Ukraine conflict: Cardinal Bo fears ‘nightmare scenario’ of ‘global nuclear holocaust’

CNA Staff   By CNA Staff


Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, pictured on May 12, 2016. / Mazur/

Yangon, Burma, Mar 4, 2022 / 03:07 am (CNA).

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo said on Friday that the “nightmare scenario” of a global nuclear holocaust was “becoming a possibility” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The leader of the Catholic Church in strife-torn Burma said in a March 4 message that the world was on the brink of “self-annihilation.”

“The world stands at an existential crossroads. The nightmare scenario of a global nuclear holocaust is frighteningly becoming a possibility,” wrote the president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC).

“The massive attacks on Ukraine and the impending threat of use of Weapons of Mass Destruction have brought the world to the threshold of self-annihilation.”

The U.N. refugee agency reported on March 3 that more than 1,164,000 people have fled Ukraine since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion on Feb. 24. Over 55% of them have found refuge in Poland, which shares a 332-mile border with the country.

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on March 3 that her office had “recorded and confirmed 752 civilian casualties, including 227 killed — 15 of them children.”

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands, announced on March 2 that he was opening an investigation into alleged war crimes by Russia.

Facing military setbacks and international condemnation, Putin told defense chiefs on Feb. 27 to put Russia’s nuclear forces on “special alert.”

Cardinal Bo, the archbishop of Yangon, Burma’s former capital city, said that the Ukraine conflict had to end.

“We join Pope Francis in appealing to the rulers of Russia — and to all others who believe in the power of violence to solve world problems through peaceful means and dialogue in the U.N.,” he wrote.

“We are heartened by the united response of the world community in the U.N., where more than 140 countries voted against this war of attrition which threatens to destroy human security, respect for global institutions.”

The 73-year-old cardinal’s own nation, officially known as Myanmar, was itself thrown into turmoil when the military staged a coup on Feb. 1, 2021.

According to the advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, almost 1,600 people have been killed in a crackdown on protesters and more than 12,000 arrested in the Southeast Asian country as of March 3.

“Let not history repeat itself in the 21st century. The world has suffered a lot, encountering the multidimensional crisis of a pandemic that killed millions, dealing a blow to the economy, impoverishing millions. This is the time for global healing not hurting,” Bo said.

Appealing directly to Putin, Bo noted that Russia is one of five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, which has the task of “promoting world peace and ensuring the rights of every nation.”

“We appeal to Russia to cease attacks on Ukraine, and return to the U.N. for peaceful resolution of all issues,” he wrote.

“Peace is always possible, peace is the only way for humanity’s future.”

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1 Comment

  1. Two great geopolitical strategists lie behind the current confrontation between the U.S. and Russia in Ukraine. The Russian, Aleksandr Dugin, says that the American Empire should be destroyed. The American, Zbigniew Brzezinski, announced a plan for the dismemberment of Russia. A thermonuclear war could of course achieve both these goals without compromise. Happily, however, Dugin and Brzezinski are merely advisors, and today’s moral agents are the American President Biden and the Russian President Putin. We can hope they are men of good judgment.
    Both Dugin and Brzezinski agree with one of the key founders of geopolitics that Eurasia is the key to world power. Their master Halford Mackinder in 1919 put the issue like this: “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; who rules the World-Island commands the world.” Russia currently occupies the Heartland. To prevent Russia from again emerging as an imperial power, Brzezinski advises the dismemberment of Russia into three republics. To weaken Russia sufficiently to get to that stage, Brzezinski proposes separating Ukraine from Russia. To ensure that Ukraine can be successfully carved out, he proposes replacing the loose belt of neutral states buffering Russia from the West by an eastward expansion of the North American Treaty Organization right up to the Russian border. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the bipolar power equilibrium between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. collapsed, leaving the U.S. as the only superpower at its “unipolar” moment. Brzezinski thought the U.S. had a “narrow window” of supremacy before its power faded into a “multipolar” world. The success of this strategy depended upon the continued weakness and disarray of Russia.
    When Paul Wolfowitz and other neo-conservatives took over the liberal Democrat Brzezinski’s strategy, Dugin was already publishing his Foundations of Geopolitics in 1997 and did not welcome the plan to reduce Russia to a “regional power.” Russian geopoliticians have been studying Anglo-American grand strategy for over a generation. The neo-conservatives, however, neglected Brzezinski’s caveat: this effort at coercion could only work during the “narrow window” while Russia is weak. They were confirmed in their judgment of Russian weakness by her “special military operation” using nowhere near the three-to-one ratio of forces normally required for an attacker to dominate a defender. They also neglected the advice of Kennan, Burns, and others, that the eastward expansion of NATO would provoke a dangerous response from Russia, especially if it touched upon Ukraine.
    There are two signs that Russia is not as weak as she was in 1997 when Brzezinski’s Grand Chessboard appeared. First, for the economic sanctions to work, the West must have almost total control of the world economy. If that were so, the growing Berlin-Moscow axis of cooperation that Dugin outlined in 1997 would be checked by the destruction of the Nordstream pipeline. The growth of cooperation of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa was a sign that this is no longer the case. Accordingly, Russia was able to pivot to alternative markets thereby leaving the German economy in jeopardy and the Russian stable. Second, when it became clear to the Russians that the Brzezinski plan was to move on to the Ukrainian phase, the Russians developed a “special military operation” using a slow, methodical artillery and rocket attack inviting the loyal Ukrainian troops into kill boxes like Bakhmut. The disproportionate firepower of the Russians (at times, I hear, at a ratio of 10:1), left more than 360,000 Ukrainian soldiers dead on the field, a third of its population displaced and in exile, billions of dollars locked into the iron triangle of the Pentagon, the arms industry, and the Congress, and an inflationary impoverishment of the already weak American under-classes. Apparently, the “window of opportunity” did not stay open as long as required. And still more curiously, moral considerations seem to have played no part in the geopolitical calculation.
    Now that Washington has helped new European nations into an expanded NATO, Russia is recruiting 1.7 million troops and there are prognostications that arms production will rise.
    Except for minority reports like those of Douglas Macgregor, John Mearsheimer, Scott Ritter, and Jeffrey Sachs, our leaders seem to be locked into the belief that they still enjoy the “unipolar moment” of a generation ago. What evidence do we see that our policymakers are even considering the developing plans for multi-polarity? It is particularly disturbing that the minority views are being ignored rather than refuted. Are the only proponents of multipolarity to be found among Russian scholars of American grand strategy?
    What can we do now? First, why not commemorate the sixtieth year of Pope John XXIII’s Pacem in Terris? Second, we should pause and examine our consciences. Might we have made mistakes—or even sins? Have we failured to recognize key facts? Have we carefully formed our moral character and habits? Our attitude toward other players in the world? Third, once we have paused to examine our own actions, we might consider reaching out to others to explore the best ways to fix what damage we can. One possible aid in this effort might be to work through Scupoli’s book on Spiritual Warfare; there is also a Russian adaptation. Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics might be another. Pope Francis has entrusted both Ukraine and Russia to the care of Mary. We in the United States may have no less need of her intercession. Might we be too self-absorbed to notice that other people in the world also have claims? If so, might our self-absorption in part account for our failure to read or to heed the claims of others? It is harder to step back and think after we have started killing each other. Might such an effort nevertheless be helpful? How about using Congress as the fitting forum for such a discussion? A serious series of hearings under the War Powers Act would, in my view, be timely.

    Your truly,

    E. M. Macierowski, Ph.D.
    Professor of Philosophy
    Benedictine College
    1020 North 2nd Street
    Atchison, KS 66002

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