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As landmark INF treaty closes in on 30 years, will it survive? (Part III)

Ratcheting tensions between the US and Russia leave the future of the Cold War pact in doubt

Alex Christoforou

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(Oriental Review) – Part 3. Russia’s stance on the future of the INF Treaty

Russia feels that the current, inauspicious environment of noncompliance with the INF Treaty is cause for alarm, given Washington’s continued, systematic, and methodical chipping away at this system of global strategic stability.

The onset of that process began in 2002, when Washington unilaterally withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which ensured strategic stability through the creation of a strategic balance of offensive and defensive weapons.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has repeatedly criticized the State Department reports, Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments, which, among other things, voiced grievances against Russia owing to the supposed breaches of its commitments under the INF Treaty.

Moscow has primarily taken issue with these documents because they have never offered any specific details to back up these claims, instead merely reiterating the main articles of the 1987 treaty and adding various unproven allegations.

There has never been any clarification of the substance of either the American complaints or the comments of US officials who refer to some sort of “classified intelligence.” For this reason the Russian Foreign Ministry has declared its willingness to help the American diplomats correct this omission, at one time reminding them that objectivity and accuracy should always be prioritized over creative writing.

Russia contends that the “information” that the US previously submitted to Moscow via diplomatic channels, which allegedly should have made it possible for the Russians to identify the missile in question, was in fact incomplete, fragmentary data that in no way clarified the basis for the American complaints. In Russian governmental and political circles, it is a matter of serious concern that representatives of a number of US agencies are using these “facts” as a pretext for trotting out yet another justification for potential “countermeasures” in response to Russian “violations” of the 1987 treaty.

Russia has often stated that the two types of Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles cited by the US as “violations” of the INF Treaty, namely the mobile, ground-based RS-12M or Topol-M (SS-25) missiles, as well as the new RS-26 ICBM also known as the Rubezh, have never been classified as intermediate- or short-range missiles, since their flying range exceeds the maximum ceiling of 5,500 km defined by the Gorbachev-Reagan agreement. For this reason, these two ICBMs are only subject to the terms of a treaty of a different format and content, namely New START, which was signed in 2010.

The mobile launcher for RS-26 Rubezh

The mobile launcher for RS-26 Rubezh

Likewise, the 1987 agreement is in no way applicable to the operational R-500 missile, nor does that missile have anything to do with that agreement, since its maximum firing range falls below the minimum of 500 km, as defined by that treaty.

Moreover, the Russians have long reminded Washington that it is in fact the US that is breaching its treaty commitments under quite a number of arms-control agreements.

As early as Jan. 4, 2001, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued its first statement noting that the US, in violation of the INF Treaty, has a history of manufacturing a new type of ground-based, medium-range ballistic target missiles, known as Hera, based on the second and third stages of the Minuteman II ICBMs. However, the US side has offered no satisfactory response to this charge yet.

A similar statement, but broader in scope, was made by the Russian Foreign Ministry nine years later. In August 2010, it announced that the US were systematically violating the main provisions of the INF Treaty by using target missiles to fine-tune components of their missile-defense systems that simulate not only ballistic missiles such as Hera, but also LRALTs (long-range air-launch target missiles) and MRTs (medium-range targets). The Russian diplomatic office pointed out that under the 1987 agreement, the launch of such missiles qualifies as a test of a “new type” of intermediate-range land-based missile, which is a violation of Article VI of that treaty.

During the presidencies of Barack Obama and Donald Trump, the United States armed forces have often stated that they have routinely used short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles (the American side defines medium-range as between 1,000 and 3,000 km, while intermediate-range is 3,000–5,500) as target missiles while conducting operational tests to assess the effectiveness of the interceptors that are part of the US global missile-defense system.

This has been confirmed by official statements made by every director of the Missile Defense Agency of the US Department of Defense since 2001 at hearings before various Senate and House committees. On an ongoing basis since 2001, i.e., since active testing began of missile-defense systems in the US, the Pentagon has conducted 92 tests of its “missile shield,” using a full array of short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles as targets for its intercept tests.

Similar tests will continue in the US in 2018, and, hence, so will their violations of the INF Treaty, since the same types of dummy missiles of this range will again be used as targets for interception.

Moscow has been reminding Washington that the MK 41 multi-mission launchersused at American missile-defense sites in Romania and Poland that are equipped with the Aegis Ashore command and control system will be used to launch intermediate-range, land-based cruise missiles – a direct violation of the INF Treaty. It is important to remember that similar launchers were positioned in Romania back in May of 2016 and more should be in place in Poland by December of 2018.

