Is the Answer to Zombie Neocons … Zombie Putinists?
Part 2 of the dialogue.
John Zmirak and Jason Jones continue their conversation on the war in Ukraine. See Part 1 here.
John Zmirak: Some on the Right (and I don’t agree with these people) see Putin as unambiguously the hero of the Russia/Ukraine drama. They argue that Russia represents Christian civilization, pushing back against the LGBTQMYNAMEISLEGION machine, the globalism of George Soros and Pope Francis, Klaus Schwab and the U.S. Deep State. But aligning with Putin is a dangerous game, which ignores hard truths, isn’t it?
Jason Jones: Let’s start with the paramount truth. Ukraine wants independence and self-determination. Ukraine is not Russia. Russia invaded Ukraine, robbed Ukraine of its children, imprisoned thousands of civilians, littered villages, schools, and farms with millions of landmines, is ceaselessly rocketing civilians, and has been using cluster munitions since the first day of its invasion.
Putin regularly rattles the nuclear saber and has previously threatened the use of biological weapons. Only a less creative incarnation of Walter Duranty can twist this updated dystopian tale into a story where the KGB lieutenant colonel turned authoritarian thug is the hero.
But this story is an easier sell than one would think. In the wake of COVID and the 2020 election, conservatives — or, more accurately, the normal, hard-working people of America — have undergone relentless gaslighting. It came from the media, the White House, and even our religious leaders.
A weaponized Department of Justice abuses us; PTA moms and devout Catholics are terrorized by the FBI while Hunter Biden goes on a globe-trotting financial and sex crimes spree undeterred by the law. In a world where all the old heroes have shape-shifted into villains, why can’t the villains shape-shift into heroes?
Putin Is Actually Worse than the Capitol Police
You can certainly understand this reaction. It’s only human to see the enemy of your enemies as your friend. Or hope that he is.
Right. The impulse to crave a hero to battle the forces of evil that menace us is not hard to understand. But the idea of Vladimir Putin leading the cavalry charge to save Christendom is absurd. Ukraine is the most Christian country of the former Republics of the U.S.S.R. The Russian army has obliterated dozens of small Ukrainian villages, home to the most conservative Christians in Europe. Ukraine has more Orthodox parishes than Russia. And the “Orthodox” Churches aligned with Moscow are nothing more than beautifully adorned FSB listening posts. Search “Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, KGB” in DuckDuckGo and enjoy the reading.
Ukraine has the largest Union of Baptist churches in Europe, and the largest Greek Catholic Church community in the world is in Ukraine. The pro-family movement in Ukraine may be the largest in Europe. In 2019 (before the COVID panic) “United Together for Families” marches and festivals took place in 65 cities.
Last month, I attended a pro-life, pro-family conference in embattled Kyiv. There were more than 500 leaders from every corner of Ukraine assembled to stand for life and marriage. The most powerful speech was presented by Svyatoslav Kondrat, a young special forces soldier who, before the Russian invasion, was a leader of the pro-life/traditional marriage movement in Western Ukraine; he died on the front lines on June 9, 11 days after we stood together on stage defending life and marriage.
Russia Is Part of an Anti-Christian Alliance Led by China
Is it in fact the case that Putin’s regime is defending Christians?
Not at all. Christians in occupied Ukrainian territories are suffering intense persecution, especially evangelicals. Almost all evangelical church buildings were confiscated and transformed into clubs, concert halls, and offices for occupant administrations. This is hauntingly reminiscent of what Soviet Communists did with churches and temples during the 1920s. Russia attacked an Orthodox church on Easter Sunday, killing two and wounding several others. Russia shelled the ancient monastery of Svyatohirsk, killing nuns and priests. Over 500 churches have been damaged or destroyed by Russian troops. But it should be no surprise: Russia counts as its allies China, Iran, Cuba, and Nicaragua. China, Cuba, and Nicaragua are waging their own brutal war against the Body of Christ, and of course, the only church in Iran is the underground church.
Not Our Fight
Is this America’s business, though? We can’t even keep order in our streets or keep Chinese spy balloons out of the sky.
We helped cause this chaos. The West has undeniably used the Russian invasion of Ukraine to weaken the Putin regime, ostensibly to advance neo-liberal hegemony, but our NATO allies in Europe understandably see Russia as an existential threat. Supporting an embattled nation, Ukraine in this case, is not intrinsically immoral. Doing so while undermining the interests and security of Ukraine, giving them enough weapons not to lose but not enough to win, and bleeding a country out over years or decades is grotesque. General Milley all but confessed he is using Ukraine as a proxy to bleed Russia dry.
We Can’t Lean on Evil to Triumph
Do a lot of people on our side of most issues think that a Russian victory in Ukraine would give Biden and the Deep State, maybe George Soros and Bill Gates, a bloody nose?
The pro-Putin Right is running a proxy war of its own. They mistakenly believe that if Ukraine is immolated under the boots of Russian soldiers and mercenaries, this will, in some way, make their battle against the administrative state a bit easier. They allow themselves to believe the fairytale that Russia, a CCP vassal state with an agreement of “Unlimited Friendship,” is on the warpath to stop transgender story hour in Peoria.
