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Monthly Archives: November 2022

The Threat of Strategic Conservatism


The effects of Putin’s use of strategic conservatism are already widespread. The consequences surmounted precedent as he won the support of Patriarch Kirill. When a specific religion is attached to a national identity, the leaders of the nation take on leadership of said religion. This has led figures such as Pope Francis to condemn the association by warning Kirill against being Putin’s, “altar boy”. However, as a leader of hundreds of thousands, such reprimands and sanctions against Kirill must be approached carefully. As it was during the Cold War in the fight against communism, America seems to have found itself in a battle against ideology.

In a political ploy categorized under the umbrella of strategic conservatism, Vladimir Putin has been gaining traction in the campaign for Ukraine by fostering a relationship with the Russian Orthodox church. In doing so he sets an unorthodox precedent for leaders with political ambition. Since February, the international stage has turned its eyes to the symbiotic friendship between Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. As head of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), progressive dialogue between these two leaders stir the nerves of American citizens who can conjecture a political paradigm that jeopardizes First Amendment rights. Finding origin in the days of the Puritan, Quaker, and Anglican settlers of the 13 colonies, religious liberty is a longstanding and foundational ideology of the United States of America. Americans revere the unalienable right to harbor deep traditional and religious views. Putin’s use of strategic conservatism interferes with the personal governance of these views, and introduces a philosophy that endangers a cherished American freedom.

Strategic conservatism is a term used to describe the coalescence of politics and established tradition to promote policy objectives. States identity can be split into two parts. One half lies in the realm of governmental structure and policy movement, whereas the other lies in heritage and customs gathered throughout its history. Together they work equally and independently to provide identity to any given state. Strategic Conservatism is the dominance of a state’s political arm over culture, beliefs, and values.

Political Scientists and Philosophers have identified that in times of war public opinion has the potential to be either a great asset or a great disrupter in the campaign. Even more so, it has also been acknowledged that positive public opinion is linked to ideological synergy with the Just War Theory. The Just War Theory, “deals with the justification of how and why wars are fought”, therefore claiming that they must further the overall good and fend off evil. Thus, strategic conservatism has the potential to provide an ambitious autocrat with a just cause for military movement. From this view, after invading Ukraine in February, Putin’s union with cultural leaders and his indication of cultural identifications popularizes the Russian invasion in Ukraine. An evident example is found in his statement that the invasion of Ukraine is a rescue effort on behalf of native Russian speakers. Putin takes the cultural identifier of Russian as the predominant language in Russia and brings it into the political sphere by correlating Russian speakers as constituents to the Russian government. Which, under UN Resolution 40/144, can be grouped with an oppression claim that gives Putin grounds to reclaim them. In making this a matter of identity, he gains popularity from the people as well as legal legitimacy.

This has quickly become a threat to American interests as Putin, In an effort to strengthen this legitimacy, has deployed strategic conservatism even further to gain influence by involving Patriarch Kirill, leader of the Roman Orthodox Church (ROC). The ROC is the largest autocephalous in the Eastern Orthodox church (EOC), which, in turn, is the second largest Christian religion in the world beside the Roman Catholic church. In his position as Patriarch, Kirill has jurisdiction over all Eastern Orthodox Christians in the bounds of the former Soviet Union. This is a substantial influence as 77% of Russia identifies as EOC, followed by 67% of Ukraine, 82% of Romania, 73% of Belarus, 93% of Moldova, and around 20% of the Baltic states.

Therefore, the statements which Kirill publicizes land in a wide audience, and are accepted with great value. The Patriarch has recently made such remarks as, a soldier’s death in the war against Ukraine “washes away all sins”, and that Putin’s political reign has been “a miracle of God''. Orthodox Christians who hear these statements are then faced with a dilemma where their opinion on such statements can be seen by peers as an indicator of their support for the religious patriarch and even the ROC overall. This adds enormous support for Putin’s ongoing invasion as well as introduces the corruption of church by state and state control of thought. Each of which are violations to American rights. Kirill poses a large threat as he continues to allow the ROC to be confederated with the Kremlin, thus mingling the philosophy of men with scripture and threatening the sovereignty and interpretation of religion around the world.

Not only is the influence of such a union apparent, but there also exists within the EOC a theology which, when used on the grounds of strategic conservatism gives Putin additive legitimacy. This theology is called the 3rd Rome. It is a claim that Moscow is the religious epicenter of Chrisianity after the Ottoman Empire’s conquest of Constantinople in 1453. The idea of the 3rd Rome is a movement for Eastern Orthodox unification. As Putin champions the idea of the 3rd Rome, he suddenly obtains the grounds to go on conquest in defense of the believers, and on behalf of the faith. This extends not just in Ukraine, but subsequently in other neighboring EOC countries.

These grounds of legitimacy provide obvious reason to continue this relationship. As Putin claims the title of protector of traditional Russian values and religion, he obtains leeway to pass more aggressive policies. He is able to villainize the West, by claiming a Western decadence has made them threats to true Russian families, traditions, and values. By the same theory of association, he is able to deter support for international coalitions such as the EU and NATO by claiming they seek to pollute Russian sovereignty. As a typical Russian citizen, this view of defending one’s very identity makes consent to such policies easy.