Moscow: The Geostrategic Picture — A Guest Editorial

Flag of RussiaOne of the pleasures of this blog is that I get a lot of informed opinion. The give-and-take is simply phenomenal. Daily, one of our erudite correspondents (dang near the lot of you) writes something most edifying. There’s a lot of moral clarity, something we find only rarely from our respective American Orthodox hierarchies.

And for that I appreciate it very much.

Every now and then, some commentator writes something that deserves to stand alone. This morning, Misha wrote something that I wish I had written. As editor of Monomakhos, I’m gonna pull rank, give myself a weekend off (OU plays Baylor tonight) and publish Misha’s commentary in toto. These are Misha’s thoughts but, from where I sit, they’re pretty much inarguable. Especially in light of the Moslem invasion of Europe and of course yesterday’s atrocity in Paris.

Please, let us know what you all think.

By Misha

I think a lot of people do not really appreciate the magnitude of what is happening.


As you pointed out, the Church realizes that it needs to consolidate its position with all deliberate speed. However, I see no reason to believe that Putin is anything less than sincere in his profession of faith. But apart from his eternal destiny, it’s all the same if he simply is faking it. I think he is primarily a nationalist and will work for Russia’s security as its president, but he also is a strong supporter of the Church, and the Church is decidedly more spiritual than nationalistic.

Russia has a set of cards which, when they are soberly contemplated in an informed manner, should indicate that it is a force of staggering potential. It sits on a treasure trove of natural resources. It is the largest country in area on earth. It is a nuclear power. It is predominately Orthodox and I have no reason to believe that the Orthodoxy there is any more or any less deep than in other Orthodox countries.

And, unlike its former status, it is now a capitalistic power.

The eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization through central Europe was a wake up call to Russia, as was the expansion of the EU. The message was clear: We in the West are still committed to “containing” Russia as we were the Soviet Union, despite the fact that modern Russia is no longer atheistic and has become a mixed-market capitalistic economy. Essentially, Russia perceived, rightly, that the West wished to continue the Cold War. Russia did not.

The reason the West wished to continue the Cold War is that they feared, if it was not contained, Russia would grow to dominate continental Europe economically and militarily. It has been age old military doctrine that whoever controls the European heartland controls Eurasia, and the world. Thus, the dominance of Trans-Atlantic alliance was perceived to be at stake. So the West pushed.

Russia finally started pushing back when the West got too close for comfort (Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014). Georgia was more of a flash in the pan and soon passed into history, as did he Saakashvili administration. But Ukraine constituted a real problem. Russia rightly saw it as a coup d’état against a friendly, though unstable, Ukrainian government. Not only is Ukraine Russia’s neighbor, but historically Ukraine has been part of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Parts of Ukraine belonged to Poland, et al., but Ukraine as an independent political entity scarcely has a history before 1991. Incorporation of Ukraine into the Western camp, by force no less, was unacceptable to Russia. The resulting economic alliance would exclude or disadvantage Russia and the military alliance would put NATO weaponry on Russia’s border. No way, not with Russia’s history of being invaded. Essentially, you’re saying that any war that might result might be a nuclear one and at least partially on the territory of the RF. That would be the Sword of Damocles that the West could hang over Russia’s head in economic, cultural and military negotiations.

Thus, Russia decided to fight. Now, setting aside blathering of the McCains and Grahams in the US, there is precious little the US or the EU can do militarily in the Ukraine. It is too close to Russia. The Russians can use any type of weaponry they wish, even projecting considerable power from the Russian army there and retreat to safety whenever they want to just to regroup and fight another day. The red line is the Russian border. Cross it and expect a blinding light above your troops, capital, etc.

So the battle became economic. Can sanctions turn Russia? That has been the field of the present cold war. Yet sanctions paled in comparison on their effect on the Russian economy with the drop in oil prices effected by the Saudis to preserve market share. The Europeans seem to have made a calculation at some point:

Should we impose serious, economy destroying sanctions when we are much more dependent on Russia economically than the US, when they have quite an army and nuclear weapons, and when they could retreat for a strategic “loss” only to rise again and make us pay dearly later?

Fleshing out the question effectively answers it. So the EU countries are not going to bite too hard. Thus Russia only really has one other problem, oil. Hmmm . . . how better to affect the price of oil than to become a major player in the Middle East again? So, just before Russia began its air campaign in Syria, the price of oil was around $40 a barrel, it spiked to over $50 just after Russia began its campaign. Now it has returned almost to status quo ante, but who does not believe that Russia’s active participation in a shooting war in the Middle East cannot be used to drive up the price of oil?

