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Assessing Russia’s military strength

Is America Seeking “Preventive War” to Forestall the Rise of Russian Power?

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This article was originally published by www.unz.com

There is a popular point of view in some of Russia’s political circles, especially among those who profess monarchist views and cling to a famous meme of 1913 Tsarist Russia development statistics, that WW I was started by Germany to forestall Russia’s industrial development which would inevitably challenge Germany’s plans on domination of Europe. A somewhat similar argument could be made for the WW II, but, in general, preventive wars are nothing new in human history. While “preventive” argument may or may not be a valid one regarding WW I, there is no doubt that it could be used, among others, when explaining the origins of a war.

A classic example of such “preventive” war is, of course, US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the mayhem which ensued there when US, as was stated then, “prevented” Saddam from obtaining Weapons of Mass Destruction, that is nuclear weapons, which, of course, he never had and wasn’t intent on obtaining. It is becoming increasingly clear that “preventive war” has become a preferred instrument in the hands of Washington establishment, be it Iraq, Libya or Syria.

But what about Russia, one may ask, or China. Are “preventive wars” against them possible? Taken at face value the question may seem strange—both China, and especially Russia are nuclear armed states which can defend themselves. They do have deterrents and that supposedly should stop any attempt on any kind of war on them. This all is true but only so far. One may consider the current geopolitical situation in which China has all but created a new alternative economic power pole, and in which the US finds herself increasingly in the position of the still extremely important but second and, eventually, even third place player in Eurasian economic development. The United States doesn’t like being in second and doesn’t take such a reality kindly.

But for Washington, whose political discourse is based on American exceptionalism and foreign policy now is defined completely in terms of military power, emergence of a “peer” military power is absolutely unacceptable. While China is an economic giant and is now arguably the largest economy in the world, she still has a long way to go until she becomes a true “peer” to the United States militarily. This is not the case with Russia. It becomes also true when one begins to look at doctrinal and technological developments both in the US and Russia. The contrast is startling, even if one considers a very dubious US intelligence analysis on Russia.

Russia’s military doctrine and posture are explicitly defensive. Power Projection in Russian strategic considerations is secondary, if not tertiary, to the defense of Russia proper and her immediate geographic vicinity which can roughly be defined as about 80-85% of territory of the former USSR. This is not the case with the United States who is a consummate expeditionary power and fights wars not on own territory, and whose population and political elites are not conditioned by continental warfare.

Arthur J. Alexander in his Decision Making In Soviet Weapons Procurement came up with quantification of what he called “classes of forces” (or constants) influencing aggregate defense expenditures for USSR. This quantification remains virtually unchanged for modern day Russia. To quote Alexander, two of the most “heavy” constants he mentions are: “History, culture and values–40-50 percent. International environment, threat and internal capabilities–10-30 percent”. Taken by their maxima, 50+30=80%, we get the picture. 80% of Russia’s military expenditures are dictated by real military threats, which were, time after time over centuries, realized for Russia and resulted in the destruction and human losses on a scale incomprehensible for people who write US military doctrines and national security strategies. This is especially true for Neocon “strategists” who have a very vague understanding of the nature and application of military power—expeditionary warfare simply does not provide a proper angle on the issues of actual defense. The nation whose 20th Century losses due to wars from WW I, to Civil War to WW II number roughly in 40-45 million range, would certainly try to not repeat such ordeals. Even famous Russophobe and falsifier, Richard Pipes, was forced to admit that:

Such figures are beyond the comprehension of most Americans. But clearly a country… must define “unacceptable damage” differently from the United States which has known no famines or purges, and whose deaths from all the wars waged since 1775 are estimated at 650,000—fewer casualties than Russia suffered in the 900-day siege of Leningrad in World War II alone. Such a country (Russia) tends also to assess the rewards of defense in much more realistic terms.

In layman’s lingo, the United States lacks geographic, historic, cultural, economic and technological pressures to develop and have a coherent defensive military doctrine and weapons which would help to implement it. As Michael Lind writes:

The possibility of military defeat and invasion are usually left out of discussion….in the United states and Britain. The United States, if one discounts Pearl Harbor has not suffered a serious invasion from 1812; Britain, though it has been bombed from the air in the (20th century), has been free from foreign invasion even longer….Elsewhere in the world, political elites cannot as easily separate foreign policy and economics.

Russia lives under these pressures constantly and, in fact, Russians as ethnos were formed and defined by warfare. Russia is also defined by her weapons and it is here where we may start looking for one of the most important rationales for anti-Russian hysteria in Washington which have proceeded unabated sincethe return of Crimea in 2014, in reality even earlier.

