Putin’s Religious War Against Ukraine is Also an Anti-Gay Crusade
When an increasingly rogue regime tells you exactly why they’re attacking their neighbor, it’s a good idea to pay attention
So far, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offensive against Ukraine, now well into its second week, has not at all gone according to plan. While this ugly conflict’s ultimate outcome hangs in the balance, it’s obvious what Russia has lost already, beyond lives and treasure. Putin’s armed forces, supposedly substantially reformed since 2008, instead have demonstrated their perennial problems of poorly coordinated attacks, substandard march discipline, abysmal logistics, and insufficient concern about civilian casualties. Ukrainian farmers towing away abandoned Russian armored vehicles with their tractors have birthed a prominent meme already.
In the information war, supposedly a Kremlin strongpoint, the Russians have been hopelessly outclassed by Kyiv, leaving Moscow to rant about Ukrainian “Nazis” committing “genocide,” absurd claims which are believed by nobody outside the Putinist camp. To say nothing of the wreckage of the Russian economy, not least the collapse of the ruble, unleashed by tough Western sanctions over Putin’s aggression. While Russia may still win this war, in the sense of taking over a good chunk of its neighbor, how it plans to pacify Ukraine, in the face of an almost certain insurgency, and a well-armed one at that, is the stuff of General Staff nightmares in Moscow. At this point, it looks like an even bet whether Russia’s renewed Ukraine war will ultimately place that country under Moscow’s thumb – or bring about the collapse of Putin’s regime. Military setbacks, after all, have a long history of fomenting revolutions in Russia.
Regrettably, Putin has no reason to back down now, since the West has already dropped its economic “atomic bomb” on Russia, leaving Moscow to explain to its own people why the Ukraine war must go on, in the face of economic ruin, anti-Russian sentiments in many countries, and the deaths of Russian soldiers in a war of choice. As this newsletter has already explained, Putin’s aggression against his neighbor isn’t grounded merely in coldly rational geostrategy: it has a significant religious component too.
Although it’s been almost wholly ignored by Western “experts,” the Kremlin has made abundantly clear that it’s gone to war against Ukraine to heal the schism in world Orthodoxy that it believes was birthed by the United States in 2019 when Washington enabled the creation of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine out of elements of the long-existing Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which ultimately reports to Moscow. The religious component of this war has appeared overtly, on both sides, with modest coverage in Western media. In an interview with the BBC, pro-Kyiv Archbishop Yevstratiy Zorya, an OCU spokesman, denounced Putin as “really anti-Christ of our current time.” Then, Metropolitan Epifaniy, the head of the OCU, claimed that the Kremlin was attempting to hunt him down, literally: “I’ve been informed by foreign agencies that I’m target number five in the list to be killed.”
Neither are all Russian Orthodox Church clergy pleased with the Kremlin’s aggression against Ukraine. Nearly 300 ROC clerics signed a rare open letter which demanded “the cessation of the fratricidal war” against Ukraine, insisting that the “people of Ukraine should make their choice on their own” while condemning the “trial that our brothers and sisters in Ukraine were undeservedly subjected to.” There have yet been no dissenters among the ROC hierarchy as all the open letter’s signatories were priests and monks rather than bishops. Indeed, church leadership has spoken plainly in support of Putin and his war against their neighbor. Yesterday, Metropolitan Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus’ since 2009, delivered a fiery sermon at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, endorsing Russia’s attack on Ukraine, portraying Kyiv as the aggressor while explaining the spiritual necessity of Putin’s actions thus:
For eight years there have been attempts to destroy what exists in the Donbas. And in the Donbas there is rejection, a fundamental rejection of the so-called values that are offered today by those who claim world power. Today there is such a test for the loyalty of this government, a kind of pass to that “happy” world, the world of excess consumption, the world of visible “freedom”. Do you know what this test is? The test is very simple and at the same time terrible - this is a gay parade. The demands on many to hold a gay parade are a test of loyalty to that very powerful world; and we know that if people or countries reject these demands, then they do not enter into that world, they become strangers to it.
