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A choice for Europe: costly US liquified gas versus cheap Russian pipeline gas

The latest anti-Russian sanctions package about to be made law by the US Congress will not materially harm the Russian economy. However it does pose a challenge for Germany and the EU: do they press on buying cheap pipeline gas from Russia or expensive liquified gas from the US.

Alexander Mercouris

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News that the Republicans and the Democrats in the House of Representatives have agreed on a new sanctions package against Russia will be deeply unwelcome news, and not just or even primarily in Moscow.

The new sanctions package will not have the big impact on the Russian economy that some are expecting.  The Russian economy has sailed through the previous far more severe sectoral sanctions which were imposed on Russia in July 2014, and the collapse in oil prices which took place in the second half of that year.  The result was only a short and shallow recession, out of which Russia is now rapidly emerging.  Indeed there are some who calculate that growth this year will be enough by itself to wipe out all the output loss during the recession, though I do not share this view.

The new sanctions in economic terms do not add significantly to the sanctions which were imposed in 2014.  They appear intended to target the personal assets of super-wealthy Russians – a deeply unpopular class still wrongly referred to as “oligarchs”, though the days of their power in Russia are long gone – and to impede Western and specifically US participation and investment in certain of Russia’s industries, first and foremost those in the extractive sector.

The days when Russian companies looked first and foremost to the West for capital and technology were however brought to an end – by the West itself – in 2014, and the new sanctions do not add materially to what happened then.

As for the “oligarchs” and the obstacles the new sanctions seem intended to place in the way of the privatisation of certain Russian companies – including interestingly the Russian maritime tanker fleet – not only will these not have any serious macroeconomic impact on Russia (with Russia’s consolidated budget apparently in surplus the idea that Russia needs to sell these companies to fill holes in its budget is wrong) but one cannot fail but note the paradox of the US Congress allying with the Russian Communist Party to impede Russian privatisations and to target Russian “oligarchs”.

For years following the coming of President Putin to power the Western and especially the US media ran a shrill campaign warning that President Putin was intent on locking Western investors out of Russia and reversing the privatisation process begun in the 1990s.   It is extremely strange therefore to see the US Congress working hard to achieve that very thing, which Putin as it happens never did.

No doubt that is why significant business sectors in the US – especially the US oil industry which has been hankering to invest in Russia – have made their unhappiness with the new sanctions clear.

Regardless of that the idea that there is insufficient capital and technology in Russia to enable the country to develop its economy successfully on the basis of its own resources is a myth, though one which obviously dies hard.

However if the macroeconomic impact of the new sanctions on Russia will be minimal, the same cannot be said of their political impact, and of the dilemma they pose Europe.

At their simplest the new sanctions will make it all but impossible for the US and Russia to establish normal inter-country relations with each other.

It was only a few years ago that the Congress – very reluctantly and under heavy pressure from the Obama administration and the US business community – rescinded the Jackson-Vanik amendment.  Since then the US has however in effect nullified that step by imposing one set of sanctions on Russia after another, starting with the Magnitsky Act sanctions and now culminating in the latest sanctions package.

The Russians have got the message, which is that normal commercial relations between Russia and the US will never happen.  The point was made very clearly by Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov in a television interview on Wednesday

We are aware that those sanctions, which are imposed now, [will not be lifted], whatever we would do. Even if we say we agree to anything and hoist a white flag, anyway hearings and motions will be in full swing.  Senators and Congresspersons will find a million excuses for not lifting anything.

This incidentally explains the tough line Russia is taking over the return of its diplomatic property, which was illegally seized by the Obama administration in a straightforward act of confiscation of what is actually the Russian state’s private property last December.  Here is what Ryabkov had to say about that

We do not allow for any conditions in order to have this property given back to us. It is not a bargaining issue. We are far from seeing merely any signs of preparations for certain deals. We see no reason why such categories should be allowed for because we just need to have ours back.

Since the new sanctions will render it impossible for the Trump administration to return the property or lift the sanctions the Russians lose nothing by taking a tough line on the question of its return.

