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How Russia will respond to new US sanctions

Group-think on Russia is usually thoughtless.

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Friday the 13th of April was full of surprises. Rocket attacks, added sanctions, accusations, hazing, assumptions without the “boring” burden of proof, and so on. Someone is getting on a real testosterone-fired high from all this gunslinging. The US freely continues tightening its sanctions screws against Russia and just about anyone who is not on “the team” or has a worldview that is not in agenda-lockstep.

Russia must now consider its response(s) in turn.

Isaac Asimov wrote “I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I’ll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.”  Seems Mr. Asimov’s words simply slip through the ears of many, and dissipate in the geopolitical air.

Therefore this past Friday a bill appropriately named “On measures counteracting unfriendly actions of the United States and/or other foreign states”, was reviewed by the leaders of all factions of the State Duma. This proposed bill seeks to impose various measures as a response to American trade restrictions as well as those countries that have adopted similar restrictive measures against Russia.

The range of affected goods manufactured in the USA as well as those countries who have joined with the USA in restricting trade with Russia may include pharmaceuticals, manufactured goods, agricultural products, cigarettes and alcohol. However, there is to be no ban against importing such items “for personal use”, even if brought into Russia by non-Russians.

Additionally, there may be specific regulations concerning banning certain software, technical, and even legal and financial services. Also under consideration is suspending cooperation with the USA in the nuclear, aircraft construction, and rocket engine industries.

On the table for consideration also is for Russia to increase charges for air navigation and overflight services for the US and other countries which support unfriendly, trade restrictive sanctions. In short, the legislation under review in Russia will seek to develop a mechanism to replace goods and services of American origin.

As concerns the movement of people, there is also one item being discussed which might be a list of US citizens who will be banned from entering or doing business with Russia, the list will be determined later by the government should it feel it to be appropriate. At the same time draft legislation mentions a possible prohibition or restriction on attracting citizens of the United States and/or other foreign states, including highly qualified specialists, from employment in the Russian Federation.

Many in the duma see the proposed legislation as an incentive for the enhanced development of the Russian industrial sector and the Russian Federation’s response to what it believes are the unfriendly policies of the US and other states aimed at undermining Russia’s sovereign territorial integrity and destabilizing its economy.

Trade turnover between Russia and the United States in 2017 increased by 15.8% and amounted to 23.1 billion dollars. Russian exports to the US increased by 14.7%, to $ 10.6 billion, and imports by 16.8% percent and amounted to 12.5 billion. Therefore, America’s trade surplus with Russia for 2017 was 1.9 billion dollars to the USA’s advantage. At the start of 2018 Russian metals and mineral products led exports to the United States, and the main imports from the United States were cars, and heavy equipment.

Where will all these tit for tat sandbox tactics take us? Looking back to 2000 since Vladimir Putin became president of the Russian Federation; his record has been transparent and publicly stated both inside Russia and declaratively on the international stage. The ambition for Russia is not global hegemony or heaven forbid – European conquest.

Russia has been seeking a regional sphere of influence and interactivity with nations directly on its national borders, its geopolitical neighborhood, or through alliances directly related to its perceived national security interests. That said, it is not by any stretch of the imagination “empire building” given the reach and scope of its comparatively limited international involvements.

Since the start of this 21st Century, the Russian sphere of influence has not been achieved by conquest, domination or old-school regime-change. It has been attempted through close financial ties, direct foreign investment, free trade zones, treaties, security alliances, and a network of geopolitical agreements that closely remind me of the (pre-EU) European Economic Union.

Given the current state of affairs in this sanctions-mad world, several Russian companies have taken proactive steps to ready themselves for potential exclusion from the SWIFT interbank payments system. This is an extension of the bullying effect a politicized US Dollar, and the increasingly inclusionary/exclusionary practices, or as some have observed – the “weaponization” of the greenback. These companies include those who have recently been “sanctioned” by the USA this past month, and those who plan ahead for contingencies.

The Russian state technology giant Rostec is one that will now use Russia’s new equivalent to the SWIFT interbank cash transfer system called SPFS. Rostec consolidates strategically important Russian companies. It has divisions in aircraft, electronics, and armaments. It unites companies like Russian Helicopters, Kalashnikov, and Rosoboronexport. Last month, another Russian state-owned firm, Rosneft, announced it had tested the SPFS in December with Gazprom bank, and is ready to seamlessly use it if need be.

The potential exclusion of Russia from SWIFT has concerned the country’s banks since 2014, when the EU and the US introduced the first round of international sanctions against Moscow over alleged involvement in the Ukraine crisis and reunification with Crimea. Recently, the head of the Central Bank, Elvira Nabiullina, said at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin that Russia is ready, if needed, to disconnect from SWIFT and smoothly function.

