By Patrick Lawrence / Original to ScheerPost
The U.S.–cultivated coup in Kyiv not quite nine years ago, when a small minority of Ukrainians deposed a duly elected president in the name of democracy, was indecent enough. Who would have guessed that the indecencies would go on and on and on to the point the fanatical regime now running the country would go after the very souls of its own people?
The first post-coup act passed in the Rada, Ukraine’s legislature, back in February 2014 was to ban use of the Russian language in official contexts. The regime subsequently shut down opposition newspapers and broadcast media, outlawed opposition parties, and imprisoned opposition leaders and journalists. Periodic arrests, assassinations and constant persecutions at the hands of openly neo–Nazi paramilitaries and death squads became something close to the norm.
Now things take a yet more diabolic turn. When Volodymyr Zelensky announced plans earlier this month to ban the long-established Ukrainian branch of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Ukrainian president signaled that his regime intends to intervene into the religious allegiances and beliefs—the very psyches, indeed—of that considerable portion of the population that looks to the Russian Orthodox Church for spiritual guidance.
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This, it turns out, is where the campaign to remake Ukraine as a Western nation—to turn it into something it has never been—was fated from the beginning. I, along with a lot of others, ought to have known.
How shall we understand this indefensible business, this wholesale act of erasure?
Straight off the top, we have a paradox the like of which comes along but rarely. Making Ukraine “Western” requires that a nation with pronounced differences turn itself into a profoundly and comprehensively intolerant society in contradiction of the most basic assumptions of Western liberalism. Europeans, or at least those purporting to lead them, now seem perfectly pleased to welcome into their ranks a regime given to official religious persecution.
Zelensky announced his intent to draft a law banning the traditional Orthodox church in his nightly national broadcast on December 2. Three weeks later he was greeted as a courageous defender of democracy and freedom with an extravagant standing ovation when he addressed a joint session of Congress. There is no avoiding the conclusion here: The U.S. imperium does not give a tinker’s damn about democracy and freedom in Ukraine, religious or otherwise. It cares about manipulating these totemic notions as it cynically sacrifices Ukraine and Ukrainians to its campaign to subvert, ultimately, the Russian Federation.
I cannot help thinking of all those foolish people waving blue-and-yellow flags off their front porches these past months. They have been had by the contemptuous warmongers who have been selling the war in Ukraine for more than a year now. Given that every fact noted in this commentary is readily available to anyone who looks, theirs must be counted a willed ignorance at this point, a psychological pathology.
Ukraine’s various divisions run deep and are in no way to be regretted. Different languages, religious affiliations, political loyalties, deep family ties, different histories—all these are evident among Ukraine’s 44 million people. This could have been a source of national strength—of creativity, of a unique identity, of national pride.
I consider nations of this kind, neither altogether Western nor altogether Eastern but some of both, to be in a special category with special responsibilities. Finland is such a case and Germany another, as noted previously in this space. So is Ukraine. Its makeup suggested that it, too, could have served as a bridge between the Western and Eastern traditions.
The post-coup regime in Kyiv, directed by America’s neoconservative cliques, wasted no time before pushing this aside. The project from Day One was to sabotage a naturally occurring identity, if I can put it this way, and replace it with a bottom-up artificial identity. It was never going to work and never will. If Zelensky’s proposed religious persecution law tells us one thing above all others, it is that this vicious regime is intent on permanently eliminating all aspects of the identity of Eastern-oriented Ukrainians. In effect, Kyiv proposes to destroy the nation in the name of saving it.
American policy cliques have been exploiting social and political divisions in this fashion since the Truman administration’s support of the fascist Greek monarchy in the spring of 1947—Washington’s first post–World War II intervention. Always, these operations are conducted in behalf of one or another variety of right-wing dictatorial regime. In the Ukraine case, it found rich soil in the longtime contempt the Western-tilted half of the nation has entertained toward the Russian-speaking eastern provinces.
The political and ideological aspect of the religious question in Ukraine reads directly out of the extralegal 2014 coup. Under Petro Poroshenko, the highly corrupt, malleable chocolate magnate who assumed the presidency in the spring of that year, Kyiv founded the Orthodox Church of Ukraine as an alternative to the Moscow-aligned Ukraine Orthodox Church in 2018. This has proved the basis of the persecution campaign we now witness.
Things grew heavy going soon after Russia launched its military intervention last February. Within weeks, armed extreme-right militias began disrupting services in Russian Orthodox parishes with Russian-speaking majorities. By all appearances, these attacks have been ad hoc, although appearances often deceive in the Ukraine case.
Recent raids of Russian Orthodox monasteries have been a matter of official policy. Kyiv has justified these interventions with allegations that these monasteries have been serving as hotbeds of Russian collaborators aiding Russian forces with information useful to the Russian military campaign. It is now evident that these raids were a prelude to Zelensky’s December 2 announcement. Are there such collaborators among the monks? Were these dramatic intrusions simply stage-setting displays with no real justification?
Here we must step carefully. It would require a dedicated correspondent with an investigative instinct to answer such questions, and there seems to be no such journalist among the Western correspondents reporting the war from the Ukrainian side. So we must remain agnostic on this issue.
But there is no room for agnosticism when we consider Zelensky’s legislative plans. None. In his announcement he explained his intent as “making it impossible for religious organizations affiliated with centers of influence in the Russian Federation to operate in Ukraine.” No circumstances I can think of justify the suppression in this manner of a long-established church with many millions of followers.
The waffle you read in the major dailies reporting these matters is over-the-top even by their slovenly standards. Of Zelensky’s plans The New York Times reported, “They raise hard questions about… how a ban on the church would square with freedom of religion under the Ukrainian Constitution.”
Preposterous. What questions would they be, one has to wonder.
The incompetent Ukrainian leader’s proposed law is of a piece, it is to be noted, with the larger Western project. Trade sanctions, exploded gas pipelines, disrupted cultural schedules, expulsions, slammed diplomatic doors: All is dedicated to pretending that Russia and its people can somehow be made to “go away.”
As Kyiv prepares to persecute the souls of its own people, it seems we are about to witness just how inhumane this project has been from the outset.