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Why is China choosing to partner with Israel and Saudi Arabia?

China’s reaching out to Israel and Saudi Arabia is not a case of selling out to Zionism and Wahhabism. It is the product of a pragmatic conception of statesmanship intended to lay the foundations for a multipolar world.

Andrew Korybko

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Far away from the public eye and amidst relatively little fanfare compared to other official visits of leaders elsewhere across the world, both the Saudi King and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu were  both just recently in China to clinch dozens of deals.

The mainstream media reported on these events, though they were conspicuously absent from most coverage by alt-media. There’s a fair chance that it might just be coincidence, and that small teams of journalists with limited resources only chose to focus on the most pressing worldwide issues, of which there are many, or it could be due to something else, and that’s the “political correctness” which has recently become a driving force in the online multipolar information community.

There are a few axiomatic truths which are generally prevalent in most alt-media reporting, and the two most relevant ones are that Israel is a fake, unjustly established, geopolitical entity, and that the Saudis are the main exporters of terrorism all across the world.

I agree with these assertions, but that’s beside the point, because what this article plans to focus on is China’s flourishing partnerships with both Israel and Saudi Arabia, which are practically ignored by the alt-media community.

I suspect that this has something to do with the “politically correct” “thinking” that the “gatekeepers” impose by “reasoning” that it is “bad for overall morale” to focus on these relationships, and that – like with Russia’s excellent ties with Israel – there “must be a secret explanation”, potentially one in which China is just “too smart and clever” for Netanyahu and King Salman, so that it has found an innovative way to beat them at their own game, while wondrously helping the Palestinians at the same time.

As attractive a conspiracy theory as such a narrative might be for the individuals who are drunk on this wishful thinking, alas, it doesn’t at all represent the reality.

The goal of this article is to break through the “political correctness” that alt-media “gatekeepers” have implemented in the community by explaining what China – one of the leading catalysts of the emerging multipolar World Order – sees of benefit in partnering so closely with the US’ two most privileged allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

To that end, the first part of this article reviews the latest developments in Chinese-Israeli relations, while the second one looks at the rapidly developing ties between Beijing and Riyadh.

Finally, the last part syncretises the former two in order to produce a set of “politically incorrect” conclusions which describe the real nature of China’s foreign policy in the Middle East.

Netanyahu’s New Friend

(1) Rolling Out The Red Carpet In Red China:

The Israeli leader just concluded his very important trip to China this week, during which time some very symbolic statements of intent were expressed between him and his host.

Reuters reported that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang reminded everybody that “The Chinese people and the Jewish people are both great peoples of the world”, with The Diplomat emphasising Netanyahu’s declaration that Chinese-Israeli ties are “a marriage made in heaven”.

Apart from the high-sounding rhetoric, both sides engaged in talks about boosting their technological-security cooperation with one another, with observers noting that China is one of Israel’s largest trade partners.

Correspondingly, Netanyahu asked his counterparts to allow Israeli companies greater market access for their high-tech goods in the country in exchange for inviting more Chinese investment to Israel.

While no details were revealed about what sort of security cooperation the two sides discussed, it can be assumed that intelligence sharing and general briefings about both parties’ attitude towards relevant regional affairs were on the agenda.

(2) The Silk Road Comes To Israel:

Naïve observers, especially those under the influence of ideological dogmatism, are at a loss for words to cohesively explain why China is striking Silk Road deals with “the devil”, but the “inconvenient truth” is that China makes no value judgments whatsoever in regards to its international partners, hence why Beijing doesn’t see Netanyahu as an evil figure but a “pragmatic and shrewd businessman” presiding over a geo-strategically important strip of territory.

Netanyahu revealed in an interview with the Times of Israel that he discussed the so-called “Red-Med Railway” with China during his trip, which, just as the name implies, will connect the Red Sea with the Mediterranean via Eliat and Ashdod.

I wrote about this route over 2 years ago in a two-part series of articles for Oriental Review about the ties that multipolar countries were cultivating with Tel Aviv, and I suggest that readers take the time to review “Israel And The Multipolar Bag Of TRICs” and “The Russian-Chinese Strategic Partnership Strikes Israel”.

The pertinent point that I expressed in these article was that the Chinese are globally respected for always thinking many steps ahead and for preparing reliable backup plans for all of their investments, and the One Belt One Road (OBOR) global vision of New Silk Road connectivity is no exception.

China is well aware of the geo-strategic vulnerability of the Suez Canal, and thus has an urgent self-interest in building the prospective Red-Med line in order to ensure that Beijing’s maritime connectivity with Europe is never threatened by future hostilities with the US.

The People’s Republic is building the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as a workaround for avoiding the bottlenecked Strait of Malacca chokepoint, and Beijing’s forthcoming military base in Djibouti will safeguard the Bab el Mandab.

The only missing node in guaranteeing the security of China’s Sea Lines of Communication and “String of Pearls” is the Suez Canal, for which the Red-Med Railway is envisioned as providing the ideal logistical solution.

In addition, the only wars which could disrupt the maritime portion of OBOR and that China predicts it will ever have to worry about would in one way or another concern the US, and it’s absolutely unforeseeable that Washington would militarily turn on Tel Aviv. Therefore Chinese decision makers wisely believe that Israel will remain free from anti-OBOR Hybrid War activity, which explains Beijing’s interest in investing in the Red-Med Railway.