Whilst political cooperation between the US and Russia remains possible on certain specific issues lingering hopes that one day they might one day establish a normal trading relationship are now surely dead.  Every attempt to achieve such a relationship going back to the detente era of the 1970s has ended in failure because the political opposition in the US is too strong.  As Ryabkov says, there is no reason to think that will ever change, and the Russians clearly no longer believe it will.

However it is in Europe where the new sanctions pose the greatest challenge.

Back in 2014 Angela Merkel and the EU leadership worked closely with the Obama administration to agree the sanctions that the US and the EU would jointly impose on Russia.  This was done so as to ensure that the sanctions did not directly impact on either the US’s or the EU’s fundamental economic interests, though in the event Russia’s apparently unexpected counter-sanctions hurt some EU agricultural producers badly.

The new sanctions are however being imposed without any prior discussion between the US and EU whatsoever.  No one in the US has asked for Angela Merkel’s or the EU’s opinions about them, or has shown the slightest concern for German or European interests.  Instead the sanctions are being imposed for domestic reasons, as a spin-off of the Russiagate scandal, and as part of the feud between the Democrats and the Trump administration.  The result is that they have been negotiated between Democrats and Republicans in Congress without Angela Merkel and the Europeans being consulted about them at all.

The new sanctions explicitly target Russian pipelines projects to Europe, specifically the Nord Stream 2 pipeline recently agreed between Germany and Russia.

Back in April I discussed Nord Stream 2 in detail and explained the rationale behind it – that it provides Germany and Europe with cheaper pipeline gas from Russia than gas they could obtain elsewhere – and the way that recognition of this reality amounted to a Russian victory in Europe’s decades long energy war

As the energy war between the EU and Russia heated up from the mid 2000s, demands – many of them originating in Washington and London, even though the US and UK are not significant importers of Russian gas – for the EU to ‘diversify’ its gas imports away from Russia so as to reduce the EU’s supposedly dangerous dependence on Russia steadily built up.

These led to various schemes to reduce the EU’s ‘dependence’ on Russian gas, including the importing of liquified natural gas from the Persian Gulf and the US, the building of the Nabucco pipeline across Turkey and the Caucasus to Azerbaijan, the importing of gas from the newly discovered gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean, and the importing of gas from north Africa…..

By December 2014, when South Stream was cancelled, all these disputes and conflicts had come to a head.

The European projects to ‘diversify’ away from Russian gas had all failed.

The reason was that all these projects ran into the same problem: they did not provide enough gas to reduce Europe’s need for gas from Russia, and they made no economic sense because the gas they would have provided would have been significantly more expensive than the gas supplied by pipeline from Russia.

In the meantime the Ukrainians during fraught negotiations over gas supplies from Russia over the course of the summer of 2014 once more threatened to siphon off Russian gas passing through Ukrainian pipelines destined for Gazprom’s EU customers.

Meanwhile the Russians for their part were having far more success in diversifying their gas exports to non-European customers than the Europeans were having in reducing their need for imports of gas from Russia.  Specifically in 2014 the Russians announced major projects to build two giant pipelines to supply gas to China.  Though these pipelines have been derided by Western and Russian liberal critics as making no economic sense because the Chinese will pay less for the gas than Russia’s European customers, there is no doubt the Russians will make a profit from the sales, and the fact that they will soon be selling large amounts of gas to China means that they are no longer as dependent on the Europeans as their customers as they once were.

The European country which found itself most exposed was Germany, whose large industrial sector not only requires plentiful supplies of cheap gas but which has also become more gas dependent as Germany has been closing down its coal and nuclear industries.

The result is that despite the sanctions the EU imposed on Russia on German insistence in July 2014, in June 2015 – just a few months after the cancellation of South Stream in December 2014 – and with the full backing of the German government, a new pipeline project linking Germany to Russia across the Baltic was announced, which is Nord Stream 2.  Moreover in order to ensure that this pipeline would be built the Germans agreed to Russia’s demand that it would not be subject to the EU’s Third Energy Package.