1. The Western analytical and expert community failed utterly in assessing Russia’s both economic and, as a consequence, military potential. The problem here is not with Russia, which offers unprecedented access to all kinds of foreigners, from businessmen and tourists to political and intelligence (overt and covert) professionals. The problem is with Western view of Russia which as late as three years ago was completely triumphalist and detached from Russia’s economic realities. That is the reality not defined by meaningless Wall Street economic indices.

It took a complete and embarrassing failure of the West’s economic sanctions on Russia to recognize that the actual size of Russia’s economy is about that of Germany, if not larger, and that Russia was defining herself in terms of enclosed technological cycles, localization and manufacturing long before she was forced to engage in the war in Georgia in 2008. Very few people realistically care about Russia’s Stock Market, the financial markets of Germany are on the order of magnitude larger, but Germany cannot design and build from scratch a state of the art fighter jet, Russia can. Germany doesn’t have a space industry, Russia does. The same argumentation goes for Russia’s microelectronics industry and her military-industrial complex which dwarfs that of any “economic” competitor Western “economists” always try to compare Russia to, with the exception of US and China, and then on bulk, not quality, only. Third or Second World economies do not produce such weapons as Borey-class strategic missile submarines or SU-35 fighter jets, they also do not build space-stations and operate the only global alternative to US GPS, GLONASS system.

Whether this lesson will be learned by the combined West is yet to be seen. So far, the learning process has been slow for US crowd which cheered on US deindustrialization and invented a fairy tale concept of post-industrial, that is non-productive, virtual economy.

The Russian economy is not without problems, far from it—it still tries to break with the “heritage” of robbery and deformities of 1990s and still tries to find its way on a path different from destructive ideology of Russia’s “young reformers” who still dominate policy formulation, be it from the positions of power or through such institutions as notorious High School of Economics.

Yet, it seems this economy which was “left in tatters” or was an economy of a “gas station masquerading as a country”, is the only other economy in the world which can produce and does produce the whole spectrum of weapons ranging from small arms to state-of-the-art complex weapon and signal processing systems. No other nation with the exception of the US and Russia, not even China, can produce and procure a cutting edge military technology which has capabilities beyond the reach of everyone else.

Here, the US establishment, also known as the Neocon interventionist cabal, it seems, has begun to wake up to actual reality, not the fictitious one that the US can allegedly create for itself. Such as the fact that Russia, in a planned and well executed manner, without any unnecessary fanfare, launched a complete upgrade of her naval nuclear deterrent with the state of the art SSBNs of Borey-class (Project 955 and 955A). Three submarines of this type are already afloat while other 5 are in a different stages of completion and this is the program which most of US Russia “analysts” were laughing at 10 years ago. They are not laughing anymore.

Today it is US Navy which is in dire need for upgrade of its nuclear deterrent, with the youngest of Ohio-class SSBN, SSBN-743 USS Louisiana, being 20 year old. The future replacement of venerable Ohio-class SSBNs, a Columbia-class is slated to go into production in 2021 that is if the R&D will go smoothly. But one has to consider a feature which became defining of US R&D and weapons procurement practices—delays and astronomical costs of US weapons, which, despite constantly being declared “superior”, “unrivaled” and “best in the world” are not such at all, especially for the prices they are offered both domestically and abroad. As in the case with above mentioned Columbia-class SSBN, the GAO expects the cost of the whole program to be slightly above 97 billion dollars and that means that the average cost for each sub of this class will be around 8.1 billion dollars. That is much more than the cost of the whole—8 advanced submarines—program of Russia’s naval nuclear deterrent.

And this single example demonstrates well an abyss in fundamental approaches to the war between US and Russia: not only do Russian weapons rival those made in US, they are much-much less expensive and they provide Russia with this proverbial bang for a buck, also known in professional circles which deal with strategy and operation’s research as cost/effectiveness ratio. Here, United States is simply no competition to Russia and the gap not only remains, it widens with ever-increasing speed. As Colonel Daniel Davies admitted: “The truth is, the United States is nowhere near as powerful and dominant as many believe.” That brings us to a second issue, of doctrines, operational concepts and weapons themselves.

2. A complete inability to see the evolution of Russia’s Armed Forces is another failure which not only irritated but continues to irritate US military-political establishment since it proved them completely wrong. Economic “blindness” factored in here very strongly—it was inevitable in a system that looks at the world through a grossly distorted Wall Street monetarist spyglass. Many times it was pointed out that direct linear comparison, dollar-for-dollar, of military budgets is wrong and does not reflect real military, in general, and combat, in particular, potentials in the least.

