Local opinion columnists

Is Putin truly the villain?

By From page A11 | March 21, 2014

“The defiant Parliament of Crimea set out on a perilous confrontation course with Kiev on Friday by adopting a constitution that in effect declares the restive Black Sea peninsula independent from Ukraine.” Thus reported Los Angeles Times journalist Mary Mycio, in her May 21, 1994, article.

The crisis in Crimea and Ukraine is not new, but longstanding and complex.

Our Washington politicians seem determined to pick sides in every conflict around the globe, Libya, Egypt, Syria and now Ukraine. Perhaps they have watched too many old Westerns where good guys are – good; and the bad guys wear black.

In the real world of geo-politics, there are no men in white hats, but only those wearing various shades of grey. Is the provisional Ukrainian government the good guys, even though it includes leaders of Svoboda, Right Sector and other neo-Nazi parties? Is Russian President Vladimir Putin truly the man in black?

Whenever Russia acts in a way our Washington politicians do not like, they shout from the rooftops, “Putin is trying to restore the Soviet Union.” After all, there is no blacker hat than the Soviet dictators of the past.

The Soviet Union was rabidly atheist and anti-Christian. I know this first-hand, because I smuggled thousands of Bibles to Christians in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Republics before the Iron Curtain fell. Twice all churches in the Soviet Union were closed, under Joseph Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev, and priests and ministers were killed or imprisoned. Millions of Christians were sent to the gulags or murdered during the 70 years of Soviet dictatorship.

When I first visited Moscow in 1985, a city of 10 million people, the communist authorities only allowed 42 Christian congregations to officially operate in Moscow; and only one Jewish synagogue was allowed to officially function.

Today, the Christian church in Russia has undergone a tremendous revival and rebirth. More than 300 congregations now function in Moscow, and there are plans to build many more. Tens of thousands of churches have been built or restored in Russia since the fall of communism. Three out of four Russians currently profess faith in Jesus Christ.

Vladimir Putin is not anti-Christian, an atheist or a communist. He was baptized as an infant, frequently attends church services, including at the newly built Sochi cathedral just before the Olympics, and is pushing for the Christian Church to have increasing involvement and influence in Russian government and culture, particularly in the area of education.

These things do not make Putin a good guy. It does however, illustrate that he has a very different agenda than the communist dictators of the past.

Putin is a Russian nationalist. He is not trying to revive communism or to rebuild the Soviet Union. His stated goal is to restore Russia’s power and security. Putin’s goals and actions may not be compatible with Ukrainian, European Union or U.S. interests, but that does not necessarily make him a movie villain, either.

Russia is not our enemy, and neither is Ukraine. Besides, we need Russia’s help to maintain sanctions and pressure on Iran and North Korea. They are the real black hats.

The Rev. Dan Molyneux is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Fairfield. Reach him at [email protected]

The Rev. Dan Molyneux


Discussion | 8 comments

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  • PornacMarch 21, 2014 - 6:15 am

    I guess the Vatican will be annexing parts of Italy soon.

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  • patrickMarch 21, 2014 - 3:21 pm

    Vatican is a tiny (the smallest in the world) country located entirely within the city of Rome, Italy. thy have no interest in increasing there territory.

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  • The MisterMarch 21, 2014 - 7:37 am

    Thank you, Pastor Dan, for giving some context to recent events. Perhaps if our "leaders" cared more about OUR country than pleasing international bankers and the military-industrial complex, we might be made to appear wearing "black hats" by the world corporate media and intelligentsia. You know the pre-flight instructions to the passengers on a plane? The attendants advise that when the oxygen masks fall that you need to put yours on first so that you can then help others. Our country needs to right itself first before we even think about helping others around the world... and I'm not just talking about money... our morals, ethics and treatment of one-another needs fixed first.

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  • UnabashedProgressiveMarch 21, 2014 - 7:52 am

    I'm curious; what is meant by "the intelligentsia?"

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  • UnabashedProgressiveMarch 21, 2014 - 7:49 am

    Moreover, the United States' global swagger is based, in part, on spreading the gospel of democratic self-determination---something the citizens of Crimea did at the voting booth. Now, because of new Cold-War-style fears, that particular characteristic of free peoples does not apply to the ethnic Russians and Rus speakers in Ukraine who wish to ally themselves with their historical brethren. What is happening in Crimea is not an example of potential appeasement; it is, essentially, a population saying, "We'd rather live next door with our cousins."

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  • patrickMarch 21, 2014 - 3:34 pm

    Crimea voted in1990 to join Ukraine. now they voted to join Russia. what would you do if you had 30,000 Russian troops watching your vote? the leader of north Korea received 100% of the vote. now that is an extremely popular man.

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  • Rich GiddensMarch 21, 2014 - 11:24 am

    Obama is a horribly weak hated leader serving yet to be identified masters. By contrast, Putin is a strong wildly popular Russian nationalist who seems to have annexed what has always been Russia's----Crimea and the shipyards at Svestapol! Where do think Russian Navy ships are built at? Duh! Along comes ignorant Obama who just lost the war on terror and now by diplomatic failure wants to resserrect the cold war that we already won and paid for! Keep Putin and get rid of the traitor Obama! How may we help to that noble end?

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  • RickSteeleMarch 27, 2014 - 7:11 pm

    Well, at least we know who Ge

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