Putin’s megalomania, the Monroe Doctrine, and the truth about prudence

Reflections on the second weekend of a diabolical war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends an event at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia, in this July 23, 2020, file photo. (CNS photo/Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via Reuters)

By now, anyone paying the slightest attention to Vladimir Putin’s assault on Ukraine, its people, and its sovereign independence knows that the Russian autocrat, deceived by his own distorted conviction that Ukraine is not a real country, anticipated a quick walk-over in the war he launched without provocation on February 24: an invasion to which Ukraine would succumb in forty-eight hours.

Striking confirmation of that delusion – and the historical falsehoods that led to it – came recently from state-owned Russian news agency RIA-Novosti, which posted a victory editorial on February 26, two days after the invasion. The post has now been deleted, but its content, as reported by the BBC, speaks volumes about Putin’s regime and its view of Ukraine. On the reasonable assumption that the editorial also reflects the pre-invasion Kremlin assumption that the Ukrainians would fold like a cheap suitcase, that embarrassingly premature declaration of victory also explains the rage, and perhaps even mania, now driving the increasingly barbaric Russian war against Ukrainian civilians and civic infrastructure, which has now gone so far as to include an attack on a nuclear power plant that risked creating six Chernobyls.

The headline on RIA-Novosti’s editorial, “The arrival of Russia and a new world,” nicely captured in eight words Putin’s geopolitical megalomania and its roots in his imperial conception of Russian national identity. It celebrated the fact that “Ukraine has returned to Russia,” thus restoring Russia’s “historical fullness, gathering the Russian world [Ruskiyy mir] and the Russian people together.” In this “virtual civil war,” Russia was restoring the unity of “Russians, Belarussians, and Little Russians” (i.e., Ukrainians), which had dissolved with the “disaster” of the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. Putin is, of course, praised in RAI-Novosti’s editorial as the father and architect of this historical, ethnic, and, one assumes, spiritual rectification of the right order of things.

According to the state news agency, then, the war on Ukraine – the “special military operation” – was a historical imperative. There was a wound in the fabric of reality that Putin decided to heal on behalf of future generations. And in that healing Russia would be returned to its “historical space and its place in the world.” Moreover, thanks to Putin’s vision and courage, the “Anglo-Saxons” have been cut down to size and “Western global domination can be considered completely and finally over.”

The reductio ad Hitlerum is generally to be avoided in analyzing current events. But those who have read Cambridge historian Brendan Simms’ highly-praised 2019 book Hitler: A Global Biography will find ominous parallels between the mid-twentieth century and today. According to Simms’ analysis, Hitler’s real bogeymen were not the Soviet Union and communism (which he thought he could eliminate from the world chessboard rather easily), but the “Anglo-Saxons” (the United Kingdom and the United States) and the capitalist system they embodied. Add Hitler’s fixation on German ethnic reunification and Lebensraum [living space] to Simms’ account, and, by the testimony of that rather prematurely posted RIA-Novosti editorial, you get Vladimir Putin in the chilling historical role of Schicklgruber’s Ghost, returned from the infernal regions.

Perhaps more to the immediate point in this war, the RIA-Novosti editorial and Putin’s actions make it pluperfectly clear that the Russian autocrat’s world historical project will not be finished when, as he imagines, he finishes off an independent Ukraine. The entire post-World War II international order, which for all its faults has maintained Great Power peace while lifting billions out of colonial subjugation and abject poverty, is his target. Putin’s World – presumably in league with Xi Jinping’s World – is not a world that anyone with a sense of the human decencies should want to live in. That is why the Putin Project must be stopped, and now rather than later.

Nonsense about the Monroe Doctrine

Among the more bizarre claims being asserted during the first ten days of this war – by Catholic integralists, analysts who imagine themselves foreign policy realists, comedian Bill Maher, followers of Donald Trump who now seems more “America First” than their paladin, and a handful of academics seeking to impose their theories on the Procrustean bed of reality – is that Vladimir Putin’s assertion of a Russian sphere of influence is no different than the American Monroe Doctrine, which warned European powers to stay out of the western hemisphere. This is complete nonsense.

In the happy days when the president’s constitutionally mandated “state of the union” report to Congress was an act of statesmanship rather than a media circus, President James Monroe’s message to Congress of December 2, 1823, included the declaration that the United States would regard future European colonial efforts in the western hemisphere as acts hostile to the United States. Latin American colonies had been busily liberating themselves from Spanish colonial rule for some time. Thus Monroe and his secretary of state, John Quincy Adams, thought it important to state the United States’ conviction that the age of European colonization in the New World was over and ought not be reopened.

The chief objective of the Monroe Doctrine, then, was to prevent the recrudescence of colonialism. Which is, of course, the precise opposite of what Putin’s ongoing efforts to recreate a Russian sphere-of-influence – first in the old Soviet Union and then in Central Europe – are about. Putin seeks to reestablish colonial hegemony, not prevent it. This is so obvious that it shouldn’t have to be asserted, especially to those “national conservatives” dedicated to the revival of a nation-state concept they deem weakened by economic globalization and foreign policy internationalism. But as Mr. Orwell famously said when many of his countrymen were deluding themselves in the 1930s about the dangers of totalitarian regimes, “We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty” of the intelligent and the morally serious.