What is Russia’s endgame? Probably to control the territory of the RF, have a neutral near abroad (the former states of the Soviet Union), to regain superpower influence and, in particular, to build its influence in central and western Europe and through the Eurasian Union it is creating.

Spiritually, I’m sure it wants to spread the influence of the ROC far and wide. I mean it even has parishes in Turkey, technically under the omophorion of Pat. Bartholomew, of course. Part of the spread of Russian influence will definitely be as defender of Christians and traditional Christian morality when contrasted with Western secular humanism. No politician in Russia has the power to end abortion or divorce today or tomorrow. What they can do is disincentivize abortion and reincentivize reproduction, which they seem to be doing if the law, the culture and the statistics are any indication. And they can categorically reject the normalization of homosexuality, which is a very popular position in much of the world.

Unfortunately, what Russia and the rest of what is left of Christianity will have to face is the fact that reproduction and patriarchy are inseparably tied. You can’t have healthy rates of the former without re-establishment in law of the latter. Men who do not feel an ownership interest, a control, in their families will not reproduce. Nor will women who prioritize career over family. This ought to be painfully obvious to any honest observer when looking at the comparative reproduction rates of patriarchal and non-patriarchal societies. Few if any non-patriarchal societies even manage bare replacement rate. Western Europe and Russia are both well below replacement rate. Russia shows signs of entering a phase of correcting this suicidal trajectory but Western Europe will likely be colonized by those who piously follow the very first command to creatures given in the Bible (“Be fruitful and multiply.”), i.e, Muslims who maintain their cultural practices. In the US, of course, we have obviated the problem with Latin immigration.

So, if Russia solves its demographic challenge, it stands to become a major world power, possibly the major world power. Consider that it has a long border with another world power – China – and has increasingly friendly relations with it, especially economic relations. I have seen several treaties between the two be concluded in recent months. China will shortly, of course, become the world’s largest economy. If Russia can combine its new Eurasian Union with an alliance with China and expanding economic influence through continental Europe . . . well, I don’t see a limit in sight except the natural limits imposed by God in history. America once seemed to have such a future.

Meanwhile, Republicans are arguing whether to waste another trillion dollars on military spending without having any way to pay for it, and any gain to show for recent adventures. And Democrats are competing to see who can best defend Planned Parenthood, when they are not talking about Hillary’s wig.

Get the picture? Oh yeah, and the Phanar thinks it has picked a winner with Soros and DC.

“Third Rome?”, where is Rome again? Oh, yeah, Italy. It’s that little second-tier EU country that can’t pay its bills.

About GShep


  1. Well, George, I’m flattered. Just so long as everyone knows I didn’t ask you to do this.

    I should add one little thing to clarify. When I talk about the greatly diminished status of old Rome and Istanbul in the world in contrast to their heydays, I’m not really trying to denigrate them, at least not to the degree some might imagine. My real point is that titles like “old Rome”, “New Rome” and “Third Rome” appeal to images and realities from an era which is long dead and gone, images which are not too helpful when attempting to understand the current situation.

    And I’m sure I will be criticized for this, but not anymore than I would have been had it only remained a simple post.

  2. Patrick Henry Reardon says

    Misha writes of “Russia’s history of being invaded.”

    This sums up the problem very nicely, I think,

    Thank you, Misha.

    Meanwhile, let us mourn and pray for the currently suffering City of Light.

  3. Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

    Perhaps when George is rested up, he can tell us how he reconciles a quotation of Patriarch Kyrill with Misha’s blurb. Here it is, with translation:
    “Narody islama k nam budut vsegda (sic) namnogo blizhe, chem naprimer, frantsia.”
    Of course he said this before the recent horrors in Paris.
    Translation: The Islamic peoples will always (sic) be much closer to us than, for example FRANCE.”

    • “Народы Ислама к нам будут всегда намного ближе чем например франция.”


      Can’t find it attributed to Pat. Kirill, only Hitler. Google the above Cyrillic and you will get the picture.

      “Адольф Гитлер” is “Adolf Hitler” in Russian

      Given Hitler’s relationship with the Grand Mufti of Cairo, I can understand the sentiment. I’d need to see the site. It might be some kind of internet crap.

      As to Russia and “Islam”. Russia has had a longstanding relationship with Iran. But I would be surprised to learn that Pat. Kirill considered them closer to Russia than France. Perhaps in geographic terms. It is closer from Moscow to Paris than Moscow to Teheran, however, Russia has many Muslims in its southern regions and the states that border it.

