“This tragic conflict has become a part of the largescale geopolitical strategy aimed…at weakening Russia. And now the Western leaders are imposing economic sanctions on Russia that will be harmful to everyone. They make their intentions blatantly obvious – to bring sufferings not only to the Russian political or military leaders but specifically to the Russian people.”
And as Russian bombs fell on Ukraine, the Patriarch complained that “Russophobia is spreading across the Western world at an unprecedented pace.”
The religious situation in Ukraine as in world Orthodoxy generally is undoubtedly complex, while Russia plainly has legitimate security interests there. Putin’s personal aspirations and ambitions to be a czar-like champion of Russian Orthodoxy in Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine must also be taken into account in trying to understand the present crisis. Yet Kirill’s words, reflecting his well known personal history of backing Putin, do nothing to lessen the tensions and may in fact make them worse.
Granted all that, however, one can still only hope that an indepth Pope-Patriarch meeting does eventually take place not only as a step forward in religious understanding but also as a contribution to world peace.
In the long run, after all, no good purpose will be served by permanently isolating Russia. The sanctions imposed by America and its allies are necessary as a short-term response to the invasion of Ukraine, but they shouldn’t become permanent. Rather, the long-term policy goal should be the return of Russia to the community of nations as a peaceful partner.
Putin is another story of course. But trying to break him by breaking Russia is a bad idea. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was surely correct when she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the war in Ukraine will end “when Putin realizes that this adventure has put his own leadership standing at risk, with his own military, with his own people.” The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia could help the cause along by making the point to his friend the president.