So, please: no more claptrap about Vladimir Putin playing variations on a theme by James Monroe and John Quincy Adams.

Crackpot Realism vs. Prudence Rightly Understood

Closely allied to the distortions of the Monroe Doctrine being deployed to underwrite a laissez-faire approach to Putin’s war are the claims of some self-styled foreign policy “realists”. The butchery underway over the past week in Ukraine has muted some of these assertions, with realists now bemoaning the “tragic” loss of life and urging that, as NATO is not going to go to war with Russia (by, for example, NATO aircraft enforcing a No-Fly Zone over Ukraine, which would bring NATO forces into combat with Russian forces), the “realistic” thing to do is to urge Ukraine to make the best deal it can. Such a deal – perhaps a partition of the country and a reabsorption of eastern Ukraine, southern Ukraine, and the area around Kyiv into Russia – would, these foreign policy realists suggest, likely satisfy Putin, whom they deem a “rational actor.”

Putin may indeed be a “rational actor” within his own KGB-formed frame of reference, amplified (at least rhetorically) by his historically fallacious ideas about the millennium-long effects of the baptism of the eastern Slavs in 988. But foreign policy realists who imagine that Putin would be satisfied with a rump Ukraine, centered on Lviv and perhaps neutralized and demilitarized, are about as realistic as those who imagined that Hitler would be “satisfied:” first with reoccupying the Rhineland and stationing German troops there; then with the Austrian Anschluss; then with the Czech Sudetenland; then with the creation of the “Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia” and the dissolution of Czechoslovakia; then with a return of Danzig (Polish Gdańsk) to Germany. Putin’s ambitions do not fit neatly – indeed, they do not fit at all – within Western political science models of “rational actors.”

There is also a disturbing moral hollowness in this kind of foreign policy realism. George W. Bush may have been overreaching when he declared, in his January 2005 inaugural address, that America’s global ambition was to end tyranny on earth. (Although elements of that admirable vision of a world without tyranny echoed Pope St. John Paul II’s 1995 address to the U.N. General Assembly, with its celebration of the “extraordinary global acceleration of that quest for freedom which is one of the great dynamics of human history.”) But is overreach in service of noble ends more to be deplored, strategically and morally, than a crackpot realism which abandons any notion that international politics, like all politics, is a sphere of moral judgment and moral agency?

Yes, prudence is the greatest of political virtues. Prudence, however, means fitting appropriate means to good ends. Prudence doesn’t mean wringing one’s hands over situations prematurely deemed insoluble and then walking away, sighing. Prudence doesn’t mean bemoaning the “tragedy” of Putin’s War. Prudence means calling Putin’s War for what it is – wickedness on a massive scale – and then figuring out ways to blunt his barbarism that do not make matters worse.

So if NATO cannot establish a No-Fly Zone over Ukraine (for strategic reasons, and because it may not have the military capacity to do so), NATO countries can immediately transfer every former Soviet-era aircraft in the NATO inventory to Ukraine: planes Ukrainian pilots need no training to fly. NATO can immediately ramp up the transfer of unmanned drones, capable of destroying Soviet armored columns, to Ukraine. The West as a whole can further strengthen economic sanctions, including a complete boycott of Russian oil exports.

The West can also intensify its resistance to Putin’s War in the global information space. Putin and his thugocracy have tried to hermetically seal the Russian people off from the truth about what Russia is doing in Ukraine, and what that aggression is costing Russia in military casualties (perhaps as many as 10,000 Russian dead now). Such information autarky is impossible in the world of 21st-century communications, however. So Western nations should be bombarding Russia with the truth about Putin’s war and what it is costing the Russian people: through the Internet, on social media, and in old-fashioned ways like radio broadcasting, which was an effective tool in undermining Soviet power inside the USSR, and throughout central and eastern Europe, during the Cold War.

It would also be helpful if Western leaders would show some of the courage of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, by explaining to their constituencies that stopping Putin is imperative; that stopping Putin means sacrifices on the part of the West (including higher energy prices); and that those sacrifices are both morally worthy and strategically imperative.

To leave Ukraine to its fate in the name of a crackpot realism devoid of either moral wisdom or political imagination would be to signal the very end of the West that Vladimir Putin, the Butcher of Kharkiv, seeks. And that is unworthy of free people.


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About George Weigel 429 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), Not Forgotten: Elegies for, and Reminiscences of, a Diverse Cast of Characters, Most of Them Admirable (Ignatius, 2021), and To Sanctify the World: The Vital Legacy of Vatican II (Basic Books, 2022).

45 Comments

  1. I appreciate Mr Weigel’s persistence on this. There are too many Catholics who have bound themselves in silliness to justify Russian aggression. This requires repentance, and there’s no better season than the present one.

    • Mr. Flowerday:

      I certainly lean heavily toward the type of actions Mr. Weigel is suggesting, and I think that the west should do everything possible against the horrific Putin army, including lend-lease of millions of weapons, stopping oil from Russia, and sending thousands of foreign legion fighters.

