting erupted in the capital, mainly sponsored by ethnic Ukrainians, who were supported by the West. After the Ukrainian president was ousted, and the constitution voided in favour of returning to a previous constitution, Russia stepped in to “help maintain security” in the heavily Russian-speaking region of Crimea. While the West considered this an “unlawful act,” Ukraine apparently signed a security pact with Russia years prior that permitted the movement of Russian troops inside Ukraine. Ethnic Russians in the southern peninsula of Crimea overwhelmingly voted “yes” in a referendum to break with Ukraine and rejoin Russia. In what the Ukrainian government and NATO allies termed an “invasion,” Russian forces consolidated control to secure the region and uphold the results of the referendum. Crimeans immediately celebrated. Why? Weren’t they just “invaded?” Again, this seems to go against all Western assumptions.
It is reasonable to assume that more heavily Russian regions of Ukraine will soon follow Crimea’s example. Ukraine is filled with oil and gas pipelines that provide a large portion of energy to Europe. If half (or all) of Ukraine eventually falls under Russian control, that would make Russia a primary supplier of gas energy to Europe.
So what’s happening here? In short, Vladimir Putin is very cleverly rebuilding the Russian Empire. This is not the Soviet Union, mind you. This is not a godless communist regime. This is different. Baptised in secret by his parents during the Cold War, Putin is cleverly playing his cards as an alleged “Christian” leader. On the one hand, he has used his training in the KGB to rise to the top of the criminal food-chain in the post-Soviet Russia that descended into organised crime after the fall of the iron curtain. Putin now keeps the Russian mafia contained and squarely under his thumb as the master kingpin. At the same time he works toward restoring Russia’s once Orthodox Christian heritage by building new churches, teaching Russian Orthodoxy in public schools, and giving considerable policy influence to the Russian Orthodox Church. No, this isn’t communism. Whatever Putin is building (or rebuilding), he’s using Christianity as a social foundation, not the failed atheism of the past. Call it what you like, but you can’t call it communism, because by definition, it simply is not.
What seems repugnant to Westerners, is rather inviting to some Easterners, particularly those with Russian ancestry. So what is drawing people back under Russia’s sphere of influence? It would appear that it’s not just attraction to Russia alone. Rather, a significant aversion to the West seems to be playing a role. So what’s so bad about the West? It doesn’t take much to understand once you look at it from an ethnically Russian point of view. Remember, under the Soviet Union, the Russians were essentially sheltered from the social upheavals that transpired in the West during the 1960s through 1990s. There was never a “sexual revolution” to speak of in the Soviet East. While most Russians do not practise Christianity, the basic Christian moral framework is still present in Russian culture. For the most part, people still believe the best way to live is to work hard, get married, have babies and remain peaceful. So when Russians look to the West, with all of our sexual liberation, and rioting as a form of “protest,” it scares them. They see it as chaos, lawlessness, and downright perversion. Western military excursions into the Middle East, along with US and EU sponsoring of Arab uprisings (which has resulted in the massacre of many Orthodox Christians), hasn’t helped the West’s image much. Throw in the NATO bombing of Orthodox Christian regions in the former Yugoslavia, and the West gets a very bad reputation. Compound this with Europe’s policy of allowing massive Islamic migration into the mainland continent, and Eastern Europeans are terrified. Facing a future of being completely surrounded by Islam both in the south and on the west, Eastern Europeans are looking for real political and military protection of their Christian heritage and culture. Even if they don’t believe or practice Christianity, Eastern Europeans see a society based on Christian morality more appealing than a society based on Islam.
Russia doesn’t have a whole lot to offer people in the way of money and material goods, but it can offer military security, along with plenty of churches, decency laws and Orthodox Christian religious instruction in public schools. Putin is shrewdly offering all this, and Eastern people find it attractive, especially in the face of Western expansion, moral relativism, and the rise of Islam in western European countries. That’s why they love him, and that’s why regions of various Eastern countries are voting to join with Vladimir Putin and his rebirth of the Russian Empire. It’s probably safe to assume this trend will not end with South Ossetia and Crimea. In the process the West is losing control of pipelines, and with that the flow of oil and natural gas — particularly into Europe. Yes, Putin is playing his cards very well, and why shouldn’t he? The West unwittingly helped stack the deck in his favour.
The years to come will be hard for the West as the ascendency of Russia is impossible to stop at this point. The US and EU have spent all their political capital on reckless finances, sexual liberation, wars and uprisings, along with unkept promises to those Eastern nations foolish enough to believe them (Georgia & Ukraine). Even a recent opinion poll in the UK shows that the majority of Britons have a more favourable view of Russia than the EU. A paradigm shift is occurring right before the world’s eyes, and the West is seemingly powerless to stop it. The Russian Empire is reborn, and every attempt to frame it in the old Cold War motif has failed. This isn’t communism, it’s something else, and the West has no idea what to do. In the years to come Russia will continue to grab more land, and more pipelines in the process. Before long, Putin will control most of the flow of oil and gas across the Eurasian continent. Europe and America will be nearly powerless to stop it, you see, because these land grabs will come by the will of the people who live there.