(3) Networking:

China and Israel both expect to gain something intangible from their enhanced partnership with one another.

Tel Aviv wants Beijing to passively support it in the UN, while China might hope that the powerful and perceivably omnipotent Israeli lobby in the West could more convincingly promote China’s interests in that civilisational sphere than its own influence-makers ever could.

In practice, Israel wants China to abstain from voting for hostile UN resolutions against it and to progressively disengage from dealing with the Palestinian issue, whilst China would like Israeli lobbyists to make sure that the EU and US don’t enact any anti-Chinese trade policies.

Both of these goals are highly ambitious and not likely to bear any fruit, let alone in the short term, but they nonetheless remain powerful motivators for bringing Israel and China together in an intangible way beyond their growing New Silk Road cooperation.

Salman Seeks Out The Silk Road

(1) Eastern Allure:

Switching gears and turning towards Chinese-Saudi relations, King Salman just signed $65 billion worth of deals in the People’s Republic. The robust set of agreements covers everything from infrastructure development, military cooperation, finance, and energy, and it was with a sigh of relief that Salman concluded these deals. His country is bleeding tens of billions of dollars each year as a result of the global energy price glut and the costly War of Terror on Yemen, so Saudi Arabia could use all of the help that it can get right now to remain standing on its own two feet and not implode in the coming years.

Although Saudi Arabia is an energy exporting-dependent economy, the Kingdom has sought to begin a lengthy and painful diversification through the unveiling of its structural reform program marketed as “Vision 2030”, which interestingly looks to be a perfect complementarity to OBOR.

Riyadh wants to fundamentally transform its economy into a “normal” one within the next 15 years, and the only way that it can even come close to that is through Chinese investment in the real-sector (commercial, manufacturing) parts of the economy.

I described the general way in which this could happen in the article that I co-authored late last year for the Moscow-based Katehon think tank about how “China Chases Markets In The Mideast”, during which time I highlighted the attractiveness of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province for Chinese entrepreneurs. If the workers there can be steadily transitioned out of the energy and public sectors, then they would make up a suitably large enough labour pool to work on New Silk Road projects there.

Aside from anchor investments such as factories and other such production facilities, there are two interconnected initiatives which have really caught the Chinese’s eye.

China is very interested in promoting physical connectivity across countries and regions, and for this purpose Beijing is likely considering expansion of its coastal investments in Oman’s Duqm port in order to link them to the other countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The most feasible way in which this could be achieved is by breathing new life into the stalemated GCC Railway project through an influx of Chinese capital.

It might sound like a crazy idea for China to potentially invest billions of dollars into a desert railway, but the logic behind such a decision is driven by concrete economic and strategic factors. As was explained when discussing the Red-Med Railway in Israel, China is always trying to build back up plans to support its main projects, and the spearheading of an overland transport route from the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea would circumvent the Strait of Hormuz chokepoint and bestow Beijing with direct and unimpeded access to the GCC’s energy (and, if the New Silk Road plans are successful, commercial/manufacturing) resources.

It was described in an earlier part of this article how China wisely calculates that the greatest global threat to OBOR comes from US-designed Hybrid War schemes, and just as China doesn’t foresee the US ever attacking or destabilising Israel as part of this strategy, so too does China not envisage Washington attacking the Gulf Cooperation Council.  This translates into making the GCC Railway as secure a long-term investment for China as the Red-Med railway is or at least appears to be according to the prevailing logic of the day.

(2) Protecting The Caravans:

The next point that needs to be analysed when discussing Chinese-Saudi relations are the military ties between these two ideologically separate – and it can be argued, even contradictory – countries.

It is here where I’ll do what scarcely any alt-media analyst has done beforehand, and humbly recognise that I was wrong when I analysed this topic almost a year ago for the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies.  In my article “Pakistan And India ‘Trade Off’ Allies, KSA And China Start A Cold War”, I wrote that Beijing and Riyadh were moving onto a collision course with one another, postulating that the US would use its allies in the Wahhabi Kingdom to sow the seeds of disruptive Hybrid war terrorism all across OBOR’s transit states in order to sabotage this world-changing series of projects.

I admittedly was under the influence of “wishful thinking” and had “drank the Kool-Aid” to an extent, in that I sincerely believed that China and Saudi Arabia would never pragmatically cooperate with one another outside of their producer-customer energy relationship.  Like many alt-media individuals are prone to do, I projected my own personal principles and value system onto China, falsely seeing “moral limits” where there were only cold, hard interests.

As time has revealed, my earlier forecast didn’t pan out the way that I originally anticipated, and in fact has since followed the opposite direction, which suggests that the public (and presumably, also private) deals which had been reached between the two countries were sufficient to get the Saudis to ensure that the Wahhabi terrorists under their control (which, to be clear, aren’t all of the terrorists in the world anymore) won’t attack the OBOR projects.

Interestingly, not only is Saudi Arabia poised to give China a Silk Road stake all along the southern shores of the Persian Gulf, but Beijing has even been selling military drone technology to Riyadh, despite the obvious possibility that these weapons could be (and likely already have been) used in the War of Terror on Yemen.

An agreement was struck in September 2016 whereby a Chinese company was tasked with providing these unmanned systems to the Saudis, and King Salman’s recent visit to the People’s Republic netted him a deal which will see Chinese drones produced right inside of his Kingdom.

