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On Ukraine

Four facts that have been been obscured by a massive Russian propaganda and disinformation campaign.

A woman lights a candle as she attends a prayer service at St. Michael's Cathedral of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in Kyiv Feb. 20, 2022. People displaced from homes in eastern Ukraine are already headed west, where church leaders are preparing to shelter them. (CNS photo/Umit Bektas, Reuters)

For months now, the world press has described Russian troop deployments along Ukraine’s borders as spearheads of a possible invasion. The truth, however, is that Russia invaded Ukraine seven years ago, when it annexed Crimea and Russian “little green men” ignited a war in eastern Ukraine that has taken over 14,000 lives and displaced over a million people. Whatever the current military developments, a Russian invasion of Ukraine has not been “imminent;” the invasion is ongoing.

That fact has been obscured by a massive Russian propaganda and disinformation campaign. So some truth-telling is imperative.

The first fact: This is a Russian crisis, not a “Ukraine crisis.” What is typically called the “Ukraine crisis” is entirely of Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin’s making. Ukraine did not create this crisis. The United States did not create it, and neither did NATO. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which is, was, and always will be a defensive alliance, is no more a threat to Russian national security than NATO is to Botswana’s national security. The claim that NATO threatens Russia is a Big Lie that obfuscates the security realities in central and eastern Europe: former Soviet satellites (Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria) and the Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia) joined NATO because they fear Russia, not because they intend to invade Russia. The same rationale explains Ukraine’s NATO application.

The second fact: This artificially created crisis, aimed at Ukraine’s destabilization and subjugation, is one expression of Mr. Putin’s determination to reverse history’s verdict in the Cold War. Putin has been quite clear about this for 20 years, and only fools or those peering through the ideologically befogged lenses of the new “national conservatism” fail to grasp what is afoot here. Mr. Putin, the old KGB apparatchik, is bent on overturning the victory of imperfect democracies over pluperfect tyrannies in the Revolution of 1989 and the Soviet crack-up of 1991. That grand strategic goal is at the cold heart of the recently announced alliance of purpose between Putin’s kleptocratic regime in Russia and Xi Jinping’s genocidal regime in China — an announcement these two wicked men made just before the Winter Olympics. Putin and Xi want nothing less than a fundamental re-ordering of world affairs in which their oppressive regimes call the tune. In the tyrants’ bid for global hegemony, Ukraine and Taiwan are in the role played by Austria and Czechoslovakia in the late 1930s: if they fall to the tyrant-regimes, others will follow.

The third fact: The ongoing Russian aggression in Ukraine is underwritten by a false rendition of history, including Christian history. Mr. Putin’s claim that Ukraine is not a real country is buttressed by another Big Lie: that Russia is the sole heir of the baptism of the eastern Slavs in 988, and thus the sole legitimate guardian of what Putin’s ideologues and apologists call the Russkiy mir, the “Russian world.” Yet Ukraine, its Orthodox communities and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church have at least as strong a claim to that historical patrimony as Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church. The revival of Russian imperialism today is perhaps not all that surprising; old habits die hard. But the role of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) in supporting Putin’s falsifications of history and his new imperial designs is doing grave damage to the cause of Christ in a country recovering from the ravages of state-sponsored atheism. Metropolitan Hilarion, the ROC’s chief ecumenical officer, recently received from President Putin the “Order of St. Alexander Nevsky” for his “great contribution to the development of international and inter-confessional relations.” The award citation might have more honestly read, “for services to the Russian state and the current Kremlin regime.”

The fourth fact: Russian aggression in Ukraine targets everyone, including children. Russia’s hybrid war against Ukrainian democracy has included some 1,000 fake bomb threats that have emptied schools throughout Ukraine since the beginning of the year — 10 times higher than the rate of fake bomb threats in 2020 and 2021. What kind of people deliberately terrify hundreds of thousands of children and their parents in an effort to destabilize a non-threatening neighbor? The same kind of people who murdered Boris Nemtsov and poisoned Alexei Novotny, who interfere in other countries’ elections and who lie in public with a brazenness that would make Joachim von Ribbentrop blush.

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which has worked with great effect to rebuild civil society in today’s Ukraine, has asked its fellow-Catholics for prayerful support. That courageous Church deserves nothing less and indeed is owed much more: and not just by Ukrainians.


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About George Weigel 393 Articles
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies. He is the author of over twenty books, including Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (1999), The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II—The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy (2010), and The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered Itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform. His most recent books are The Next Pope: The Office of Peter and a Church in Mission (2020), and Not Forgotten: Elegies for, and Reminiscences of, a Diverse Cast of Characters, Most of Them Admirable (Ignatius, 2021).

