Missing Airplanes, Deep Water Ports and Russian Union at Gun Point

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I haven’t written much about the mess with Ukraine/Crimea/Russia. I haven’t written at all about the missing airliner.

The reasons are simple.

I don’t have a lot of wisdom to share about Ukraine/Crimea/Russia, and I don’t know what’s happened to that airliner.

My guess is that Russia wants a sort of alliance with its former satellites states; something akin to the European Union. I doubt that Russia wants to re-occupy those countries. They’ve already done that. And it didn’t work out.

On the other hand, creating an economic alliance that resembles the European Union would greatly enhance Russia’s economic clout. This is especially true if Russia is the absolute, unchallenged first among equals with the member states of that “union.”

Russia, being Russia, doesn’t seem to have gotten the drift of negotiation in developing this economic union. They’re more into gunpoint diplomacy than the give and take of actual negotiating.

Of course, negotiating with people who were, until a couple of decades ago, Russia’s slaves, would be tough going, even for the most delicate of debaters. Russia has what might be called a bad rep among their former satellites. The brutal police states they ran that impoverished people, destroyed their freedoms and ended many of their lives in gulags make people chary of being their pals now. These folks aren’t too eager to go back under the Russian lash.

It appears that Russia is still the child of its evil past. The response to frustrating displays of disregard for what Russia wants in its satellites seems to bring that evil child to the fore. Russia’s means of conversation is to bring in the tanks and troops.

In addition to economic hegemony, Russia also wants and needs something that Crimea — and only Crimea — has. Americans, who live in one of the other great continental nations, take our plethora of deep water ports for granted. We’ve got so many of them, and they are all ice free year round, that the whole question is not a question to us. We don’t think about what it would be like to be a continental nation without a single ice-free, deep-water port.

But Russia, despite its mammoth coastline, hasn’t got anyplace to park a fleet of big boats. It can’t ship goods by sea because there’s no way to get the goods onto the seas. I won’t discuss the issue of a Russian Navy at this point. I think it’s obvious that you’ve got to have ports to have an effective Nary.

Little Crimea is the proud possessor of a deep water port that is ice free.

Do I need to connect the dots here?

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At the same time that we’ve seen exhaustive and utterly confusing news reports about Russia/Ukraine/Crimea, we have also been partakers of the mystery surrounding a missing airliner. It seems that this airliner abruptly made a hard turn off its course, dropped to below radar level and flew on for several hours. Then, it vanished.

Nobody knows what happened. Nobody knows where it is now. Nobody knows anything except that the airliner, its crew and passengers are missing.

Speculation about hijackings and terrorists raises a hundred nightmare scenarios in all our minds.

We faced with other people’s tragedies as their countries are invaded and annexed for the use of more powerful nations. We imagine what it must have been like on that airliner. We feel for the families of these people. We speculate about whether or not the crew and passengers are still alive, and if they are still alive, what might be happening to them.

All this is laced with fear. Not lie-awake-at-night-and-churn-fear, but the cold frisson of fear that is part of living in an uncertain and dangerous world. There are so many good people. But the relatively few bad ones have the capacity to make a hell of this earth for all of us.

Both these situations seem to have a simple root cause, and that root cause is the assumption by some individuals and countries that other human beings are simple expedients to them getting what they want.

We deal with powers and principalities every day of our lives. We see the results of their control over human beings on the news every evening, and we live out the personal miseries they cause us in the dysfunctions of our relations with those around us.

I haven’t written about missing airliners and Russian tanks parked on the ground of other people’s countries because I’m not sure enough of the facts to say anything definitive. I decided to write about these things today because of the one thing I am sure of.

We will never get to the end of the evil that people do to other people in this life. That is why it is so important for us to remember that our primary citizenship is not in any country of this world. We are citizens of heaven, even now, as we live here.

I am not urging an otherworldly abandonment of our responsibilities in the here and now. We are charged with bringing the Kingdom. We are called directly and explicitly by Our Lord to be the light that shines in this darkness.

As Americans we have unique freedoms with which to do this. We need to use every opportunity we have to fulfill our call, and when we feel that frisson of fear that comes from living in a fallen world, we need to remember that we serve a risen Lord. This world is just the smallest part of our existence.

Ukraine, Crimea, Russia: Is This a New Cold War?

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Patriarch Saitsolav Shevchuk and Pope Francis say mass together. Source Ukrainian Catholic Education Foundation.

Patriarch Svaitsolav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church warned us a few weeks ago.

“Humanity may be on the verge of a new Cold War,” he said in early February on the Voice of America. “It is about the future of democracy in Europe.” Referring to Russia, he warned of the danger of “aggression, violence and interference from our northern neighbor.”