      While I admit that I have not inventoried the comments on various articles about this war on these pages of CWR, my sense is that I haven’t seen any person making a comment joining in support of Russian aggression.

      If you are asserting that you have seen “many Catholic” commenters supporting Russian aggression, please give provide several examples.

      • I didn’t write “supporting.” I wrote “justify.” I think you and I comment on the same threads, and I’ve seen plenty of blame on political parties foreign to Ukraine. Outside of CWR, I’ve seen First Things (Sohrab Ahmari) and Crisis (Eric Sammons) give a platform to Ukraine dissenters.

        I think a good number of conservatives, including Catholics have flip-flopped on Mr Putin these past several days after seeing how many of their confreres saw clearly enough to leap on the pro-Ukraine bandwagon. I am sure it is vexing to have to take a stand without knowing where the wind blows on an issue. It’s not really that hard, but one does have to read things like the catechism and the Bible and make a decision based on a formed conscience. Then you have to stand up for what you believe even when it seems you are in the minority.

        • OK, the answer seems to be no, you cannot offer any examples.

          No, it is true that you “didn’t say supported.” And so…what? Are you defending yourself by saying you are being unjustly accused of making a loaded comment? It’s impossible to really get at what you are saying, in the absence of the examples you haven’t given.

          In the absence of any examples, your comment might amount to misunderstanding on your part of other’s comments, among other things.

          You ended by suggesting that the un-named “Catholic” people you asserted had said things you have not shown examples of need to repent.

          It seems to be the case that there is no cause for the repenting you urged on others.

          Suggesting others repent when they have done something wrong is one thing.

          Suggesting others should repent in the absence of any wrongdoing is another.

          Perhaps you yourself might have a reason to repent in connection with your comment.

          But since you have not provided any examples, no one can possibly understand what your original comment amounted to?

        • On second reading of your reply, given your opting not to offer any examples, it seems that your original comment may simply be animated by the attitude presented in your second paragraph, and the opportunity to voice your animus toeard people you call “conservative Catholics” (whatever on earth that boogeyman is defined to mean), and perhaps you just over-reached, and revealed nothing more than that?

          But I am sure many readers can weigh for themselves your call for others to “repent,” and consider in turn the integrity and gravitas of how to properly form one’s conscience by actually reading the Bible and the Catechism etc. And I am sure that others are heartened as I am to learn from you that “it is not really hard.” Indeed, you have put the unworthy to shame.

          Bully for you Mr. Flowerday, and readers are free to feel gratitude to you for offering your Lenten advice. Perhaps you might consider nominating yourself as a deacon, given your calling as a preacher?

          • Not defending myself against anything. I think Catholic writers on conservative Catholic sites have some explaining to do … unless they want to let their flip-flopping speak for itself. Most comment engines do not accept weblinks, and I’ve chosen to give a limited number of examples that anyone with search engine skills can find. So I don’t accept your complaint on examples. It is a fact that conservatives in the US find themselves split on this. The minority who did support Russia early have shifted or muted their public voice. If they were misinformed about the war, or have a come-to-Jesus moment … either way is good.

            I think conservative Catholics are easy enough to identify broadly: Republican or Libertarian politically covers a lot of bases and over the past thirty to forty years has hardened into pretty much a party line.

            People who advocate for violence, and particularly injustice, do need to repent, at least according to the Bible. You don’t have to be a cleric to point it out.

            You throw up a lot of interesting points in discussion. If you want to do it one at a time, that works. You can also take it to my email. CWR doesn’t print them, but I make no secret of my identity, and a connection is easy enough to find.

  2. “But is overreach in service of noble ends more to be deplored, strategically and morally, than a crackpot realism which abandons any notion that international politics, like all politics, is a sphere of moral judgment and moral agency?”

    As Mr. Weigel’s academic background is in theology, this seems a bit ambitious and naive. Diplomatic idealism doesn’t have a well-regarded history in this country, and the only thing it drove was our entry into World War I and the ensuing mess that was the reparations after the war.

    In fact, Mr Weigel sounds like the British and French at the end of the First World War who demanded extraordinary reparations from Germany, which broke the country and fueled the rise of national socialism.

    John Maynard Keynes, hardly a member of any school of “realpolitik,” wrote “The Economic Consequences of Peace” in 1919, where he noted the failure of diplomacy and the victory of those who wanted to cripple Germany and make the nation pay for the First World War.

    Any modern diplomatic idealist might well read JM Keynes’s book, which stands as a stark warning to those whose policies are (mis)guided by idealism, self-righteousness, and moral superiority.

    And in answer to the question above, thankfully the study of foreign policy and diplomacy in the United States is not the exclusive domain of Christian evangelicals, post-Christian neo-conservatives, and Kantian leftists who say things like “war is a moral imperative because we are morally superior.”

    Diplomacy is the art of the maintenance of the status quo in the international system in the short term, and the promotion of the national interest, without going to war, in the long term.

    War in Ukraine violates these two fundamental tenets. It upends the status quo, and it doesn’t necessarily advance the national interest. The whole point of diplomacy is that it is, by its very nature, RISK AVERSE and not SELF RIGHTEOUS.