I have my own personal reservations about the wisdom of this decision, but then again, if Russia is seriously considering selling S-400 missiles to NATO-member Turkey, then how comparatively bad is it that China wants to produce drones in Saudi Arabia?

(3) Forgetting About Yemen:

Both Ankara and Riyadh were, and to an extent still are, the US’ chief allies in executing the War of Terror on Syria, even though each of these countries’ geopolitical loyalties have somewhat shifted to varying degrees since the start of that conflict.

It is not my intent to focus on this imperialist tragedy in the present article.  However, I do feel compelled to make an unpopular but factual point about the War of Terror on Yemen.  This is not intended to “absolve” China’s decision to sell drones to the Saudis or “apologise” for it, but simply to explain how some of the most prominent state actors with the Multipolar Community view what is happening there.

Believe it or not, neither the 2015 nor the 2016 BRICS Declarations contained a single word about Yemen, so it is clear that those five countries don’t collectively care enough about the war in Yemen to allow it to interfere with their “19th-Century Great Power Chessboard” interactions with their peers.

It’s not my job to explain why the BRICS have failed two years in a row to include Yemen in their collective declarations, but one could cynically suggest that it might be because they calculate that it would be risky for them to flagrantly get on the Saudis’ bad side.

Russia’s valiant and effective anti-terrorist intervention in Syria was infinitely more detrimental to Saudi Arabia’s “interests” than any rhetorical BRICS statement about Yemen would be, but the difference is that the Saudis are able to understand the reasons why Russia decided to become involved in Syria (irrespective of whatever claims the Saudis make to the contrary) whereas Russia and the other BRICS states realise that leading the charge in collectively condemning the Saudis for their crimes in Yemen, however morally justified or correct it might be, would be an unnecessary, unacceptable and ultimately pointless provocation of Riyadh.

Since the War of Terror on Yemen has begun the BRICS’ silence on Yemen (in terms of their collective response, not individual statements, of which Russia has issued several powerful ones) might have served some of their Great Power interests.

For example, Russia was able to cut an historic production deal with OPEC, and Sputnik reported in both 2015 and 2016 that Moscow was in talks with Riyadh over possible weapons deliveries, though nothing has been agreed to as of yet. Neither of these discussions might have been possible had the Saudis refused to talk with the Russians because of what could have only been predicted to be their overwhelming anger if Moscow was responsible for a BRICS statement on Yemen.

As for India, Prime Minister Modi has done everything that he can to intensify relations between New Delhi and Riyadh in order to advance his country’s energy interests and to try to wean the Kingdom away from its historical alliance with India’s arch-rival Pakistan. In fact, Prime Minister Modi was even awarded Saudi Arabia’s highest civilian honour during his trip to the Kingdom last year, and earlier this month it was reported thatSaudi Arabia and India will explore possibilities for joint production of defence equipment and technologies.

As for China, I have already discussed its interests in forging closer relations with Saudi Arabia earlier in this article.

As “politically incorrect” as it is to say, and fully accepting that this will trigger dismay amongst many in the alt-media ocmmunity, the harsh truth is that China and the rest of BRICS have largely forgotten about Yemen because it is not to their long-term and high-level advantage vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia to take tangible steps to relieve this beleaguered country’s suffering.  Beijing – and possibly also New Delhi soon – is even going so far as to sell drones to Riyadh which will only make the war worse.

How Multipolar Works With Unipolarity

It’s now time to explain how one of the most effective multipolar engines of the unfolding world order implicitly justifies its growing robust cooperation with two of the unipolar camp’s most steadfast proponents.

It sounds paradoxical, and some people will probably never understand it because they refuse to acknowledge any of the “inconvenient facts” which I elaborated above, but it is indeed theoretically (key word) possible for multipolar and unipolar leaders to engage in (at least perceived) “win-win” cooperation with one another, which I explained in detail in my book-length article series at Katehon about “The Meaning Of Multipolarity”.

The gist is that if both sides find a way to focus on important areas of mutual interests, then they run the chance of expanding their partnership into something much broader and improving the possibility that they can overcome their preexisting bilateral obstacles.

Of course, such a strategic concept works a lot better on paper than it does in real life, but there are still plenty of examples of it occurring within various bounds.

Take for instance how Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela sold oil to the country which its revolutionary leader inferred was ruled by Satan, or how President Putin initially supported the US’ 2001 War on Afghanistan and even allowed the Pentagon to set up bases in Central Asia for this purpose.

There is also China, which had its record-breaking modernisation and economic development greatly facilitated by US investment, after which Beijing turned around and paid back the favour by investing in the US dollar through Treasury bonds.

India on the other hand has gone way too far and can no longer be said to be “balancing” or entering into “pragmatic” relations with the US, but is now instead a de-facto military-strategic ally of Washington through LEMOA and Congress’ related designation of India as the US’s first-ever “Major Defense Partner”.

Being soberly aware of the practical limitations and inherent risks whenever multipolar actors seek cooperation with their unipolar counterparts, let’s take a look at how China applies this policy towards Israel and Saudi Arabia, keeping in mind what was explained earlier in the text in order to form a holistic strategic concept which describes Beijing’s approach to both of them:

1. No Historical-Political Baggage:

For better or (as most of the people in the alt-media community would say) for worse, China does not hold any of its present or future partners to account for their historical or political problems. Beijing does not think that it is up to China to serve justice for perceived or even actual wrongs, let alone halfway across the world and in disputes which China has never had any role in.  As a result China has strictly abided by a uniform policy for decades whereby it avoids interference in the domestic affairs of its partners.