While the US Navy was busy spending 420 million dollars per hull on its 26-ship fleet of Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), Russian Navy spent two times less per unit on a frigates whose combat capabilities dwarf those of any LCS in any aspect: ASW, Air Defense and Sensors, including the ability to launch supersonic anti-shipping cruise missiles from 600 kilometers and land-attack missiles from 2500. The same goes to much smaller and even much cheaper missile corvettes of Buyan and Karakurt classes which can engage any US Navy’s targets, let alone something of LCS caliber.

Experiences with a technological embarrassment known as F-35 merely confirm the fact that US is being tangled in a bizarre combination of unrealistic doctrinal views, unachievable technological and operational requirements and, in general, a complete failure to follow Sun Tzu’s popular dictums of “Know Thy Enemy” and “Know Thy Self”. On both counts the US policy makers and doctrine mongers failed miserably.

As late as two years ago a number of US Russia’s military “experts” declared that Russia’s ground forces return to division structure was merely “symbolic”. Symbolic they were not, with Russia resurrecting both divisions and armies as appropriate operational-tactical and operational-strategic units in order for a large scale combined arms operations. While following closely the evolution of US forces within the framework of initially much touted Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), Russia never changed her focus on the large scale combined arms operations. This came as a nasty surprise on 08/08/2008 when the elements of the supposedly “backward” Russian 58th Army demolished NATO and Israel trained, and partially equipped, Saakashivili’s Army in a matter of 96 hours. Nobody celebrated this victory and Russian Army was subjected, somewhat justifiably, to scathing criticism from many quarters. But it was clear already then that combined arms operations of large army units remain a principle method of the war between peer-to-peer state actors. The issue then, in 2008, was that US didn’t consider Russia a peer and even near peer “status” was grudgingly afforded due to Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

Things changed dramatically after the coup in Kiev and junta unleashing a war in Donbass. Brigade and Division size forces there engaged in a full blown combined arms warfare, including head to head armor clashes, employment, especially for LDNR forces, of full C4ISR capabilities and Net-Centric warfare principles. So much so that it created a cultural shock for US military’s COIN crowd, which got used to operate in the environment of total domination over its rag-tag lightly armed guerilla formations in Iraq or Afghanistan.

And it was then, and later, in 2015, demonstrated by Russia’s Syria campaign, that the realization of an inability to defeat Russia conventionally began to dawn on many in D.C. establishment. Thus the whole premise of last quarter century “Pax Americana”—alleged conventional military superiority over any adversary—was blown out of the water. American military record of the last quarter century is not impressive for a power which proclaimed herself to be a hyper-power and as having the most powerful military in history. As US Marine Corps Captain Joshua Waddle bitterly admitted:

“Let us first begin with the fundamental underpinnings of this delusion: our measures of performance and effectiveness in recent wars. It is time that we, as professional military officers, accept the fact that we lost the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Objective analysis of the U.S. military’s effectiveness in these wars can only conclude that we were unable to translate tactical victory into operational and strategic success”.

Delusion, of course, being the fact of US expecting a decisive tactical and technological superiority on the battlefield. Overwhelming empirical evidence tells a completely different story:

1) United States military in future conflicts will have to deal, in case of conventional conflict against near-peer, let alone peer, with adversary who will have C4ISR capability either approaching that or on par with that of the US. This adversary will have the ability to counter US military decision cycles (OODA loop) with equal frequency and will be able to produce better tactical, operational and strategic decisions.

2) US real and perceived advantage in electronic means of warfare (EW) will be greatly reduced or completely suppressed by present and future EW means of adversary thus forcing US forces fight under the conditions of partial or complete electronic blindness and with partially or completely suppressed communications and computer networks.

3) US will encounter combat technologies not only on par but often better designed and used, from armor to artillery, to hyper-sonic anti-shipping missiles, than US military ever encountered.

4) Modern air-forces and complex advanced air defense systems will make the main pillar of US military power—its Air Force—much less effective.

5) Last but not least, today the US military will have to deal with a grim reality of its staging areas, rear supply facilities, lines of communications being the target of massive salvos of long-range high subsonic, supersonic and hyper-sonic missiles. The US military has never encountered such paradigm in its history. Moreover, already today, US lower 48 are not immune to a conventional massive missile strike.

But above all, if to finally name this “peer”, which is Russia, and that is who pre-occupies the minds of former and current Pentagon’s and National Security brass, in case of conventional conflict Russians will be fighting in defense of their motherland. Here Russia has a track record without equals in human history. Meanwhile, if the current military trends continue, and there are no reasons for them to stop, the window of opportunities for the Neocon cabal to attack Russia conventionally and unleash a preventive war is closing really fast (if it ever existed). That is what drives to a large extent an aggressive military rhetoric and plans, such as National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster’s doctrine and war mongering.

