The year 2007 seems so distant and yet so present. I was working as a volunteer in Thailand with a multinational faith organization. I remember clearly the conversation with my friend and colleague from Russia when one day I asked her – what do her friends and family members back home talk about? She answered, “They are afraid that there will be a war.” “Russia will fight a war? With whom?”, I was perplexed. My friend clarified: “With NATO!”
In this narrative, why would Russia fight NATO? Because NATO is trying to encircle and then attack Russia with the main goal – to get its natural resources. As absurd as it sounded, I was not completely surprised since I was aware of the anti-NATO narrative coming through mainstream Russian TV channels. Still, coming from Latvia (a NATO member country since 2004), I could assure her that our government was not telling us to prepare for war with Russia. There was no build-up of troops near the border or war-mongering rhetoric in the public sphere.
Something was chilling about this conversation in 2007. I thought to myself – if the Russian government through the TV is amplifying these fears and telling the people to expect a big war in the future, then there would be a war!!! It is simple logic and old wisdom that we reap what we sow. Now in 2022 and 100 days into the unjust and unprovoked war in Ukraine, it is the most tragic example of a self-fulfilled prophecy. Putin’s regime has succeeded in creating a worldview that strengthens their confirmation bias – “the Western world is against us, they want to destroy us with their decadent morals and lifestyles, they hate our pure Christian faith, worship, and traditional values, they don’t want us to be strong, the EU countries are puppets in the hands of the Americans”, and so on. While so many people and countries have united against the imperial, revanchist, and revisionist ambitions of Vladimir Putin and his fellow kleptocrats, Putin’s regime is doubling down.
At least once a week I have started and not published a post. It is a strange thing – since I started paying close attention to the development of the Russian version of ethnic nationalism, I have written many times and I have spoken to many friends through the years. Especially since 2014 when Russia annexed the territory of Ukraine – Crimea. Once the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, 2022, I found it very difficult to write, and even formulate my thoughts in a public forum. Words fell so short, words felt so empty. I have said so many times that we have to build peace in peacetime. We have to be relentless peacemakers when the striving for Shalom (peace with God, ourselves, others, and the created order) gets harder and harder.
Peace in the biblical definition does not mean simply ceasing of the bloodshed and conflict. It means first of all calling things by their names. Truth-seeking and truth-telling are essential elements of flourishing and reconciled life. It would mean a full and honest acknowledgment by the people who have supported Putin’s murderous ideology and policies that their biggest and worst fears have been amplified, manipulated, monopolized, and weaponized. Fear is an amazing source of tyranny.