That being said, if a given actor isn’t partnered with Beijing or not on positive terms with it, then the aforesaid rule may not necessarily apply, such as was the context in the Old Cold War when Beijing didn’t have normal diplomatic relations with either Tel Aviv or Riyadh.

The world has dramatically transformed since that epoch, and a series of seemingly never-ending paradigm shifts are taking place all across the globe nowadays, two of which have been the progressive deepening of the Chinese-Israeli and  Chinese-Saudi partnerships. Although beginning to ‘bloom’ at different times in the post-Cold War period, both of these interconnected relationships have begun to finally bear visible fruit during Netanyahu’s and Salman’s visits to the People’s Republic earlier this month.

Since the international situation has so fundamentally changed over the past quarter of a century, all sides appear to have agreed that it is better to “let bygones be bygones” and to move beyond the historical-political baggage of their pasts.

In line with this, China also doesn’t allow the Palestinian, Syrian, Yemeni, or Iranian issues to interfere with its bilateral relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia, preferring to leave such international historical-political “baggage” out of the mix as well.

2. Great Power Balancing:

China’s ability to look past its partners’ historical-political “baggage” (both in terms of bilateral and international relations) enables it to more flexibly engage in Great Power balancing.

The “19th-Century Great Power Chessboard” was alluded to earlier in the work, and it’s now time to describe what exactly was meant by that. I previously wrote about this in an extensive analysis for Regional Rapport when referring to the “worst-case” scenario pertaining to the Russian-written “draft constitution” for Syria.

At the time I explained this term as meaning that Russia (or any Great Power for that matter) cares more about its relations with its similarly sized/influential peers than it cares about the interests of its small- and medium-sized partners, the latter of whom are essentially negotiable pawns in a larger neo-realist game of power and interests that the Great Power is playing in order to advance “the greater good” (as the Great Power perceives it to be at any given moment).

I also referred to this concept in another article for Regional Rapport focusing on Russia’s new Balkan strategy, particularly in regards to its developing rapprochement with Serbia’s arch-enemy Croatia.

With all this in mind, it makes sense why President Xi visited Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt during his Middle East tour last year, since he clearly wanted to avoid the perception that he was favouring one or other of these countries at the expense of the rest but instead wanted everyone to see that China was seeking to strike a balance between the three.

Correspondingly, China’s balancing act on the “19th-Century Great Power Chessboard” – and Russia’s too for that matter – is not aimed against anyone, but is laser-focused on the pursuit of improving bilateral relations for what is conceived to be (as China sees it) “the greater good”.

3. Silk Road Strategies:

Picking up where the last part left off, China’s “greater good” is for the rest of the world to participate in OBOR, which Beijing truly believes will radically transform the nature of international relations by making it more fair, just, and balanced.

The idea is that the more stakeholders there are in this global project, the more secure and resistant to Hybrid War sabotage it will be, thereby boosting its chances of successfully changing the world by connecting all interested parties together by means of Chinese-financed transport infrastructure.

China’s traditional multipolar partners of Russia, Pakistan, and Iran occupy centre stage in this visionary formulation, but per the above Great Power Balancing, this doesn’t mean that Beijing wants to exclude other parties, as OBOR is open for all to take part in it.

This is why China is reaching out to Israel and Saudi Arabia in order to involve  itself in their own nationally relevant projects for the New Silk Road which – as coincidence would have it – in both cases happen to have a very high geo-strategic priority for Beijing. The Red-Med Railway will help to avoid any potential disruptions along the Suez Canals, while the GCC Railway will do the same for the Strait of Hormuz.

China is betting – whether rightly or wrongly, wisely or naively – that bringing Israel and Saudi Arabia onboard OBOR will help to moderate their foreign policies and make them less likely to partake in any of the US’ proposed destabilisation schemes against this ambitious initiative.

It is still way too early to say whether that will ultimately be the outcome or not, but the fact remains that this is Beijing’s most likely intention.

Concluding Thoughts

This article aimed to answer the question about what China has been up to in feting the Israeli and Saudi leaders, something which might seem odd and even surprising to the casual observer, but which upon subsequent examination actually carries with it a very strong degree of strategic foresight.

There is actually nothing which should ordinarily be controversial about Beijing’s latest geo-strategic breakthroughs with Tel Aviv and Riyadh, but the problems begin to appear once ideologically zealous and politically dogmatic “gatekeepers” start to chime in on what is happening. The alt-media community is one in which there are several layers of “access control”, though most of them are in one way or another influenced to varying degrees by the prevailing notion of “political correctness”, which is usually interpreted as opposing Zionism and Wahhabism.

The issue however is that the “gatekeepers” haven’t really defined what the opposite of that is, or in other words, how to qualify one action or another as being Zionist or Wahhabi “collaboration”. Is it conducting trade with their related geopolitical entities?  Is it signing military deals?  Is it in fighting in wars for them? All three of these or maybe none of them?

