Taking the “Long View” on Russia

Queried about the Holy See’s less-than-vigorous response to Russian aggression in Ukraine, senior Vatican officials are given to saying (often with a dismissive tone, as if the question came from a dim-wit), “We take the long view.”

Putin, Stalin, and the Church

On Orthodox Easter, just weeks before Russia’s 70th Victory Day celebration, Russian Patriarch Kirill addressed scores of the faithful, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. He likened the resurrection of Christ—who, in Orthodox parlance, “trampled down death by death”—to the Russian, née Soviet, victory over the Nazis.“When spiritual heroism becomes the substance not only of the individual but of an entire people... the nation acquires enormous spiritual strength, which no disasters or enemies are capable of overcoming,” he told those gathered in Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. “The truth of these words is evidently attested by the Victory in the Great Patriotic War, achieved by the self-sacrificing heroism of our people.” Continue Reading »

Ecumenism and Russian State Power

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s department of external relations and a frequent visitor to the West, is a young man of parts: a widely-published author, a composer, a gifted linguist. He can be charming and witty, as I discovered during two hours of conversation at the Library of Congress in 2011; and in the intervening years he’s positioned himself and his Church as defenders of traditional Christian values in a world threatened by Western decadence. Continue Reading »

Is Latvia Putin’s New Target?

In May 2014, I attended an interfaith conference in Kosovo where I met Janis Priede, an associate professor in the department of Oriental Studies at the University of Latvia, located in the national capital, Riga. Having watched, from the Balkans, the Russian annexation of Crimea and further attempted partition of Ukraine during the first half of the year, I expressed my concern to Prof. Priede that Latvia, a member of the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), could be the next object of aggression by Vladimir Putin. He agreed. Continue Reading »

An Archbishop of Destiny

When we first met in April 2011, what initially impressed me about Sviatoslav Shevchuk was his almost preternatural calm: which was striking, in that, less than a month before and still a few weeks shy of his 41st birthday, Shevchuk had been elected Major-Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych and head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church—the largest of the Eastern Catholic Churches, Byzantine in liturgy and governance while in full communion with the Bishop of Rome. Continue Reading »

Putin: Ideological, not Irrational

Last Friday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”—the breakfast salon of the bien pensant—Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Rick Stengel took on Vladimir Putin. Stengel attempted to explain how Putin’s conduct in Ukraine damages Putin’s own interests. Putin, Stengel told his interlocutor Steven Rattner with an air of frustration, “is making fundamental errors” that would get him in trouble with the Russian people. “He’s moving further away from the West,” Stengel said, at a time when “people want to be closer to the West.” Rattner agreed that Putin is being “irrational.” Isn’t it obvious? Continue Reading »

The President and the Patriarch

Vladimir Putin, who after a sham “referendum” completed his aggressive seizure of Crimea, denies he has plans to invade Eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, he is increasing the number of troops on the Russian-Ukrainian border and sending provocateurs and criminals to incite ethnic tensions in . . . . Continue Reading »

A Defender, Not A Democracy-Extender?

Or how should we describe Mitt Romney foreign-policy wise? Is he a neo-con? A neo-neo-con? Honestly, I don’t know. I think Peter’s “Mender not an Ender” is the perfect description of the candidate domestically, “Blast from the Past , Mormon Version” is the . . . . Continue Reading »