A special report from the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism
The city of Kharkov, a virtual border town with Russia of one million strong just north of the war zone in southeastern Ukraine, recently tore down a gigantic statue of Vladimir Lenin in one of the biggest squares in the world. But President Obama’s most recent response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine was to send his former campaign finance chairman and current U.S. Commerce Secretary, Penny Pritzker, otherwise known as the “Queen of the subprime mortgage” meltdown, to Kiev to cajole Ukraine into serious economic “reforms.”
Even though many have characterized Western sanctions against Putin’s regime as a mere slap on the hands, Pritzker told the Ukrainians that such sanctions are sufficiently severe enough to encourage Russia to militarily back out of Ukraine. No serious observer believes that.
With all of Europe heavily dependent upon Russian oil and gas—thanks in no small part to maddening government green schemes on both sides of the Atlantic that greatly help Putin’s aggression—further sanctions are very unlikely.
Ukraine’s Strategic Significance
About the size of Texas, Ukraine is the biggest nation in Europe, but tiny in comparison to Russia. Ukraine means borderland. Generally speaking, western Ukrainians speak Ukrainian, while eastern Ukrainians speak Russian. The capital city of Kiev largely speaks Russian, reflecting centuries of Russification dating back to the czars and the former Soviet Union. However, the fact that many Ukrainians speak Russian does not mean that Ukraine is pro-Russian, or that it wants Russia to rule over them. Indeed, it was the Russian-speaking Kiev that tossed out its former pro-Russian president Victor Yanukovych, a former Soviet criminal apparatchik and the most corrupt politician to fleece the country to date since Ukrainian independence back in 1991. Kharkiv, one of the most Russified cities in all of Ukraine, also just sent a very provocative message to the Kremlin by tearing down Vladimir Lenin’s statue—the Soviet idol of scientific atheism, materialism, and socialism that enslaved Ukraine for most of the 20th century.
Ukraine sits right on the East-West divide in Europe, and is a critical geopolitical barometer of things to come. In the 20th century alone, Ukraine was at the heart of virtually every European catastrophe, a situation that could easily repeat itself if politicians continue to ignore the Russian-Ukrainian crisis. World War I, the Communist Revolution, Stalin’s undeclared brutal war of industrialization and collectivization of Ukrainian farms, and World War II—each of these occurred on Ukrainian soil. According to some reports, more than 12,000 Ukrainians and Russians have already died in Ukraine since hostilities broke out.
Right now, there is a lull in the action, but the fighting has not stopped even though a ceasefire has been in effect for a few weeks. Moreover, the “ceasefire” only came into play after the Russian military invaded and shoved the Ukrainian Army out of all of the areas where they had been experiencing increasing success against the rebels on the battle lines throughout the summer. Russia, in virtual control of Ukraine’s gas supplies, will now use the threat of winter as a weapon to further threaten Kiev.
At this juncture, only Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic states seem to understand the very serious situation that Europe has on its hands. Sending someone as unserious as Pritzker to Ukraine is akin to criticizing the Russians during the Olympics for their homosexual views, which was quickly answered by Putin’s takeover of the Crimea. The Russians then started a proxy war of sorts by invading the industrialized Donbass area of southeastern Ukraine, the very heart of the Ukrainian economy. Russia also needs all of southeast Ukraine in order to take care of the Crimea. The Crimea, which is a peninsula that juts out over the Black Sea, cannot be properly governed from Russia without a land bridge. As such, it is very unlikely that Russia will stop its aggression in Ukraine on its own. The Russians will likely continue their chicanery until they are stopped.
If Ukraine buckles under, what about Poland and the Baltics? Did not Vladimir Putin once say the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century? While Putin and the former Russian Soviets may have discarded their old communist ideology, they obviously have imperialistic plans to restore Kremlin hegemony over more and more European space, starting with Ukraine.
Religion in Putin’s Russia
Russia’s “conversion,” apparently away from communism to a more religious form of Russian socialism and/or nationalism, can be traced to the fanatic Alexander Dugin. Although Dugin failed to establish the National Bolshevik Party in the 1990s, he has since been riding high under Putin’s regime in propagandizing the nation with a more spiritual form of national bolshevism—amalgamating Russian Orthodoxy and neo-paganism with nationalism, socialism, communism, mysticism, and apocalypticism—all of which spells bad news for Ukraine, if not all of Europe.
According to Dr. Robert Zubrin, “The core idea of Dugin’s Eurasianism is that ‘liberalism’ (by which is meant the entire Western consensus) represents an assault on the traditional hierarchical organization of the world. Repeating the ideas of Nazi theorists Karl Haushofer, Rudolf Hess, Carl Schmitt, and Arthur Moeller van der Bruck, Dugin says that this liberal threat is not new, but is the ideology of the maritime cosmopolitan power ‘Atlantis,’ which has conspired to subvert more conservative land-based societies since ancient times. Accordingly, he has written books in which he has reconstructed the entire history of the world as a continuous battle between these two factions, from Rome v. Carthage to Russia v. the Anglo Saxon ‘Atlantic Order,’ today.”
Zubrin goes on, “If Russia is to win this fight against the subversive oceanic bearers of such ‘racist’ (because they are foreign-imposed) ideas as human rights, however, it must unite around itself all the continental powers, including Germany, Central and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet republics, Turkey, Iran, and Korea, into a grand Eurasian Union strong enough to defeat the West.” Zubrin later adds, “Without Ukraine, Dugin’s fascist Eurasian Union project is impossible.”
