Ukraine Biden Putin peace europe
War

Ukraine’s freedom is the price of Europe’s peace

“Who in the Lord’s name does Putin think gives him a right to declare new so-called countries on territory that belonged to his neighbours?” asked President Biden yesterday, with all the misplaced pauses and stammers of an amateur actor with stage fright. There was also some egregious scripting or the President’s careless misreading of the tense of territorial belonging: surely this occupied territory still belongs to his neighbours, or does ‘belonged’ signal an acceptable degree of invasion?

The curious thing is that President Biden answered his own question only a few weeks ago, because it was he who gave President Putin a degree of right to invade Ukraine, even if not quite a divine right in the Lord’s name: “It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do, etcetera,” he told the world’s media in a press conference on 19th January.

There was no press conference yesterday; no probing questions demanding spontaneous answers from the slightly sweaty President. He turned his back on the cameras after robotically reciting his script, and was ushered out so he could misspeak no more. If, indeed, allowing Putin a ‘minor incursion’ was an extempore gaffe and not an unscheduled disclosure of US foreign policy.

“Who in the Lord’s name does Putin think gives him a right to declare new so-called countries on territory that belonged to his neighbours?”

The rest of Europe does, and the United States of America does.

The free world does.

It is the price of peace.

Ukraine isn’t a member of NATO, so there is no covenant of collective defence, where an attack on one ally is considered as an attack upon all. But Ukraine is a sovereign, independent European state, and a full member of the Council of Europe. It may be a young democracy, but no younger than Spain was, for example, when it acceded to the EEC only a decade out of the Francoist dictatorship. Ukraine’s values are Europe’s values: that is, the Europe of peace, founded on the values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

And so we pray fervently for peace, and the Church of England is helpfully tweeting a form of words:

Ukraine pray for peace

And while we are exhorted to pray urgently for the peace of Ukraine, we are asked particularly to remember in our prayers the small Church of England community in Kyiv. “We are still meeting regularly despite embassies calling for foreign nationals to leave,” said church warden Christina Laschenko-Stafiychuk. “Ukrainians have no other options: this is our land, and we are read to stand for it – and for our identity as well.”

But she and they may well be left standing alone – not in prayer, of course, which is ascending like incense from the communion of saints daily, hourly, fervently, if not apparently very effectually. The BBC tells us that President Putin has sent in his ‘peacekeepers’ in order to stabilise the ‘separatist’ regions.

Ukraine BBC peackeepers

The curious thing is that while we’re waking up to this conflict only now, the Ukrainians have been living with Russian incursions and ‘separatist’ aspirations for the past eight years. We’ve been asleep, building pipelines under the Baltic Sea to get gas from Russia to Germany and the rest of Europe. This was supposed to guarantee our fuel security, but it’s hard to understand what definition of ‘security’ was in the minds of those who thought it was a good idea to make Europe dependent on the Russian state company Gazprom for 30-40% of our gas provision. This is now President Putin’s most powerful weapon: while Boris Johnson sanctions five banks and three plutocrats, the Russian President knows he holds all the aces, and could simply turn off the EU’s heating.

So we must fervently pray for gas as well as peace, lest northern Europe freeze its way to daffodil time.

Or perhaps we might pray that the Lord might send more clement weather, like He occasionally did during two World Wars.

What price is worth paying for peace?

Is the freedom of Ukraine and the liberty of all Ukrainians a price worth paying?

Is the price of peace in Europe the sacrifice of one sovereign democratic state?

We can mull the ‘just war’ morality and debate the contentious ethics, principally because we’re not the ones who will pay the price, except perhaps in respect of still higher gas prices. But how, exactly, are we supposed to reason with a “cruel, autocratic, intolerant bully, simmering with rage and resentment, fixated on the imagined injustices of history, obsessed with redrawing the map of Europe and reasserting Russia’s dominance over its smaller neighbours”?

The character assessment is that of Dominic Sandbrook, who reminds us: “Today, as in the 1930s, the West faces a stark choice. We have tried appeasement, and it failed. We allowed the Russians to invade Georgia, to snatch Crimea, to foment violence and hatred in the Ukrainian cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, where at least 14,000 people have already been killed.”

But still we pray for peace.

Still we pray that the Lord would change the heart of a bully…

If this is how President Putin publicly humiliates his spy chief Sergei Naryshkin, reducing him to a stammering wreck, imagine what he’d do to President Biden, who already suffers from dry mouth, dizziness and sweaty palms.

But still we pray for peace, which is the Christian thing to do, while President Xi is watching and waiting to see if he might send his peacekeepers into the separatist areas of Taiwan.

If the free and democratic world does not come to the defence of one of its own, then the tyrants and dictators of the captive world are free to salami-slice their way across the lands they claim.

“Who in the Lord’s name does Putin think gives him a right to declare new so-called countries on territory that belonged to his neighbours?”

We do.

Who is our neighbour?

Ah.

Blessed are the peacekeepers, for they shall inherit the separatist regions.