The new pipeline predictably provoked a sustained campaign of opposition from a coalition of opponents including those who claimed to be concerned about Europe’s ‘energy dependence’ on Russia, various eastern and central European states unhappy at the loss of transit fees caused by the direct supply of gas to Germany from Russia, other EU states such as Italy unhappy at the way Germany dealt directly with Russia in its own interests whilst simultaneously insisting that other EU states impose sanctions on Russia, and of course Ukraine, which risks being cut out completely as a transit state.

Opposition to Nord Stream 2 was led by the European Commission on the grounds that it was not compatible with the EU’s Third Energy Package and would increase Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.  The Germans and the Russians countered, truthfully if somewhat disingenuously, that Nord Stream 2 is not subject to the Third Energy Package since it does not cross over EU territory as it passes under the Baltic Sea

The reality is that in today’s Europe if the Germans and the Russians agree on something it is going to happen irrespective of whatever others might think or say about it.  The German government could have killed Nord Stream 2 at any time but it chose not to because that would have outraged German industry, already seething over the sanctions imposed on Russia.  That in effect all but guaranteed that despite all the objections Nord Stream 2 would go ahead.

The EU Commission has now dropped its objections to Nord Stream 2 and said Nord Stream 2 is not covered by the Third Energy Package.  This amounts to it raising the white flag, not just in relation to Nord Stream 2 but in respect of the whole energy war.  Suffice to say that it is not a coincidence that at the same time the European Commission’s case against Gazprom seems to be fizzling out.

What this means is that following more than a decade and a half of struggle the Russians have finally and conclusively won the energy war.

Not only will Nord Stream 2 be built as the Russians want – without it being subject to the Third Energy Package – but there is nothing now to stop the Russians building Nord Stream 3 or Nord Stream 4 or as many other pipelines as they want under the Baltic on the same basis.

If the Russians have won the energy war in Europe, it is however now clear that they have not won it in the US.  There powerful forces remain who still wish to disrupt the flow of Russian energy to Europe.

This explains why the new sanctions expressly target Nord Stream 2, with threats of fines of companies which participate in the project.

These actions are quite obviously intended to obstruct or if possible kill off the Nord Stream 2 project, no doubt in part for political reasons, but also in part for commercial ones, with the politically well connected shale industry in the US apparently pressing to sell maritime tanker transported US liquified natural gas to Europe in place of Russian pipeline gas.

However whilst this makes commercial sense for the US shale producers, it makes no commercial sense for the Germans and the Europeans.

In the extract from my previous article which I quoted above I discussed how all the alternatives to Russian pipeline gas which have previously been mooted – “the importing of liquified natural gas from the Persian Gulf and the US, the building of the Nabucco pipeline across Turkey and the Caucasus to Azerbaijan, the importing of gas from the newly discovered gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean, and the importing of gas from north Africa…..” – have failed because the gas they would provide would be significantly more expensive than the gas supplied by pipeline from Russia.

Of these alternatives maritime tanker transported US liquified natural gas must be one of the most expensive, both because of the way it is produced, and because of the way it must be stored and transported.

I would add that given that the US is a major net energy importer it makes little economic sense for the US to export this gas either.  However this is the project the US Congress is now committing itself to.

Here it is important to make one particular point about the US approach not just to sanctions but to US law generally.

If the threats against participation in Nord Stream 2 merely affected US companies the Germans and the Europeans would simply shrug them off and ignore them.  However over the last couple of decades the US has increasingly adopted the view that its domestic law has universal application, and can be enforced by the US authorities on anyone irrespective of nationality anywhere in the world.  That might in theory lead to European companies being fined by the US for doing things – such as participating in the Nord Stream 2 project – far from US territory, and in places such as north west Europe where the US ought to have no jurisdiction.

Not surprisingly the Europeans – the Germans and the Austrians in particular – are furious about all of this.  As they have pointed out, fresh sanctions being imposed on Russia without any consultation are directly impacting on their fundamental economic interests by obliging them to buy expensive US liquified natural gas in preference to cheaper Russian pipeline gas, thereby threatening the competitiveness of their industries.

The German government – including Angela Merkel – has made its strong objections and deep anger especially clear.