US combat drones, which can also be loaded into the MK 41 launchers, are another problem for the INF Treaty, as they meet the 1987 agreement’s definition of land-based cruise missiles. The United States has added drones (also known as “unmanned aerial vehicles,” or UAVs) such as the Predator, Raptor, Global Hawk, and others to its arsenal, which under the treaty are all classified as ground-based cruise missiles, regardless of the fact that they were produced and pressed into service after that agreement had been signed. Heavy UAVs of this type, which carry aircraft ordnance, clearly qualify as aerodynamic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 km, which are prohibited by the INF Treaty.

As landmark INF nuclear treaty closes in 30 years, will it survive?

In the future it might well be possible to load “dual-capable” launchers of this type with the high-precision, hypersonic weaponry developed by the Pentagon for its Prompt Global Strike program.

The US has repeatedly provided official confirmation of the fact that it is using short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles as targets to test the effectiveness of its interceptor missile-defense systems.

The US claims that it takes too much time to reload the designated weapons and to change the computer programs required for their launch do not ring true, given the fact that similar types of US Navy sea-based launchers are loaded simultaneously with four types of missiles for various purposes, namely anti-surface, anti-aircraft, anti-submarine, and land attack missiles. No one has to specifically go in and change the electronic programming in order to fire them under combat conditions. That is already included for each missile.

Two central themes can be seen in the attempts of the US side to accuse Russia of “violating” the 1987 treaty: one is designed for a domestic audience, while the other is intended for external consumption.

The domestic motif consists of distracting attention from both the tests of the newest US ballistic missile defense systems as well as from the production of a new intermediate-range, land-based cruise missile.

Prior to the 2016 US presidential election, the Republican lawmakers’ second motif at home was their desire to pressure the Democratic Party by demanding that Barack Obama identify at any cost the ways in which Russia had violated the INF Treaty.

As landmark INF treaty closes in 30 years, will it survive? (Part II)

But once Donald Trump won the election, new faces stepped forward to play the part of the accusers: now the Democrats were the ones heaping abuse on the Republican administration of Donald Trump, claiming that it was not offering a robust response to Russia’s “violations” of the 1987 treaty.

The recurring themes in the foreign policy of the Republican and Democratic congressmen were evident in their attempts to use any means to prevent the Russian Federation from getting highly effective intercontinental missiles that could reliably prevail over any type of integrated American and transatlantic anti-missile system: both by employing a missile-defense system, in the form of sea- and land-based interceptors, that steady advances on the borders of Russia and other states, as well as by relying on the ground-based system that has long been deployed inside the continental US.

This can be seen in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act,, which has its sights squarely set on Russia’s RS-26 ICBM. And one way to get rid of it – which Washington is already using – is easily evident: first, Moscow is forced to believe that the US is prepared to produce a new ground-launched cruise missile, but then Washington is apparently willing to abandon that venture if the Russians will get rid of an already existing missile of an entirely different class. But the days when an obvious trick like that would have worked are long past.

It can also be presumed that the song and dance about Moscow’s alleged ongoing violations of the 1987 treaty is an attempt by the US to distract the global community from the problem of the Americans’ ongoing stockpiling of tactical nuclear weapons on the European continent, despite the fact that Russia already withdrew all its nuclear weapons of that class from three former Soviet republics (Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine) back in the mid-1990s.

The question then arises: why does President Donald Trump need such a clearly counterproductive brouhaha over these unproven Russian violations of the INF Treaty, not to mention the array of threats that no high-ranking American officials had ever before issued in such an openly provocative way? One gets the impression that they are advancing contrived accusations against Russia only to divert attention from the American violations listed above, creating a kind of “smokescreen.”

Clearly there is another, more dangerous implication, when viewed from a foreign-policy perspective.

Washington is looking for a chance to launch a first nuclear strike – without repercussions – against Russia, China, Iran, and other states with their own views about the future world order. The White House, as the American press has noted, is considering three options for its military response to Russia’s INF “violations”: developing defensive, i.e., anti-ballistic systems; launching a preemptive strike against any weapons that violate the treaty; and using “nuclear weapons to destroy military targets” on enemy territory.

At the same time, it must be remembered that US strategic nuclear forces are retaining their same offensive doctrine that allows for a first preemptive or preventative nuclear strike against a whole group of states, while unconstrainedly expanding the capability of their global missile-defense system.

It’s a safe bet that America’s threatening actions within the context of the implementation of the INF Treaty will prompt countermeasures from many states and will heighten the risk of conflicts. When one side makes flagrantly destabilizing moves without taking into account the other side’s security interests, it is natural to see some pushback. As a result, once the balance of power and the strategic equation are restored, it is at a more weaponized level and the balance that is achieved is more precarious. This means a higher risk of a revival of military confrontations such as were seen in Berlin and Cuba.