The reason why uncertainties so powerfully linger and no final say on this has been clearly expressed is because “political correctness” usually isn’t openly described or even recognised as such, since doing so would paradoxically be “politically incorrect”. The shadowy world of symbols and signals that emerges in such a mess means that the “gatekeepers” have a large degree of leeway in liberally and arbitrarily interpreting Zionist and Wahhabi “collaboration” however they want, which could mean all sorts of nasty things such as attacking people who even talk about any multipolar countries’ ties with these ideologies’ affiliated entities.

“Political correctness” can only be sustained in an information vacuum and under conditions of absolute totalitarianism, which are impossible to indefinitely uphold in 2017, so any system of control based on this outdated anti-intellectual tool is bound to come up against multiple challenges sooner than later, especially given the pace at which paradigm shifts are unfolding all across the world right now.

It might have been possible to dismiss or bury Russia’s relations with Israel and China’s relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia in the 1990s or early 2000s, but there’s no way that President Putin’s very close ties with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu can be ignored when the latter’s visits to Moscow come in the midst of the Middle East’s meltdown and are widely reported about in “official” (publicly financed) alt-media outlets like Sputnik and RT.

Similarly, it is impossible to ignore Netanyahu and Salman’s visits to Beijing at a time when China is the US’s chief economic rival and is engaged in the globally transformative OBOR initiative, to say nothing of Xinhua and other “official” Chinese alt-media organisations proudly broadcasting the latest news from these trips.

Eventually, the “non-official” alt-media “gatekeepers” will be forced to confront these overlapping pairs of relationships, though they’ll be unable to “excuse” them because they “violate” the “politically correct” ideological dogmas of not “collaborating” with Zionists or Wahhabis.

What I hope to achieve with my article is to provide a calm and sane explanation for why China is all of a sudden prioritizing its engagement with Israel and Saudi Arabia.  I’m not necessarily endorsing each and every facet of Beijing’s policies, but nor am I condemning them. What I want to do is get everyone to think about what China is doing, and why it is doing it, and to arrive at their own conclusions.  It is not for me to dictate how someone is supposed to think.  All I want to do is inform the level-headed, open-minded, and well-intentioned members of the alt-media community (what I would like to believe are the majority of its constituents) about China’s latest moves and how they figure into its global calculus.

But having said that, if anyone thinks for a moment that China is “selling out” to the US by pragmatically working with Israel and Saudi Arabia towards its perceived vision of the “greater good”, or that it is “joining the Zionist and Wahhabi ranks” because it is hosting and signing deals with Netanyahu and Salman, then quite simply they are wrong. These kinds of people need to be removed from the multipolar community before they succeed with the Social Yinon Plan of deliberately dividing it from within and turning it into a Hobbesian collection of fratricidal factions.

DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution. 

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The Ukrainian President Signs a Pact With Constantinople – Against the Ukrainian Church

There is still a chance to prevent the schism from occurring.

Dmitry Babich

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Authored by Dmitry Babich via Strategic Culture:


Increasingly tragic and violent events are taking their toll on the plight of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Ukraine . After several fights over control of the church’s property, prohibitions and blacklists are starting to spread, affecting respected church figures coming from Russia to Ukraine. The latest news is that the head of the Moscow Theological Academy, Archbishop Amvrosyi Yermakov, was deported from Ukraine back to Russia. Amvrosyi’s name popped up on the black list of Russian citizens who are not deemed “eligible to visit” Ukraine. Obviously, this happened right before his plane landed in Zhulyany, Kiev’s international airport. After a brief arrest, Amvrosyi was put on a plane and sent back to Moscow. This is not the first such humiliation of the Orthodox Church and its priests that has taken place since the new pro-Western regime came to power in Kiev in 2014. Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church has been declared persona non grata throughout Ukraine since 2014. That decision was made by humiliatingly low-level officials. A department within the Ukrainian ministry of culture published a ruling stating that Kirill’s visit to Ukraine’s capital of Kiev “would not be desirable.”

Since the ancestors of modern Russians, Belarusians, and Ukrainians were first baptized in 988 in Kiev, the Patriarchs of the Russian Church have never had problems visiting Kiev, the birthplace of their church. Not even under the Bolsheviks did such prohibitions exist. So, for Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church to be denied permission to visit Kiev can only be compared to a possible prohibition against the pope visiting Rome. Since 2014, there have also been several criminal cases filed against the priests of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC MP) because they have called the hostilities in eastern Ukraine a “civil war” and have discouraged the faithful from supporting that war. This has been interpreted by the Ukrainian state authorities as a call for soldiers to desert the army.

Why Poroshenko’s meeting with Bartholomew is ominous

Despite the fact that the UOC MP has become used to all sorts of trouble since 2014, things have been looking even worse for the canonical church lately, as 2018 draws to a close. In early November 2018, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko broke the wall of separation between church and state in the most overt manner possible — he signed “an agreement on cooperation and joint action” between Ukraine and the so called Constantinople Patriarchate, the oldest institution of Orthodox Christianity, which is now based in Turkish Istanbul.

Rostislav Pavlenko, an aide to Poroshenko, wrote on his Facebook page that the agreement (not yet published) is premised on the creation of a new “autocephalous” Orthodox Church of Ukraine — a development that the official, existing Orthodox Churches in Russia and Ukraine view with foreboding as a “schism” that they have done all they can to prevent. Why? Because Poroshenko’s regime, which came to power via a violent coup in Kiev in 2014 on a wave of public anti-Russian sentiment, may try to force the canonical Orthodox Church of Ukraine to merge with other, non-canonical institutions and to surrender to them church buildings, including the famous monasteries in Kiev and Pochai, as well as other property.