    The United States has its interests, the Vatican its interests, the EU its interests, Russia its interests, China its own interests, and India and the rest of the world their own interests. Actors on the international stage, s diplomats, don’t throw their weight around and lecture others on the moral superiority of their own policies.

    It isn’t practical, it makes enemies, and it results not in the maximization of one’s own position, but rather a sub-optimal outcome.

    I don’t know what Mr. Weigel’s fixation with the Ukraine is. Morally lamentable:yes. Outrageous: yes. A diplomatic failure, yes.

    Let’s find a diplomatic solution, and stop the hyperventilating over the Donbas.

  3. Finally! A sound plan of action. I feel we the us- are a bus being driven into a ditch – autopilot, with no one in the driver seat- is this by design? With all respect to the greatest sacrifice of his son Beau – I feel this trauma has so hardened the heart of mr Biden that he has a callous disregard for all life – be it the unborn, the eukrains, the American people. He needs to step down, stay with his sorrow- but stop inflicting it upon the world for his heartache. When he called our President a deriding name during the debate- it was an outrage! He does not have the heart and mind to be this country leader. He has no rapport with other world leaders . Having a Democrat as president is always bad for world peace. I am old enough to remember President and Iran.

  4. I agree with Weigel’s analysis and overall conclusions, but I cannot avoid the thought, which has been growing ever since Putin invaded Ukraine, that we are now returned to September, 1939. Last time we waited, nay, wasted, 2 years. Our reluctance cost tens of thousands of American lives In the Phillipines, the Pacific, and at Pearl Harbor, and made the final victory infinitely more costly. How far do we let tyranny get this time before we act? How many MORE lives will this victory cost?
    Make no mistake, Putin will not stop at Ukraine, and Xi Xinping will not repeat Yamamoto’s failure to seize Hawaii immediately after the sneak attack on Dec. 7.

    • Your comments make sense to a certain extent, but leaders of the free world in 1939 had no need to take into account today’s array of nuclear weapons. Today we must consider the possibility of using nukes to poison the entire world and its population. There are madmen in control of such buttons which have proven and promise scorched earth destruction.

  5. Mr Weigal’s plan to move Russian made aircraft held by NATO forces to Ukraine will not work when you no longer have functioning airfields and the capacity to perform the constant repairs these aircraft need. Helicopter gunships that dont need runways might work for a while, but the repair issues are enormous. No, the only defensive help will be with shoulder launched missles, such as the Stinger and Javelin.

  6. Thank you Mr. Weigel for speaking hard truths on the Ukraine crisis. The Putin Fanbois will be foaming from their mouths over this, but truth matters more than their fantasies of the Russian Dictator. All the fake Pro-Putin propaganda coming from so called “conservatives” is in violation of the Eight Commandment.

    • Johann,

      Unless you can back up your assertion that conservatives are issuing pro-Putin propaganda, I fear you are violating the ninth commandment, the one about bearing false witness.

      After all, it was Leftists and their Green New Poverty agenda who were responsible for the huge windfalls of energy dollars going to Russia that have enabled Putin to take this action.

  7. “Root’un Toot’un” Putin.For some historical reference.I perused the photos of Germanys
    Assault on Ukraine in 1941 and 1943.Keiv looks eerily then as it does today.Along with so many other cities.

  8. This holocaust in Ukraine is the fault of us Americans.

    It is happening because we continue to insist on voting for incompetent and corrupt Democrats. As a result, for the past fourteen months we have enjoyed:

    — Inflation at a 40-year high and promising to worsen as government spending continues to set records.

    — Afghanistan withdrawal fiasco, with 13 U.S. troops killed and America humiliated on the world stage.

    — Weakness and wokeness of the U.S. military, emboldening our adversaries and resulting in Russian aggression against Ukraine, plus the likelihood of China moving to take Taiwan.

    — Our government focusing on LGBTQ+ pronouns and forcing schools to allow young men claiming to be women to compete in girls’ sports, all while Ukrainian men, women and children are being slaughtered by Russian troops with advanced weapons.

    — Supply chains collapsing; empty grocery shelves across the nation, due to…

    — Our government paying people not to work.

    — Massive increases in crime all across the country, with Democratic prosecutors releasing accused criminals without bail and refusing to prosecute many crimes.

    — Migrants pouring across the southern border by the millions; unvetted, unvaccinated, unaccounted for.

    — Skyrocketing fentanyl deaths due to a deadly drug, manufactured in China, that is pouring across the southern border along with the illegal immigrants.

    — Skyrocketing deaths from heroin and other drugs, since Democrat-run cities are providing drug paraphernalia and drug use zones to assist addicts in their self destruction.

    — Skyrocketing suicides.

    — Falling weekly wages, reducing or eliminating the gains achieved in the previous four years.

    — Flip-flopping pandemic mandates that keep children out of school and critical workers off the job.

    — Forfeit of America’s long-sought energy independence due to the Green New Poverty, leading to massive increases in gas prices and the enrichment of Russia; U.S. pipelines have been shut down and new drilling has been stopped on federal lands; massive amounts of Canadian oil that used to flow through North Dakota to our gulf coast refineries is now routed to Canada’s Pacific ports and loaded onto tankers destined for China.