But we know what this sin is, which is promoted through the so-called marches of dignity. This is a sin that is condemned by the Word of God - both the Old and the New Testament. Moreover, the Lord, condemning sin, does not condemn the sinner. He only calls him to repentance, but not to ensure that through a sinful person and his behavior, sin becomes a life standard, a variation of human behavior - respected and acceptable.
If humanity recognizes that sin is not a violation of God's law, if humanity agrees that sin is one of the options for human behavior, then human civilization will end there. And gay parades are designed to demonstrate that sin is one of the variations of human behavior. That is why in order to enter the club of those countries, it is necessary to hold a gay pride parade. Not to make a political statement “we are with you”, not to sign any agreements, but to hold a gay parade. And we know how people resist these demands and how this resistance is suppressed by force. This means that we are talking about imposing by force a sin condemned by God's law, and therefore, by force to impose on people the denial of God and His truth.
Therefore, what is happening today in the sphere of international relations has not only political significance. We are talking about something different and much more important than politics. We are talking about human salvation, about where humanity will end up, on which side of God the Savior, who comes into the world as the Judge and Creator, on the right or on the left. Today, out of weakness, stupidity, ignorance, and most often out of unwillingness to resist, many go there, to the left side. And all that is connected with the justification of sin, condemned by the Bible, is today a test for our faithfulness to the Lord, for our ability to confess faith in our Savior.
Orthodoxy thankfully doesn’t have provision for jihad, but Kirill’s statement veered in that direction, complete with the explanation that what’s at stake in Ukraine is nothing less than the continuing existence of human civilization! An ordinary sermon this was not. Moreover, yesterday was Forgiveness Sunday in the Orthodox world, the beginning of Lent, and the head of the ROC took that opportunity not to forgive, rather to justify the Kremlin’s war being waged on fellow Orthodox Christians, during Lent no less, due to gay pride parades.
The ROC’s condemnation of recent Western LGBT practices, including gay pride parades, an objection which Western post-moderns have difficulty understanding, is hardly new. As Top Secret Umbra has observed, our “elites, all of whom fall on the spectrum of Western Educated Industrialized Rich and Democratic, WEIRD for short, Putin represents an atavism whose motivations they cannot understand.” Neither are prominent Putinists shy about denouncing Western LGBT practices as Satanic or connecting it to Ukraine with claims that Russia’s war against that country is fundamentally about resisting America’s “Global F*ggot Empire.”
One of the ironies here is that, per regular opinion polling, Ukrainians are less open-minded than Westerners about gay matters, indeed their views are closer those found in Russia than among WEIRDs. Moreover, we must confront the difficult truth that Moscow’s obsession with Ukraine and the LGBT issue isn’t simply a figment of Kirill’s overactive imagination. Before its recent closure due to the war, the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv regularly promoted LGBT issues and gay pride events; in 2018, the State Department contingent in Kyiv’s gay pride parade was led by Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch herself; and U.S. Government outlets frequently played up the involvement of official American representatives and entities in LGBT parades and events in Ukraine. However we may feel about the Moscow Patriarchate’s immoderate take on gay pride parades, we have to concede that, unlike “Ukrainian Nazi juntas committing genocide,” they’re not simply making this one up.
Neither should we take much comfort from the fact that, de jure, Metropolitan Kirill is a private citizen who doesn’t speak for the Kremlin. Putin and his regime have forged close ties with the ROC in a mutually beneficial relationship, a 21st century take on what Orthodoxy terms symphonia. There’s no reason to think that Kremlin grandees dissent from Kirill’s incendiary take on why Russia must wage war on Ukraine (and if they do, they know to keep quiet). Furthermore, there’s evidence that such thinking has permeated Russia’s military and security services too. Ukrainian military intelligence has captured an apparently authentic Russian military officer’s handbook which describes Putin’s army as “the last bastion against the Satanic new world order.” There’s ample evidence that such religiously-inspired apocalyptic thinking has infiltrated many minds in Moscow, including highly-placed ones, an alarming prospect which implies there will be no easy end to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
Watch this space…more is coming soon.