To General Milley on the left, and the laptop strategists of the Gnostic Right, thousands of Ukrainian churches in rubble, hundreds of thousands of dead Ukrainians, children with missing fathers, and missing limbs are but a small price to pay to advance our perceived interests or enliven our fantasies.
But Christians are the guardian of world order. You and I are citizens of a constitutional republic. So we share responsibility for our government’s actions. Our elected representatives and “public servants” have pursued policies that, rather than deter Russia’s inevitable aggression, spurred it on. So it is our duty to advocate for peace, for an immediate cease-fire, and restitution for the people of Ukraine.
What Jason Saw in Kyiv
Why did you go to Ukraine? What did you see when you visited Ukraine? With whom did you meet? What did they tell you?
The primary purpose of my last trip to Ukraine was to speak at a pro-life, pro-family conference in Kyiv. Also I wanted to meet with our partners removing landmines near Kharkiv and vet a new partner for medical missions. It was a 15-hour train ride from the border of Poland to Kyiv.
When our train pulled into the Kyiv station, I called Ryan Hendrickson, former Green Beret and founder of Tip of the Spear Landmine Removal, who was scheduled to meet me that day. He answered his phone just as I stepped off the train onto the platform. Ryan was out of breath and asked if he could call me back later. I assumed he had beat me to town and was on the treadmill at the hotel.
A few hours later, he called me back and apologized, “Sorry I couldn’t talk when you called; I was carrying one of our team members out who stepped on a landmine, put on a tourniquet, and had to carry him about a click.” I should mention that the team member weighs over 250 lbs. Ryan had a leg nearly blown off in Afghanistan. It took 26 surgeries to reattach.
A few hours later, sirens blared across the city, announcing that Russian missiles and drones were inbound. The citizens of Kyiv stoically and confidently went about their business, trusting the American Air Defense systems would intercept the incoming projectiles targeting civilians. The U.S. Patriot Systems almost always hit their target. The American air defenses have saved countless lives and have enabled the people of Kyiv, a city bigger than Miami, Pittsburgh, and Charlotte combined, to live a semblance of a “normal” life.
What did I see? I visited a hospital for wounded soldiers, where I saw young men missing arms, legs, and eyes. I also visited a maternity hospital and home for young women from the East whose husbands were fighting on the front. The young women were evacuated from their villages and hamlets; the hospital had a makeshift bomb shelter in the basement that the young mothers with their newborns, pregnant women, and hospital staff would have to dash to nightly. Many women delivered in the bomb shelter.
I visited the mass grave behind the Church of St. Andry Apostle in Bucha. Russian soldiers had assassinated and mutilated civilians, leaving their bodies unburied in the street. I walked through block after block of devastation, homes and apartment buildings reduced to rubble or burned-out shells.
Ukraine’s Pro-Life Movement
What about the pro-life Ukrainian activists you met there?
At the pro-family event, I felt right at home, as if I was at a similar event held in my diocese. Of course, the speeches were in Ukrainian, but they had a headset with translations, and the event was held in what was effectively a bomb shelter. In the mornings, I would wake up early, and as the sun began to rise and the curfew lifted, I would walk the streets of Kyiv to get a sense of the city’s rhythm and the morale of the people. The absence of young men was obvious and eerie.
One morning I sat alone on a bench beside a church and quietly said my morning prayers. Across the park, I noticed a young man in his military uniform feeding birds. When I walked into the church, it was filled with women of all ages quietly waiting in line to light one of the dozens of candles placed before an Icon of the Blessed Mother. She was holding the lifeless body of Christ cradled across her lap, as she’d once held Jesus as a divine and lively infant. I’m embarrassed to say it took me a few seconds to understand the cause of their sorrow and piety. These women were praying, begging, and bargaining with their creator for the safety of their brothers, sons, boyfriends, and husbands.
Cutting Through the Propaganda
Many of the news sources we generally trust seem to be reprinting Russian propaganda — claiming that Ukraine is the capital of human trafficking of children for sex and organs. Can you respond to these claims?
In the 2019 Trump administration report on human trafficking, Russia received a failing grade and was placed in the same category as the Congo, China, and Burma. Trump’s people went on to call “Russia the center of global trafficking.” In the same report, Ukraine, on the other hand, was placed in the second tier, the same category as Germany, Denmark, and Italy. The report claims that “nearly three-quarters of a million people are experiencing slavery in Russia.”
The year the report came out, Russia only bothered to investigate seven of those cases. The Russian invasion exposed the women and children of Ukraine to the scourge of human trafficking. Nearly 7 million Ukrainians fled their country. This massive and sudden migration made women and children easy prey for traffickers. So, if you want to protect women and children from human trafficking, advocate for an immediate cease-fire. Selling the Deep State’s forever war, or bizarre fantasies about Putin as some savior, will doom the women and children of Ukraine to years of exploitation.
As for nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, Putin regularly threatens to use nuclear weapons and has brazenly moved tactical nukes to Belarus.
What should Christian Americans actually say and do about this crisis? What should we even advocate?
I hope that everyone reading this contacts his or her members of Congress, and tells them to support an immediate cease-fire and a negotiated settlement to this horrific war. There is no victory in sight for either side. As of now, the only winner is Satan.
Jason Jones is a senior contributor to The Stream. He is a film producer, author, activist and human rights worker.
John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the Government.”