By mid 2020s Russia’s rearmament program will be largely complete, which will allow Russia’s Armed Forces to field and float a technology which will completely prevent NATO from exercising any illusions about the outcome of any conventional war in Russia’s geographic vicinity, including her littoral, and that will mark the end of US designs on Eurasia by military means. It wouldn’t matter how many carrier battle groups US will be able to move to forward areas or how many submarines, or how many brigades it will be able to deploy around Russia it will not be able to defeat Russia conventionally. With that, especially when one considers China’s growing military potential, comes the end of Pax-Bellum Americana, the one we all hoped for this election cycle.

At this point, the only locality where the US can hope to “defeat” Russia is in Syria, to reassert, even if for a little while longer, itself as “greatest military in history”. But even there the window of opportunities is closing fast since the Russian conventional response in Europe would be devastating. As Colonel Pat Lang’s blog noted: “If Russia decides to call our bluff and escalate things Trump will likely preside over a public humiliation that will explode America’s military delusions of grandeur”.

Today, the United States in general, and her military in particular, still remain a premier geopolitical force, but increasingly they will have to content with the fact that the short-lived era of self-proclaimed superiority in every single facet of modern nation-states’ activity is over, if it ever was the case to start with. Will the US “Deep State” unleash a preventive war to prevent Russia from serving US with the pink slip for its position as world’s chaos-monger or will it be, rephrasing the magnificent Corelli Barnett: “US Power had quietly vanished amid stupendous events of the 21stCentury, like a ship-of-the-line going down unperceived in the smoke and confusion of battle”. This is the most important question of the 21st Century so far, but knowing US deep state ignorance of Russia one can never discount its insanity and an acute case of sour grapes.

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Whose Money Stoked Religious Strife in Ukraine – and Who Tried to Steal It?

Was $25 million in American tax dollars allocated for a payoff to stir up religious turmoil and violence in Ukraine?

Jim Jatras

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Authored by James George Jatras via Strategic Culture:


Was $25 million in American tax dollars allocated for a payoff to stir up religious turmoil and violence in Ukraine? Did Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (unsuccessfully) attempt to divert most of it into his own pocket?

Last month the worldwide Orthodox Christian communion was plunged into crisis by the decision of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Constantinople to recognize as legitimate schismatic pseudo-bishops anathematized by the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is an autonomous part of the Russian Orthodox Church. In so doing not only has Patriarch Bartholomew besmirched the global witness of Orthodoxy’s two-millennia old Apostolic faith, he has set the stage for religious strife in Ukraine and fratricidal violence – which has already begun.

Starting in July, when few were paying attention, this analyst warned about the impending dispute and how it facilitated the anti-Christian moral agenda of certain marginal “Orthodox” voices like “Orthodoxy in Dialogue,” Fordham University’s “Orthodox Christian Studies Center,” and The Wheel. These “self-professed teachers presume to challenge the moral teachings of the faith” (in the words of Fr. John Parker) and “prowl around, wolves in sheep’s clothing, forming and shaping false ideas about the reality of our life in Christ.” Unsurprisingly such groups have embraced Constantinople’s neopapal self-aggrandizement and support for the Ukrainian schismatics.

No one – and certainly not this analyst – would accuse Patriarch Bartholomew, most Ukrainian politicians, or even the Ukrainian schismatics of sympathizing with advocacy of such anti-Orthodox values. And yet these advocates know they cannot advance their goals if the conciliar and traditional structure of Orthodoxy remains intact. Thus they welcome efforts by Constantinople to centralize power while throwing the Church into discord, especially the Russian Church, which is vilified in some Western circles precisely because it is a global beacon of traditional Christian moral witness.

This aspect points to another reason for Western governments to support Ukrainian autocephaly as a spiritual offensive against Russia and Orthodoxy. The post-Maidan leadership harp on the “European choice” the people of Ukraine supposedly made in 2014, but they soft-pedal the accompanying moral baggage the West demands, symbolized by “gay” marches organized over Christian objections in Orthodox cities like AthensBelgradeBucharestKievOdessaPodgoricaSofia, and Tbilisi. Even under the Trump administration, the US is in lockstep with our European Union friends in pressuring countries liberated from communism to adopt such nihilistic “democratic, European values.”

