Disinformation, Ukraine, and Unholy War
In 2013, Vladimir Putin was still something of a hero to many Christians in the West. That was the year when we released the book Disinformation, which I co-authored with Lieutenant General Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest-ranking defector from the Soviet bloc. One of the first talks I gave on the book was at the Catholic Information Center in Washington, DC.
在2013年，弗拉基米尔 · 普京仍然是许多西方基督徒心目中的英雄。那一年，我们出版了《假情报》(Disinformation)一书，我与苏联阵营中级别最高的叛逃者伊恩 · 米哈伊 · 帕切帕(Ion Mihai Pacepa)中将合著。我在华盛顿特区的天主教信息中心就这本书做的第一次演讲。
When I spoke about the very serious threat that Putin presented to Catholicism, Christianity, and religion itself, an audience member challenged me. He argued that Putin was not like the previous, atheistic Communist leaders. He claimed to be religious; he even wore a cross around his neck.
Pacepa, the former head of foreign intelligence in communist Romania, understood that Putin’s outward image was a specific type of disinformation: glasnost, to use Soviet intelligence terminology. Putin was an old-line, hard-nosed KGB agent. The glasnost veneer that made him appear friendly to the churches made him all the more dangerous. Today, while most Americans recognize Putin as a threat to world peace, many still do not understand the enormous threat he poses to religion.
Soviet Plan to Take Over Religion
The modern Soviet plan to take over religion really began under Khrushchev. He presented the Cold War-era “Christian Peace Conference” as a global ecumenical organization concerned with world peace. In reality, it was a KGB front. The Kremlin appointed Metropolitan Nikodim of Leningrad (who had worked for the KGB under the code name “Adamant”) as vice president and shadow manager of the CPC. Soviet agents provided him with funding for, among other things, the task of defaming the late Pope Pius XII (d. 1958) as an anti-Semite.
The chief of the KGB disinformation department, General Ivan Agayants, informed Intelligence Directors throughout the Soviet bloc, including Pacepa, that all employees of the Soviet patriarchate’s External Affairs Department and all religious servants involved in foreign religious work were working for the KGB. Pacepa was tasked with ensuring a similar situation in Romania.
克格勃假情报部门负责人伊万 · 阿加扬茨将军通知包括帕西帕在内的整个苏联阵营的情报主管，苏联教区对外事务部的所有雇员和所有参与外国宗教工作的宗教仆人都在为克格勃工作。帕西帕的任务是确保在罗马尼亚出现类似的情况。
The KGB also ordered its sister services in Eastern Europe to create special units dedicated to counteracting the Vatican’s “poison.” Other units were charged with producing intelligence officers capable of working undercover inside the Vatican itself. Pacepa supervised one of those operations. After he defected to the United States in 1978, Pacepa spent three years in debriefing, and he explained these and other Soviet operations to the CIA.
On December 5, 2008, Patriarch Aleksi II, the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, passed away. For 50 years, he had worked for the KGB under the codename “Drozdov.” In 1988, the KGB had even awarded him a Certificate of Honor. The West only learned about his background in 1994 when the Russians pulled out of Estonia and accidentally left behind a KGB archive.
2008年12月5日，俄罗斯正教会的首领 Aleksi 二世去世。50年来，他一直在代号为“德罗兹多夫”的克格勃工作1988年，克格勃甚至授予他荣誉证书。西方国家直到1994年才知道他的背景，当时俄罗斯人从爱沙尼亚撤出，不小心留下了一份克格勃档案。
On January 27, 2009, roughly seven hundred synod delegates assembled to elect Aleksi II’s successor. They were presented with a slate of three candidates: Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk (a secret member of the KGB codenamed “Mikhaylov”); Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk (who had worked for the KGB under the code name “Ostrovsky”); and Metropolitan Kliment of Kaluga (who used the KGB codename “Topaz”).
Kirill, who was ultimately elected, had spent four decades promoting “liberation theology,” which the Soviet intelligence community had dubbed Christianized Marxism. In 1971, the KGB sent Kirill to Geneva as a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church to the World Council of Churches (which was a Kremlin pawn). Four years later, they infiltrated him into the WCC’s Central Committee. In 1989, the KGB appointed him chairman of the Russian patriarchate’s foreign relations. Kirill still held those positions in 2009 when he was elected patriarch.
