Russia's invasion of Ukraine marks a defining moment in the reshaping of the geopolitical order, and the Church must reconsider what it means to be a peacemaker in this dangerous and unstable world.
This Report reviews the Church's response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the anxiety that it might culminate in a nuclear conflagration. It also considers the economic costs of the war and the intricacies of intra-orthodox politics.
The UK, EU, US and other Western allies have targeted Russia's financial sector, strategic sectors of the economy and individuals close to the regime with financial and trade restrictions. The UK and its allies have introduced unprecedented financial and cultural warfare against Russia, with the aim of punishing Russia or changing its behaviour. It is unclear how long these sanctions will last, and whether they will help Ukraine or just hurt the Russian people. Given the Russian government's authoritarian nature, punitive measures against Russians may provoke resentment and fuel nationalism. The Church of England has supported the sanctions package and pressed the Government to take measures to strip illicit Russian money from the UK financial system. The Russian Orthodox Church has suspended its membership of the Conference of European Churches over 15 years ago, but has not done so in the World Council of Churches. The WCC provides a vehicle for critical dialogue and engagement during a time of renewed international division. The Russian Orthodox Church has not been invited to the Lambeth Conference, and the status of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine is still unresolved.
Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, several NATO members have supplied lethal weapons to Ukraine. The UK government has remained coy about the scale and type of weaponry supplied, citing 'operation security reasons', but has made clear that any support is for short range and clearly defensive capabilities. NATO must aim to end the war in Ukraine as soon as possible, and should not move from assisting Ukraine to a wider geo-strategic objective. This could invite strategic miscalculation, and the US, Russia, France and the UK must honour their commitment to avoid nuclear war. Western policy makers have treated Russia as the defeated Cold War power, but the Diocese in Europe reminds us that Russia is part of Europe.
The war in Ukraine has caused the largest mass movement of people in Europe since 1945. The Church is responding to the humanitarian crisis in 2 ways, by supporting the DEC appeal and by providing support to Anglican chaplaincies across Europe.
The UK did not waive visas for Ukrainians, but instead introduced two defined visa routes to allow Ukrainians to enter the country. These are not strictly speaking refugee schemes, but rather visas that give Ukrainians access to the welfare state.