40 Comments

  1. “They are dragging babies out of incubators” would have sufficed if spiced up with a crying child….but
    the “The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which is, was, and always will be a defensive alliance, is no more a threat to Russian national security than NATO is to Botswana’s national security”
    Was the cherry on top
    Hopefully they find those weapons of mass destruction before someone releases a dirty bomb etc etc. etc. etc…

  2. Well said Mr. Weigel. In the face of this ongoing tyranny Biden’s threats of ‘sanctions’ and the like are little more than pathetic.

  3. There is a fifth fact on which Putin may be gambling. Russia has an estimated 1 million active duty military and an estimated 2 million reservists. Those on active duty appear to be fully committed already, as Putin pulled 7,500 out of occupied Crimea and shifted them to the eastern border of Ukraine instead of drawing on others.

    At the same time, there are more than twenty major separatist movements within Russia. One of them, Chechnya, has resulted in two wars that took decades of fighting and cost tens of thousands of casualties — and is still ongoing. It is estimated that at any one time, 90,000 Russian troops were engaged in suppressing the Chechnyan rebellion. If even half of the separatist movements decide to rise in rebellion, Putin will be forced to call up all reserves, and would likely still be unable to deal with them effectively. Like all optimistic conquerors, Putin has failed to learn the lesson taught by the failures of, e.g., Napoleon and Hitler, and has over-extended himself. EVERYTHING must go according to plan, or it will all fall apart very quickly.

    It is entirely possible, then, that Putin is betting that the West will back off, grant him his latest territorial grab, and that none of the separatist groups or the increasing numbers of disaffected Russian citizens will do anything.

    http://just3rdway.blogspot.com/2022/02/russias-difficulty.html

    • “It is entirely possible that Putin is betting that the West will back off, grant him his latest territorial grab, and that none of the separatist groups or the increasing numbers of disaffected Russian citizens will do anything.”

      Agreed. IMO (just like MANY previous Russian leaders going back centuries) Putin will just hanker down and let his people suffer. Eventually industrialists in Europe and the U.S. will start to quietly put pressure on their leaders, and ever so quietly, the sanctions will be eased and life will go on.

      Which of course begs that irritating question – When will we ever learn?

  4. The Biden/NATO approach to Europe indicates that nuclear strategic arms control and non-proliferation, either don’t count or may and “SHOULD” be postponed/sacrificed.

    Alongside it, they do not seem to have the wits how to contain China. Either they don’t have sound strategic handle on things, or they mean to facilitate China hegemony over others.

    My suspicion is that the particular grouping is quite prepared to undermine and sacrifice places with religious culture and that this is a component part of the planning/thinking.

    They adopted a “non-accommodation” attitude in the Porochenko-Zelensky trend, against inclusivity inside Ukraine; however, just war principles can’t be satisfied this way either.

    The history of the Kyivan (Kievan) Rus is a remarkable one that should be honoured. I doubt it can be singularly repeated. A model based on inclusion was worth trying but Kyiv suppressed it.

    That “non-accommodation” approach “among Ukrainians”, as “the only option with no alternative” that bound everyone to have to carry it out “in the name of Kyiv” -was not the only one.

    Ukraine remains a mix of a variety of Christian groups and will eventually have to find inclusive arrangements for them. So far Kyiv is tailoring to a lot of narrow-mindedness.

  5. Clinton and Soros screwed Russia in the 90’s. Obama, Hillary, and the Bidens screwed Ukraine in 2014. Brandon is giving Russia a corridor to Crimea.

  6. Not to be forgotten is that Putin’s agents murdered British citizens on British soil and seriously injured a third, along with Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

    Alexander Litvineko had become a British citizen in 2006, the year he was murdered with a radioactive substance. Dawn Sturgess was murdered with Novichok nerve agent. A police officer and the Skripals were injured with the same substance in Salisbury.

    • Mr. Weigel you couldn’t be more wrong. For the facts, go to Lee Rockwell website. Many articles, by professional and independent journalists, explain the Ukranian crisis from the beginning. I have learned not to trust MSM which is now just propaganda.