Beyond German outrage at the way in which German and European interests are being disregarded, there is also unquestionably further anger at the way the US – or at least the US Congress – is using the current political campaign against Russia to try to force the Europeans to pay a subsidy to the well-connected US shale industry by buying its gas.

So what will happen?

There is no doubt that the US Congress will vote into law its latest sanctions package, with this happening probably on Wednesday.

There has been some talk of Donald Trump vetoing the package.  However given overwhelming majorities for the sanctions package in both the Senate and the House make that unlikely.  Besides if Trump did try to exercise a veto, his veto would presumably be overridden.

It does not however necessarily follow that the sanctions package will kill Nord Stream 2.

Whilst it is all very well for the US Congress to pass a law that might theoretically threaten European companies with fines if they participate in Nord Stream 2, it is quite another matter for the US government to impose such fines on European companies which are participating in a project which is strongly backed by the German government.  That would trigger a huge row, and might lead to retaliatory action by the EU.

Significantly this episode has already provoked the Germans and the Austrians to say that they do not accept that the US has universal jurisdiction over European companies participating in legal projects in Europe far away from the US.

The EU Commission has now issued a public statement strongly condemning the whole approach being taken by the US Congress

…….the Russia/Iran sanctions bill is driven primarily by domestic considerations…..As we have said repeatedly, it is important that any possible new measures are coordinated between international partners to maintain unity among partners on the sanctions. ….We are concerned the measures discussed in the US Congress could have unintended consequences, not only when it comes to Transatlantic/G7 unity, but also on EU economic and energy security interests…This impact could be potentially wide and indiscriminate.  We therefore call on the US Congress/authorities to engage with the partners, including the EU, to ensure coordination and to avoid any unintended consequences of the measures discussed.

There is almost certainly nothing that can now be done to prevent the US Congress from voting this sanctions package into law.  However there must be a strong probability that the Trump administration will heed the EU’s call for consultation before the sanctions package is enforced, and that is likely to shield European companies that are participating in Nord Stream 2.  There seems to be enough leeway in the law to allow this, and it is difficult to believe that even the most hardline Democrats in the Congress will wish to overturn arrangements agreed between the Trump administration and the German government.

That of course depends on Merkel and the German government standing firm on this issue.  With German opinion strongly aroused on this issue, the probability however is that they will.

Regardless of that, this episode shows two further things:

Firstly, the sanctions whey they were imposed on Russia in 2014 were hailed in the West as a great display of Western unity.  On the contrary they are increasingly becoming a source of conflict and argument: within the EU – between northern Europe and southern Europe – and now between the EU and the US.

Secondly, this episode once again exposes Angela Merkel’s folly in agreeing in July 2014 to put US geopolitical objectives in Ukraine above German and EU economic interests.  Ever since Merkel’s authority has been tied to the sanctions she agreed to in July of that year, so that she now finds herself committed to a sanctions policy which is not only contrary to German interests but over which she ultimately has no control.

The result is that she – and Europe and Germany in her wake – are now hostages to decisions made not in Brussels and Berlin but in Washington and Kiev.

That is a disastrous outcome, whose consequences this latest episode are making all too clear.

As Merkel’s nemesis Vladimir Putin might one day point out to her, that is however what happens if you choose to sacrifice your nation’s interests to the demands of your friends.

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Fusion GPS founder trapped in legal jeopardy, bets on Democrat midterm win to bury Russiagate hoax (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 135.

Alex Christoforou

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Fusion GPS researcher Nellie Ohr and ex-FBI official James Baker are set to testify before Congress, but Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson is taking the Fifth.

The man at the center of the Russiagate hoax, Glenn Simpson, headed the espionage/PR smear firm Fusion GPS, which ordered the discredited and fake Trump ‘dossier’, which John McCain handed to the FBI, and which Buzzfeed News published as actual news.

Simpson has a lot of explaining to do, and now appears trapped in his “under oath” lies.

Simpson had previously testified under oath to the House Intelligence Committee that he never met with DOJ official Bruce Ohr, husband to Fusion GPS researcher Nellie Ohr.