It’s easy to villainise Vladimir Putin for this, and certainly he does deserve it to some degree. He’s been cold and uncooperative with the West, but then the West has tried to control him, ignore him and even bypass him. We can lament the mistakes of the past all we want, but that won’t bring back South Ossetia and Crimea. Opportunities have been lost and they’re not coming back. So where do we go from here?
Maybe it’s time for the West to do a little soul searching. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the West has spent a great deal of time and energy manipulating the Middle East in such a way that has been catastrophic to the Christians living therein. NATO has bombed Orthodox Christian regions in the former Yugoslavia, in part, for the purpose of liberating a Muslim region (Kosovo) that has a history of training terrorists. We haven’t done nearly enough to conserve energy resources and discover new forms of energy. We have allowed (even encouraged) our banks to become insolvent and put the West into the longest recession since the 1930s. Finally, when one would think we would have more important things to look after, we have become obsessed with sexual liberation, in the form of “marriage” for homosexuals, along with artificial contraception and abortion-on-demand for everyone else. The West, and by that I mean primarily Europe and North America, has become decadent, and it is this very thing that has made us weak and pitiful in the eyes of the East.
Do you believe in Divine providence? I do. Because for now anyway, it would seem that God is using Russia to chastise the West for its sins and hopefully chide it into reform. The vision Putin offers to Easterners is a narrow one. He offers them a form of godliness but denies its power. He says, “here is a Christian state,” but he enforces it using the ways of the devil — which is power and coercion. Nevertheless, people are falling for it. They fell for it in South Ossetia and in Crimea. More Ukrainian regions will likely follow. The people will vote in favour of turning to Russia, and then Russia will move in to “accommodate” them. In truth, what Putin offers them is not much, but when faced with Western decadence as their only alternative, many Easterners would rather move toward something more familiar and seemingly “safe.” That trend is not going away. Expect it to spread in the years to come.
The West has all the tools it needs to beat the Russian bear at his own game, but we’re not likely to use them anytime soon. For now the West is steeped in materialism, secularism and moral relativism. Of course such ideologies lead not only to sexual license, but also to financial malfeasance and international treachery. So as Russia begins to block the international advance of Western decadence, we can expect to see the West begin to “pick at itself” for a while. Conservative and traditional Christians will bear the brunt of this trend with the loss of freedoms and social ostracism. (Of course that will only lend more credence to Russia’s argument.) In time however, there is hope that the West may eventually begin to understand that the key to defeating Russia at its own game is to up the ante. If Russia thinks it can offer people wholesome Christian living backed by the state’s support of the Orthodox Church, then the West can offer it too, but more Christian in nature and far more wholesome, backed not by the state’s support of a particular religion, but by the state’s support of religious freedom (something we’re losing even here in America).
The West has the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, who could potentially unite Christians in the West (if they are willing) and someday reach a reunification with the Orthodox churches (including the Russian Orthodox Church). In other words, the Fisherman holds the Keys to the future of Western civilisation. The Catholic Church remains the West’s strongest advocate for traditional Christian morality. If Western governments would recognise this, and back it as a means for survival, then that changes the whole game. If Putin can use the Russian Orthodox Church to rebuild a Russian Christian Empire, then the same can be done (but much better and with more freedom) through Western moral backing of the Roman Catholic Church and those churches that morally stand with her. It’s not hard. We’ve done it before. Back during the 1950s it was common to see Hollywood movies in which the Catholic Church, and all churches, were portrayed positively. Governments respected churches and even allowed religious symbols on public property. Laws were generally structured in such a way to respect the religious sensibilities of the people. etc. Again, in 1950s America, the FCC made sure that nothing was broadcast over the television and radio airwaves that might insult or attack Christianity. That can happen again.