    PLEASE NOTE: Apart from the corrupt Democratic prosecutors refusing to do their jobs, none of this was going on 18 months ago.

    You might think of at the past eighteen months as an empirical study on which party to vote for.

    (That’s all the clues I’m going to give you, except to say, our nation’s future — and whether there is one —is up to you.)

    • You are absolutely spot on. I will add that this debacle appears to be intended to provoke a war, and the “useful idiots” include corrupt and incompetent politicians and a deceptive and propagandist media. There is an evil force behind this situation that is cold and calculating, and it is intent in forcing a great reset and establishing totalitarian control over the world.

    • I totally agree with you and Trump would probably have done a deal with Putin which involved no membership for Ukraine in NATO for a 10 percent reduction in Russian oil and gas.

    • Many good points Brineyman. The O’Biden admin is just continuing their agenda from the 2014 coup in Ukraine. Russia actually asked for reasonable requests and were purposely denied. o’Biden is in alignment with the great reset and the “green new deal” in which every country will be leveled to third world status for good of the environment.

      o’Biden is the gravest threat at this time, they have already created massive inflation and shortages by destroying our pipelines and coal production, which btw are being sold to other countries for profit, while we suffer here without. Has anyone read any of the bills the legislature has passed, or is trying to pass? Or heard Klaus schwab say you will own nothing and you will be happy? We should not make Russia our enemy.They are not our enemy.

      Weigel is very inflammatory in his rhetoric and states many things that are not fact and seems to be a little too emotional in his ranting.

      I have much respect for ArchBishop Vigano, who has bravely told the truth throughout the plandemic, when everyone else bowed to their false god, the state, and violated the God given rights of the people all over the world. His latest release on the current conflict is not emotional rhetoric, but continues to look from an overall broad worldview, with facts and evidence.

      People need to be asking a lot of questions. Do you really think it is coincidence covid is all of a sudden over? Ask yourselves why Ukraine, why now? If we are concerned about “evil putin” then why are we not speaking of going to war with China, who is communist and organ harvests and kills and detains millions? This is exactly why America was created as a nation of laws, not men. So we can remain intelligent and cool headed. Our founders were very clear about the dangers of foreign entanglements.

      Before you jump into supporting the herd, please read ArchBishop Vigano’s treatise on what is going on. Whether Putin is evil or not should not be the issue. The issue is NATO’s reckless war provoking expansion, which violates treaties, and the suffering the neo nazis in Ukraine have inflicted upon the people of the Donbass, the illegal bioweapons labs run by the US state department in Ukraine,and the nukes Ukraine was building. I agree with his analysis, and have discovered the same things he has discussed.

      We have no right to put nuclear weapons on Russia’s border, and would not appreciate nuclear weapons on our border. The hypocrisy is getting old, and incredibly dangerous.

      No one wins a nuclear war. Where do you think o’biden will be if this happens? Safe in a bunker, the people, not safe. We need to stop this administration’s over reach, and this includes both parties and demand our own country be repaired and our Constitution restored.

      It was shameful the people cheered Bush into invading and destroying so many people’s lives,the same goes for O’Biden and Clinton the first time around, and again in 2014. Do not cheer these evil people on to kill more people. We must all repent and pray for peace and bring peace and loving kindness into our own lives, and stop playing their game of us vs them. They need the people to be divided to destroy us. Destroying us is their plan, do your research, this is all a smokescreen to implement the fourth industrial revolution, which is a post human world.

  9. Unfortunately, what has historically led to conflagration of a local war, is the bellicosity of those who would increase armed opposition to one side or the other. Rarely is appeal made to study of opposing positions in the conflict and honest appraisal for the grounds of a compromise and cease of hostilities.
    Persons without required credentials presume military expertise, those with theological credentials focus on the just war justification for intervention that will inevitably lead to war.
    An example was the Iraq war under Bush 43. Many pundits championed a war against Saddam Hussein based on testimony of a known charlatan. Evidence of nuclear weapons were claimed when there was none [see testimony of Hans Blix Swedish nuclear investigator who repudiated that claim]. Men with notable Catholic backgrounds insisted we attack Iraq despite John Paul II’s opposition to such a war as immoral. The aftermath of that debacle proved he was correct.
    Here the proponents for intervention are facing a highly potent military with immense nuclear capability. As a priest, not a politician, nor a military expert, I’m morally obliged to state that instigation for direct conflict with Russia over an admittedly unjust war against Ukraine is itself immoral. While parties may be correct in their blame for cause of the war, they are incorrect in their cause for direct intervention.

    • A question for Father Morello from a layman, lawyer, amateur historian, who has never served in the military. How can an honest compromise be negotiated with persons who do not recognize the existence of objective truth? It is not a question of not trusting the current Russian government or the Chinese Communist Party–it is that they themselves do not believe or recognize that truth exists. It is not that they lie but that they will say absolutely anything and then deny our understanding of what they said, or even that they even said it, much less that they meant what we thought they meant. They CANNOT lie because they recognize no objective truth against which any statement, ours or theirs, can be measured. Marxism simply denies the possibility of truth. Greg How can there be honest or objective or fair negotiations under these circumstances?
      The history of attempted “negotiations” with the Soviets, the Chinese Communists, the North Vietnamese, the North Koreans, belie the very possibility of truthful negotiations.

