Putin goes on the march
More from Father Raymond J. de Souza
Alexei Nikolsky / Getty ImagesRussian President Vladimir Putin attends a military exercises with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (left).
Vladimir Putin is on the march.
Last Friday I wrote from Rome about the meeting of Pope Francis and the Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, and how it was part of a broader effort to legitimize the expansionist plans of Russia in the Middle East. It was a good week for Putin, and not just because of the pope and the patriarch.
Their meeting in Havana, though historic, was not, strictly speaking, religious. The Russians refused any common prayer or theological discussion. It was concerned with broadly political and cultural matters. The joint declaration stressed above all the need to defend Christians from facing lethal persecution in their ancient homelands in the Middle East where, it bears constant repeating, their communities existed before Islam was founded. Who will protect them? At best, the American and European powers seek to contain the anti-Christian massacres, and often fail at that. Neither America nor Europe has its heart in the fight against Islamist persecution of Christians [see ‘“Is This the End of Christianity in the Middle East?” Part 2‘].
Putin is presenting Russia — Holy Russia, as he is wont to style it on occasion — as the saviour of those ancient Christian communities. The leaders of the two largest Christian Churches in the world — Rome and Moscow — have pleaded for protection. Putin is poised to cynically deliver it, with the added benefit of expanding Russia’s footprint in the Middle East to a larger size than it has been in 50 years.
At the same time as Moscow’s patriarch was laying the moral premise for greater Russian expansion, the Munich “ceasefire” on Syria was also a key advance for Putin…
…the situation in Turkey is also favouring his master strategy. Passing though Istanbul on the way here, the Turkish news was dominated by their outrage at Russian aggression just south of their border with Syria. The waves of refugees that head north is just the most evident consequence. Russian fighters have brushed up against Turkish sovereignty and the belligerent rhetoric from Moscow toward Ankara makes further hostilities a distinct possibility. In such a case, with Russia possibly fighting against a NATO member, the final disintegration of the NATO alliance would be at hand, a long-time strategic goal of Putin. He already has forced NATO to accept his annexation of Crimea and occupation of eastern Ukraine. There is no chance the NATO of Obama, Cameron, Merkel and Trudeau will come to the defence of Turkey against Russia, if Putin can manage to provoke a confrontation [can one be so certain?–although the alternative is terrifying–related: ‘Tough Question for NATO: “Would we really go nuclear to protect Estonia?”‘].
Finally, here in Israel, Putin, despite his ties to Assad and Iran, enjoys a grudging respect, and sometimes it is not at all grudging…
Plus a CGAI “Policy Update“:
Russia is Officially in the Region: A New Order has Just Begun
Then see this:
Germany and Russia: Berlin’s Deadly Self-delusions
The West sure is in a cheery state, eh? Not a very funny old world these days.