Pope Francis Says NATO Started War in Ukraine by ‘Barking at Putin’s Door’

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Claudio Peri/Pool/Reuters

ROME—Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Pope Francis has floated the idea that he wants to take a trip to Kyiv to try to broker a ceasefire. But now he says he would prefer to go to Moscow to try to talk some sense into Vladimir Putin, who he has not outwardly condemned in the now nearly three-month-old war and only did so lightly in a lengthy interview with an Italian newspaper.

“I feel that before going to Kyiv, I must go to Moscow,” he told Corriere Della Sera in an interview that ran Tuesday. But the meeting would not exactly be to condemn Putin, based on what he told the paper. He said that the real “scandal” of Putin’s war is “NATO barking at Russia’s door,” which he said caused the Kremlin to “react badly and unleash the conflict.”

Never mind that the 85-year-old pontiff is unable to walk after tearing a ligament in his knee (for which he says he will soon have surgery), or that Putin won’t even answer his calls. Francis repeated comments he has made in general audiences and in other interviews that the war is nothing more than a giant opportunity for a “trade in arms” and that it is still ongoing because of the constant shuttling of weapons to Ukraine. He has spoken twice by phone to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, but mostly to urge him not to fight back. He also went to the Russian embassy to the Holy See days after the invasion began to “register his concerns” about what was happening.

“I don’t know how to answer—I’m too far away—the question of whether it is right to supply the Ukrainians,” he told the paper. “The clear thing is that weapons are being tested there. The Russians now know that tanks are of little use and are thinking of other things. This is why wars are waged: to test the weapons we have produced. Few people are fighting this trade, but more should be done.”

Whether the Italian journalists didn’t ask—or whether he didn’t answer— there was no mention about what would happen if Ukrainians were not fiercely fighting back, whether it would mean a full annexation of the entire country, millions of deaths, or empowering an already insatiably power-hungry Putin.

“I feel that before going to Kyiv, I must go to Moscow,” he told Corriere Della Sera in an interview that ran Tuesday. But the meeting would not exactly be to condemn Putin, based on what he told the paper. He said that the real “scandal” of Putin’s war is “NATO barking at Russia’s door,” which he said caused the Kremlin to “react badly and unleash the conflict.”

Never mind that the 85-year-old pontiff is unable to walk after tearing a ligament in his knee (for which he says he will soon have surgery), or that Putin won’t even answer his calls. Francis repeated comments he has made in general audiences and in other interviews that the war is nothing more than a giant opportunity for a “trade in arms” and that it is still ongoing because of the constant shuttling of weapons to Ukraine. He has spoken twice by phone to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, but mostly to urge him not to fight back. He also went to the Russian embassy to the Holy See days after the invasion began to “register his concerns” about what was happening.

“I don’t know how to answer—I’m too far away—the question of whether it is right to supply the Ukrainians,” he told the paper. “The clear thing is that weapons are being tested there. The Russians now know that tanks are of little use and are thinking of other things. This is why wars are waged: to test the weapons we have produced. Few people are fighting this trade, but more should be done.”

Whether the Italian journalists didn’t ask—or whether he didn’t answer— there was no mention about what would happen if Ukrainians were not fiercely fighting back, whether it would mean a full annexation of the entire country, millions of deaths, or empowering an already insatiably power-hungry Putin.

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