  7. This article is one that could have been written during the buildup to the Iraq war. I want to know if anyone has thought out what the consequences are. How far are the European nations realistically willing to go in the Russia-Ukraine dispute? As I recall Trump had to publicly shame the European nations into living up to their defense spending commitments. President Biden talked out of both sides of his mouth on the botched Afghanistan withdrawal. Historically his comments have had a very short shelf life.
    *
    Biden’s energy policy has strengthened Putin’s hand. Biden has been kneecapping our domestic energy production, which makes Russian energy sources more valuable. What will happen if Europe’s energy from Russia gets disrupted?
    *
    I’m through with war fever, writing blank checks, and blindly accepting everything I’m told.

      • Your reply has addressed none of my concerns. Can you or anyone else answer my questions and concerns? Nothing about the Biden administration inspires confidence, especially in light of the Afghanistan debacle.

  8. Theocon propaganda. No mention of Minks Agreements or promise by Western leaders not to expand NATO into former Warsaw Pact countries. This is why he has no credibility.

  9. Mr. Weigel says that we owe the Ukraine more than our prayers. What exactly is he advocating? More weapons, troops? NATO may be a defensive organization, but we definitely poked Russia in the eye by admitting countries that border Russia as NATO members. The Baltic states are very small countries. Estonia has about 1.3 million people. Article 5 of the NATO constitution requires all members to go to war if one is attacked. Putin is definitely a bully. But, if Russia were to invade Estonia, should we go to war with Russia? Russia is not Afghanistan or Iraq. It has been described in the past as a third world country with a first world military.
    I just read that Secretary Of Defense Austin testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that in the first year of the Biden presidency the military had spent six million man (person?) hours on climate change. Probably can add in the equivalent amount of hours on diversity and inclusion. How prepared would we even be for war?
    President Trump spent a great deal of effort trying to get the European countries to pony up a reasonable amount of their budgets for military preparedness, with only limited success. European countries have contracted with Russia for a significant amount of their energy needs. We will see how steadfast they are if Russia threatens those supplies.
    Let the European countries take the lead on this – not us.

  10. Let’s stop putting NATO on Russia’s door step. Do we want Russian troops & missiles in Cuba or Mexico? Why does NATO need to be in the Baltics? Do we not see how these entanglements work? A Baltic or former Soviet Bloc nation dispute with Russia quickly becomes a military confrontation between America & Russia. No thanks. Let’s sell Russia’s neighbors defensive weapons but NOT get involved. Why do my kids have to be on tap to defend the Danube or Poland? Let them arm to the teeth, have more babies and defend their borders. Let’s defend our Southern border and get serious about the demolition of our conservative political power through immigration/. TOO MANY IMMIGRANTS to America-that is the problem not Eastern Europe.

    • They’re trying to defend their borders, that’s why they joined NATO. The Russians spent 70 years trying to suppress their language, erase their history, language and culture, do you really blame them for wanting to make sure it didn’t happen again?

  11. This is a Catholic website. Has no one here ever heard of the prophecies of Blessed Elaina Aiello, a mystic who died in 1961? She predicted that Russia would march on Europe and go all the way to Rome and raise the red flag over the dome of St. Peters. The idea that communism died in Russia on Christmas Day in 1991 with Gorbachev’s dissolution of the Soviet Union is a stretch in light of the complete message of Our Lady of Fatima. Yes, there are other considerations which Mr. Weigel and some commentators discuss here, but perhaps the goals of Soviet hegemony never really died, and won’t until the Consecration of Russia by a pope and the Catholic bishops is done as O.L. of Fatima requested in 1917 and more specifically in 1929.

      • It will not be a re-consecration but a consecration if ever a Pope finally finds the backbone to do it. The consecration was never done, so we have what we have now.

  12. Putin is a rotten character. But let us just be clear about the “governments” we may soon be defending against him. Ukraine is every bit as corrupt an oligarchy as Russia, and they are the primary benefactors of the Biden Crime Family. The same goes for Georgia. Finland and Sweden want to join NATO… while they mercilessly persecute Christians for speaking the truth. Germany, France, England… are there three more dissipated nations, more unworthy of defending in the entire world? This is a conflict we should stay out of.

  13. If I were a Ukrainian or other Eastern European, I would dread living under Russian domination. I’d probably consider it my patriotic duty to try to finagle the United States into intervening, going so far as to bribe Biden and his son to seal the deal. As an American, though, I want the US government to expend its efforts and my resources on protecting this country’s borders and people, which is exactly what it is not doing.

    I wish the people of Ukraine well and do not trust Putin as far as I can throw him. The fact is, however, that the antagonistic posture of the US toward Russia since the end of the Cold War has greatly helped to drive us to this point. The corruption and unnecessarily belligerent attitude and actions of the Ukrainian government has also not helped. As for the emerging Russia – China alliance, it is very regrettable and also is mostly the result of the stupid hostility of the West’s political establishment toward Russia.