Russia is still happy to take a look at any tangible evidence that is giving the Americans reason to believe that Moscow has “violated” something under the 1987 treaty. But Moscow has no intention whatsoever of breaking this treaty, which for the last 30 years has been inhibiting the potentially dangerous proliferation of two classes of nuclear weapons within the arsenals of the world’s leading nuclear powers.

In light of the current situation, Russia has plans for discussions with the US on a whole range of substantive issues related to reducing armaments and limiting military interactions between Russia and the United States.

These “other substantive issues” include:

• the fact that since the summer of 2014 all three types of American strategic heavy bombers – the B-1B, B-52H, and B-2A – have been stationed in Europe and have taken part in various NATO military exercises

• the fact that the US is equipping its strategic delivery vehicles with conventionally-armed cruise missiles (four Ohio-class submarines have already been converted, giving each of them the capacity to carry up to 154 such missiles)

• the cache of American tactical nuclear weapons in Europe and Asia that are being radically updated and furnished with more advanced delivery systems

• the potential deployment in Romania and Poland of not only US ground-based missile-defense systems in multi-mission launchers, but also interceptors, long-range cruise missiles, and long-range high-precision hypersonic weapons

• NATO’s significant advantage over Russia in terms of general-purpose forces, the positioning of new military bases and heavy weapons near Russia’s borders, and also the staging of large-scale military exercises of an offensive nature

• the prevention of any weaponization of space.

There are also other issues Moscow might bring up with Washington that are directly tied to the American attempts to avoid resolving a whole host of other arms-control problems. And that includes more than a dozen genuine grievances over US noncompliance with current treaties and agreements, in addition to those problems for which they make no effort to find solutions based on the principle of equality and equal security for all sides.

At the same time, Moscow is still prepared to hold an honest and substantive dialog with the Americans in order to allay any concerns over arms control, which would include any misgivings related to the INF Treaty.

As has been repeatedly pointed out at the highest levels of the Russian government, (in particular, during the Valdai International Discussion Forum in Sochi on Oct. 19, 2017), Moscow does not intend to initiate the termination of the current INF Treaty, but it will respond commensurately should the US move to do so.

Vladimir Putin Valdai Discussion Club 2017

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Russia’s Rosatom is the world leader in international construction of nuclear power plants

Rosatom is currently constructing the Akkuyu nuclear power plant in Turkey.

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In spite of western sanctions, Russia’s Rosatom is the world’s number two in uranium reserves and has become number one globally in the implementation of nuclear reactor projects. Currently, Rosatom is working on six reactor projects in Russia and 36 abroad. Rosatom has acquired 67 per cent of the world nuclear plant construction market, the orders portfolio exceeding $133 billion. Rosatom is working on nuclear plants in Turkey, China and Bangladesh, to name just a few of the countries, where the Russian corporation is present. Rosatom is highly respected as the global technological leader in high-performance clean energy solutions and was also recently named best Russian employer for the year of 2018 by an international headhunter firm. On the 15th and 16th of April 2019, the eleventh ATOMEXPO FORUM was held in Sochi, Russia, upon invitation by Rosatom.

The Russian State Corporation Rosatom (Росатом), established in 2007, has its headquarters in Moscow. The organization comprises more than 360 enterprises, including scientific research organizations and the world’s only nuclear icebreaker fleet. Since 2016, its General Director is Alexey Likhachev.

Rosatom was ranked number one as best employer of Russia in 2018 by HeadHunter, a top HR management platform and resource centre. In a vote, the company achieved the highest score by employees, candidates and experts out of over 1.000 big Russian companies. Commenting on the accolade, Tatyana Terentyeva, HR Director of Rosatom, said:

“We’re immensely proud of this achievement which is a testament to our strong company culture of always putting our people first. The growth of regional and international projects has given employees and applicants a chance of working in multicultural, cross-divisional and cross-functional project teams. Digitalisation, alone, will open vacancies for 1.000 new specialists this year, from software developers to product and data scientists.”

“We believe that the responsibility lies with human capital stakeholders, such as large multinationals, universities and governments to begin discussing the policy response in earnest. We hope that the gathering of these parties at the global Skills Summit, taking place alongside the WorldSkills 2019 Conference in Kazan this August, to address the global skills gap which affects everyone, will be an important starting point from which companies and governments can work together to help solve this issue”, she further commented (CISTON PR NEWSWIRE, 28.03.2019).