  4. cynthia curran says

    Not opposed to Military spending George, but Republicans don’t always pay for it. A strong defense is a strong opposed. Looked at the Theodosian Wall which was not that cheap in its day. New Rome had several walls like that and Anastasius was able to have a strong defense wall and good budget. In fact the best factory work is the military-industrial complex. I used to live in California and when the military spending was cut and the aerospace jobs dried up, LA went a lot more liberal.

  5. Peter A. Papoutsis says

    I disagree with Misha’s critique, no surprise. Russia to regain it’s status as a superpower and for the ROC to spread it’s influence. So basically this is the Third Rome bs that Misha and other lovers of all things Russian have bought into.

    This is NOT Orthodox. This is dangerous pure and simple and many of have bought this heresy. We all recognized this error when the Greek omogenia and the GOAA was pushing it, but as long as the Russian omogenia and the ROC are pushing it then it’s good to go.

    Ok buy into Russian Nationalism all you want but this is not Orthodoxy. Further, no matter how much of a check Russia is to the expansionist West does not mean we buy into Russian expansionism.

    We as American’s crave a strong leader like Putin, because we do not have one in Obama, we crave a strong Christian witness, so long for it in the ROC, and we crave a strong united Orthodox Church, so we seek it in the Russian Orthodox Church no matter how many issues it has, and no matter how much propaganda it and the RF is pushing to make Russia and the ROC seem like the only answer to the West’s decadence and immorality we are so starved for it we will by it no questions asked.

    This is not only Third Rome bs, but heretical and totalitarian at the utter exclusion of the other Orthodox jurisdictions. At least the EP saw this heresy and is trying to stop it with Canon 28. Right or wrong, and it is wrong, but I would rather side with the EP than the delusions of grandeur coming from Third Rome.

    Our hatred for the EP blinds many to the wrongs of Russia and the ROC. How ROCOR cannot see this testifies to the triumph of Nationalism over Orthodoxy, Russian propaganda over the Gospel.

    May God have mercy on us all


    • As I said elsewhere, “a spiritual enemy”.

      • Umm, George, I actually hit delete on the above quote about being a “spiritual enemy”. I thought twice and decided it was gratuitous. I just mention this in order to let you know that your delete function is not working.

  6. Michael Kinsey says

    Politically there are no good guys who are seeking to serve God alone, with the body heart, mind and soul, live by the Word of God, and not bread alone, and are full of the fear of God, which would make tempting God, unthinkable. This standard is the Vision the Christ gave to His Church so the people do not perish. To fight for nationalism, in any nation, is to fight for the beast. All nationalities will do well to not send there sons out to fight for the beast, because the combatants are just 2 parts of Satan’ house divided against itself. If, my Kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight.

  7. Fr Patrick B. O'Grady says

    I agree with Peter, in re, Misha’s post, in terms of any kind of hoorah-Russia idealism as being a desideratum for the promotion of Orthodox. But I do think that the (apparent) resurgence of Orthodoxy (again apparently to me) within Pres. Putin’s government policy holds value for the rest of us out here (in the West, as well as in the Middle East). Let me explain each of these two foregoing points of my view in what follows.
    First of all, the holy Orthodox-Catholic and Apostolic Church continues in this world, until the end of time–at the Second Parousia of Jesus Christ, as the living expression of the crucified and risen Saviour. The Church is not a mere religion (though it is often reduced to that by ignorant adherents), but rather, She is the presence of Christ. Human governments from the beginning have never ceased either persecuting Her or co-opting Her, in order to exercise domination accordingly. As for persecutors, the pagan Roman state in the beginning, and the Bolsheviks a century ago; and as co-opters, the Romans again from Theodosius I’s era (late 4th century) onward, and apparently Putin’s Russia of today. The Church endures both conditions, suffering the negative and harvesting the positive outcomes of each, and She never ceases to be Herself in holiness and godliness, even though many exterior expressions of Her life seem to be compromised. For example, under Bolshevism and the Church’s subsequent 70-year Babylonian captivity, with the holy martyrs, there also was stripped away a great deal of rotten wood from the ecclesiastical body. There is no question about the positive benefits of the ancient symphonia cultivated over many centuries between the Church and the Roman politeuma, the beautiful Christian romaiosyni. But this also encouraged a kind of “cultural Christianity” whose leftovers, though feeding a dying Western civilization, created also a false assurance–as though being Roman (or Greek, or Russian, etc. etc.,) could make you Orthodox. This is what I fear can be implied by Misha’s argument. Russia was never, and cannot now, ever become a harbor for Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy lives in Her saints, holy faithful who live by the milk flowing from Her breasts–and this is clear only to us later, when God shows the crowns of martyrdom.
    All this notwithstanding, and with careful discernment, we can thank God that even a former KGB agent, who now practices the faith, and (apparently!?) regularly confesses, stands up for Orthodox Christian ideals and supports the holy Church. Frankly, as an American (born & raised in New Jersey), I am ashamed of the (im)moral direction in which my country is headed. So, I shall be grateful for whatever state I find myself and my parish community, provided we are “found to have faith when the Son of Man returns.”

