An article by: Luciano Larivera

Pope Francis prays (and makes people pray), pleads, and warns the nations involved in the war in Ukraine: negotiate, help negotiate, refrain from inciting violence that undermines negotiations. Just as in chess the knight moves over three fields, so the Pope's speech is triadic: he tries to overcome obstacles without confronting them head-on with authoritarianism

But as far as the “negotiating principle” is concerned, even if he adapts it crookedly, His Holiness makes no exception for himself or anyone else. What matters is not the alternative of winning and losing, but negotiating versus not negotiating. Either everyone wins or everyone loses if you don’t negotiate. Negotiations are non-negotiable. They are mandatory, they cannot be postponed, they are self-evident and self-justifying, they are not a functional tool for military purposes, they are not dialog for dialog’s sake. The negotiations are pragmatic in terms of gradually achieving de-escalation results. Everyone mobilizes together to raise the “white flag,” to surrender to the inevitability of immediate and permanent negotiations.

These are not negotiations with a simple truce and surrender. This is non-negotiable when one party is eliminated and even if no one concedes anything to the other. Or if each fails to consider the other side’s interests and integrates them into their own, finding a real advantage for their own position. These negotiations are for Ukraine, i.e., in good faith, otherwise it means endless war and worse, in an out-of-control infernal dynamic that devours everyone.

No state can be excluded from negotiations because it may or may not contribute to them

So here is the “papal course” for negotiating on Ukraine, momentarily and forever: an immediate cease-fire; an indefinite cease-fire; multilateral terms to reverse the international expansion of the war (piece by piece around the world).

Negotiations for Ukraine are a local process because they concern the internal politics of Ukraine and Russia; they are bilateral between Kiev and Moscow, multipolar between blocs and between powers. No state can be excluded from negotiations for the reason that it may or may not contribute to them, and at least because of the unjust consequences suffered by another war.

Here is the two-sided catastrophe of this war: the human life of its citizens is killed, maimed, permanently traumatized; the enemy of the rival national identity because it is becoming increasingly “selfish,” devastated, incapable of moving beyond “excuses” for refusing to negotiate (instead of “reasons” for negotiating), almost soulless because it is possessed by the demon of ethno-nationalism.

Negotiations are always strategic, it is a way of life, it is an end in itself, it is the vital dynamism of international relations

It’s not enough. This war is connected to other fronts and may set them on fire. If Kiev and Moscow are not afraid of localized nuclear war, but only wage (together with their partners) a “conventional” war among themselves, this is not something that reassures the rest of the world, because a fuse lit there could explode nuclear bombs elsewhere.

Pope Francis speaks and writes about all of this. Negotiations are always strategic, it is a mode of existence, it is an end in itself, it is the vital dynamism of international (and national) relations, they allow the flow of history to continue and ensure the future of human nature, that is, for human life that is human, not artificial or disconnected.

Negotiations on Africa involving its people (or do we want them to be migrants?) are strategic. Aren’t we preparing for a world war in Africa? When will all the “fragments” of local wars come together on a continental and multipolar level? What does the race for resources in Africa mean? It is the formation of military outposts; it is the expansion of borders to better protect borders and ethno-national interests elsewhere.

However, the permanent strategic negotiations always and in any case concern new balances of nuclear deterrence: the growth of the quality and quantity (not symmetrically) of “conventional” weapons systems; for the cessation of strategic cooperation between the blocs (on test bans, on mutually agreed reductions of warheads, on joint control…); for the gradual introduction of new technologies (artificial intelligence; quantum engineering for cybernetic disabling of other means of nuclear deterrence; the possibility of hypersonic, extra-atmospheric, space travel…).

Those who negotiate (in good faith) seek true glory. The one who wants to be recognized as a child of God. The glory of God is one, but He shares it with us, who at most will be able to receive glory and honor from mere men and women, even if they are descendants.

Pope Francis’s position encompasses everything and everyone, past-present-future. That’s why it’s “hyper-realistic.”

The Christian Easter is approaching. And Pierced by his truth exposes and nails the prince of this world, by his inglorious crowns of victory, denounces his defeat because he is a failure before God and His grace. What about us? Whose disciples and angels are we? What strategic truth do we believe in? Do we seek true glory?

Although the Pope pleads with local and international rivals to negotiate with an asymmetrically compassionate and pleading approach, what the Holy Father actually demands is a convinced and heartfelt submission to the immutable principle of negotiations in order to behave humanly. Otherwise, our species will become extinct or turn into another demonic species.

His position is not idealistic but “hyper-realistic” because it includes everything and everyone, past-present-future, even God and the need for his grace, his vision, his forgiveness, his mercy.

Pope Francis invokes God as if for an “exorcism” that allows people to speak and negotiate between those who are oppressed by the demon of mutism (also the recitation of propaganda, insults, threats) and whose language is not unleashed in negotiations.

Is submission to the Pope’s negotiations (immediately, in agreement and wisdom) submission to the voice of an informed, reasonable, and free conscience? Definitely. Is it subject to religious authority? Why not, especially if it’s your own. But perhaps, for those who think this myth is reasonable and still foundational, it is also subject to Rome.

The Bishop of Rome is the only one who retains a formal vestige of imperial authority (not through canon law, which formulates the supreme authority of the Roman Pontiff in a different way). “Great Pontiff” was a civil magistracy, though religious for life, exercised by Caesar, as well as by the emperors, until they granted it to the Bishop of Rome for his use.

From the West Coast to the Urals, people and nations who consider themselves heirs and successors of Roman citizens and the Roman Empire must obey the “Holy Father.” In fact, this was the name of the emperor who was called to protect the common Roman res publica from barbarism, and he knew how to negotiate with hostile peoples to integrate together into a new civilization and citizenship. Rank imposes obligations.


Luciano Larivera