President Poroshenko was visibly happy to sign the document — the contents of which have not yet been made public — on cooperation between the Ukrainian state and the Constantinople Patriarchate, in the office of Bartholomew, the head of the Constantinople Patriarchate. Poroshenko smiled and laughed, obviously rejoicing over the fact that the Constantinople Patriarchate is already embroiled in a scandalous rift with the Russian Orthodox Church and its Ukrainian sister church over several of Bartholomew’s recent moves. Bartholomew’s decision to “lift” the excommunication from two of Ukraine’s most prominent schismatic “priests,” in addition to Bartholomew’s declaration that the new church of Ukraine will be under Constantinople’s direct command — these moves were just not acceptable for the canonical Orthodox believers in Russia and Ukraine. Kirill, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), as well as Onufriy, the Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine, are protesting loudly, viewing this situation as a breach of two basic principles. First of all, the Ukrainian state has interfered in the church’s affairs, asking Constantinople to give the Ukrainian church “autocephaly,” which that church never requested. Second, Constantinople itself has interfered in the affairs of two autonomous national churches, the Russian and the Ukrainian. In the eyes of Ukrainian and Russian clergy, Bartholomew is behaving like the Roman pope and not as a true Orthodox leader who respects the autonomy and self-rule of the separate, national Orthodox Churches.

The Russian President sympathizes with the believers’ pain

Two days before Poroshenko made his trip to Istanbul, Russian president Vladimir Putin broke with his usual reserve when commenting on faith issues to bitterly complain about the pain which believers in Russia and Ukraine have experienced from the recent divisions within the triangle of Orthodoxy’s three historic capitals — Constantinople, Kiev, and Moscow.

“Politicking in such a sensitive area as religion has always had grave consequences, first and foremost for the people who engaged in this politicking,” Putin said, addressing the World Congress of Russian Compatriots, an international organization that unites millions of ethnic and cultural Russians from various countries, including Ukraine. Himself a practicing Orthodox believer, Putin lauded Islam and Judaism, while at the same time complaining about the plight of Orthodox believers in Ukraine, where people of Orthodox heritage make up more than 80% of the population and where the church has traditionally acted as a powerful “spiritual link” with Russia.

Despite his complaints about “politicking,” Putin was careful not to go into the details of why exactly the state of affairs in Ukraine is so painful for Orthodox believers. That situation was explained by Patriarch Kirill. After many months of tense silence and an unsuccessful visit to Barthlomew’s office in Istanbul on August 31, Kirill has been literally crying for help in the last few weeks, saying he was “ready to go anywhere and talk to anyone” in order to prevent the destruction of the canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

Politics with a “mystical dimension”

Kirill said the attack against the Orthodox Church in Ukraine “had not only a political, but also a mystical dimension.” Speaking in more earthly terms, there is a danger that the 1,000-year-old historical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) — which now owns 11,392 church buildings, 12,328 parishes, and two world-famous monasteries in Ukraine — will be dissolved. The roots of the UOC MP go back to the pre-Soviet Russian Empire and even further back to the era of Kievan Rus, the proto-state of the Eastern Slavs in the tenth-twelfth centuries AD, when the people who would later become Russians, Ukrainians, and Byelorussians were adopting Orthodox Christianity from the Byzantine Empire. It is by far the biggest church in Ukraine, as Mikhail Denisenko’s non-canonical “alternative” church has only 3,700 parishes that include church buildings (fewer than a third of what is owned by the UOC-MP, despite the fact that Denisenko enjoys official support from the Ukrainian state).

What many Russian and Ukrainian believers fear is that the Istanbul-based Patriarch Bartholomew will eventually grant Kiev what is being called autocephaly. In that event, the UOC-MP may be forced to merge with two other, non-canonical churches in Ukraine that have no apostolic liaison. The apostolic succession of the UOC-MP consists in the historical fact that its first bishops were ordained by medieval bishops from Constantinople, who had in turn been ordained by Christ’s disciples from ancient Israel. Apostolic succession is crucial for the Orthodox Church, where only bishops can ordain new priests and where the church’s connection to the first Christians is reflected in many ways, including in the clergy’s attire.

Metropolitan Hilarion (his secular name is Grigory Alfeyev), the Russian church’s chief spokesman on questions of schism and unity, accused the patriarch of contributing to the schism by officially “lifting” the excommunication from Ukraine’s most prominent schismatic church leader — the defrocked former bishop Mikhail Denisenko. That clergyman stands to gain most from the “autocephaly” promised to Poroshenko by Patriarch Bartholomew. A hierarchical Orthodox Church is considered to have autocephalous status, as its highest bishop does not report to any higher-ranking bishop. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has stated that for Ukraine to be granted autocephaly from Istanbul, this would mean a complete “reformatting” of the country’s religious status quo and the severing of all links to Orthodox Russia and its “demons.”. Most likely, the new “united” church won’t be headed by the UOC MP’s Metropolitan, but by Mikhail Denisenko, who was excommunicated by both the UOC MP and the Russian church back in 1997 and with whom real Orthodox priests can only serve against their will and against the church’s internal rules.