Simultaneously, the West can begin utilising the natural resources of North America (oil and gas) far more effectively, while also exploring alternative forms of energy more vigorously. Between the geothermal energy of Iceland and Yosemite, the West could conceivably produce enough hydrogen to fuel automobiles with zero air pollution. Then of course, maybe we can start implementing a little charity into foreign relations and stop pursuing policies that result in the slaughter of Orthodox Christians. When these ideas are realised and implemented by Western leaders, some future Russian leader will be forced to come to the table with the West and broker an energy deal that benefits everyone. Until that day comes however, the West can expect to be clobbered by Russia — not militarily — but socially, morally and in the realm of international influence, especially the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
Rather than deal with our internal problems, the West has decided instead to vilify Russia and Vladimir Putin in particular. Look, I’m no fan of Putin, and I know he’s not our favourite person right now, but I also know he’s not Joseph Stalin, and the United States had no problem striking a military alliance with that murderous dictator (who was worse than Hitler) during World War II. As much as the West hates Putin, with all his KGB history and mafia dealings, the man is a boy scout compared to Stalin. We allied with Stalin, we were friendly with Stalin, and we gave half of Europe to Stalin after the war. I’m not saying that was a good thing. It wasn’t. But it does put Vladimir Putin into a better historical perspective. Putin may be many things, but he’s no Stalin.
He’s also not going away. Like it or not, Putin has sealed his position in government for a very long time. Yes, I know. We can gripe about how he’s a dictator, and doesn’t follow true democratic processes, until the cows come home, but it doesn’t matter. The man is there. The man’s position is secure. The man controls half of the world’s nuclear weapons, and has the second-largest military budget in the world, second only to the United States. (We outspend him by over 10 to 1 by the way.) So we have to deal with him. We have no choice. The only alternative is to resurrect the Cold War narrative and put ourselves on perpetual war-footing with Russia for eternity. That appears to be something a growing number of American politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, are fully prepared to do, and some of them actually seem eager to do it. The same goes for many within our Leftist mainstream media too, as well as some Right-wing talk radio show hosts.
In the midst of all this, we have the recent summit with President Trump and Vladimir Putin on 16 July 2018. It would seem that following this summit, many in the media are calling any talk of peace with Russia “treason,” and seem to be coaxing the public into a literal coup d’é·tat against the sitting American president. The last time I looked at the president’s constitutional powers, international diplomacy was part of the job description. The last time I looked up the definition of the word “treason,” it described activity closer to what the Leftist mainstream press is doing. Who are the real traitors here? Are they those who support the idea of letting the president perform his constitutional duties? Or are they those who want to unseat this president, by any means necessary, for doing so?
Over the last two years, I have heard the most insane and unstable theories coming from the political Left and the mainstream media. These are theories that question the president’s patriotism, and the legitimacy of his election, because of an alleged collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russian agents. It’s a conspiracy that nobody has yet been able to prove, but the investigation did prove (or seem to prove) that Russian operatives did hack into the Democratic Party’s computer servers during the 2016 campaign. These were servers unsecured by even the most minimal standards, which released very embarrassing information about the Hillary Clinton campaign. Let’s get this straight. It was the Democratic Party that was hacked, not the election, and far too many people seem to believe the Democratic Party (and nothing else) IS America. So in their minds, if the Democratic Party got hacked, then America got hacked!
Actually, what really happened was this. The Democratic Party (a privately run entity) didn’t think data security was important enough to protect, and so it left gaping holes on its servers that any skilled hacker could peer through. This negligence came at a time when Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton also didn’t think data security was important enough to protect when she served as Secretary of State and used her private email address for official government correspondence. So the DNC paid for this negligence by getting hacked during an election. They lost the election, not because they were hacked, but rather because they had a terrible presidential candidate and a terrible party chairman whom the American people couldn’t stand. Once they lost the election, they blamed the Russians ad nauseum and engaged in what is now clearly a witch hunt to connect Trump to the Russians. That in turn has proved to be false by the testimony of the former FBI investigator behind the Trump investigation, who clearly had an anti-Trump bias (in writing) even before he was elected.
It’s a circus!
It’s a joke!
And it’s making America the laughing stock of the world!
We can do better than this, and we should. The West has problems — significant problems — and what’s currently going on in America is a good example of them. Rather than blaming Russia for everything, including our own problems, maybe it’s time we do a little soul searching. We should begin by looking at why East Europeans are getting cosy with Russia, and why Russian-speaking people are politically voting to return to Russia. This means we should look at why the West is no longer appealing to them, and then maybe what we could do to correct this problem. This might involve some things like stopping Islamic migration into the EU. It might involve stopping NATO from bombing areas were Eastern Orthodox live. It might involve getting America to stop funding “regime change” in areas that adversely affect Orthodox Christians. It might involve returning to our Christian roots and culture. It might involve cutting back on all this sexual liberation. In short, it might involve change amongst ourselves, and that is something very few Americans and Europeans are willing to do. Instead, it’s easier to blame the Russians. So that’s what we see on the evening news, night after night, after night.
Shane Schaetzel is an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism and was trained as a catechist through the University of Dayton – a Catholic Marianist Institution. Shane’s articles have been featured on LifeSiteNews, ChurchMilitant, The Remnant Newspaper, Forward in Christ, and Catholic Online. Shane is an author of Catholic books, which can be read here.