Pope Francis Demolishes Western Narrative About Russia

by Venu Gopal Narayanan - May 6, 2022 12:20 PM +05:30 IST
Pope Francis Demolishes Western Narrative About RussiaPope Francis.
Snapshot
  • Without beating around the bush, the Pontiff stated that Russian President Vladimir Putin may have been compelled to invade Ukraine because of “NATO barking at Russia’s gate”.

There’s something about a man of the cloth, which often lets him tell it like it is without fear of repudiation or censure. Perhaps it has to do with the intensity of his devotion, or perhaps, it reflects his deep understanding of morals, and the difference between right and wrong.

Either way, a laboriously-constructed fiction surrounding the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict came crashing down on 3 May, when Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, spoke with startling candour to an Italian publication.

Without beating around the bush, the Pontiff bluntly stated that Russian President Vladimir Putin may have been compelled to invade Ukraine because of “NATO barking at Russia’s gate”. To avoid any confusion or ambiguity, he reiterated: “I have no way of telling whether his [Putin’s] rage has been provoked… but I suspect it was maybe facilitated by the West’s attitude”.

So, now, the most influential religious figure in the world had openly placed blame on the Russia-Ukraine conflict at the West’s feet. And with that, Pope Francis shredded whatever moral position America and Europe had adopted over this war, to leave the West’s supposed nobility, and their faux saviour complex, in complete tatters.

For months, Western politicians and their shockingly-pliant mainstream media had been busy creating an elaborate narrative. By it, Joe Biden, America, the West, and NATO were on the side of the angels. Ukraine was the poor lamb awaiting rescue by them, from the deadly talons of a big, bad, Russian bear. And Putin was the new monster, all set to unleash instability and carnage upon not just Ukraine, but the West as well.

They captured the moral high ground by dint of their absolute control of major social media platforms, the most popular television channels with the broadest reach, and a relentless barrage of carefully crafted articles in print. It was the binary of binaries, almost Sith-like in its formulation, where anyone not with the West was against them.

Swarajya didn’t buy this tripe, and maintained from the start that America, along with Europe, was building up this narrative for a very different set of reasons. Portraying Russia as an expansionist power, which deserved to be isolated forthwith, was cover for ensuring that Ukraine was absorbed into NATO. Second, this would then allow it to place a nuclear missile deterrence system within what was, by any definition, clearly Russia’s sphere of influence – if it so wished. And third, America could then become Europe’s primary energy provider.

It was a beautiful plan. In one fell swoop, the American economy would start sizzling, Europe’s dependency on Russian oil, gas and coal would end, Russia’s wings would be firmly clipped, and America would regain some control of global energy prices.

And in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the West had a perfect puppet, who let matters slide into a violent conflagration which has wrecked his country.

Not one word was uttered on the original flashpoint – when the Americas engineered a regime change in Ukraine, in 2014 (blithely called a ‘colour revolution’ in Left-Liberal parlance); or, of the unspeakable horrors which ethnic Russians had to suffer, at the hands of brutal Ukrainian militias.

Unfortunately, that elaborate script has now been torn to pieces, after Pope Francis gave so freely of his mind in public, and plainly said that Putin was forced to invade Ukraine because NATO was barking at Russia’s gates.

The implications are significant.

The Pope’s views are fully in consonance with Putin’s, who too, had been saying for over eight years now, that Western efforts to draw Ukraine into NATO were a set of red lines which would lead to conflict. That is exactly what has happened, and this puts both the Vatican and Russia on the same page.

Second, the Pope is not some run of the mill commentator whose views can be put down or pooh-pooed through a violent media barrage. On the contrary, his views carry more weight in more quarters of the world than most appreciate.

Third, readers mustn’t forget that the post of the Pontiff is regarded as one of apostolic succession, meaning that it represents a direct, uninterrupted line of theological, spiritual and devotional continuity from the Apostles of Jesus Christ, into the present age. So, politicians and their spin doctors in the media would need to think long and hard, before daring to contradict Pope Francis, or, heaven forbid, say that he is speaking an untruth.

Fourth, the Catholic constituency in Europe and North America is fairly substantial. Joe Biden is Catholic. They constitute a third of Europe and Canada, a fifth of America, and are a majority in Ireland, Portugal, Spain, France, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia and Lithuania – all members of NATO. The last thing any politician would dare do under these circumstances is to take on the Pope; he or she can lose Ukraine, but not the vote.

Fifth, the Pope’s utterance will now bring back into question the multiple, immoral plays enacted by the Americans and Europe in Ukraine, starting from the ‘Euromaidan’ colour revolution and flagrant regime change of 2013-14, the devastation suffered by the Russian-majority regions of Ukraine since then, the silence maintained by their press over that, and the brazen manner in which they pushed Russia into invading Ukraine this year.

To make matters worse, Pope Francis extended his views beyond Ukraine and Russia to touch upon other conflict zones in the same interview. According to him, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and parts of Africa are in a similar mess because “international interests are at stake” [his words]. Surely no one in Washington DC or London wants the bogey of ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ in Iraq to be raked up again, or the absurdity of their having sided with Al Qaeda in Syria against President Bashar al-Assad, but now it will.

Why the Pope chose to speak as he did, how politicians may react, and whether his strong words mean a possible early end to the ongoing conflict, is a piece for another day. But this much is clear: the credibility of NATO and the West is mud.

Perhaps the best Biden can do presently is bide by his Pope, and get his government and his allies to practice that most Catholic of tenets: ‘the truth will set you free’. If not, the immorality they have unleashed upon Russia and Ukraine will haunt them for generations.

Venu Gopal Narayanan is an independent upstream petroleum consultant who focuses on energy, geopolitics, current affairs and electoral arithmetic. He tweets at @ideorogue.
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