Constantinople’s first dangerous moves

On October 11, 2018, the Constantinople Patriarchate made its first step towards granting autocephaly by repealing its own decision of 1686 that gave the Moscow Patriarch primacy over the Kiev-based Metropolitan. This 17th-century decision reflected the political reality of the merger between the states of Russia and Ukraine and established some order in the matters of church administration. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Moscow gave the Ukrainian church complete independence in financial and administrative matters, but the two churches retained their cherished “spiritual unity.” “Constantinople’s decision is aimed at destroying that unity,” the ROC’s Patriarch Kirill explained. “We can’t accept it. That is why our Holy Synod made the decision to end eucharistic communication with the Constantinople Patriarchate.”

How Moscow “excommunicated” Bartholomew

The end of eucharistic communication means that the priests of the two patriarchates (based in Moscow and Istanbul) won’t be able to hold church services together. It will be maintained as long as the threat of autocephaly continues. The Western mainstream media, however, interpreted this decision by the Russian church as a unilateral aggressive act. The NYT and the British tabloid press wrote that it simply reveals Putin’s “desperation” at not being able to keep Ukraine’s religious life under control.

However, Patriarch Bartholomew seems undeterred by the protests from the Russian faithful and the majority of Ukraine’s believers. Bartholomew said in a recent statement that Russia should just follow the example of Constantinople, which once granted autocephaly to the churches of the Balkan nations. Bartholomew’s ambassadors in Kiev do not shy away from communicating with the self-declared “Patriarch” Filaret (Mikhail Denisenko’s adopted religious name from back when he was the UOC MP’s Metropolitan prior to his excommunication in 1997). For true Orthodox believers, any communication with Denisenko has been forbidden since 1992, the year when he founded his own so-called Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP). Unfortunately, Denisenko enjoys the full support of Ukrainian President Poroshenko, and recently the US State Department began encouraging Denisenko, by giving its full support to Ukraine’s autocephaly.

The lifting of Denisenko’s excommunication by Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul both upset and embittered the Orthodox believers in both Ukraine and Moscow, since Denisenko was excommunicated by a joint decision of the Russian church and the UOC MP in 1997, after a five-year wait for his return to the fold of the mother church. So, by undoing that decision, Constantinople has interfered in the canonical territory of both the Ukrainian and the Russian churches.

The UOC-MP protested, accusing not only Patriarch Bartholomew, but also the Ukrainian state of interfering in the church’s affairs. “We are being forced to get involved in politics. The politicians do not want Christ to run our church; they want to do it themselves,” said Metropolitan Onufriy (Onuphrius), the head of the UOC-MP, in an interview with PravMir, an Orthodox website. “Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has been independent. Our church did not ask for autocephaly, because we already have independence. We have our own Synod (church council) and our own church court. Decisions are made by a congress of bishops and priests from all over Ukraine. We have financial and administrative independence, so autocephaly for us will be a limitation, not an expansion of our rights.”

Poroshenko’s premature jubilation

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Poroshenko did not conceal his jubilation about Constantinople’s moves. “This is a victory of good over evil, light over darkness,” Poroshenko said when the news about the lifting of Denisenko’s excomnmunication came from Istanbul in early October.

Poroshenko said he wanted a “united Orthodox Church” for his country, and he openly pressured Patriarch Bartholomew to provide autocephaly to Kiev during his visits to Istanbul in the spring of 2018 and in November of the same year. Meanwhile, Denisenko said that the provision of autocephaly would mean the immediate dispossession of the UOC MP. “This Russian church (UOC MP) will have to cede control of its church buildings and famous monasteries to the new Ukrainian church, which will be ours,” Denisenko was quoted by Ukrainian media as saying. “These monasteries have been owned by the state since Soviet times, and the state gave them to the Russian church for temporary use. Now the state will appoint our communities of believers as the new guardians of this heritage.” Denisenko also made a visit to the US, where he met Undersecretary of State Wess Mitchell, obtaining from him America’s active support for the creation of a “unified” Ukrainian church.

There is still a chance to prevent the schism from occurring. Poroshenko’s presidential aide, Rostislav Pavlenko, made it clear on Tuesday that the actual “tomos” (a letter from the Constantinople Patriarchate allowing the creation of an autocephalous church) will be delivered only IN RESPONSE to a request from a “unifying convention” that represents all of Ukraine’s Orthodox believers in at least some sort of formal manner. This new convention will have to declare the creation of a new church and elect this church’s official head. Only then will Constantinople be able to give that person the cherished “tomos.”

Since the UOC-MP has made it very clear that it won’t participate in any such convention, the chances of the smooth transition and easy victory over the “Muscovite believers” that Poroshenko wants so badly are quite slim. There are big scandals, big fights, and big disappointments ahead.

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Trump DEMOLISHES Macron; Tweets ‘Make France Great Again’ (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 16.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at US President Trump’s tweetstorm aimed at French President Macron, who just days ago used the WW1 ceremony in Paris to ridicule and talk down to the US President in front of world leaders.

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Via Zerohedge

Macron’s office has refused to comment on Trump’s claims.

OFFICE OF FRENCH PRESIDENT MACRON SAYS IT REFUSES TO MAKE ANY COMMENT REGARDING TRUMP’S TWEETS CRITICISING FRANCE AND MACRON

* * *

Without directly referencing the rumors, Trump has branded reports that he refused to appear at a cemetery for American soldiers because he didn’t want to get his hair wet as “fake news.” In the tweet, Trump insisted that he wanted the Secret Service to drive him to the speech instead of taking a helicopter, but they refused because of security concerns. He added that he gave a speech at the cemetery the next day in the pouring rain – something that was “little reported”.