      • If you equate Russia today with the Soviet Union you’re correct. Although even during the Marxist regime there were men like Mikhail Gorbachev.
        Since the collapse of the Union there’s been a trend, slow to be sure toward democratization. Yeltsin wasn’t a Marxist and failed economically, former KGB operative Vladimir Putin isn’t by indication of his revival of Russian Orthodoxy, policies closer to the West a Josef Stalin, or Andropov. A significant issue is this attitude of the West since the collapse of the Soviets to continue to relate to Russia as if it were the USSR attempting to extend Nato to its frontiers. Although initially Russia with Gorbachev, Yeltsin, Putin were more open to the West than their communist predecessors.
        The West destroyed the real possibility of a new more Western oriented Russia due to its suspicion and hostility. Today the result is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
        We had to consider before Russia invaded Ukraine the honesty and justice of its requirement that Ukraine not become a Nato member. Similarly to Georgia, two former Soviets. To compare reaction, what did the US do when the Soviets employed ballistic missiles in Cuba?
        It’s an attitude based on preconception that Russians are hostile Marxists prepared to reconquer its previous territories. Russians as a result perceive the hostility of the West as a threat. A syndrome that feeds itself that might lead to a world conflict. Faith and reason require us to be entirely objective and open reality and the feasibility of contentious issues.

        • Several matters are conflated, I think, in Fr. Morello’s reply. First, the notion that Gorbachev, Yeltsin, or Putin departed from their Marxist beliefs is entirely debatable. Indeed, for the pure Marxist, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the return to economic mechanisms with capitalistic characteristics is not only not disturbing, but perfectly consistent with a Marxist-Hegelian dialectic, which predicts revolution, “decay” into capitalism, and then further revolution, all while “evolving” towards the proletarian utopia.
          Second, blaming NATO, the US, or the EU for for “Threatening” Russia by negotiating a possible NATO membership is simply not justifiable by equating it with the Cuban Missile Crisis. No on has ever proposed putting nuclear weapons in the Ukraine, (or Georgia, for that matter). Putin’s de facto dictatorship is threatened by the growth of Ukranian self-government–even as limited and slow as that growth has been.
          Putin’s actions and his propaganda demonstrate that the rejection of truth has not changed–and his wearing a Russian orthodox cloak does not make him a sheep.
          What the rest of the Russian population seems to think appears practically irrelevant at this point. But I question whether the psyche of the Russian people will ever adapt to a true desire for self-government–is there a fatally fatalistic psychological flaw that interfered with their adopting truly free reforms under the Czars, then again under the Bolsheviks, and then when the Soviet Union collapsed?

          • A fatally fatalistic psychological flaw is both an interesting and feasible explanation. Although, counter to that, the works of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy,Boris Pasternak, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn also indicate a deep justice inspired religiosity. As does the music of Rachmaninoff, his views, time in America.
            It seems to this writer that Russia requires time to ‘marinate’ within the ideas and literature of the West. Although, to his credit, Vladimir Putin has refused the homosexuality, transgender, murderous abortion policies of the West as well as its unprincipled liberalism.
            A realistic issue, for myself as a Catholic in the Apostolic Tradition is the liberal transition in Ukraine politics engineered by Barack Obama and the Biden clan. I fully endorse Ukrainian independence with the hope of a return to the deep spiritual faith of the people.

        • Thank you Fr Morello. I found it ironic that so many denigrate Putin especially those in America, when our country is drowning in evil. Did Jesus not say cast the log out of your own eye so you can remove the speck in your brothers eye?

          There is so much corruption in our country, we have no right to look at what anyone else is doing, especially not judge them, until we have put ourselves right and back with God. It is easier to point fingers than to take responsibility. It is part of humans lesser nature to do so. It is this very lack of responsibility that has caused the downfall of our constitutional republic, given to us by God. This choice by the people to trade their God given rights for serfdom goes against God and our founding documents.

          Our public servants only serve themselves. Is it coincidence that Biden Pelosi Kerry and Romney all have their claws sunk into Ukraine and have profited thru their family members by making Ukraine a vassal state of the U S? It would be funny, if it were not so tragic, to laugh that so many accuse Putin of doing what they have already done.

          If we would be honest, we would see the U S Corporation has destroyed most countries around the world. The Honorable Smedley Butler wrote a hundred years ago War is a Racket and laid out for everyone the real truth about war; every war is a bankers war. People still do not want to see this, choose to remain deluded, and continue to aid and abet evil. The Economic Hit Man was a more recent expose.

          If the people in America do not repent and seek the truth they shall have their chickens come home to roost. This is just the way energy works, it is not judgment. Our Lady continues to ask us to repent and pray and seek the way of God and reject all that is unholy. Forgiveness is very powerful, yet difficult so long as we remain in the ego/mind.