Rosatom is currently constructing the Akkuyu nuclear power plant in Turkey. Laying the foundation has already been completed. The 17.000 cubic metres of self-compacting concrete foundations are due to be followed by the construction of the exterior and interior walls of the reactor. Construction of the concrete bases for the auxiliary reactors and control room have also begun. The work meets International Atomic Energy Agency safety standards.

Rosatom said that the entire first reactor would be finished by the end of the year 2019, with engineering studies for the second reactor already in progress and documentation being prepared to construct the third reactor in Turkey’s Mediterranean province of Mersin. The Russian nuclear utility is due to build four reactors, each with a capacity of 1.2 gigawatts. The plant is anticipated to have a working life of 8.000 hours per year and produce 35 billion kilowatts of electricity at full capacity. That will meet 10 per cent of Turkey’s electrical demands, according to the Turkish authorities. Akkuyu has an operational date for the first reactor in 2023 with full capacity targeted by 2025 (ENERGY REPORTERS, 15.03.2019).

In China, Rosatom built the Tianwan nuclear power plant, Phase I, Phase II and Phase III. Now, the Russians will construct Tianwan Phase IV. The general contract was signed in March this year for the construction of two further Russian-supplied reactors at the Tianwan nuclear power plant in China’s Jiangsu province. In addition, a technical design contract was signed for a second pair of reactors at the Xudabao site in Liaoning province.

Rosatom said that the contracts had been prepared in accordance with the strategic package of agreements signed during a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to China, in June 2018. This package defines cooperation between Russia and China in the nuclear industry for the coming decades.

Tianwan Phase I – units 1 and 2 – was constructed under a 1992 cooperation agreement between China and Russia. The first concrete was poured in October 1999. The units were commissioned in June 2007 and September 2007, respectively. Tianwan Phase II – units 3 and 4 – was constructed from December 2012 until December 2018. Unit 3 entered commercial operation in February 2018, with unit 4 following in December 2018. Tiawan Phase III – units 5 and 6 – both featuring Chinese-designed 1080 MWe ACPR1000 reactors, were begun in December 2015. Units 5 and 6 are planned to go into commercial operation by the end of 2021 (WORLD NUCLEAR NEWS, 12.03.2019).

Another Rosatom construction site is located in Bangladesh. Both Dhaka and Moscow expressed their satisfaction over the progress of construction work of the Rooppur nuclear power plant. It is being implemented under an intergovernmental agreement, signed between Russia and Bangladesh in November 2011. In December 2015, Atomstroyexport, Rosatom’s subsidiary, was appointed as general contractor for the construction of the Rooppur plant with two VVER 1200 power units, each with a capacity of 1.200 megawatts. In 2015 and 2016, preparatory work was carried out at the construction site, working documentation was developed and licencing documents were prepared.

In 2017, the regulatory authority of Bangladesh (BAERA) issued the required licence for the design and construction of the plant. In July 2018, unit 2 also went into the active phase of construction, following the “first concrete”. In August 2018, the installation of the “core catcher”, one of the most important passive safety systems, began at unit 1. The installation of the “core catcher” for unit 2 began in February 2019. Currently, construction of the main buildings of both power units is underway (DHAKA TRIBUNE, 10.03.2019)

Rosatom has further ambitious plans for NPP construction worldwide. Building a network of nuclear reactors across the world will help to extend Moscow’s influence into global energy markets, as it offers competitive deals and comprehensive service, including the provision of plutonium. Kirill Komarov, deputy CEO of Rosatom, told the media:

“We are the ultimate leader in the majority of nuclear sectors. Most of our projects are in the developing world. These are the countries which show the strongest economic growth. China, India, Southeast Asia, countries in the Middle East region. We see countries on the African continent and in Latin America.”

Kirill Komarov explained that “Rosatom is offering solutions for developing countries to enable them negotiating the regulatory challenges involved with going nuclear. Rosatom is a unique company in that we have activities in all areas of the nuclear business; starting with mining of natural uranium, enrichment fuel fabrication, developing our own nuclear equipment, construction of nuclear power plants, decommissioning, waste management … everything” (ENERGY REPORTERS, 05.10.2018).

General Director of Rosatom is Alexey Likhachev. He assumed office in October 2016. Alexey Likhachev graduated from Gorky State University and started his career as an engineer in the Gorky Research Institute of Instrumentation. In 1998, he graduated from the Economic Faculty of Nizhniy Novgorod State University with a Ph.D. in economics.

In 2007, Alexey Likhachev joined the Ministry of Economic Development of Russia, where he held a wide variety of leadership positions. Throughout his career, he held senior positions in other governmental bodies and public organizations as well. He was a member of the State Duma, serving as Deputy Chairman of the Committee for Economic Policy, Entrepreneurship and Tourism, from 2000 to 2007.

