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Caution for the Ukraine Discussion

Above: St. Nicholas Monastery in Mukachevo, Ukraine.

Editor’s note: reminder in November to pray for the dead of the Ukraine Crisis.

Back in July, OnePeterFive published two articles pertaining to Russia and some mistaken notions we might have of her. The first, Solzhenitsyn on NATO, Ukraine, & Putin, published July 21, authored by Dr. Edmund Mazza, implies a highly unpopular conclusion, which is the very opposite of the mainstream media. Dr. Mazza invites readers to respect and share what he believes are the positive views Alexander Solzhenitsyn held about Russia and Vladimir Putin. The second, Solzhenitsyn against American Trad Myopia on Russia and Ukraine, published July 29, written by Mr. Benedict Carter argues for the more popular narrative. Mr. Carter tells readers (whom he refers to as ‘Putin lovers’), who are not in adherence to “Wake up, banish the likes of Dr. Mazza from your minds.” This is, more or less, a summary of many loud voices in the Anglophone world on this matter.

My article will argue for Dr. Mazza but endeavor to tackle the issue beyond just Putin, Solzhenitsyn, NATO, and Ukraine and attempt to investigate the greater context going way back to the Bolshevik Revolution, Our Lady of Fatima, and the concept of the Third Rome and the Eastern Schism. But before doing so, I will first review and answer Mr. Carter’s perspective and claims—primary of which, is as his title suggests—that American Trads are myopic on their views on Putin as the “Champion of Christendom” and that Dr. Mazza “cherry-picked Solzhenitsyn from the problematic last few years of his life, when he reversed himself,” after having  “several long conversations with Putin and was evidently persuaded by him of certain things” and became “one of the Fathers of Putinism.” This first article will serve as a caution to the discussion on the Ukraine crisis, while two subsequent parts will lead the reader deeper into the Russian question.

Reality Check

As a published academic who is ironically not a fan of the primacy of inductive logic in the world of the peer-review, I must say, reading Mr. Carter’s article led me to have a bit more appreciation for the necessity as claims (especially quite fiery and strong ones) can obscure, confuse, and mislead. Reality isn’t what is, simply because we believe it to be as such and we say it is as such. The following is an example from Mr. Carter:

NATO is a defensive treaty organization of democratic States who accept the Rule of Law. Russia has shown itself to be in the sway of a demonic national hysteria of envy, resentment and hate; and is the wager of aggressive, imperialistic war on a neighboring country it refuses to accept even is a nation.

That NATO is ‘a defensive treaty organization of democratic States who accept the Rule of Law’ is certainly the claim, even by those who created and control NATO itself but as we said, reality isn’t what is, simply because we say it is what is. There is actually a more accurate way of determining whether this claim is real—and it is by simply looking at certain incontrovertible situations that make it highly unlikely that NATO, which was created and is operated by the US, is simply for defense and the Rule of Law when: 1) It has constantly been involved in conflicts for over a century (see here and Ukraine in 2014 to the present here and here); and 2) US ‘defense’ budget is far more than the next nine countries combined with Russia (‘wager of aggressive, imperialistic war’) only at rank five.

Emotional Appeal

In addition, Mr. Carter’s article is littered with ‘written for literature’ or the Hollywood blockbuster and CNN-type emotional and loaded words such as ‘demonic,’ ‘envy,’ ‘resentment,’ and ‘hate.’ These are descriptions one can’t argue with as they are not arguments but attempts at labeling and peering into someone’s soul and claiming to capture what another’s soul is. This is an appeal to emotion, not evidence and rationality. He just condemned the entire Russian nation to being in ‘demonic national hysteria of envy’—of which, 3 out of 5 words are leading and loaded, requiring much emotional unpacking. At this point, I’d like to recall St. Thomas Aquinas’ Sources of Morality—object, circumstance, and intention—and of the three, the least accurate, inefficient, and leads to the danger of being uncharitable would be the last. Hence, I tend to almost never go there and stick with the first two. St. Thomas himself reminds us of the significance of ‘giving the benefit of the doubt.’

A certain economic school of thought, which I adhere to, known as Austrian Economics, gives a similar advice. Hence, the use of Praxeology, the deductive study of the science of human action, placing a premium on a priori knowledge, which necessarily comes from understanding and therefore enjoys a strict universality, as its validity is determined by the principle of noncontradiction; as opposed to the inductive approach that governs modern science and academia with the focus on a posteriori knowledge, which, coming from sensations, offers assumed and comparative universality (through induction)—hence, a kind of ‘majority rules’ system among intellectual published elites, who get to formulate and establish ‘what is.’ The former, essentially holds, ‘what is logical is empirical,’ similar to the precept and implication of lex orandi, lex credenda (‘the law of what is prayed is the law of what is believed’), and the ultimate Logos Incarnate.

While Mr. Carter’s article gave me a renewed appreciation for the necessity of induction via citation, I remain with the more superior deductive approach in the attempt to find out and establish.