Perhaps even more important to its initiators, the row over Ukraine aims to break what they see as the “soft power” of the Russian Federation, of which the Orthodox Church is the spiritual heart and soul. As explained by Valeria Z. Nollan, professor emerita of Russian Studies at Rhodes College:

‘The real goal of the quest for autocephaly [i.e., complete self-governing status independent of the Moscow Patriarchate] of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is a de facto coup: a political coup already took place in 2014, poisoning the relations between western Ukraine and Russia, and thus another type of coup – a religious one – similarly seeks to undermine the canonical relationship between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Moscow.’

In furthering these twin objectives (morally, the degrading of Orthodox Christianity; politically, undermining the Russian state as Orthodoxy’s powerful traditional protector) it is increasingly clear that the United States government – and specifically the Department of State – has become a hands-on fomenter of conflict. After a short period of appropriately declaring that “any decision on autocephaly is an internal [Orthodox] church matter,” the Department within days reversed its position and issued a formal statement (in the name of Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, but clearly drafted by the European bureau) that skirted a direct call for autocephaly but gave the unmistakable impression of such backing. This is exactly how it was reported in the media, for example, “US backs Ukrainian Church bid for autocephaly.” Finally, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo weighed in personally with his own endorsement as did the US Reichskommissar for UkraineKurt Volker.

The Threat…

There soon became reason to believe that the State Department’s involvement was not limited to exhortations. As reported by this analyst in October, according to an unconfirmed report originating with the members of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (an autonomous New York-based jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate), in July of this year State Department officials (possibly including Secretary Pompeo personally) warned the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (also based in New York but part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate) that the US government was aware of the misappropriation of a large amount of money, about $10 million, from estimated $37 million raised from believers for the construction of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine in New York. The State Department warning also reportedly noted that federal prosecutors have documentary evidence confirming the withdrawal of these funds abroad on the orders of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. It was suggested that Secretary Pompeo would “close his eyes” to this theft in exchange for movement by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in favor of Ukrainian autocephaly, which helped set Patriarch Bartholomew on his current course.

[Further details on the St. Nicholas scandal are available here, but in summary: Only one place of worship of any faith was destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attack in New York and only one building not part of the World Trade Center complex was completely destroyed. That was St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, a small urban parish church established at the end of World War I and dedicated to St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, who is very popular with Greeks as the patron of sailors. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, and following a lengthy legal battle with the Port Authority, which opposed rebuilding the church, in 2011 the Greek Archdiocese launched an extensive campaign to raise funds for a brilliant innovative design by the renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava based on traditional Byzantine forms. Wealthy donors and those of modest means alike enthusiastically contributed millions to the effort. Then – poof! In December 2017, suddenly all construction was halted for lack of funds and remains stalled to this day. Resumption would require having an estimated $2 million on hand. Despite the Archdiocese’s calling in a major accounting firm to conduct an audit, there’s been no clear answer to what happened to the money. Both the US Attorney and New York state authorities are investigating.]

This is where things get back to Ukraine. If the State Department wanted to find the right button to push to spur Patriarch Bartholomew to move on the question of autocephaly, the Greek Archdiocese in the US is it. Let’s keep in mind that in his home country, Turkey, Patriarch Bartholomew has virtually no local flock – only a few hundred mostly elderly Greeks left huddled in Istanbul’s Phanar district. (Sometimes the Patriarchate is referred to simply as “the Phanar,” much as “the Vatican” is shorthand for the Roman Catholic papacy.) Whatever funds the Patriarchate derives from other sources (the Greek government, the Roman Catholic Church, the World Council of Churches), the Phanar’s financial lifeline is the ethnic Greek community (including this analyst) in what is still quaintly called the “Diaspora” in places like America, Australia, and New Zealand. And of these, the biggest cash cow is the Greek-Americans.

That’s why, when Patriarch Bartholomew issued a call in 2016 for what was billed as an Orthodox “Eighth Ecumenical Council” (the first one since the year 787!), the funds largely came from America, to the tune of up to $8 million according to the same confidential source as will be noted below. Intended by some as a modernizing Orthodox “Vatican II,” the event was doomed to failure by a boycott organized by Moscow over what the latter saw as Patriarch Bartholomew’s adopting papal or even imperial prerogatives – now sadly coming to bear in Ukraine.

…and the Payoff

On top of the foregoing, it now appears that the State Department’s direct hand in this sordid business may not have consisted solely of wielding the “stick” of legal threat: there’s reason to believe there was a “carrot” too. It very recently came to the attention of this analyst, via an unsolicited, confidential source in the Greek Archdiocese in New York, that a payment of $25 million in US government money was made to Constantinople to encourage Patriarch Bartholomew to move forward on Ukraine.