Simpson also stated under oath that he never discussed with Bruce Ohr the Steele dossier prior to the October FISA application, which was used to spy on Carter Page and kick off the ‘Russiagate hoax’.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the legal jeopardy entangling Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson. Republicans are close to breaking the ‘Russiagate hoax’ wide open, but Simpson is betting on delay tactics, and a subsequent Democrat midterm House victory, to save his ass from prosecution, and bury his involvement in a brazen attempt to discredit and remove an elected US President.

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According to Zerohedge, Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson may be in “real legal jeopardy” over inconsistent testimony given to Congress regarding his involvement in a massive counterintelligence effort against then-candidate Donald Trump, including the infamous Steele dossier.

Speaking with Fox News Maria Bartiromo, John Ratcliffe (R-TX) said…

“I’m not surprised that Glenn Simpson is taking the Fifth.”

“He probably should. He’s in real legal jeopardy. Very clearly someone is not telling the truth.”

Via The Daily Caller… 

Simpson, who investigated the Trump campaign on behalf of the DNC and Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, informed Congress on Thursday that he will plead the Fifth to avoid speaking with members of the House Judiciary and House Oversight & Government Committee in an interview set for Tuesday.

“The reason for that … is that Glenn Simpson had previously testified under oath to the House Intelligence Committee that he never met with Bruce Ohr or discussed with Bruce Ohr the Steele dossier prior to the October FISA application in 2016 or the 2016 presidential election,” said Ratcliffe, a member of the House Judiciary panel.

Via Fox News ‘Sunday Morning Futures’

Via Zerohedge

Ohr told the Judiciary and Oversight & Government Reform Committees in an August 28 interview that he met with Simpson in August and December of 2016 to discuss Fusion GPS’s opposition research into Donald Trump.

Bruce’s wife, Nellie Ohr, was hired by Fusion GPS for the anti-Trump effort at the time.

Simpson, however, told a different story to the House Intelligence Committee on November 14, 2017, when he said that he hadn’t been in contact with anyone from the DOJ or FBI until after the election. While he did acknowledge meeting with Bruce Ohr (meetings which would result in Ohr’s demotion), Simpson never disclosed his wife’s employment.

“Ohr, who has been demoted twice since December, was also in frequent contact with Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous anti-Trump dossier. Steele, a former British spy, was hired by Fusion GPS in June 2016 to investigate the Trump campaign’s possible links to the Kremlin.

Steele met with the Ohrs on July 30, 2016, a day before the FBI opened its counterintelligence investigation into the Trump team. Ohr met just after with FBI deputy Director Andrew McCabe.” – Daily Caller

Following the 2016 election, Steel and Ohr met over a dozen times, despite the FBI having blacklisted Steele for improper media disclosures concerning his work.

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Hillary and Holder are hurting Democrat Party with their rhetoric

Democrat-written opinion piece points out the fact that the party has radicalized so much it has left its own supporters behind.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Fox News ran an opinion piece written by Douglas E. Schoen early Sunday. It points out how radicalized the Democrat Party has become, and it is noteworthy because Douglas Schoen is a Democrat himself. He writes (emphasis added):

As Democrats campaign for the Nov. 6 midterm elections, they have plenty of legitimate criticisms to level at President Trump and Republicans who control the House and Senate. But Democrats were hurt in recent days by amazing and disgusting comments made by Hillary Clinton and former Attorney General Eric Holder.

As a Democrat, I want my party to win as many seats as possible in the House and Senate and to capture as many governorships and other state offices as it can. But the Clinton and Holder remarks do not advance that effort – they hurt it.

Former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Clinton said Tuesday that “you cannot be civil with” the Republican Party because it “wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about.” She added that “if we are fortunate enough to win back the House and or the Senate, that’s when civility can start again.”

But even worse than Clinton’s comments were those of Eric Holder, who said at a recent campaign event in Georgia that Democrats should abandon the advice of former first lady Michelle Obama, who said at the 2016 Democratic National Convention that her party and mine should respond positively to negative attacks from the GOP.

Mrs. Obama said that “when someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level. No, our motto is, when they go low, we go high.”

Holder argued just the opposite, saying: “When they go low, we kick them. That’s what this new Democratic Party is about.” He later said he wasn’t advocating violence – not literal kicking.