I didn’t write about it then because I didn’t — and don’t — understand the situation. I gather that the original protests were sparked by disagreements over the current Ukrainian economic situation and whether to ally economically with the European Union or with Russia.

As I understand it, the Ukrainian prime minister backed out of a promise he had made to sign an economic agreement with the European Union. He was under pressure from Russia, which included threats of trade sanctions, not to sign. Also, the agreement would have required the prime minister to release one of his political rivals from prison.

Was it more complicated than that?

I think so. I am surmising that the underlying considerations — and the cause of the demonstrations — were not just pure economics, but the question of who would control the country. Was Ukraine going to become a European democracy, or would it be pulled back into economic and political servitude to the Russian bear?

Were there other factors we don’t know about?

Almost certainly.

But what has happened since seems, at least in terms of the broad strokes, painfully obvious.

Ukraine exploded with prolonged and increasingly violent protests that have resulted in the deaths of Ukrainian citizens at the hands of their own government.

Now, Russia has invaded both Ukraine and Crimea. This armed invasion can not be viewed as anything less than an act of war.

The question rises almost immediately: Is Russia also going to invade other former Soviet satellite states? Will they eventually exit Ukraine and Crimea peacefully, or is this a military takeover and permanent re-colonization?

I wish I could give you a more intelligent read on this situation, but I feel hamstrung by the simple fact that I don’t know who to believe. I am not referring here to Ukrainian and Russian news sources, but rather to our own. There are so many agendas operating in American news, and our president has lied to us so many times, that I’m more than a little chary of taking what any of them say at face value.

One thing is clear: Patriarch Shevchuk understood the situation and spoke with prescient clarity.

Breaking: US, Russia Reach Deal to Destroy Syria’s Chemical Weapons by 2014

The people spoke, and for once the government listened.

It seems that the US and Russia have brokered a deal to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons by 2014.

Presumably, this is the way to avoid America going to war in Syria.

One question I have: Where is Syria in all this?

The United States and Russia brokered this “deal.” That’s interesting. But it’s even more interesting that the two 800 pound gorillas did all this “brokering” on their own.

I am glad beyond glad that we’ve side-stepped this particular war. However, I feel just as strongly now as I did before about the things I’ve written concerning our self-destructive spiral of over-emphasis on “defense” to the exclusion of building our economy here at home. We have got to take a look at ourselves. Or we will perish.

From Haaretz:

After days of intense negotiations, the United States and Russia reached agreement Saturday on a framework to secure and destroy Syria‘s chemical weapons by mid-2014 and impose UN penalties if the Assad government fails to comply.

The deal, announced by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, includes what Kerry called “a shared assessment” of the weapons stockpile, and a timetable and measures for Syrian President Bashar Assad to follow so that the full inventory can be identified and seized.

The U.S. and Russia agreed to immediately press for a UN Security Council resolution that enshrines the chemical weapons agreement under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which can authorize both the use of force and nonmilitary measures.

President Barack Obama made clear that “if diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act.”

Russia, which already has rejected three resolutions on Syria, would be sure to veto a UN move toward military action, and U.S.¬ officials said they did not contemplate seeking such an authorization.

From Russia With Love (or maybe not)

Putin

Frank Weathers has the story. 

It seems that President Vladimir Putin is breaking new ice for Russian heads of state. He is now an op-ed author for the New York Times. Frank has nothing but praise for President Putin’s prose. I, on the other hand, look at it a bit differently. 

President Putin wrote an op-ed piece in which he discussed America’s recent foreign policy. He accurately said that we’ve gotten into too many random military encounters lately, and that we are turning too often to force in our international engagements. 

He also said that America’s way of dealing with other countries has become a matter of “relying on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan ‘you’re either with us or against us.’” I think he may have been talking about things like the obvious bullying that President Obama engaged in to coerce foreign nations to refuse sanctuary to whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

It is interesting indeed that this particular strategy backfired with President Putin, who, alone of all the heads of state in the world, took Mr Snowden in. President Obama was so miffed by this that he canceled a pre-G20 meeting with the Russian President, an action that, honestly folks, sounded personal and grade school to me. 

President Putin goes on in his op-ed to remark about something that is quite serious: Nuclear proliferation. He evidently sees this growing push to develop the bomb by impoverished countries who cannot feed their own people as a defensive measure on their part. He is right again when he says, “If you have the bomb, they can’t touch you.” 

In other words, nobody talks about randomly lobbing Tomahawk missiles at nations who have the bomb, no matter how egregious we find their behavior in other matters. 

