When Napoleon executed Louis Antoine in 1804, a decision which turned the European aristocracy against Napoleon, an advisor reportedly quipped “It’s worse than a crime, it’s a mistake.” Former US Secretary of State Dean Acheson, an architect of the War in Vietnam reportedly quipped the same thing about Vietnam. A full-scale invasion and occupation of Ukraine by Russian forces would be a strategic blunder by Mr. Putin. Such an occupation would likely have very high costs with little chance of success. It would be worse than a crime. It would be a mistake.
Peace Is in Russia’s Best Interest
An occupation of Ukraine would be easy for Russia to pull off, but hard to sustain. Stephen Budiansky estimated that a successful occupation requires one soldier for every 40 civilians. With over 40 million citizens, it would take more than a million occupying Russian soldiers. With only one million active forces, and with many of those performing other functions, Russia would have to dip into its reserve forces, which would be economically taxing and difficult to sustain. Another obstacle is that polling suggests millions of Ukrainians would offer armed resistance. An unwilling populace is very difficult to govern, and can become a sinkhole of time and resources. Thousands of Russians and Ukrainians may perish in the guerilla fighting that would continue after the defeat of the Ukrainian military. Such a state of affairs would only further threaten the popularity of Mr. Putin’s governance. Though they are far from an impartial observer, the Atlantic Council has for this reason predicted that a Ukrainian occupation could spell the end of Mr. Putin’s regime. At the very least, it is a very real possibility that a full-scale Ukrainian occupation would be like the failures of the US in Afghanistan and Vietnam. Tactically, the Russian forces would dominate, but the likelihood of peaceful incorporation of Ukrainian territories into the Russian state is very slim.
On April 5, 1977, Jim Forest received a phone call that his friend and collaborator Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, had been kidnapped by the Argentinian government. The most likely outcome was death. From his office in the Netherlands, Jim and his staff worked to free Adolfo. They nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize as a publicity stunt to embarrass the Argentinian government. Within hours, hundreds of papers picked up the story, and fourteen months later Adolfo was released. Expecting nothing more to come of this, Jim thought he had received a prank call the next summer when the Nobel committee called to inform him that Adolfo had won the prize.
Not wanting to waste this opportunity, Jim arranged for a meeting in Rome with Pope John Paul II. At this meeting, their goal was to ask the pope that Arturo Rivera Damas be appointed as the permanent successor to the recently assassinated Óscar Romero. Pope John Paul went on to grant their request.
Jim was born November 2, 1941, to two communists. Though Jim was at times embarrassed by his family’s outsider status, he attributed his upbringing to teaching him about the plight of the poor, something that paved the way to becoming a Christian. As a child, he also learned about the horrors of war when a minister at a local Methodist parish hosted two victims of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who had come to the US for reconstructive surgery. Peering at their silk veils, Jim came to learn that hospitality to those in need, those suffering, was far more important than politics. Despite his many encounters with political events over the coming decades, he always kept in mind that it was people who ultimately mattered.
Two Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Reince Priebus and George Gigicos, are in high ranking positions in the Trump administration, meaning that Orthodox Social Thought (OST) is as relevant now as it has ever been. I offer here a brief look at OST with special attention to issues relevant to American political discourse.
The most authoritative contemporary conciliar source for OST is the Mission document from the 2016 council in Crete. This document was crafted by the 14 autocephalous churches prior to the council, and though not all were present to approve its final form, none of the non-attending churches critiqued the substance of the document. The second source is the Basis of the Social Concept (BSC), which is less authoritative, and has only been adopted by the Russian Church. I will also reference Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s views where possible. Continue Reading…
“The Mission of the Orthodox Church in Today’s World” offers timely statement on war, peace, and justice. The nature of conflict has evolved and the Church needs to counsel the faithful on the peacemaking vocation. This document offers an authoritative peace stance, and makes recommendations, but these are mostly too vague and incomplete. In particular, more should be developed regarding faithful responses to violence. Continue Reading…