The source for this confidential report was unaware of earlier media reports that the same figure – $25 million – was paid by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to the Phanar as an incentive for Patriarch Bartholomew to move forward on creating an independent Ukrainian church. Moreover, Poroshenko evidently tried to shortchange the payment:

‘Peter [Petro] Poroshenko — the president of Ukraine — was obligated to return $15 million US dollars to the Patriarch of Constantinople, which he had appropriated for himself.

‘As reported by Izvestia, this occurred after the story about Bartholomew’s bribe and a “vanishing” large sum designated for the creation of a Unified Local Orthodox Church in Ukraine surfaced in the mass media.

‘As reported, on the eve of Poroshenko’s visit in Istanbul, a few wealthy people of Ukraine “chipped in” in order to hasten the process of creating a Unified Local Orthodox Church. About $25 million was collected. They were supposed to go to the award ceremony for Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople for the issuing of a tomos of autocephaly. [A tomos is a small book containing a formal announcement.] However, in the words of people close to the backer, during the visit on April 9, Poroshenko handed over only $10 million.

‘As a result, having learned of the deal, Bartholomew cancelled the participation of the delegation of the Phanar – the residence of the Patriarch of Constantinople, in the celebration of the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia on July 27 in Kiev.

‘”Such a decision from Bartholomew’s side was nothing other than a strong ultimatum to Poroshenko to return the stolen money. Of course, in order to not lose his face in light of the stark revelations of the creation of the tomos of autocephaly for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Peter Alexeevich [Poroshenko] had to just return those $15 million for the needs of Constantinople,” a trusted source explained to reporters.

‘For preliminary information, only after receiving the remaining sum, did Bartholomew finally give his consent to sending a delegation of the Phanar to Kiev … ‘

Now, it’s possible that the two identical figures of $25 million refer to two different pots of money (a cool $50 million!) but that seems unlikely. It’s more probable the reports refer to the same sum as viewed from the sending side (the State Department, the Greek Archdiocese) and the delivery side (Poroshenko, Constantinople).

Lending credibility to the confidential information from New York and pointing to the probability that it refers to the same payment that Poroshenko reportedly sought to raid for himself are the following observations:

  • When Poroshenko generously offered Patriarch Bartholomew $10 million, the latter was aware that the full amount was $25 million and demanded the $15 million Poroshenko had held back. How did the Patriarch know that, unless he was informed via New York of the full sum?
  • If the earlier-reported $25 million was really collected from “a few wealthy people of Ukraine” who “chipped in,” given the cutthroat nature of disputes among Ukrainian oligarchs would Poroshenko (an oligarch in his own right) have risked trying to shortchange the payment? Why has not even one such Ukrainian donor been identified?
  • Without going into all the details, the Phanar and the Greek Archdiocese have a long relationship with US administrations of both parties going back at least to the Truman administration, encompassing some decidedly unattractive episodes. In such a history, a mere bribe for a geopolitical shot against Moscow would hardly be a first instance or the worst.

As one of this analyst’s Greek-American connections puts it: “It’s easy to comprehend the Patriarchate bowing to the pressure of State Dept. blackmail… not overly savory, but understandable. However, it’s another thing altogether if Kiev truly “purchased” their autocephalous status from an all too willing Patriarchate … which would relegate the Patriarch to ‘salesman’ status and leave the faithful wondering what else might be offered to the highest bidder the next time it became convenient to hold a Patriarchal ‘fire sale’ at the Phanar?!”

To add insult to injury, you’d think Constantinople at least could pay back some of the $7-8 million wasted on the Crete 2016 debacle to restart the St. Nicholas project in New York. Evidently the Phanar has better things to spend it on, like the demonstrative environmentalism of “the Green Patriarch” and, together with Pope Francis, welcoming Muslim migrants to Europe through Greece. Of course maybe there’s no need to worry, as the Ukraine “sale” was consistent with Constantinople’s papal ambitions, an uncanonical claim to “universal” status, and misuse of incarnational language and adoption of a breathtakingly arrogant tone that would cause even the most ultramontane proponent of the Rome’s supremacy to blush.

Finally, it seems that, for the time being at least, Constantinople doesn’t intend to create an independent Ukrainian church but rather an autonomous church under its own authority. It’s unclear whether or not Poroshenko or the State Department, in such event, would believe they had gotten their money’s worth. Perhaps they would. After all, the issue here is less what is appropriate for Ukraine than what strikes at Russia and injures the worldwide Christian witness of the Orthodox Church. To that end, it doesn’t matter whether the new illegal body is Constantinopolitan or Kievan, just so long as it isn’t a “Moskal church” linked to Russia.