It may very well be that today’s Russia is demonized mostly for its desire to put national sovereign interests ahead of globalization. That said, it has also been apparent over these past 18 years that Russia’s actions and intentions on the world stage have been congruent, openly stated and have not been nearly as opaque or unipolar as some others. They have in fact been in keeping with the guidelines and treaties set out in the charter of the UN as regards the ethical behavior of Governments, and diplomatic conduct in the international arena.

Where will we go from here now that inertia and the rules of the sandbox have taken over diplomacy? It has been said that Washington is considering announcing still further sanctions against Russia on Monday April 16th, or maybe it will change its mind and stop this circle game – who knows? Who benefits? Seems this just might be the ideal moment to dial back on the rhetoric and think this through. I believe there are a number of countries in Europe and elsewhere in the ‘sandbox gang’ who would truly appreciate in their private heart-of-hearts any de-escalation ASAP.

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Constantinople: Ukrainian Church leader is now uncanonical

October 12 letter proclaims Metropolitan Onuphry as uncanonical and tries to strong-arm him into acquiescing through bribery and force.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The pressure in Ukraine kept ratcheting up over the last few days, with a big revelation today that Patriarch Bartholomew now considers Metropolitan Onuphy “uncanonical.” This news was published on 6 December by a hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (running under the Moscow Patriarchate).

This assessment marks a complete 180-degree turn by the leader of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople, and it further embitters the split that has developed to quite a major row between this church’s leadership and the Moscow Patriarchate.

OrthoChristian reported this today (we have added emphasis):

A letter of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine was published yesterday by a hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in which the Patriarch informed the Metropolitan that his title and position is, in fact, uncanonical.

This assertion represents a negation of the position held by Pat. Bartholomew himself until April of this year, when the latest stage in the Ukrainian crisis began…

The same letter was independently published by the Greek news agency Romfea today as well.

It is dated October 12, meaning it was written just one day after Constantinople made its historic decision to rehabilitate the Ukrainian schismatics and rescind the 1686 document whereby the Kiev Metropolitanate was transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church, thereby, in Constantinople’s view, taking full control of Ukraine.

In the letter, Pat. Bartholomew informs Met. Onuphry that after the council, currently scheduled for December 15, he will no longer be able to carry his current title of “Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine.”

The Patriarch immediately opens his letter with Constantinople’s newly-developed historical claim about the jurisdictional alignment of Kiev: “You know from history and from indisputable archival documents that the holy Metropolitanate of Kiev has always belonged to the jurisdiction of the Mother Church of Constantinople…”

Constantinople has done an about-face on its position regarding Ukraine in recent months, given that it had previously always recognized the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate as the sole canonical primate in Ukraine.

…The bulk of the Patriarch’s letter is a rehash of Constantinople’s historical and canonical arguments, which have already been laid out and discussed elsewhere. (See also here and here). Pat. Bartholomew also writes that Constantinople stepped into the Ukrainian ecclesiastical sphere as the Russian Church had not managed to overcome the schisms that have persisted for 30 years.

It should be noted that the schisms began and have persisted precisely as anti-Russian movements and thus the relevant groups refused to accept union with the Russian Church.

Continuing, Pat. Bartholomew informs Met. Onuphry that his position and title are uncanonical:

Addressing you as ‘Your Eminence the Metropolitan of Kiev’ as a form of economia [indulgence/condescension—OC] and mercy, we inform you that after the elections for the primate of the Ukrainian Church by a body that will consist of clergy and laity, you will not be able ecclesiologically and canonically to bear the title of Metropolitan of Kiev, which, in any case, you now bear in violation of the described conditions of the official documents of 1686.

He also entreats Met. Onuphry to “promptly and in a spirit of harmony and unity” participate, with the other hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in the founding council of the new Ukrainian church that Constantinople is planning to create, and in the election of its primate.

The Constantinople head also writes that he “allows” Met. Onuphry to be a candidate for the position of primate.

He further implores Met. Onuphry and the UOC hierarchy to communicate with Philaret Denisenko, the former Metropolitan of Kiev, and Makary Maletich, the heads of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” and the schismatic “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” respectively—both of which have been subsumed into Constantinople—but whose canonical condemnations remain in force for the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The hierarchs of the Serbian and Polish Churches have also officially rejected the rehabilitation of the Ukrainian schismatics.

