Overview:

The GOP used to be vehemently anti-Russian, but now, with its links to the Russian Orthodox Church, parts of the party are soft on Putin.

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The Republican Party has a long history of opposition to Russia. They were the leaders in Cold War rhetoric, deploring both the communism and atheism of the Soviet regime. In the early 1950s, The Red Scare, promoted by right-wing Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy, warned the American people that communism was creeping into our government. He launched a series of highly publicized probes into alleged communist penetration of the State Department, the White House, the Treasury, and even the US Army.

Eventually, McCarthy was discredited, and In 1954, the Senate passed a motion of condemnation, by a vote of 67 to 22. McCarthy was ruined—and within three years he was dead from alcohol abuse. But suspicion of Russian spies and anti-communist rhetoric remained a major theme in the GOP politics for many years.

After the breakup of the U.S.S.R., a process that spanned the period from 1988 to 1991, the Russian Orthodox Church (R.O.C.), which had been stifled by the communist regime, was restored. In the years that followed, evangelical Christian churches in the US sent missions to Russia, in an attempt to convert R.O.C. members to evangelical Christianity, and a bond grew between many religious believers in the two countries. The result, over recent years, has been a gradual softening of Republican anti-communist rhetoric. I’ll return to this idea.

The Ukraine war has created a split in the G.O.P., with the evangelical-dominated Right Wing supporting Russia and demonizing Ukraine, while mainstream Republicans see the invasion for what it is…an attempt to conquer and subjugate a neighboring nation. The emerging criticism of the Ukraine government by some Republicans is puzzling to many people.

It is ironic that the political party that claims to be so patriotic recently supported thugs waving flags as they attacked the center of our government last year, and is now advocating actions that encourage the aggression of a communist adversary that they once considered our greatest enemy.

The notorious Marjorie Taylor Greene (R., Georgia) recently equated the Ukraine government to the Taliban. Madison Cawthorn (formerly, R., N.C.) called President Zelensky a “thug who is torturing his own people. and the Ukrainian government “incredibly evil.” Both Greene and Cawthorn have also parroted Putin’s claim that Ukraine’s government is fascist. The Ukrainian government is neither a theocracy like the Taliban, nor is it fascist like Nazi Germany.  The new Constitution that was adopted in 1996, and revised in 2004, defines Ukraine as a unitary republic.

Is this just Republican partisan political pushback, opposing anything that the Biden administration proposes? Even if it gives aid and comfort to the real thug, Vladimir Putin? After all, Republicans have been seen wearing T-shirts proudly stating, “I’d rather be a Russian than a Democrat.”

Far-right Republicans are starting to side with Russia in the war partly as a result of the ties to the R.O.C. that go back to the breakup of the U.S.S.R., over thirty years ago. Consequently, the Russian Orthodox Church has deep and lasting connections with Evangelical Christians in the U.S. They also share a number of odious beliefs, including racism, opposition to L.G.B.T.Q. rights, non-white immigration, and women’s choice.

There is even a branch of the R.O.C. in the U.S. called the Orthodox Church in America (O.C.A.). Its roots go back to 1794, when it was established in Alaska, a Russian colony at that time. After The U.S. purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867, the O.C.A. continued to grow, spreading throughout the U.S., fueled by the arrival of immigrants from areas of Eastern and Central Europe, and the Middle East. These immigrants, regardless of nationality or ethnic background, were united under a single North American diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church. The O.C.A. was officially established in 1970 as an autocephalous (independent of R.O.C. authority) branch of the R.O.C. A recent survey found that the church has 561 parishes and 17 monasteries in the U.S. Membership is declining steadily, as it is in most U.S. churches.

Evangelical Christian churches are a potent influence in the Republican Party. Some Republican politicians are now seeking to take advantage of the connection between those churches, the political right, the R.O.C. and O.C.A. to advance their political careers. Thus, we get an insight into their opposition to U.S. aid, and the demonization of the Ukraine government.

It is ironic that the political party that claims to be so patriotic recently supported thugs waving flags as they attacked the center of our government last year, and is now advocating actions that encourage the aggression of a communist adversary that they once considered our greatest enemy.

Most countries in Europe are now fearful of an attack from Russia. We are closer to the outbreak of WWIII than we have been since the confrontation between Kennedy and Khruschev in 1962. Allowing Putin’s threats of nuclear war to intimidate us will not reduce that danger. We should have learned that with Hitler.

The connection between the Republican Party and Russia is profoundly unpatriotic….and a potential danger to the nations of Europe, if not the whole world.

Bert Bigelow graduated from the University of Michigan College of Engineering, then pursued a career in electronic systems and software design. He has always enjoyed writing, and since retirement, has produced short essays on many subjects. His main interests are in the areas of politics and religion, and the intersection of the two. You can contact him at bigelowbert@gmail.com.

Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...