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EU Army: Fact or Fiction? (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 152.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and International Affairs and Security Analyst via Moscow, Mark Sleboda discuss the possibility, and feasibility, of putting together an EU army, as French President Macron is now boasting about.

Will an EU Army replace, rival, or fold into NATO? How will the US respond to Europe’s military initiative, and how will Russia deal an EU army?

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Via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


“Insulting” – that’s how US President Donald Trump sharply reacted to the idea of a “real European army” proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron.

And it was how Macron rationalized the need for an independent military force for Europe that perhaps most irked the American leader.

Speaking on a tour of World War I battlefields in northern France last week, Macron said that Europe needed to defend itself from “China, Russia and even the United States of America”.

It was a pretty extraordinary choice of words by the French leader. To frame the US among an array of perceived foreign enemy powers was a devastating blow to the concept of a much-vaunted transatlantic alliance.

Since the Second World War, ending 1945, the concept of an American-European alliance has been the bedrock of a supposed inviolable, mutual defense pact. That nearly seven-decade alliance is now being questioned more than ever.

Macron’s call for a European army was further backed up by German Chancellor Angela Merkel who also pointedly said this week that Europe can no longer rely on the US for its defense.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has welcomed the proposal for Europe to form its own military organization, independent from Washington. No doubt, Moscow views such a development as augmenting a move towards a multipolar international order, which Russia and China, among others, have been advocating in opposition to American ambitions of unipolar dominance.

When Trump arrived in Paris last weekend along with dozens of other world leaders, including Putin, to commemorate the centennial anniversary marking the end of World War I, there was a notable frostiness between Macron and the American president. Only a few months ago, Macron and Trump had appeared the best of friends in what some observers referred to as a “bromance”.

During the Paris events, Macron sought to placate Trump by saying that the European army proposal would have a “complementary” role to the US-led NATO military alliance. However, their relationship further soured when Macron later delivered a speech in which he made a veiled rebuke of Trump’s “nationalist” politics.

Days later, on returning to Washington, Trump then fired off a fusillade of angry tweets attacking Macron in very personal terms over a range of issues, including “unfair” economic trade and France’s alleged ungrateful attitude towards the US liberation of Paris from Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

The rift between the US and Europe has been brewing even before Trump’s presidency. For years, Washington has been carping that the Europeans need to spend more on military defense, claiming that the US has been shouldering the burden for too long. Trump has taken the griping to a new, higher level. Recall that he has threatened to pull out of NATO because the Europeans were “free loading” on American “protection”.

The irony is that now the French and German leaders are talking about setting up their own military defenses, Trump has blown a fuse.

Evidently, the American contention is not about “burden sharing” of defense. If Washington was genuinely aggrieved about supposedly defending Europe at too much of its own expense, then Trump, one would think, would be only too glad to hear that the Europeans were at last making their own military arrangements, and taking the burden off Washington.

This gets to the heart of the matter about the real purpose of NATO and presence of tens of thousands of US troops stationed in bases across Europe since 1945. American military presence in Europe is not about “protecting” its supposed allies. It is, and always has been, about projecting American power over Europe. In reality, American troops and bases in Europe are more functioning as an occupying force, keeping the Europeans in line with Washington’s strategic objectives of hegemony over the continent.

Macron and Merkel’s vision of a European army is probably fanciful anyway, without any real prospect of materializing. How such a new defense arrangement would work independently from the 29-member NATO alliance led by the US seems unwieldy and impractical.

But the latest tensions between Washington and European leaders over military organization demonstrate the real nature of America’s relationship to Europe. It is about domination by Washington over Europe and has little to do with partnership and protection.

When Trump and previous US presidents have urged greater military spending by Europe the ulterior agenda is for Europeans to pay more to underpin American military presence, not for Europeans to find their own independent defense arrangement.

Tensions in the transatlantic axis seem to be coming to a head, heightened by Trump’s nationalistic “America First” policy. Rivalries are sharpening over trade, US sanctions on Iran, Trump’s threats against European energy plans with Russia, the Paris Climate Accord, and squabbling over NATO expenditures.

There is nothing progressive about Macron or Merkel’s call for a European army. It is more to do with France and Germany wanting to assert themselves as great powers and to shake off American tutelage out of frustration with Trump’s domineering petulance.

Only last week, Macron caused controversy when he praised French military general Philippe Pétain who collaborated with Nazi Germany as leader of Vichy France (1940-44). Macron wants a European army to satisfy his own nationalistic ambitions of revamping French global power. This week, he spent the night onboard a refurbished French aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, from which he gave a media interview saying that being “an ally of America meant not being a vassal”. Touché!