Dugin’s religious mysticism, which includes characterizing the West as the home of the coming Antichrist, is casting a long dark shadow over Russian politics these days. While many have extolled Putin’s religious credentials as of late, and have been fooled by his so-called moral conservatism in which he has stood up for family values against homosexuality, the Dugin program is cause for alarm. Since the late 1990s, Dugin has been a real player in the rise of Putin’s United Russia, Zyuganov’s Communist Party Russian Federation, and Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. While Putin, of course, will try to look like he is above the fray of ideologues like Dugin, his actions in Georgia, and now in Ukraine, are identical to Dugin’s overall scheme.
Putin’s religiosity is, therefore, much darker than most may appreciate, and is undoubtedly more artificial and propagandized than anything genuine. The first time Putin spoke about his religiosity to English-speaking audiences, was in a September 2000 interview with Larry King on CNN. At the time, a much more reticent Putin, if not even more humble, was very hesitant to talk about his religious beliefs, saying, “I would prefer not to develop on that subject in detail. I think such things are sacred for everybody. Everybody’s belief is not to be shown off, it’s inside a man’s heart.” Such private sentiments are contrary to Christianity, which everywhere extolls the public propagation of the Word of God in which the message of salvation by grace that Christ was crucified for humanity’s sin and was raised from the dead is to be proclaimed, believed and spread (Romans 3:21-28; 10:14-15).
The Russian Orthodox Threat
When Larry King asked the Russian President if he believed in a higher power, Putin responded with a humanistic answer brimming with anti-Christian collectivism, saying, “I believe in human beings. I believe in his good intentions. I believe in the fact that all of us have come to this world to do good. And if we do so, and if we do so together, then success is awaiting for us. And both with regards to our relations as people to people, or inter-state relations. And most important, we will achieve the ultimate goal, comfort in our own heart.” Christianity strongly asserts otherwise. If man was so great or good (Romans 3:9-20), then why did God send His own Son to die on a cross for their sins (Galatians 2:21)?
While Ukraine has a Ukrainian Orthodox Church which rivals the Russian Orthodox Church, they also have Roman and Greek Catholics in the West, together with the largest Protestant evangelical community in all of Europe. While Ukraine has many moral problems, and is rife with mafia corruption, surprisingly, it is still perhaps the most Christian country of Europe today. However, neither Putin nor the Russian Orthodox Church has any interest in allowing this religious freedom nor pluralism to continue to expand unchecked in Ukraine. It even appears that Putin’s new found Orthodox religion is darker than the religious humanism he once espoused.
Indeed, pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine persecuted evangelicals in particular. Pro-Russian rebels beat, tortured, kidnapped, abducted, and killed evangelicals in the Donbass region. Nine different church leaders signed a statement that described what they called ongoing, “purposeful attacks of armed militants against evangelicals.” The pro-Russian rebels also interrupted prayer meetings and church services with intimidation, “inflicting harm on personal health and personal property of pastors and clerics.” Donetsk Christian University was also seized and used as a barracks for training pro-Russian separatists.
Pro-Russian rebels have repeatedly broken into churches and evangelical Christian homes with threats and warnings, such as “Our faith is Orthodox and you are traitors. You are American subjects and agents, so we are going to eliminate you.” Pastor Peter Dudnik of Good News Church in Slovyansk claimed the pro-Russian separatists and Orthodox priest literally took over his church: “They parked tanks in the center’s gardens and, blessed by Russian Orthodox priests chanting prayers, began lobbing shells at Ukrainian forces outside of town. When the rebels fled, they needed two big trucks to haul all their weaponry.” Dudnik acknowledged he does not know who exactly was behind the takeover of his church, “but said it fit into a long campaign by the Russian Orthodox Church to portray competing denominations, particularly evangelicals, as a heretical fifth column inspired and financed by the United States.”
Reversing Reagan’s Gains
As America watches all the international gains that President Reagan’s bold policies brought to the world being completely reversed and foolishly squandered away, it will be recalled that after the Russians shot down a South Korean airliner in 1983, the Gipper went on national TV and used the crime to berate the evil empire of the Soviet Union for a solid 15 minutes. It can be further recalled that this condemnation of the Soviet action occurred after President Reagan’s famous “evil empire” speech, given before the National Association of Evangelical Christians in March of 1983.
Fast forward to June 2014, when pro-Russian separatists shot down a civilian airliner in which nearly 300 innocent people were blown out of the sky. A golden opportunity was missed to slow down Putin’s war against Ukraine. At the very least, the U.S. presidential administration could have easily used the tragedy to severely criticize and censure Russia’s actions in Ukraine by charging those involved in the action with manslaughter, if not murder.
More to the point, throughout the 1980s, the Reagan administration was fully engaged behind the scenes doing anything and everything it possibly could to defeat the Soviet Union economically and ideologically, with no small help coming out of Catholic Poland. Rather than prissy sanctions as imagined by Obama, Pritzker, and European socialists, America needs to get back to what brought an end to the Cold War in the first place. This, however, is becoming increasingly unlikely, and Vladimir Putin knows it. In fact, he is counting on it. This is why he is now in Ukraine.