Ad Hominem

Related to this, another problem with departing from deductive logic is the tendency to fallacious ad hominem reasoning, where the validity of an argument is based on an attribute of the person putting it forward. Mr. Carter employs this fallacy in two ways:

  • When he accuses Dr. Mazza and some Traditionalists of ‘national selfishness’ and the inability to ‘separate themselves from an obsession with judging everything in light of politics and boundless speculation’ but fails to give a grounding for his claim. How exactly did he come to that conclusion? Hence, my contention on the significance of ‘object’ and ‘circumstance’ and the near uselessness and dangers of going the way of claiming to figure ‘intention.’ It is not surprising how this approach leads to the ad hominem fallacy, clumsily packaging together John Meersheimer with Noam Chomsky, whom he can ‘safely’ label ‘Leftist.’ It’s a muddling and obfuscation of the attempt to ‘appeal to authority’—because Chomsky is a known ‘Leftist,’ then perhaps, the reader will hence be convinced, Dr. Mazza’s view is wrong. But Mr. Carter fails to qualify the case of Meersheimer, a true expert on geopolitics in the region and not a Leftist, who has been popular among Libertarians and Conservatives. At the same time (and while I have not looked into Chomsky’s current stance), it is quite possible even for a ‘Leftist’ to get some things right. Simply stating one is on the ‘Left’ (which I am certainly no fan of), is not an appropriate argument to establishing another’s ideas inferior or in error with regards to NATO and Russia.
  • Carter accuses Dr. Mazza of presenting ‘his arguments as an expert on Russia and causes of the present war’ – this followed by the non-sequitur ‘but his article closely followed the argument of John Meersheimer and the Leftist Noam Chomsky.’ But nowhere in his article does Dr. Mazza claim to be an expert. In fact, Dr. Mazza never talks about himself—the closest reference to himself would be at the bottom, at the end the article, where authors are usually briefly described. Dr. Mazza merely shares what he offers—‘online courses in Church and World History’ as well as some books he has published and his former work. But he does not invoke any of this as a way to prove his arguments right or as having any weight. Dr. Mazza invokes a more deductive approach—presenting a reading of Solzhenitsyn based on the very words of Solzhenitsyn himself, coupled with specific events and acts (object) and context  (circumstance) in making his case. Meanwhile, Mr. Carter invokes the fallacious ad hominem, citing what he believes are credentials such as ‘someone who lived and worked in the ex-USSR from 1997 to 2010, speaks Russian, have been (many times) to Ukraine, the Baltic States, the former Central Asian Soviet republics and founded and operated a business in Moscow for many years.’ He adds, ‘Although I am not a professional historian, I do hold two degrees in History from Cambridge University in England’ and that his ‘reading is deep and broad on the subject of Russia, its history and government.’ Mr. Carter is establishing expertise.

And because Mr. Carter fails to follow a more logical and deductive approach, his foundational assertions are based on the temptation and tendency to interpret Dr. Mazza in his same emotional lenses of viewing reality in his effort to focus on the least accurate source of morality (intention). Hence, he summarizes  Meersheimer and Chomsky’s position as ‘it’s all the West’s fault.’ He claims ‘this is too simplistic and closely overlaps with Russian propaganda’ but does not venture to provide the two more accurate sources of morality—object and circumstance.

Need for Nuance

He does the same with Dr. Mazza, whose central line, he describes dramatically as ‘that wicked NATO has encircled Russia and seeks to end it as a nation.’ When he critiques Dr. Mazza for invoking Solzhenitzyn to support his claim, it is once again a speculative endeavor with ‘intention,’ seeking to peer into the soul of another man. He says of Solzhenitsyn’s comments, which he believes Dr. Mazza cherry-picked—’come from the highly-problematic final few years or so of his life, when he was already back in Moscow, was in a deep depression and reacted with (justifiable) revulsion to the rampant materialism and sexual hedonism that accompanied the country’s collapse into post-Soviet banditry.’ He once again, moves to speculate that this also must be because Solzhenitsyn ‘had several long conversations with Putin and was evidently persuaded by him of certain things’ because Mr. Carter cannot believe (or perhaps, accept), given what he further believes is a view, which departs from Solzhenitsyn’s early writings in Gulag Archipelago.

It isn’t clear, however, what exactly Mr. Carter is referring to as Solzhenitsyn’s ‘different view.’ It seems as if Mr. Carter is referring to Solzhenitsyn’s view of Putin, which is odd because Gulag Archipelago was written in 1958, when Putin was barely 6 years of age. At the same time, the book doesn’t talk about Putin and the passage Mr. Carter invokes doesn’t actually prove this claim of ‘a very different view’—which itself isn’t quite clear of what exactly.

If at all, the passage he invokes provides nuance to the view about Russia and how Russia and the Soviet Union were/are two very different animals. Referring to Russian exasperation towards Ukrainian nationalism, Solzhenitsyn wrote, “the problem became most acute not under the Tsar, but after the Tsar.” We will return to this in Part 2 of the article. Solzhenitsyn, in fact, further supports exactly what is happening in East Ukraine today when he says, “We must leave the decision to the Ukrainians” which is exactly what happened in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea in 2014 after the US-led coup.  While there are those who will question this, the documentary Ukraine of Fire shows actual footage of heavy US involvement as well as leaked phone conversations from US officials planning the overthrow of then president, Victor Yanukovich. My interlocutor may object that this documentary involves the Leftist Oliver Stone and was broadcast by Russian propaganda television networks (REN TV), but these facts (which I concede) distract from the facts that the film itself presents (facts which geopolitical experts also concede).