A progressive challenge from Europe to American power would not involve setting up a new army. Instead it would involve Europeans pushing for the disbandment of NATO as an obsolete organization and for the withdrawal of US-led forces which are dangerously amassing on Russia’s border.

Nonetheless, the one positive thing to emerge from the transatlantic spat over military defenses is that it illustrates more than ever how European protection is not the real purpose of Washington’s relationship to the continent. The purpose is one of using Europe as a platform for projecting America’s power, in particular against Russia.

The recent announcement by the Trump administration that it is willing to rip up yet another nuclear arms control treaty – the INF following the ABM in 2002 – clearly shows that Washington, ultimately, has recklessly scant concern for Europe’s security with regard to a possible future war with Russia.

For Washington, despite all the chivalrous rhetoric, Europe is not a partner nor even an ally. It is a vassal. Admittedly, thousands of American troops died while bravely fighting wars in Europe. But they are distinct from the US ruling class. At bottom, Europe is merely a battlefield for American military power, just as it was in two previous world wars. One hundred years after the end of World War I, the same callous calculus for the imperial planners in Washington is at play.

European ideas for independent defense is why Washington has reacted so furiously. It’s not willing to give up its European front.

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Zuckerberg Clings To Power While Sandberg Claims Ignorance After Damaging NYT Report

The New York Times reported that Facebook hired GOP PR firm, Defenders, to smear liberal detractors as Soros operatives. 

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Facebook executives Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are battling backlash over an explosive investigation by the New York Times into Facebook’s mercenary damage control tactics in the wake of several major scandals.

Despite fresh calls from investors for Zuckerberg to step down in his dual role as CEO and chairman and appoint an independent director to oversee the board, the 34-year-old tech titan brushed off the suggestion during a Thursday call with journalists.

“A company with Facebook’s massive reach and influence requires robust oversight and that can only be achieved through an independent chair who is empowered to provide critical checks on company leadership,” said New York City comptroller, Scott Stringer.

Zuckerberg disagrees. “I don’t think that that specific proposal is the right way to go,” said the Facebook CEO when asked if he would consider stepping down, adding that other initiatives had been launched to “get more independence into our systems.”

The measures include creating an independent body to advise the company on decisions over whether controversial content should remain on the site.

Ultimately, he said Facebook is never going to eradicate mistakes. “We’re never going to get to the point where there are no errors,” he told reporters. “I’m trying to set up the company so that way we have our board, and we report on our financial results and do a call every quarter, but that also we have this independent oversight that is just focused on the community.” –Business Insider

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, meanwhile, is claiming ignorance – telling CBS This Morning co-host Norah O’Donnell “we absolutely did not pay anyone to create fake news – that they have assured me was not happening.”

In their Wednesday exposé – the culmination of interviews with over 50 current and former company executives, lawmakers, government officials, lobbyists and congressional staff members,the New York Times reported that Facebook had hired GOP PR firm, Defenders, which smeared liberal detractors as Soros operatives – and worked with a sister company to create negative propaganda about competitors Google and Apple.

Mr. Kaplan prevailed on Ms. Sandberg to promote Kevin Martin, a former Federal Communications Commission chairman and fellow Bush administration veteran, to lead the company’s American lobbying efforts. Facebook also expanded its work with Definers.

On a conservative news site called the NTK Network, dozens of articles blasted Google and Apple for unsavory business practices. One story called Mr. Cook hypocritical for chiding Facebook over privacy, noting that Apple also collects reams of data from users. Another played down the impact of the Russians’ use of Facebook.

The rash of news coverage was no accident: NTK is an affiliate of Definers, sharing offices and staff with the public relations firm in Arlington, Va. Many NTK Network stories are written by staff members at Definers or America Rising, the company’s political opposition-research arm, to attack their clients’ enemies. –NYT

Meanwhile, Sandberg stressed that Facebook was undertaking new security measures, telling O’Donnell: “Our strategy was to shore up the security on Facebook and make major investments there,” and that the company had made significant investments in combatting fake news and foreign influence.

“It was not what I was doing nor was it the company’s strategy to deflect, to deny or to hire PR firms to do things. That’s not the strategy. And I was part of none of that. We’ve taken great steps, we’ve made huge investments. We’ve invested a ton in AI and technology and if you were following us before the election you saw those efforts pay off. We were able to take down lots of stuff over and over, over and over because we were now focused on this,” said Sandberg.

When asked if rank-and-file employees are confident in her, Sandberg replied: “Yes, I believe so.

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