Papal biographer George Weigel has criticized Russia’s incursions into Ukraine since the annexation of Crimea eight years ago. Its attack of its neighboring country last week only reinforced Vladimir Putin’s ongoing campaign of aggression, Weigel writes.
Senior Editor Joan Frawley Desmond interviewed Weigel, the distinguished senior fellow and William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, by email Feb. 27.
Why does the Russian invasion of Ukraine pose a major threat to global order and stability?
Because it is a completely unwarranted and unprovoked aggression, aimed at decapitating a peaceful neighbor and replacing its democratically-elected government with a government either pleasing to Mr. Putin or even willing to reunite Ukraine in some fashion with Russia. That is manifestly not the will of the Ukrainian people, including the overwhelming majority of Russian-speaking Ukrainians. If the world acquiesces in Putin’s aggression, the world will become a free-fire zone in which aggressors have the initiative and the forces of peace and freedom are constantly on the defensive. That is not a world that any of us should wish to live in.
As you have noted, Putin has sought both to present Ukraine as not being a real country worth defending, and its government as being led by “Nazis and drug addicts.” In the U.S., voices on the right and in the Catholic Church have echoed some of this propaganda, at least until the past couple of days. Why has Putin’s propaganda been successful, and should the Catholic Church in the US do more to publicly challenge such lies?
It’s not the business of the institutional Church to counter Putin’s rancid propaganda, but it is the business of the people of the Church not to be fooled by ideologically-drunken media commentators and Catholic bloggers. The notion of Putin as some sort of defender of Christian civilization has always been risible: The man is a murderer, a thief and a liar. He poisons his opponents and he poisons the information space. As for the new isolationism to which some U.S. Catholics seem susceptible, that makes about as much sense as the old isolationism of the 1930s. It’s a make-believe world, and acting as if it’s the real world always leads to trouble in the really real world….