Malkhaz Songulashvili – Ukraine in Europe – 6. Hope for Post-Soviet Countries

In evangelical circles it is customary, as a sign of intercommunion, to ask foreign guests: how can we pray for your country? I have often joked, especially after the Russia-Georgia war of August 2008 that one does not need to pray for Georgia; it is Russia that badly needs to be prayed for today. It needs prayers to be freed from that rancor that chokes it and makes it hostile, not only towards the Western Christian civilization, but also towards its co-religionists of Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus and Moldova. Co-religionism is both a noose and a stick in its hands. This clearly has nothing in common with either Christianity or love towards Jesus. Unfortunately, the Russian Orthodox Church is a steadfast implementer of the Kremlin’s politics in this area. It seems that the hierarchs of the Russian Church are not concerned about the fate of their people and country. The only thing they are concerned about is maintaining the “superpower.” This is very regretful, but that is how it is.

The religious situation in Ukraine is different. In this country, religions are not the slaves of the government. The Ukrainian Patriarch Filaret not only supports the country’s integration into the European Union, but is actively involved in this process. He visits Brussels, the United States and, wherever he goes, declares that the place of Ukraine is in Europe and that there is no alternative to that. In addition to Patriarch Filaret, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, a legendary leader of the Byzantine-rite Catholics of Ukraine, also openly supports Ukraine’s pro-European orientation and those demonstrators who have been fighting for the freedom of their country in the freezing winter conditions. We should also bear in mind that Ukraine’s freedom determines the fate of many other countries too. Who knows, perhaps this will have a positive effect on Russia. Perhaps a miracle will happen and, on one fine day, Russia will also be able to break free from the bondage of its imperial past.

During his recent visit to Yerevan, Putin declared that Russia does not intend to leave the South Caucasus at all. It means nothing to him that there are three sovereign states in the Caucasus and that if he wants to be on friendly terms with these countries, he must cooperate with them based on principles of parity. Only in such conditions can Russia make true friends in its neighborhood. But Russia is not capable of friendship with other states. Empires are not capable of friendship. Russia needs slavish states in the South Caucasus.

Here, in the South Caucasus, Georgia and partially Azerbaijan are oriented towards the West, but the empire considers this to be a temporary phenomenon. The empire does not intend to pull out of the South Caucasus. “Russia shall not leave the South Caucasus!” says the dictator. He made this declaration in Yerevan with such effrontery that he obviously did not feel any unease about trampling upon the sovereignty and dignity of the state that was hosting him. He believes that he has a firm hold over Azerbaijan and Armenia because of the problem of Nagorno-Karabakh, and over Georgia because of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

It is true that Russia holds its grip on Ukraine by means of the economy, rather than the fear of territorial disintegration, but, if Russia deems it necessary, it can apply that mechanism too (in the Crimea and eastern regions of Ukraine). Nevertheless, time is not in Russia’s favor and this is something that the inhabitants of the Kremlin also understand.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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