        • @Dr Morello:

          Blessings and peace through our Lord Jesus Christ.

          We pray for reconciliation and enlightenment, instead we have wars and rumours of war! The depths of the soul are murky waters and who can fully assess the aims of Putin? His act of conflict brings him no credit, it disparages his earlier words of accord with the Ukraine. He says one thing and does the opposite. His concerns aside, will Ukrainian’s wish to be annexed to Russia after this debacle?

          Proverbs 2:6 For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;

          Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

          James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

          Colossians 1:9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,

          We are told that the prayers of a righteous man availeth much. Let all who seek armistice and justice pray for Putin that he would incline his heart to godly wisdom and desist from this attack.

          Thank you for your God honouring work,

          Brian Young

  10. Fr Peter Morello is ignorant of the deep down beliefs and mindset of the Ukrainian people. He is also ignorant of Ukraine’s deep desire for spiritual and political freedoms… and Russia be damned. Next to Poland, Ukraine is a very religious Christian country. Just walking down a street in a small village people greet others with “glory to Jesus Christ”, and then one would reply “glory to Him forever.” Moreover, Ukraine has always been considered a country, even when it was part of the Soviet Union. Ukraine will fight for its freedom. Unfortunately, Fr Peter Morello PhD may consider it no-nothing political playground.

    • Gene Pomiak how can you elicit your belief in what I know and think about Ukraine from what I wrote?
      I’m aware of Ukraine’s long held desire for sovereignty. That the Ukraine was maltreated by Russia, Stalin ordering its wheat production shipped to Russia leaving Ukrainians without sufficient means for sustenance. When Germany invaded 1942 Ukrainians welcomed them at first as liberators.
      So there is distrust between both nations. Peace can be achieved, at least its possibility by a just compromise. Certainly the Russian Orthodox Church under Patriarch Kirill will support Putin. The Catholic Church under Pope Francis will support Ukraine, as do I, and seek a viable, just compromise. Furthermore, I support Ukrainian resistance to Russia’s unjust invasion.

      • Fr Morello, the following two statements you made in your comments caused me to write what I wrote:
        a) “As a priest, not a politician, nor a military expert, I’m morally obliged to state that instigation for direct conflict with Russia over an admittedly unjust war against Ukraine is itself immoral.”
        b) “It’s an attitude based on preconception that Russians are hostile Marxists prepared to reconquer its previous territories.” Yes, I did err in that I interpreted “Russians” for the singularly evil Putin and his advisors.

  11. I go back to Todd Flowerday at the start of these comments. I wonder who those Catholics are who have showed sympathy towards Putin, but I suspect that they exist. And perhaps one reason for their sympathy in the past is that Putin has cracked down hard on Russia’s LGBT lobby, or what there has been of it. Fortunately, Viktor Orban of Hungary, who has been another bete noire of this lobby worldwhile, has shown himself to be second-to-none in offering a welcome to Ukrainian refugees and has so proved himself in the present conflict to be on the side of the good.

  12. I believe Mr. Weigel is slightly off-target in his analysis of the “Monroe Doctrine” argument. If Putin’s primary goal is to prevent the continued eastward expansion of NATO, then he is doing EXACTLY what Monroe did: declaring that no hostile power will set up a satellite next door.

    Ironically, in order for that to happen, Putin must “colonize” to create a buffer zone between Russia and NATO. These are two sides of the same coin. While implementing his own version of the Monroe Doctrine, Putin violates it from the Western point of view.

    Recently, I watched a brief explanation of Russia’s relationship with Finland on YouTube. Finland borders Russia, and there has been conflict in the past between the two nations. More recently, however, Russia has viewed Finland as a neutral buffer state. It’s unfortunate that Ukraine was not viewed this way by either side in this East-West conflict.

  13. You can say what you want about Putin but he has achieved something nobody believed possible just a few weeks ago…namely putting an end to covid.
    And tbh he did ensure high vax compliance in Russia..so he cant be all bad…

  14. As a person with a PhD in Russian history my main concern, is the possibility of a nuclear war, especially if he believes Russia only lost the battle for Ukraine due to NATO’s supply of weapons. He has state as much and it seems to me he believes life is not worth living if his plan to reconstruct Soviet Russia fails. He probably already considers the sanctions as an act of war. I am remined of Our Blessed Mother’s comments about at Akita in 1973 about fire raining down from the sky and destroy a large part of mankind. I would feel better our country was better morally than Russia, but it is not. The establishment of the anti-Christ moral order embracing the murder of babies, sexual perversions of all types does not bode well for us.

  15. Ukraine is in an unjust war of its own making that it has been waging since the so-called “Maidan Revolution”. Not only is it an unjust war Ukraine made, it is a war Ukraine can not win. What prudence and justice require from Ukraine is, for Ukraine to surrender without further adventure.

    No amount of words and ratiocination and sticking the spaghetti on the ceiling is going to change that.

    Upon surrender Ukraine will be subject to law of capitulation and Zelensky will face the consequences he has brought down upon himself. Ukraine will have to answer for 8 years of aggressive war waged on the eastern provinces, the Donbass area, all amounting to war crime. Ukraine must be held accountable for it and this means going after the whole cabal that made aggressive war: Porochenko group; Zelensky group; other groups inside Ukraine; and people outside Ukraine.

