Putin’s Evangelicals

TimeWatch Editorial
March 15, 2017

Amidst the prevailing debate regarding the intrusion of Russia into the 2016 American Presidential Election, there are many opinions or suggestions as to the real motivation of Vladimir Putin. There is however, a somewhat unnoticed possibility that is has been mentioned but not applied. A few articles reveal a possible undergirded direction for much of the unexplained. First, Neil Buckley, Eastern Europe Editor of the Financial Times, published an article on the 19th of September 2013.  The title of the article was “Putin urges Russians to return to values of religion.” Listen to what Mr. Buckley has to say.

“Russia Vladimir Putin called on Russians to strengthen a new national identity based on conservative and traditional values such as the Orthodox Church on Thursday, warning that the west was facing a moral crisis. Mr Putin said Russia should avoid the example of European countries that were “going away from their roots”, by legalizing gay marriage and excessive “political correctness”. “A policy is being conducted of putting on the same level multi-child families and single-sex partnerships, belief in God and belief in Satan. The excesses of political correctness are leading to the point where people are talking seriously about registering parties whose goal is legalizing the propaganda of pedophilia,” Mr Putin claimed.” Neil Buckley, “Putin urges Russians to return to values of religion.” The Financial Times, 19th of September 2013

Now of course, the relationship between Putin and the Orthodox Church did not begin in 2013. A look at an article published by in The Telegraph by Adrian Blomfield on February 23, 2008 entitled Orthodox Church unholy alliance with Putin,” says the following:

“Russia's Orthodox Church, despite decades of brutal repression under Soviet rule, is putting its trust in the KGB to ensure that a remarkable religious revival does not fade with the departure of President Vladimir Putin. In an unusual move, Alexei II, the Church's patriarch, has endorsed Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ahead of next week's presidential election. It also illustrates the unholy alliance the Church has forged with the Kremlin since Mr Putin came to power eight years ago. The president, a proud adherent, has allowed the Orthodox Church to regain much of its Tsarist-era luster and has won the enthusiastic support of religious leaders in return. With his hand-picked successor almost guaranteed victory in the March 2 poll, Mr Putin is determined to maintain the arrangement by holding on to the reins of power as prime minister.” Adrian Blomfield, Orthodox Church unholy alliance with Putin,” The Telegraph, February 23, 2008 

Slowly the relationship with Russia seems to be changed even more. David Axe, an American military correspondent who writes on military life and aspects of current conflicts,  on his  website, War is Boring, authored an article on July 13, 2014 entitled: The Kremlin reaches out to U.S. evangelicals, but reciprocating Moscow’s gestures can backfire.” Here is what Axe’s article says:

“Since the re-election of Pres. Vladimir Putin of Russia in 2012, the Kremlin has clamped down on independent media, established a draconian ban on “gay propaganda” and invaded the Ukrainian Republic of Crimea. This new Russian government is aggressive, autocratic and moving further to the political right, argues Anton Shekhovtsov, a London-based expert on the Ukrainian and Russian far right—who originally hails from the Crimean city of Sevastopol. The Kremlin is also reaching out to American conservative evangelicals as a means to find potential allies sympathetic to Russia’s rightward shift.” David Axe, “The Kremlin reaches out to U.S. evangelicals, but reciprocating Moscow’s gestures can backfire.” War is Boring, on July 13, 2014

This outreach of the Kremlin to American Conservatives should not be surprising since Vladimir Putin and Pope Francis have developed a working relationship. According to the Sputnik Website, dated September 02, 2016, Pope Francis says that Putin is "the only one with whom the Catholic Church can unite to defend Christians in the East." Here is how the writer of the article puts it.

“In an attempt to defend Christians in the Middle East and other parts of the world where they're being persecuted, Pope Francis wants to ask Russian President Vladimir Putin for help. According to Pope Francis, Putin is "the only one with whom the Catholic Church can unite to defend Christians in the East. With the help of Putin, Pope Francis hopes to reach out to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani and even the Chinese government elite and work out a plan to help Christians in these regions. In regards to China, Francis said he hopes to establish political contact between Beijing and Vatican since the two parties have never had official diplomatic relations, the French newspaper said." Pope Francis Sees Putin as 'Only Man' to Defend Christians around the World, September 02, 2016, Sputnik

So the question would be, how far along has this attempt to bring Russians and Evangelicals together reached and what impact has it had already? How much has this “coming together” caused the apparent interference of the Russians? Listen to an article published on the POLITICO MAGAZINE entitled: “How Russia Became the Leader of the Global Christian Right.” Here is how the article begins.

“In early April 2014, as the post-Cold War order roiled in the aftermath of Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula—the first forced annexation in Europe since the Second World War—Pat Buchanan asked a question. Taking to the column-inches at Town hall , Buchanan wondered aloud: “Whose side is God on now?” As Moscow swamped Ukraine’s peninsula, holding a ballot-by-bayonet referendum while local Crimean Tatars began disappearing , Buchanan clarified his query. The former speechwriter for Richard Nixon and intellectual flag-bearer of paleoconservatism—that authoritarian strain of thought linking both white nationalists and US President Donald Trump—wrote that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “entering a claim that Moscow is the Godly City of today[.]” Despite Putin’s rank kleptocracy , and the threat Moscow suddenly posed to stability throughout Europe, Buchanan blushed with praise for Putin’s policies, writing, “In the culture war for the future of mankind, Putin is planting Russia’s flag firmly on the side of traditional Christianity.” Casey Michel, How Russia Became the Leader of the Global Christian Right.” POLITICO MAGAZINE, February 09, 2017

So there is one more element driving the Russian interest in the United States; the far right Evangelicals. One can hardly wait to see what the result of that action described on the “War is Boring” website. What will the response be as
The Kremlin reaches out to U.S. evangelicals?

Cameron A. Bowen

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