    • George Michalopulos says

      Fr, I totally understand your point. And Peter’s concerns. The last thing we need is any kind of Ortho-triumphalism, whether it be Russian, Slavic, Greek or even Athonite for that matter.

      It seems to me, that as I write these words, that I understand why God allowed the horrible Bolshevik persecution to take place: not only to cleanse the Church (and the aristocracy) from any of their laodicean foolishness of the nineteenth century, but to immunize the Church (and the ROC in particular) from ever falling in the same trap again. If indeed Putin is the real thing (and I think he is) there is no guarantee that the guy who comes after him will be and, if the ROC hitches their wagon to Putin, they could be in for a rough ride with a cynical successor.

      This is one reason I pray for the restoration of the Romanov dynasty, and indeed the restorations of all Orthodox dynasties. As a Greek, I am hearing some unpleasant rumblings about what’s coming down in the near future for the GOC. If true, then Greek Christians will be “weeping bitterly by the rivers of Babylon” because they accepted the melding of Church and State in their country. It worked OK as long as there was an anointed king but not so well with the corroptocratic republicanism that overthrew the monarchy. But that’s a story for another day.

    • Father Patrick,

      I’m not sure I disagree with anything you wrote, except your first sentence. But I didn’t see myself expressing what Peter has asserted. Anyway, thank you for your insightful comments.

  8. You praise the writer who titles the president “Imam.” You knew by then nothing serious could follow. No reason to read any further. Just throw it away.

  9. Gregory Manning says

    I would like to offer something here for consideration. This is a really long but utterly fascinating read. I’m no economist (back in the day when we used to balance check books I routinely got an “F”.) but I was captivated by it. Yes there are some charts that make one’s eyes glaze over but here’s why I think it’s significant:

    1. Putin inherited a huge mess which has been an enormous uphill battle and it’s not over yet.

    2. Russia is very vulnerable to the predation of the likes of the U.S./NATO (now referred to over there as “The Empire”).

    3. Reports like this would never have been allowed during the Soviet era. The Politburo persisted in operating in a state of denial. Nothing ever went wrong in Russia and if it did, only a fool would report it to anyone! That Putin asked for this tells me that Vladimir Vladimirovich understands that if he is to get everything under control he must know all the grim details. All of them! Moreover, it tells me that he understands that there is no room for carelessness or egotistical power games. The situation is deadly serious and it’s up to him and his team to set things right at home and defend the country from her enemies who continue to smell blood. Russia has limited resources and is financially wounded. Curiously enough, the embargoes have only served to strengthen Russia, much to the consternation of The Empire. Putin is proving to be a brilliant strategist. He and his team (and it’s important that he has put together a superb team who are all reading from the same page!), realizing the seriousness of their situation, have focused all their energies and expertise on devising a very carefully thought out strategy. Reality has forced them to marshal what forces they have wisely. Thus far, the tortoise has outsmarted the hare. I’ve no doubt they are satisfied with the results thus far but they know the battle is not over and that there is no time for gloating.

    4. V.V. has tried to explain to the world that ideas of a one-world power are doomed to fail. His predecessors tried this for 70 years and it lead, by his own admission, to utter failure, the results of which he is trying to clean up. People who accuse him of being expansionist and hegemonic fail to see that, even if he actually believed it was a desirable course of action, Russia can no longer afford it. The best they can hope to do is stabilize the country and keep the wolves at bay.

    The link above is probably the best for those who want to follow developments. The owner and moderator (The Saker) really does seem to try to offer the most accurate assessments of what’s going on and has warned his followers to avoid premature flag-waving. There are other sites such as RT, Russia Insider, and others but with these and those others I find it’s best to go back and forth between them all to look for consistent insights. Clearly, these events can produce, shall we say, excited utterances and hasty conclusions. Regrettably, looking to Western MSM is a waste of time. A lot of stuff they report on, if they report at all, is pretty dated.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Thank you Gregory. I highly recommend The Vineyard of the Saker. A great blog with insightful analysis. Better than Russia Today (RT) overall.

    • The report is fascinating. They certainly see the “hybrid war” for what it is.

    • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

      Gregory (and George), you may find The Saker uplifting. I do not. In fact, without violating the “PC” Internet standard, I’d like to point out that one may substitute “Hitler”for Putin in point number 1, “Germany” for Russia in point number 2. and “NAZI Era” for Soviet era in point number three. Get it?

