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No Clear Moral High Ground in Ukraine

WEB Ukraine 002


Brantly Millegan - published on 02/18/14

What would you choose: aligning with secular liberal Europe or corrupt, authoritarian Russia?

After weeks of protests, violence has erupted again in Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine. At least 25 people are reported dead, with another 241 people injured.

Who are the protesters, what are they fighting for, and how should those on the outside make of the situation? We asked our Aleteia experts for analysis.

“This is a power struggle,” explains author John Zmirak, “between one set of citizens (backed by wealthy oligarchs) who favor a closer alliance with Russia, and another group (with its own oligarchs) that favors incorporation by the European Union.”

“Putin's Russia allows for immense corruption and some human rights abuses. The EU promotes abortion and homosexual marriage, and supports laws that allow for child euthanasia, and other laws that ban homeschooling. There are no ‘good guys’ here. On balance, I would prefer to weaken the European Union, which tramples all over subsidiarity and other Christian values.”

Tim Drake, New Evangelization Coordinator with the Holdingford Area Catholic Community in the Diocese of St. Cloud, agrees with Zmirak that the situation is complicated and isn’t easily reduced to “good guys” and “bad guys”.

“The clashes in the Ukraine defy any sort of simple explanation that the media offers up to describe what's happening in the country… What is viewed as more dangerous by the Ukrainian people: an atheistic superstructure that doesn't accept a religious foundation, or Russia? Christians in the Ukraine have a right to be concerned about the direction that closer ties with the European Union may take their nation.”

Religious differences add further complexity to the political situation. “Orthodox Christianity in the country is split between three different Church bodies,” explains Drake, “the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, which is connected to Moscow; the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate, with loyalties to Kiev and Ukrainian independence; and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.”

“Orthodox Christianity in the Ukraine stands against a secular atheism coming at them from the west, and radical Islam which is coming at them from the south.”

Zmirak thinks a long term solution could actually be for the country to split up according to religious lines. “Christians in Ukraine are bitterly divided, along the lines of scars left by centuries of foreign occupation… I think the best thing for all concerned would be for the Catholic regions of Western Ukraine to secede, the Crimea to go back to Russia, and the remaining core of Ukrainian-speaking, Orthodox Christians to steer a middle course between the EU and Russia.”

Even so, Zmirak is very wary of any U.S. intervention. “I fear a civil war could provoke American adventurers to think that we have a role in meddling in Ukraine–which the Russians would see as the equivalent of the Chinese intervening in Mexico to oppose the U.S.”

Brantly Millegan is an Assistant Editor for Aleteia. He is also Co-Founder and Co-Editor of Second Nature, Co-Director of the International Institute for the Study of Technology and Christianity, and is working on a M.A. in Theology at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity. He lives with his wife and children in South St. Paul, MN. His personal website is

The following Aleteia Experts contributed to this article:

Tim Drakeis the New Evangelization Coordinator with the Holdingford Area Catholic Community in the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota. He is an award-winning journalist, the author of six books on religion and culture, and a former radio host.

John Zmirak is the author, most recently, of The Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Catechism. His columns are archived at The Bad Catholic’s Bingo Hall.

Other Aleteia coverage:

Historic: Watch the Protests in Kiev LIVE

Obama Condemns Violence in Ukraine and Venezuela

Ukraine: 25 Killed, 241 Injured in Kiev Clashes

Ukraine, the Janus of Europe

The Drama of Ukraine

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