  14. “Russia’s hybrid war against Ukrainian democracy”. I hope Mr. Weigel will follow up this article and explain just what constitutes “Ukranian democracy” and why it is our nation’s interest to defend it. Please. And why we should supplement the defenses of NATO countries with own own forces and material. I don’t want my grandchildren involved in regional conflicts for which we have no rational reason to participate in.

  15. Western governments are corrupt, greedy and evil. The whole ball of wax needs to be melted down for the Salvation of souls. Lets the Sodomites repent or burn. Russia will chastise the reprobate West.

  16. WISDOM of SOLOMON 5:23 – “Great windstorms will blow them away like straw. Lawlessness will be the ruin of the whole world. Evil actions will cause governments to fall.” Reference: Good News Bible GNT

  17. The existing nuclear weapons planted in the soil of the NATO countries are sufficient to incinerate Russia many times over. In the past several decades, indefensible campaigns launched by the war hawks and arms merchants of the US military-industrial complex have caused the deaths of several hundred thousand innocent civilians. In the Ukraine, Putin has obviously drawn a line in the face of western powers that do not hesitate to employ military force and the destabilization of governments to achieve their ends. The US has stubbornly refused to take advantage of opportunities to establish more peaceful relations with Russia. Now the western democracies are faced with a formidable, oppositional Russian-Chinese alliance which may very well prevail.

  18. I think that we are being misguided, through msm by an invisible hand. It’s easy to always blame Russia for the evils in the world BUT let’s look at the facts. Which country is more Christian? I Agree that Russia needs to be “reconsecrated” but the USA needs an EXORCISM!
    Would this “unprovoked” war have anything to do with the USA’s biological weapons labs in Ukraine… Perhaps???

  19. Dr. Weigel’s pro-eastern European tendencies have gotten the best of him. For someone known for sober writing, this article is an exercise in over-statement and drama. In the first place, the United States dropped the diplomatic ball by making no concessions. We don’t know how Russ!a would have responded had NATO made any concessions.

    Secondly, and Dr. Weigel should know this, war is the failure of diplomacy. There were any number or concessions and counter-concessions N@TO could have made. That we did not, leaves open the question as to whether war could have been avoided.

    This is a diplomatic catastrophe of the first order, a foreign policy failure as dramatic as the outbreak of the first World War. Blaming the leader of Russ!a when we didn’t pull out the all the diplomatic stops is disingenuous and intellectually dishonest.

    Finally, while I found myself deeply saddened by the news of the invasion this morning, I must again argue that this constitutes a diplomatic failure. What interest does the United States have in the Donb@ss?

    This situation is both sad and arguably avoidable. This a rare occasion where one must absolutely disagree with Mr. Weigel’s interpretation of events.

    • Diplomatic catastrophe? What exactly does diplomacy have to do with the current leaders of Europe and America making the decision to voluntarily prostrate themselves and lick Putin’s boots to establish and sustain Russia as the dominant Energy supplier in the world? Did you actually hear a word from anyone in the last 48 hours about restoring America’s energy independence? What does any of this reality about energy have to do with the fictions regarding NATO?

  20. If Mr. Weigel’s point is that this is worth the shedding of more American blood, then I invite him to a) read up on his post-WWW II U. S. military history, and b) enlist himself if he still thinks it’s a good idea.

  21. Nine years after violent Maidan protests, a U.S. backed coup, Russian annexation of Crimea, civil war, ethnic conflict, humanitarian crisis, formation of the Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples Republics, the Russian army camped on the Ukrainian border and failed diplomatic negotiations something had to give. The whole tragic tale can be summed up with old saying “blood is thicker than water.”

  22. Weigel is way off-base on this. This is neocon drivel, and I’m surprised CWR would headline it. Putin got in trouble with the Western “woke” when he took on LGBTQetc??? just before the 2014 Winter Olympics. Putin may be a culture warrior, but he’s on our side: not on the side of the Biden slime who’ve lined their pockets with millions of Ukrainian gains.
    If NATO wants to make a play here, it ought to turn Germany loose. A quick panzer (if Germany still has any) strike across the Polish corridor into East Prussia would get Russia’s attention BIG TIME.

4 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. On Ukraine – Via Nova Media
  2. Russian propaganda and disinformation about Ukraine - JP2 Catholic Radio
  3. THURSDAY EDITION – Civilization Watch
  4. Interview: Ukraine, Russia, and the world - George Weigel

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