This raises an important question: Is America’s international policy, with its bully-boy tactics and constant deployment of force against small nations who can’t fight back, actually pushing smaller nations to follow a policy of developing nuclear weapons? 

That is a discussion for another day, but it is certainly one worth having. 

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Having said all this, there is one thing I want Public Catholic readers to understand about President Putin’s op-ed piece. That one thing is that President Putin is using the op-ed to side-step our president and lobby the American people directly. 

I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. 

After all, he’s not paying a bunch of lobbyists to slime their way around the Capitol greasing campaign accounts and non-campaign pacs with their donations in order to convince our elected officials to vote against us. He is going out there in the court of public opinion and making his case in a straight-forward and direct way. We know where he’s coming from and what he’s saying. We do not have to listen to hours of lies from bought and paid for cable news talking heads interviewing bought and paid for think-tankers and bought and paid for politicians while they try to propagandize us. 

We don’t have to sort through what President Putin is saying to decide what he really thinks. It’s all there, for the reading. 

But we should be aware and never forget that he ain’t us. 

He is the President of Russia and the interests he’s promoting are the interests of Russia. That doesn’t make what he’s saying wrong, and that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen to him. Quite the contrary. That makes what he’s saying important and worthy of our thoughtful analysis. 

Odd as this sounds, I have a higher opinion of his motives than I do our cable news people. He, at least, is working for his country. 

Don’t Stop Praying, But We May Be Out of the War-Making Woods

Way out

I don’t think there are any lambs in this particular gathering, but it appears as if the lions may decide to, if not lie down together, at least make war another day.

Presidents Putin of Russia, Rouhani of Iran and Assad of Syria have been talking about a proposal to remove chemical weapons from Syria to Russia for several days now. I first read about this before the weekend, but didn’t write about it because the sources were publications inside Russia that I didn’t know anything about.

Haaretz, an Israeli news outlet, has also been running stories about it. The proposal became quasi official yesterday and today the New York Times wrote that President Obama has “tentatively embraced” the idea.

I expect that the war-promoting members of the press (which is a substantial portion of the press) will react to this with an analysis that President Obama has been “weak” and went to Congress “looking for a way out,” etc. I want to say, in anticipation of that, that if this compromise works, a good portion of the reason why is that this president made the decision to involve the American people, through their representatives, in this debate.

I’ve been critical of this attempt to take this country into another unnecessary war from the outset. I expect that I am going to be equally critical of the inevitable future attempts to do the same thing. Our press has become a powerful lobby for armed intervention all over the globe. There is one cable news network in particular that never stops agitating for war. The place where they want this country to use armed force changes, but the demand that we do it is almost constant.

I am not a pacifist. I believe in self-defense.

I am most definitely a patriot. From the soles of my feet to the hair of my head, I am an American.

I believe without equivocation that if we do not take an honest and critical look at this situation, we are dooming ourselves. I’ll write more about this, but we are spending ourselves into bankruptcy to finance a war machine that is out of touch with reality. Then, we are being sold on wars and “military actions” one right after the other to use it and justify it.

War has become our major industry.

This cannot go on if we are to survive. We need an economy that is based on manufacturing the goods and services of the people of this country, not an economy that is based on manufacturing weapons.

As I said in the title of this post, Don’t stop Praying.

We are not out of the woods on this yet.

And the peacemakers in this situation are hardly peaceable people.

But it looks as if there is a real possibility that we will be able to avoid firing Tomahawk missiles at the people of Syria. There may even be a possibility that we can let them work out their own civil war without shedding American blood.

We need to continue praying for peace, and for our Christian brothers and sisters who are so very vulnerable in this war. I’ve read that President Assad has treated the Christian minority in Syria with tolerance and that the rebels have targeted Christian villages for attacks and attempts at forced conversions to Islam. Again, this information has come largely from the Russian press and the Russians have a stake in this war, so I’ve been slow to write about it.

But, the Christians in Syria who have contacted me have said much the same thing.

I am grateful to the Holy Father for his powerful leadership in this matter. I am also grateful to President Obama for making the decision to allow Congress to vote on it.

I hope that is a precedent-setting move that future presidents will take seriously.

Don’t stop praying. It appears to be working.

Miracle Story: Fatima, Warning of Hell and Prophecy for Our Time

A photostatic copy of a page from Ilustração Portugueza, October 29, 1917

 

Yesterday was the 95th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima. I’ve been to Fatima. It was an important turning point in my life that I may write about in the future.

I thought you might enjoy this video commemorating it.

Have a blessed Sunday.

 

 

 

 

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