    Prolongation of the present war by Ukraine is the further guilt of Ukraine and a war crime.

  16. According to Reuters:

    Russia has told Ukraine it is ready to halt military operations “in a moment” if Kyiv meets a list of conditions, the Kremlin spokesman said on Monday.

    Dmitry Peskov said Moscow was demanding that Ukraine cease military action, change its constitution to enshrine neutrality, acknowledge Crimea as Russian territory, and recognise the separatist republics of Donetsk and Lugansk as independent states.

    It was the most explicit Russian statement so far of the terms it wants to impose on Ukraine to halt what it calls its “special military operation”, now in its 12th day. Peskov told Reuters in a telephone interview that Ukraine was aware of the conditions. “And they were told that all this can be stopped in a moment.”

    Russia has Crimea, Donetsk and Lugansk are functioning as independant states. These are the established facts on the ground. If this proposal is genuine, the only thing in this list not established is for Ukraine to establish itself as a neutral country that would not apply for NATO membership. Is not agreeing to be a neutral state worth fighting and dying for, when it seems evident that Russia will not accept Ukraine being a member of NATO?
    Russia may well be an aggressive bear, but we have not been prudent in constantly poking that bear in the eye with a stick.
    I hope this posting does not put me in Mr. Weigel’s “claptrap” category. He has been using some interesting vocabulary lately.

  17. Stop financing the Russian war effort by refusing to purchase oil from Russia. Make full use of oil reserves in North America.

  18. Indeed, it’s time to add another enemy or anybody we do not like to the long list of the Anti-Christ. Among the recent ones included Hitler, Stalin, Hussein, Obama, Trump, and now Putin.

  19. I’m a little more well-read now than I was when war-fever was stirred up in 2003. In light of the last 60-or-so years of global meddling, “destabilizing regions”, and overthrowing foreign governments by proxy, articles like these seem hollow and flimsy. Why is the situation in Ukraine any more news-worthy than what goes on frequently in Mexico or Africa or South America? Why is there widespread public outcry over this when there was basically none over the years of drone striking we have done to Syria? What about all the human trafficking that occurs all over the globe on a daily basis? What about the genocides that still go on? I am very sympathetic to the people of Ukraine just like the people of Syria and the people of Iraq and the people of Libya and on and on. These are all people who suffer because of the actions of governments. But why has everyone latched onto this while seeming to ignore all of the other past and current global and social problems? What about the Uhgyrs? What about opposing China’s harassment of Taiwan? What about the extermination of Christianity in the middle east? Are those situations no longer important simply because the news directed everyone’s attention to the next shiny object?

  20. From the 1940s through the 1990s, Americans righteously and prudently opposed the USSR, because Soviet Russia was in the grips of an aggressive, atheist-materialist ideology that sought to infect and subjugate the entire world, including America. Today, one might say the roles are reversed. Communism and Liberalism—the latter is arguably as lethal as the former in the long run, and it is far more infectious.
    I recognize that invasions are always shocking events, but I am still left speechless that so many Catholic pseudo-intellectuals have deluded themselves into the farfetched belief that it is Russia, and not Modernist America, that threatens a diabolic world domination. It would be laughable, if the situation now were not so tragic.
    Given the reality—that Russia believed it was necessary to use force to rescue/reunite with the Ukraine—one is still obliged to ask however, why did Russia believe this? Why would Russia feel threatened by an encroaching NATO/West? Rather, why would it not perceive America and the West as friends?
    Answer: Because Modernist America will not countenance anything other than a unipolar world revolving around it, and a Liberal world order.
    For economic and financial reasons it cannot now force the issue with China. However, those considerations do not exist with respect to Russia. Furthermore, Russia itself threatens to subtly undo some of Modernist America’s domination over Western Europe. [i.e., the domination that betrayed its cousins and allies at Suez… in Algeria… and would have put the cabosh on BREXIT if it have could.]
    Why does Modernist America want this unipolar world?
    Answer: It wants a unipolar world in order to mold Modernist, American-style Humanism (not to be confused with scholastic Humanism) onto a single Liberal globe, complete with all of Liberalism’s pluralism, secularism, materialism, and self-worship. Modernist America will not be satisfied until its Liberal rights satrapy engulfs everything.
    We must pray for the intercession of Our Lady and St. Andrew, to bring long-term success to Russia, to soldiers, and to her statesmen.

  21. Prudence rightly understood…
    “Two recent essays express pretty much exactly how I feel about the American role in the Ukraine crisis, one by Freddie deBoer, and the other by Robert Wright. I wouldn’t disagree with any part of either article, but I would go a bit further than both and argue that those opposed to American militarism should be doing more to stress the moral correctness of their position.”
    https://richardhanania.substack.com/p/why-a-multipolar-world-will-be-more?s=r

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Putin’s megalomania - JP2 Catholic Radio
  2. TVESDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit
  3. Putin’s megalomania, the Monroe Doctrine, and the Truth About Prudence - George Weigel

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