I beg to differ with both Clinton and Holder.

The only way the Democrats can regain the majority in either or both houses of Congress is by being civil, and pointing out the differences between Democrats and Republicans on the issues.

This is the real issue that should govern elections. Rather than the politics of popularity, one needs to consider policy points and which side offers points that are actually achievable, believable, concrete, desirable and specific. Calling President Trump and his administration names does not offer any constructive dialogue on policy matters.

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Conservatives and Trump supporters know this and it is precisely because of this that Donald Trump won the White House.

While the mainstream media (and here we can include Fox News largely) tried every possible way to ridicule Donald Trump’s candidacy, the people that actually listened to what he had to say found him very impressive on policy as much as his ability to speak as the voice of the people. The recent hysteria around Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination and confirmation to the Supreme Court was hysteria up front, driven by real policy fears from the deep core of liberals, as they know that this Justice is likely to form an effective wall against liberals ramming their agenda through the courts since their efforts fail legislatively so often.

Mr. Schoen continues:

As a centrist Democrat, the issue that strikes me most is the degree to which the national debt and the deficit are now out of control.

America faces uncertain and unstable times financially. Yet we are seeing a Republican-controlled Congress that has largely failed to do anything besides provide tax cuts for major corporations and the wealthiest individuals. This is by no means certain to have fundamentally altered the path of the economy or to provide economic growth.

Put another way, what the Trump administration has failed to do is to fix health care and cover pre-existing conditions more fundamentally; lead America in a fiscally responsible way; and pass tax cuts that help the average American. The Trump tax cuts have driven up the national debt and endangered funding for programs that benefit millions of people in our country.

So, here are policy points. Now we can begin to have a debate. Is Mr. Schoen right, or wrong in his information? This is far different than name-calling!

Democrats have long argued the need for a centrist agenda that focuses on:

  • Providing health-care benefits – whether private or public – to all Americans to cover expansively all pre-existing conditions.
  • Protecting the environment from the policies of the Trump administration that have only encouraged –and I dare say exacerbated – environmental degradation and climate change.
  • Promoting a pro-growth, inclusive agenda that seeks to put working people first, and the interests of Washington insiders and economic elites second. President Trump claims that he is doing this – he calls it “draining the swamp” – but this has not happened.

There is no justification for the angry rhetoric of Clinton and Holder, which only feeds into Republican claims that Democrats are an angry mob that can’t get over Clinton’s loss to Trump two years ago.

And Holder looks particularly bad because he was once the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, yet now sounds like he is effectively advocating what appears to be either illegal activities, or metaphorical initiatives that run counter to our traditions and our politics.

Hillary Clinton has said she won’t run for office again, but Holder has said he may run for president in 2020. Whoever the Democratic candidate turns out to be needs to be a responsible and respectable opponent – not one who calls for kicking the GOP or for incivility.

We should have learned from the Senate confirmation hearing for now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh that resisting for the sake of resisting doesn’t work. In fact, Democratic attacks on Kavanaugh may well have backfired, recent polls show.

The Democratic Party itself is lost now, without a message, a direction, a strategy, or agenda to confront a Republican Party that is seen as in many ways as having let the American people down.

We need change – but it must be constructive change. This Democrat believes that the comments that Eric Holder and Hillary Clinton made are wrong, counterproductive, and deserve to be rejected by the leadership of the Democratic Party.

Perhaps Fox News ran this opinion piece because Douglas Schoen is the first rational Democrat contributor to say anything in some time. However, it also appears that Mr. Schoen is a minority in his own party. It is a greatly logical approach to argue policy, as he has and as anyone who really understands American government should. But it is unclear as to whether the bulk of the Democrat Party even has reasonable people remaining.

If they do, it may well be that they are being betrayed by their party’s increasingly leftist and radical positions. The Party apparatus seems focused, but it also seems to have left people like Mr. Schoen behind.

Who knows? Maybe that will bring them into the Trump camp.