Pat. Bartholomew concludes expressing his confidence that Met. Onuphry will decide to heal the schism through the creation of a new church in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church under Metropolitan Onuphry’s leadership is recognized as the sole canonical Orthodox jurisdiction in Ukraine by just about every other canonical Orthodox Jurisdiction besides Constantinople. Even NATO member Albania, whose expressed reaction was “both sides are wrong for recent actions” still does not accept the canonicity of the “restored hierarchs.”

In fact, about the only people in this dispute that seem to be in support of the “restored” hierarchs, Filaret and Makary, are President Poroshenko, Patriarch Bartholomew, Filaret and Makary… and NATO.

While this letter was released to the public eye yesterday, the nearly two months that Metropolitan Onuphry has had to comply with it have not been helped in any way by the actions of both the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Ukrainian government.

Priests of the Canonical Church in Ukraine awaiting interrogation by the State authorities

For example, in parallel reports released on December 6th, the government is reportedly accusing canonical priests in Ukraine of treason because they are carrying and distributing a brochure entitled (in English): The Ukrainian Orthodox Church: Relations with the State. The Attitude Towards the Conflict in Donbass and to the Church Schism. Questions and Answers.

In a manner that would do any American liberal proud, these priests are being accused of inciting religious hatred, though really all they are doing is offering an explanation for the situation in Ukraine as it exists.

A further piece also released yesterday notes that the Ukrainian government rehabilitated an old Soviet-style technique of performing “inspections of church artifacts” at the Pochaev Lavra. This move appears to be both intended to intimidate the monastics who are living there now, who are members of the canonical Church, as well as preparation for an expected forcible takeover by the new “united Church” that is under creation. The brotherhood characterized the inspections in this way:

The brotherhood of the Pochaev Lavra previously characterized the state’s actions as communist methods of putting pressure on the monastery and aimed at destroying monasticism.

Commenting on the situation with the Pochaev Lavra, His Eminence Archbishop Clement of Nizhyn and Prilusk, the head of the Ukrainian Church’s Information-Education Department, noted:

This is a formal raiding, because no reserve ever built the Pochaev Lavra, and no Ministry of Culture ever invested a single penny to restoring the Lavra, and the state has done nothing to preserve the Lavra in its modern form. The state destroyed the Lavra, turned it into a psychiatric hospital, a hospital for infectious diseases, and so on—the state has done nothing more. And now it just declares that it all belongs to the state. No one asked the Church, the people that built it. When did the Lavra and the land become state property? They belonged to the Church from time immemorial.

With the massive pressure both geopolitically and ecclesiastically building in Ukraine almost by the day, it is anyone’s guess what will happen next.

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Ukrainian leadership is a party of war, and it will continue as long as they’re in power – Putin

“We care about Ukraine because Ukraine is our neighbor,” Putin said.

RT

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Via RT…


Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has branded the Ukrainian leadership a “party of war” which would continue fueling conflicts while they stay in power, giving the recent Kerch Strait incident as an example.

“When I look at this latest incident in the Black Sea, all what’s happening in Donbass – everything indicates that the current Ukrainian leadership is not interested in resolving this situation at all, especially in a peaceful way,” Putin told reporters during a media conference in the aftermath of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This is a party of war and as long as they stay in power, all such tragedies, all this war will go on.

The Kiev authorities are craving war primarily for two reasons – to rip profits from it, and to blame all their own domestic failures on it and actions of some sort of “aggressors.”

“As they say, for one it’s war, for other – it’s mother. That’s reason number one why the Ukrainian government is not interested in a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” Putin stated.

Second, you can always use war to justify your failures in economy, social policy. You can always blame things on an aggressor.

This approach to statecraft by the Ukrainian authorities deeply concerns Russia’s President. “We care about Ukraine because Ukraine is our neighbor,” Putin said.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been soaring after the incident in the Kerch Strait. Last weekend three Ukrainian Navy ships tried to break through the strait without seeking the proper permission from Russia. Following a tense stand-off and altercation with Russia’s border guard, the vessels were seized and their crews detained over their violation of the country’s border.

While Kiev branded the incident an act of “aggression” on Moscow’s part, Russia believes the whole Kerch affair to be a deliberate “provocation” which allowed Kiev to declare a so-called “partial” martial law ahead of Ukraine’s presidential election.

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When Putin Met Bin Sally

Another G20 handshake for the history books.

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Via Zerohedge


In the annals of handshake photo-ops, we just may have a new winner (much to the delight of oil bulls who are looking at oil treading $50 and contemplating jumping out of the window).

Nothing but sheer joy, delight and friendship…

…but something is missing…

Meanwhile, earlier…

Zoomed in…

And again.

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