In February 2016, Patriarch Kirill traveled to communist Cuba to meet Pope Francis. It was the first time that leaders of the Catholic Church and the Moscow patriarchate had met in person. They issued a lengthy joint statement that was seen as censuring Ukrainian Catholics and favoring Russian aggression against that nation. Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, said that he was disappointed, and his Church members felt “betrayed by the Vatican” due to the declaration’s position on Ukraine.
2016年2月，基里尔大主教前往共产主义国家古巴会见教皇方济各。这是天主教会和莫斯科教区的领导人第一次亲自会面。他们发表了一份冗长的联合声明，谴责乌克兰天主教徒，支持俄罗斯侵略乌克兰。乌克兰希腊天主教会的大总主教 Sviatoslav Shevchuk 说，他很失望，他的教会成员感到“被梵蒂冈背叛”，因为宣言的立场在乌克兰。
Patriarch Kirill: “Putin’s Altar Boy”
Given that Putin served for a period of time during the 1980s in the KGB’s Fifth Directorate, which was responsible for oversight of religious groups, it is likely that he has known Kirill for over thirty years. Regardless, Putin has certainly taken advantage of Kirill’s position. When protests erupted over Putin’s 2012 return to power, Kirill likened Putin’s presidency to “a miracle from God” and warned of an “apocalypse” if Western-style liberalism were allowed to become dominant in Russia. Kirill has continued to give Putin both his spiritual and his political backing, even belittling the “ear piercing shrieks” of his political opponents. Kirill has such a subservient relationship with Putin that Archbishop Borys Gudziak, the senior Ukrainian Catholic metropolitan in the United States, has called Kirill “Putin’s altar boy.”
鉴于普京在上世纪80年代曾在负责监督宗教团体的克格勃第五局任职一段时间，他很可能认识基里尔超过30年。无论如何，普京肯定利用了基里尔的地位。当针对普京2012年重新掌权的抗议活动爆发时，基里尔把普京的总统任期比作“来自上帝的奇迹”，并警告说，如果允许西方式的自由主义在俄罗斯占据主导地位，就会出现“天启”。基里尔继续给予普京精神上和政治上的支持，甚至贬低他的政治对手“刺耳的尖叫”。基里尔与普京之间的关系如此顺从，以至于美国乌克兰资深天主教宗主教博里斯 · 古兹亚克(Borys Gudziak)称基里尔是“普京的祭坛助手”
Many in the West may remember the uproar when, in 2012, Russia convicted members of the all-female punk rock band Pussy Riot and sentenced them to as much as two years in prison. The charge of “hooliganism” was based on the band having performed a protest song at the altar of Moscow’s largest cathedral without permission. The matter they were protesting was that the Church had become an arm of Putin’s government. Kirill and other church leaders did what he asked of them, and the punk rocking women did not like it.
许多西方人可能还记得2012年俄罗斯判处纯女性朋克摇滚乐队 Pussy Riot 的成员有罪，并判处她们最高两年的监禁。这支乐队未经允许在莫斯科最大教堂的祭坛上演唱了一首抗议歌曲，因此被指控犯有“流氓罪”。他们抗议的问题是，教会已经成为普京政府的一个分支。基里尔和其他教会领袖做了他要求他们做的事情，朋克摇滚女人不喜欢这样。
Current Situation in Ukraine: Role of Religion
That leads to the current situation in Ukraine. While many faiths are openly and freely practiced in Ukraine, the country’s population is overwhelmingly Christian and predominantly identified with one of a few branches of Orthodox Christianity, only some of which are in union with Rome. As Putin has used the Russian Orthodox Church to advance his state causes in Russia, he has also used the Orthodox character of Ukraine to further his argument for a closer alignment between the two nations. (Days after the invasion of Ukraine, Kirill echoed Putin’s justification as he preached about Kyiv and Moscow “comprising the one space of the Russian Orthodox Church.”)
Putin has cited NATO expansion as his principal concern regarding Ukraine, but he clearly has also been concerned about the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s relationship with Moscow. In late 2018, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine-Kyiv Patriarchate (which is not in union with Rome) sought a status known as autocephaly, meaning that its bishops would not report to higher-ranking bishops in Russia. This was an attempt to break free from Moscow and achieve greater religious independence. The Moscow Patriarchate responded by charging the church in Ukraine with persecution and oppression. Such charges, of course, served Putin’s purposes quite well.
As historian Diana Butler Bass put it: “The conflict in Ukraine is all about religion and what kind of Orthodoxy will shape Eastern Europe and other Orthodox communities around the world (especially in Africa).” For Putin, this is all about “recapturing the Holy Land of Russian Orthodoxy and defeating the westernized (and decadent) heretics who do not bend the knee to Moscow’s spiritual authority.”