      As for the rest, does no one see the parallels between “Sudetenland Lebensraum;” “Great Russian Anschluss into homogenic (and Tatar) Crimea; and Bibi’s grasping at the West Bank?

      • Gregory Manning says

        Uplifting” Your Grace?

        Web sites like “The Saker” are useful for only one reason, specifically, the frequency with which their analyses and predictions come true. The most frequent column heading used is “SITREP”, i.e. situation report. All they do is report on the situation(s) in and of the regions they cover. Implicit in these analyses are predictions about what will come next given the situation(s) at hand. Either the analyses prove to be accurate or they do not. To the extent their analyses and predictions prove to be accurate the more likely I am to factor them into my thinking about the subject. If they start getting it wrong time and again I drop them. More likely the Saker himself will beat me to it.

        When I lived and worked outdoors in central Florida I utilized 4 different weather forecasting sites. Though one tended to get it right more often than the others, I routinely checked them all. To completely rely on only one was unwise. The situations in Europe, Russia, and the Middle East are dynamic to say the least. If, if, you want to follow what’s going on you have to check a multitude of sources. Some will prove more reliable in their analyses than others. When I find such sites I’d be more inclined to say that I find such discoveries gratifying. If I wanted “uplifting” I would go next door and listen to my neighbor Ralphie Echeveria talk wistully about the glory days of boxing “een Amedica”.

  10. “I’d like to point out that one may substitute “Hitler”for Putin . . .”

    Or “Kirill” for “Hitler”, for that matter. Can’t make this stuff up, such fun!

  11. Peter A. Papoutsis says

    another interesting article. Again making reference to the “Russian World.”


    Above is an article on the downing of a Russian warplane with an extensive quote from Putin on how he views it. What happens next could be very significant.

    The plane was not shot down in Turkish airspace (shot down 1 km from the border, crashed 4 km from the border) but the Turks claim that it had flown into Turkish airspace over a thin finger of Turkish territory (couple of miles wide) that pokes into Syria. The plane allegedly received several warnings, but these warnings were to the effect that it was within 15 km of Turkish airspace. I’m sure they knew that already. It is unclear if they actually breached Turkish airspace and received any warning to that effect.

    Worse, one or both of the pilots may have been captured and/or killed by rebel forces (accounts vary) and a rescue helicopter was hit by a rebel missile. ISIS had been selling its oil through Turkey and the Turkmen (Syrian Turks) who live in the area are favorites of Ankara. The area has serious strategic value as well:

    The aircraft was a strike aircraft (SU-24), not a fighter. It is used to hit targets on the ground.

    Turkey is a NATO country. If Russia chooses to act decisively, this could be a test of NATO solidarity.

    • George Michalopulos says

      I just happened to be watching Gretchen Carlson on FOX. Lt Gen Tom McInerney was her first guest. He condemned Turkey for this “unnecessary provocation.” This is a significant concession given that McInerney has always been rather hawkish.

      It seems to me that the US is signalling through him that we don’t want things to escalate with Russia at this point. If so, they’d be leaving Ankara out to dry (so to speak).

      Also, mention was made that the Turks are cooperating with Russia to find the downed pilots. It’s still too early to say, but it looks like the its the Turks who are blinking. We’ll know if this is true if we see Russia escalating its operations against the “moderate” rebels. If they don’t, then we could say that it was Russia that blinked.

      Somehow, Putin doesn’t strike me as a man who blinks.

      On the other hand, I’m glad Obama was able to admit that a sovereign nation has the right to defend its borders. Maybe somebody on his staff could explain to him that the US has borders as well.

  13. Michael Kinsey says

    The beginning of the End is near over. French are trying to draw Iran into the Syrian war. The END OF THE WORLD COMES NEXT. Economic derivatives bubble burst ’causes world economic collapse. The small hope of economic stability is offered by the mark of the beast.The Holy Trinity’s total war against the beast and it \’s mark will commence with the grievous sore on those who received it. The rest of God’s wrath will follow in a shorted time span, Co intel Pro and the homosexual agenda proponents will not escape God’s wrath. Run on for a long time, run on for a long time, sooner or later, God Will Cut Them Down. They will not be able to snark or lie their way out of it.

    • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

      Michael Kinsey! Where have you been? “draw Iran into the Syrian war? Three (3 GENERALS of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard have already fallen in the Syrian War. Assad, as an Alawite, is hated by Sunnis and liked by Shiites..Nobody had to “draw” Iran into the Syrian conflict. What an idea! Reminds me of Senator Cotton, that imbecile, exclaiming that Iran has become so aggressive that “they have already taken over Teheran!”