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Russia confronting its Orthodox Christian “brothers”

By Messenger Staff
Friday, January 9
Russia, as always, considers itself a leader of the Orthodox Church. In spite this however it has chosen to enter into confrontations with its co-religionists in Ukraine and Georgia.

Russia invokes its “spiritual leadership” only when it wants to further its imperialistic claims. A joke from Soviet times goes: A Russian and a Georgian find a bottle of water in the desert, when both are dead thirsty. The Russian says: “Let us share it in a brotherly manner.” The Georgian refuses: “No! Let us share it fifty- fifty!”

After the August Russian invasion there were certain attempts to start reestablishing relations between the two countries through religious links. The first step was taken by the Russian Church, which refused to recognize the separation of Abkhaz and South Ossetian parishes from the Georgian Church or accept them into the Russian Church. This looked great at first glance, but the step needs to be considered against another reality: on the territories occupied by the Russians there are almost no Georgians left, and the so-called ‘administration’ forbids Georgian from preaching. No parish, no preaching, no Georgian Church in any real sense. Who cares what the de jure situation is? In the near future only Russian language services will be conducted in South Ossetia’s Georgian churches, as is already the case in Abkhazia.

Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II has confirmed once again that Georgia wants peace but not at the expense of lost territories. He has also stressed that sooner or later Abkhazians and Ossetians will realize that their survival rests on unity with Georgia. But Russia threatens yet another aggression. The Tskhinvali puppet regime is spreading the misinformation that Georgian Special Forces are planning a large-scale assault against the secessionists. The response of the Russian Defence Ministry is immediate: “if Georgians start armed provocations against the Russian military they will receive the strictest answer from all the resources available.”

It is not very difficult to create yet another trap and provoke Georgia to fall into it. This will give Russia another chance to “explain” to its own people why their country is in deep crisis. Let us pray this will not be the case, though analysts do not exclude such a possibility.

Unfortunately Russia has also chosen to start yet another confrontation with its close ethnic and religious brother Ukraine. A “gas attack” is underway. Russia is demanding that its opponent, which has very openly confirmed its pro-Western orientation, pay the European price for natural gas knowing full well that Ukraine cannot afford this. Russia is blackmailing Ukraine and simultaneously trying to undermine its image worldwide by presenting it as an unreliable partner. All this is happening in the middle of a severe winter – timing designed to show the world who the key player in Europe and maybe the world is.

There is a saying: “The worse, the better”. Maybe at least Europe will now realize it should not depend only on Russian energy and more actively try to build alternative sources of supply. But Russia has blackmailed Europe with gas before, at NATO summits, and got away with it, so the pressure Europe would face if it sought to secure its energy supplies would be considerable.

Georgia has more or less secured itself in energy terms by signing a long term agreement with Azerbaijan. It might however face other threats. It is up to Russia to decide whether posing a permanent threat to its Orthodox brethren to the south is something it wishes to answer for.