The documentation about Yanukovich is the type of “straight from the horse’s mouth” evidence necessary to evaluate this sort of thing. Moreover, it is the revelation of actual human action (‘object’) and context (‘circumstance’) surrounding the entire affair. While Russia never made moves to conquer Ukraine in 2014 (as evidenced by the documentary), even Solzhenitsyn seems to have wanted a united Russia and Ukraine, when he wrote (quoted by Mr. Carter):

The gentler, the more tolerant, the more careful to explain ourselves we are now, the more hope there will be of restoring unity in the future. Let them live their own lives, let them see how it works. They will soon find that not all problems are solved by secession.

The situation then was Ukraine wanting to secede from the Soviet Union. The situation today is the East, wanting to secede from Ukraine and (if historical political lines are observed), return home to Russia. As Mr. Carter proceeds to ‘argue’ his bout with speculation continues, which in this case is also coupled with non-sequitur:

The fact that Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO resulted in a nonchalant ‘Who cares?’ from the Kremlin shows that the war with Ukraine never had anything to do with NATO at all. It’s all about Russia’s own inability to see itself without its half-origin in Kievan Rus’: all that is left to it, without Ukraine, is to be the half-slav Child of Genghiz and the Golden Horde.

Once again, much to unpack and yet ambiguous and unclear as to what exactly to unpack with claims that just suddenly come out without having ever been established prior with ‘half-origin in Kievan Rus,’ ‘half-slav Child of Genghiz and the Golden Horde.’ How can the author claim to have read the soul of all Russians or even of just one Russian, which in this case would be the one the author seems to clearly dislike—Vladimir Putin.

Mr. Cater proceeds with some data from CNN and the New York Times as well as four Ukrainian Catholic sites. While I do not discount the significance of empirical data, given the superiority of the deductive approach and the subjectivity in the inductive approach, I will not comment on this. As to some Marian apparitions he cites that claim something special about Ukraine and about how Russia “has not turned away from the paths of death,” I must admit, I have only looked into Our Lady Fatima (which will better figure in the second installment) and hence cannot make an informed opinion regarding these. As promised at the beginning of the article, I will endeavor to tackle the issue, which Dr. Mazza has introduced beyond just Putin, Solzhenitsyn, NATO, and Ukraine and attempt to investigate the greater context going way back to the Bolshevik Revolution, Our Lady of Fatima, and the concept of the Third Rome and the Eastern Schism, beginning with the popular notion as to what the “errors of Russia” refers to—socialism. Thus let me turn now to those issues.

The “Errors of Russia” – a Deeper Nuance

Socialism along with all other evils that accompany it (e.g. atheism, abortion) have been usual culprits as the “errors of Russia.” This is confirmed by Fatima scholarship as well as the seer herself, Sr. Lucia.

However, this near-consensus does not preclude a deeper nuance from being introduced into the discussion. This will bear upon the question of the Ukraine crisis and the conversion of Russia.

The reality is that if the “errors of Russia” refers to Communism and its evils, it is also true that Communism did not originate in Russia. Communism is not Russian qua Russian.

In addition, empirical evidence on who exactly spread these errors, based on who controls the media, the financial system, health system, food, academia, research, and just about everything—all find their evangelizers not only in Russia but also (and in fact, primarily so) in the United States of America.

The errors of Russia are western errors spread by Russia and the United States (among others).

So what can be called the errors of Russia qua Russia? If we go back into Russia’s history, particularly right around the time Our Lady appeared at Fatima, we can look at what Russia might have done and where she went wrong that led to her eradication and conversion into the Soviet Union.

Our contention is that the following are the distinctly Russian errors of Russia: effeminacy, naivete, and pacifism. These were the qualities and stance some of Russia’s tsars took that disarmed the Orthodox state and hence invited in the Modernist ideas from Europe and the New World that ultimately led to the demise of autocracy and “Holy Russia.” This allowed the formerly Christian Russia to adopt the “errors of Russia,” i.e. Communism and its evils, which the United States also adopted and spread in a different form.

The paper proceeds to show how these same qualities dominated the Second Vatican Council and how they led to our implosion in 2020, persisting further and leading to a kind of devolution of civilization and man. Finally, the paper tackles the question of the age-old Eastern Schism and the title, “Third Rome” as Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano also invoked. Why? What does it really mean? Is it licit and possible for there to be a Third Rome? We contend it has become a significant question given the eschatological nature of the times, where prophecy, empirical data, and reality as it unfolds all seem to be egging us to confront this elephant in the room. Hopefully, then, the real myopia will be unveiled.

Our Lady of the Rosary and of Fatima, Pray for Us!

To be continued later today. 

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