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Patriarch Bartholomew lifts anathemas on schismatics in Ukraine (VIDEO)

Most of the Orthodox world is in strong opposition to this move by Patriarch Bartholomew, whose motivations seem not to be of Christ.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The biggest news in the Eastern Orthodox world in recent times occurred on Thursday, October 11, 2018. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, lifted the anathemas against two schismatic Ukrainian Churches and their leaders, paving the way to the creation of a fully independent Ukrainian national Orthodox Church.

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This announcement was given in English and is shown here in video with the textual transcript following:

“Presided by His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Holy and Sacred Synod convened for its regular session from October 9 to 11, 2018 in order to examine and discuss items on its agenda. The Holy Synod discussed in particular and at length, the ecclesiastical mater of Ukraine in the presence of His Excellency Archbishop Daniel of Pamphilon and His Grace Bishp Ilarion of Edmonon, Patriarchal Exarchs to Ukraine, and following extensive deliberations decreed (emphasis added):

First, to renew the decision already made, that the Ecumenical Patriarchate proceed to the granting of autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine;

Second, to re-establish at this moment the stavropegion of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Kiev—one of its many starvorpegion in Ukraine that existed there always;

Third, to accept and review the petitions of appeal of Philaret Denisenko and Makary Maletich and their followers who found themselves in schism not for dogmatic reasons, in accordance with the canonical prerogatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to receive such petitions by hierarchs and other clergy of all the autocephalous Churches. Thus, the above mentioned have been canonically reinstated to their hierarchical or priestly rank, and their faithful have been restored to communion with the Church;

Fourth, to revoke the legal binding of the Synodal letter of the year 1686, issued for the circumstances of that time, which granted the right through economia to the Patriarch of Moscow to ordain the Metropolitan of Kiev elected by the clergy-laity assembly of his eparchy, who would commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarch as the first hierarch at any celebration, proclaiming and affirming his canonical dependence to the Mother Church of Constantinople;

Fifth, to appeal to all sides involved that they avoid appropriation of churches, monasteries, and other properties as well as every other act of violence and retaliation so that he peace and love of Christ may prevail.”

There are a few things that must be said about what this declaration is not before we get to the matter of what the points of actually are. The point of reference is the strict letter of the text above itself.

  • This is not a granting of autocephaly (full independent self-rule status) like the fourteen universally canonical Orthodox jurisdictions in the world. However, it is a huge step towards this status.
  • As far as Constantinople is concerned, Filaret Denisenko, the leader and “Patriarch” of the “Kyiv Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church” and Makary, the “Metropolitan” of the “Ukrainian Orthodox Autocephalous Church”, and all their faithful are now restored to communion. The statement says that this applies to “The Church” which may be trying to state that these two men (and all the faithful that they lead), are now in communion with the entirety of canonical Orthodoxy, but more likely, this may be a carefully worded statement to say they now are in communion with Constantinople alone.
  • There is an official call for the cessation of the violence directed against the Moscow Patriarchate parishes and communities, who are the only canonically recognized Orthodox Church in Ukraine, and who are also the largest by far in that country. The Kyiv Patriarchate and Uniate (Roman oriented) Greek Catholics in Ukraine have gone on record for seizing MP church properties, often by force, with neo-Nazi sympathizers and other radical Ukrainian nationalists. So this official call to cease the violence is now a matter of public record.

However, the reaction has been far less civil than the clergy wished for.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko: “Expressing his view of the Moscow Patriarchate, Poroshenko added, “This is a great victory of the God-loving Ukrainian people over the Moscow demons, the victory of Good over Evil, the victory of Light over Darkness.”’

Perhaps this is the reason Metropolitan Onuphry of Ukraine (exarch under the Moscow Patriarchate) has been labeled an enemy of Ukraine and is now receiving death threats. Very civil.

Poroshenko’s statement is all the more bizarre, considering that it has been Ukrainian ultra-nationalists that have been violently attacking Moscow – related parishes in Ukraine. This has been corroborated by news sources eager to pin the blame on Russia, such as the U.K. Guardian.

The Union of Orthodox Journalists, based in Kiev and supportive of the Moscow Patriarchate, has been under intense cyber attack since October 11th, when the EP’s announcement was issued.

Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) Chancellor, Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil and Brovary: “What happened at the Synod in Istanbul yesterday shocked the entire Orthodox world. It seems the Patriarchate of Constantinople is consciously embarking on a path of schism in world Orthodoxy. Patriarch Bartholomew ignored the calls of the Local Churches to convene a meeting of the primates to work out a common and conciliar solution to the Ukrainian Church issue and unilaterally made very serious but erroneous decisions. I hope the Orthodox world will give this action an objective evaluation… Having received the schismatics into communion, Patriarch Bartholomew did not make them canonical, but has himself embarked on the path of schism. The schismatics remain schismatics. They did not receive any autocephaly or tomos. It seems they have lost even that independence, although non-canonical, that they had and which they always emphasized.”

Metropolitan Rostislav of the Czech Lands and Slovakia:“The Orthodox world recognizes the only canonical primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church—His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine. This fact was repeatedly mentioned and confirmed by the primate of the Great Church of Christ His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on behalf of all present at the Synaxis of the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches that was held in Chambésy (Switzerland) from January 21 to 27, 2016. Therefore, any attempt to legalize the Ukrainian schismatics by the state authorities should be strongly condemned by all the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches.

Patriarch Irinej of Serbia wrote two letters to the Ecumenical Patriarch, advocating that the provision of a new autocephaly is possible only with the consent of all local Orthodox Churches. According to Sedmitza.ru (Translation by Pravoslavie.ru),

“In these letters, it was very clearly stated that the granting of autocephaly cannot be the prerogative the Patriarchate of Constantinople alone, that new autocephalies must be created only with the consent of all the Local Orthodox Churches, as the Holy Synod of Antioch also said in its recent statement.”

Pat. Irinej also warned the Patriarchate of Constantinople against making such major decisions unilaterally, because “it will not bring harmony and peace to the Ukrainian land, but, on the contrary, will cause new divisions and new schisms.”

The Holy Synod of Antioch, the oldest Orthodox Church, and actually the very first place where the disciples of Christ were even called “Christians” weighed in on the issue as well and they had several things to say:

“The fathers examined the general Orthodox situation. They stressed that the Church of Antioch expresses her deep worries about the attempts to change the boundaries of the Orthodox Churches through a new reading of history. She considers that resorting to a unilateral reading of history does not serve Orthodox unity. It rather contributes to the fueling of the dissensions and quarrels within the one Church. Thus, the Church of Antioch refuses the principle of establishing parallel jurisdictions within the canonical boundaries of the Patriarchates and the autocephalous Churches as a way to solve conflicts, or as a de facto situation in the Orthodox world.

To summarize, this move by Constantinople is not being warmly received by many, many people. Most of the local Churches are on record giving their reaction to this process. In brief, here is the list most of the Local Churches and a one or two word summary of their reactions.

Patriarchate of Georgia: Unilateral action is wrong; Constantinople and Moscow must cooperate and find a solution together.

Patriarchate of Jerusalem: recognizes Ukraine as a canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church alone, as do all other local Churches

Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa: The Church does not bow to politicians. Moscow-led church is the only canonical Church in Ukraine.

Archbishop of Cyprus: Decries the Ukrainian situation but offered to mediate a discussion between Moscow and Constantinople

Bulgarian Patriarchate: Interference of the State in Church affairs leads to serious and negative consequences for both.

Polish Orthodox Church: Metropolitan Sawa called for a council of Orthodox ruling hierarchs to discuss this situation.

Estonian Orthodox Church: Condemns Constantinople’s actions in Ukraine.

Greek Archdiocese of America: Supports Constantinople’s actions in Ukraine.

The Orthodox Church of Greece (Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus quoted): “Schismatics, as we know, are not the Church, and communion with them is forbidden by the Divine and holy canons and the Apostolic and Ecumenical Councils. Why then this persistence of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in recognizing schismatics as an autocephalous Church? To provoke schisms and divisions in the one universal and Apostolic Church of Christ?”

Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR): Ceased commemoration of Constantinople, ceased concelebration with Constantinople.

This issue has also rocked the secular geopolitical world.

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