Trump’s rampage against Macron continues. The president slammed his French counterpart for his low approval rating, as well as France’s high unemployment. Furthermore, in response to Macron’s “nationalist” snub, Trump pointed out that “there is no more nationalist country” than France..

…before adding a spin on his classic slogan.

Trump’s rage against Macron continues, but this time, the topic is slightly more serious. What could be more serious than questioning the foundation of Post-WWII military alliances, you might ask? The answer is simple – trade!

Trump conceded that while France makes “very good wine” (an interesting claim from Trump, who doesn’t drink), the country “makes it hard for the US to sell its wine into France, and charges very big tariffs”. Meanwhile “The US makes it easy for French wines and charges small tariffs.”

“Not Fair, must change!”

We now await Trump’s order of an investigation into the national security implications of imported French wine.

* * *

President Trump isn’t ready to forgive the “French diss” served up over the weekend by President Emmanuel Macron.

During a ceremony honoring the 100th anniversary of World War I at the Arc de Triomphe on Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron insulted Trump to his face by launching into a screed about the dangers of toxic “nationalism” and subtly accusing the US of abandoning its “moral values”.

This did not sit well with the US president, who was already facing criticism over his decision to show up late to a ceremony honoring the war dead (the administration blamed it on security concerns though it’s widely suspected that Trump didn’t want to get his hair wet), and Trump has let his displeasure be known in a series of tweets ridiculing Macron’s suggestion that Europe build its own army, saying that France and other European members of NATO would be better served by paying their fair share for NATO while daring them to leave and pay for their own protection.

And in his most abrasive tweet yet mocking the increasingly unpopular Macron’s imperial ambitions (no, really), Trump pointed out that, historically speaking, Europe has been its own worst enemy, and that while Macron wants to defend the Continent from the US, China and Russia, “it was Germany in WWI & WWII,” adding that “they were starting to learn German in Paris before the US came along. Pay for NATO or not!”

Of course, Macron isn’t the only French official calling for the creation of a “European army”. The country’s finance minister advocated for the creation of a Continental army during an interview with Germany’s Handelsblatt – a comment that was derided by the paper’s editors, who pointed out that Germans “weren’t very supportive” of the idea. One wonders why…

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BREXIT deal reached? May prepares to turn UK into EU vassal state

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 15.

Alex Christoforou

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Theresa May will convene her cabinet “a historic meeting” on Brexit after the UK and EU reportedly agreed on the text of a withdrawal treaty according to the Financial Times.

The Brexit text has been agreed upon in Brussels, and now Theresa May has to sell it to her cabinet.

The FT reports that ministers have been summoned to May’s residence at Number 10 on Tuesday night for individual briefings on the text, including controversial plans for to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland. Two ministerial sources said there would be a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, with one pro-European official saying: “We are optimistic.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the European Union, that now goes to her cabinet for approval and thereafter to the UK parliament and Brussels for what will eventually become the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement.

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Via Zerohedge

The breakthrough is a significant moment in negotiations that potentially paves the way for a November summit of EU leaders to endorse and finalize a deal, assuming of course there is no mutiny in May’s cabinet. Which is why even though the text of the agreement is settled, negotiations will likely continue over the coming days as political objections are raised by London or EU member states, potentially sending the agreement back to the drafting table.

Bloomberg also reported that May’s cabinet was told to expect to be asked to sign off on the Irish backstop clause this week, potentially Wednesday or Thursday. The prime minister is unlikely to press ahead with the meeting unless she believes she can win cabinet support.

* * *

Update: shortly after Theresa May said talks are in the “endgame”, the Prime Minister will hold a one-off Cabinet meeting to discuss Brexit on Wednesday, according to a U.K. official who declined to be named. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that top ministers are being called in for a briefing at her Downing 10 office on Tuesday night.

As Irish RTE reported earlier, negotiators have reportedly agreed a text on the backstop.

According to reports, the cabinet was told on Tuesday to expect to be asked to sign off on the Irish backstop clause this week, potentially Wednesday or Thursday. Whether that happens remains to be seen.

Another day, another Brexit negotiation story.

According to RTE reporter Tony Connelly, “EU and UK negotiators have agreed a text on how to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, which will form part of the Withdrawal Agreement.”

RTE reports:

“While two well-placed sources have confirmed that the text was “as stable as it can be”, they say it would not be correct to say that the negotiations have “concluded”. According to both sources, there will be one backstop to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.”

It also outlines the backstop:

“The backstop will come in the form of a temporary UK-wide customs arrangement, with specific provisions for Northern Ireland, which go deeper on the issue of customs and alignment on the rules of the single market than for the rest of the UK.”

And of course, the algos read the headline and bid cable back above 1.30…

The bottom line – as with so many stories surrounding this negotiation, don’t hold your breath for this headline to be confirmed.

Bloomberg reports that a senior official said it would be wrong to say negotiations were “concluded”, and that there was still some “shuttling” between London and Brussels.

However, if this report turns out to be true then it is a win for May in managing to garner some concession from the EU which was a key sticking point for hardline Brexiteers.

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