Putin, the United States elections, and the upcoming Conclave

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A mantle of concern looms these weeks over the decision-making centers of the Western world.  On Jan. 24, General Patrick Sanders, chief of staff of His Majesty’s Army, said that British nationals may be called upon in the not-too-distant future to fight against Russia (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-68086188). For Dutch Admiral Rob Bauer, head of the NATO Military Committee, it is also necessary to prepare for an imminent conflict (https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/russia-war-nato-military-exercise-admiral-rob-bauer-brussels-cold-war-b1133399.html). In the same days, the Swedish Minister of Civil Defense, Carl-Oskar Bohlin, said that everyone must prepare for the worst-case scenario, such as a war with Russia, before it is too late (https://www.anews.com.tr/world/2024/01/19/could-russia-go-to-war-with-sweden).

According to a secret German armed forces document published on Jan. 14 by the Bild newspaper, Russia has a plan by June to attack NATO’s eastern flank after a successful counteroffensive against Ukraine, and the repulsion of the Kiev army (https://nypost.com/2024/01/15/news/germany-preparing-for-russia-to-start-world-war-3/). Confidential papers state that Russia could launch cyber attacks and other forms of hybrid warfare against Europe, starting with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Meanwhile, “Steadfast Defender 2024,” the largest NATO exercise since the Cold War on Russia’s borders, involving 90,000 soldiers, has begun. The exercise will last until the end of May and will involve units from all 31 member countries of the alliance plus candidate member Sweden. On the other hand, Russia, China and Iran form an increasingly solid Eurasian bloc that has renewed its challenge to the West through joint military exercises announced for March in the Indian Ocean.

Vladimir Putin denies having any military plans against Europe, but everyone remembers that until the day before the Feb. 22 aggression, the Kremlin leader categorically denied the existence of any plan to invade Ukraine. The Russian blitzkrieg failed, and Ukraine could have pushed the invader back beyond its borders if it had obtained decisive help from the West from the outset, but Biden’s policy has always been to provide the minimum of arms and military assistance necessary not to lose the war, but not enough to win it. However, for those under attack, non-win means defeat. Putin asks the West to stop helping Ukraine to achieve peace. But the peace that would reign would be that of the victors, the neo-Soviet pax destined to extend to the Baltic countries and all that was the communist empire.

Putin’s strength lies in the West’s psychological weakness, fueled by a “hybrid warfare” that uses disinformation and media campaigns to destabilize the enemy camp.  One of the most successful operations of this psychological warfare was the more than two-hour interview Putin gave on Feb. 8 to American talk show host Tucker Carlson. Philosopher Renato Cristin compared it to the interview that Italian journalist Gianni Minà was granted, in 1987, by Fidel Castro to convince Westerners that Cuba was a socialist paradise, that the Cold War was caused by Yankee imperialism, and that the Soviets were instead the quintessence of pacifism. The fact that emerges from both interviews, Cristin writes, is that the West is evil, while Russia, the Soviet one before and the Putin one today, would be “the good made state.” “It is bizarre that a star journalist like Carlson does not realize that when one goes to interview an autocrat, one loses, inevitably, one’s freedom, crushed by the need to submit to the rule of communicative tyranny” (https://www.corrispondenzaromana.it/notizie-dalla-rete/carlson-putin-lintervista-in-ginocchio-un-format-sempreverde/).

It is precisely this psychological submission by the West to Russia that makes the situation extremely dangerous, opening a favorable window for Russian military intervention in Eastern Europe in the coming months. The Nov. 5 U.S. elections will, as always, be a decisive turning point in international politics.  Never before, however, have the candidates on both sides of the aisle, Democratic and Republican, been presented with such a problematic situation as the current one.

Joe Biden, according to a December 2023 Gallup poll, is the least popular president in U.S. history. The U.S. president’s mental and physical condition became a political issue after U.S. Attorney Robert Hur, who investigated allegations against Biden of leaking military secrets, questioned his mental condition. In his investigative report, Hur cleared Biden of the charges, but with serious judgments about his mental capacity: He is a, ““sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man,” he said, but “with a poor memory,” which is “significantly limited.” (https://www.justice.gov/storage/report-from-special-counsel-robert-k-hur-february-2024.pdf) But even Biden’s opponent, Donald Trump, stumbles over words and is not immune to gaffes and disconnected phrases. Moreover, if Biden is the least popular president, Trump has been the most controversial and could receive convictions in the four criminal trials ahead of him.  It is amazing how the world’s leading power has failed to express younger, more efficient and credible candidates than those currently running for the White House.

What is certain is that the nine months of campaigning that Trump and Biden face, and also the two months of joint leadership, which will follow the eventual victory of one contender, will be a time of potential chaos, in which the specter of a “civil war” between the two conflicting Americas is being considered by many observers.

This is not the only factor of chaos on the horizon. “Civil war,” in the sense of a violent doctrinal clash, is also being talked about within the Church. The health condition of Pope Francis is no mystery. Everyone knows that they are bad and could plummet at any moment. The conclave that is being prepared will be decisive for the future of the Church, which appears today as a wasteland. This does not escape the masters of psychological warfare who will try by all means to condition the election of the next Pontiff, through social media campaigns, the financing of Russophile groups, the infiltration of agents provocateurs into the Catholic world, the bribery and blackmail of bishops and cardinals. This could happen in the same months in which a hybrid war of military and political pressure, cyber attacks and migrant invasions seems set to attack Europe.

Within this framework, Putin is not interested in a conservative or progressive pope, but in a champion of disarmament who sees Russia as a bulwark against the corrupt West. The massive “Psyop” (psychological operation) under way involves a part of the conservative-traditionalist Catholic world, which while protesting loudly against “the dictator Pope,” genuflects before a Kremlin despot. Thus the flags of Eurasia will fly high and those of the West are lowered. Rome continues to be the center of the world, and if Divine Providence does not give the Church a courageous and combative pope, the fate of the West will be sealed, as it would have been if St. Leo the Great had not risen out of chaos in the fifth century and St. Pius V a thousand years later.