正如历史学家戴安娜 · 巴特勒 · 巴斯所说: “乌克兰的冲突完全是关于宗教，以及什么样的东正教会塑造东欧和世界其他东正教社区(特别是在非洲)。”对于普京来说，这一切都是为了“重新夺回俄罗斯东正教的圣地，打败那些不向莫斯科精神权威屈服的西化(和颓废)的异教徒。”
At the beginning of the current war, the Moscow branch of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine came out with strong statements condemning the Russian invasion. Those statements, however, have now been removed from the Church’s website, almost certainly under directives from Moscow.
The U.S. Department of State identifies Russia as one of the worst countries in the world for religious freedom, with authorities continuing to “investigate, detain, imprison, torture, and and/or physically abuse persons or seize their property because of their religious faith…” (2020 Report on International Religious Freedom: Russia, May 12, 2021). If Russia takes and holds Ukraine, the Orthodox Churches in Ukraine would likely become arms of a puppet government. Russia’s abusive treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, and other proselytizing groups would likely spread across Ukraine and come to include Ukrainian Greek Catholics (who are in communion with Rome).
美国国务院将俄罗斯列为世界上宗教自由最差的国家之一，当局继续“调查、拘留、监禁、酷刑和/或人身虐待，或因宗教信仰而没收他们的财产... ...”(《2020年国际宗教自由报告: 俄罗斯》 ，2021年5月12日)。如果俄罗斯占领并控制乌克兰，乌克兰的东正教会很可能成为傀儡政府的武器。俄罗斯虐待耶和华见证人、穆斯林和其他传教团体的行为可能会蔓延到整个乌克兰，并且包括乌克兰的希腊天主教徒(他们正在与罗马交流)。
Revisiting the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis
U.S. troops in Europe have been placed on Defcon 2 status. They’ve only been at that level twice since the system was instituted. The most recent time was at the start of operations for the Gulf War. The other time was in 1962, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
In 1962, as the world’s super powers were locked in a stare-down with all humanity hanging in the balance, Pope John XXIII publicly urged leaders to “do all that is in their power to save peace.” Peace talks would reflect “wisdom and prudence which attracts the blessings of heaven and earth.” Such “loyal and open behavior [would have] great value… before history.” This message appeared in newspapers all around the world, including the Soviet Union’s Pravda. The headline in that paper said: “We beg all governments not to remain deaf to this cry of humanity.”
Economic embargos and shows of force certainly have their place in resolving conflicts, but as Pope John XXIII knew, they come with great risk. His words gave Khrushchev an avenue to step back without losing face. It was, perhaps, the only peaceful way that conflict could have ended.
Somewhat overlooked in the recent news flurry is that Pope Francis called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to express “his deepest sorrow for the tragic events that are taking place in our country.” In a tweet, Zelenskyy thanked the pope “for praying for peace in Ukraine and a ceasefire. The Ukrainian people feel the spiritual support of His Holiness.”
在最近的新闻热潮中，教皇方济各(Pope Francis)给乌克兰总统沃洛德米尔 · 泽兰斯基(Volodymyr Zelenskyy)打电话，表达了“他对我国正在发生的悲惨事件的最深切悲痛”Zelenskyy 在推特上感谢教皇“为乌克兰的和平和停火祈祷”。乌克兰人民感受到了教皇陛下的精神支持。”
Francis also paid a visit to the Russia embassy, reportedly to speak to Putin on a secure line. Some observers have expressed the hope that the pope will publicly condemn Putin and Russian aggression. Others have referred to his efforts so far as “empty gestures.” Those people are wrong.
The pope has made it clear, and no one doubts, that he opposes military aggression. Many other world leaders, however, are already issuing condemnations. According to some accounts, they are only hardening Putin’s resolve. A papal condemnation would be unlikely to add anything new.
As a religious leader, Francis can play an important role by doing what Pope John XXIII did in 1962, giving leaders a way to save face as they step back from an impossible situation. Religious leaders in Russia have limited ability to speak, and those in Ukraine are seriously threatened. Francis can take that role; he may be the only person in the world who can. Creating such openings may, in fact, be the most appropriate thing for any religious leader to do in a time of war.
War is always hell, and this one may have eternal consequences. Francis seems to recognize that. He certainly knows that the world cannot afford to overlook logical avenues to peace. That is why he is working to build them. Pray that he will be successful and that world leaders will be wise enough and brave enough to use the avenues that are open to them.