According to Alexey Likhachev, Rosatom plans to retain its leading role in nuclear power plant construction worldwide, during the decade of 2020 to 2030. The Russian corporation aims to maintain a portfolio of foreign orders in the amount of at least $130 billion per year.

“Several years ago, we assumed the leading role on the global nuclear power plant construction market,” Alexey Likhachev said. “The market is moving, so our share on the market fluctuates between 68 and 72 per cent. I think we will be able to maintain it above 60 per cent at least, this is how we see our goals for the coming decade” (TASS, 13.01.2019).

Since the beginning of the 21st century, with President Vladimir Putin coming into power, the Russian Federation has moved upwards, building a vast nuclear empire spanning South and North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Rosatom is the government corporation behind this enormous expansion, exporting nuclear technology all over the world, thus becoming the world’s leading nuclear powerhouse.

The International Atomic Energy Agency predicts that nuclear power will continue to grow in the next 15 years. The agency’s latest report puts the low margin of growth at 17 per cent and the high at 94 per cent. The Russian Federation is uniquely positioned to capitalize on this projected growth – it has a rich legacy of research and engineering in the field, as well as a history of cooperation with countries on all continents.

The Russian Federation is ensuring its steady presence on almost every single continent through the export of nuclear power projects, expanding its sphere of influence beyond traditional military and hydrocarbon means. Building nuclear power plants is a geopolitical tool, allowing Russia to tie up strategic foreign governments into long-term cooperation. In this way, Russia is demonstrating its prowess by building nuclear rectors across the world (GEOPOLITICAL MONITOR, 17.05.2016).

With these projects, the Russian Federation is gaining a strong foothold on the ground because nuclear power plants require transfer of technological know-how and long-term engagement of scientists, engineers, diplomats. The plants are, in essence, embassies and commerce chambers, which guarantee Russian access to local governments and politicians. Besides, the Russian Federation is opening its universities for students from future nuclear clients and building networks of cadres across the world.

One of the possiblities for Rosatom to reach foreign government agencies and business people is the international ATOMEXPO Forum, a major event in the global nuclear industry. Upon invitation from Rosatom, the 11th forum took place in Sochi, on the 15th and 16th of April 2019. The forum included an exhibition and a convention with an extensive business programme, centred around a plenary discussion. The forum provided a good opportunity for networking and signing partnership agreements. The forum also offered an entertaining cultural programme with possibilities to visit the beautiful Russian seaside resort of Sochi on the Black Sea and the nearby Caucasus mountains.

Seen in this light, Rosatom functions not only as a powerhouse exporting nuclear power plants but also as a corporation of diplomatic and geopolitical importance for Russia.


Olivia Kroth: The journalist and author of four books lives in Moscow.

Her blog: https://olivia2010kroth.wordpress.com

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What’s Really Behind The State Department’s Meddling In Ukraine?

US meddling in Ukraine and support for a schismatic Ukrainian Church is not just about weakening Russia’s ‘soft power’ and geopolitical position but about expanding the reach of the US’s identity, gender and sexual politics

Jim Jatras

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This article is republished with the author’s permission.  Previously published by Chronicles

On March 31 the first round of Ukraine’s presidential election was held. In line with all polls, the top spot (with about 30 percent of the vote) was taken by Volodymyr Zelensky, a comic actor who played President of Ukraine in a popular TV series, making him the leading candidate for the position he once spoofed. He was followed (with about 16 percent) by incumbent President President Poroshenko, known as the oligarchic “Chocolate King” because of his confectionary company, Roshen. Poroshenko has also sought to emulate another king, England’s Henry VIII, through creation of his own Ukrainian church, which late last year Poroshenko declared independent of the Russian Orthodox Church with assistance from an unlikely duo, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch in Istanbul and the US State Department.

(Trailing behind Poroshenko with about 13 percent was perennial candidate and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, also known as the “Gas Princess” (for her prominent role in the shady natural gas industry), “goddess of the Revolution” (for her firebrand image in Ukraine’s turbulent post-Soviet history), and the “Princess Leia of Ukrainian politics” (for her trademark folk-motif braids). Tymoshenko claims, quite plausibly, that Poroshenko stole the second spot from her but that Ukraine’s judicial system has been “privatized” by Poroshenko and it’s pointless to challenge the results in court.)

Zelensky and Poroshenko will now square off in an April 21 second round. The smart money favors Zelensky, given how badly he trounced Poroshenko in the first round. The smart money is probably wrong. Poroshenko—for whom the stakes are likely either self-imposed exile to avoid prosecution or continued slopping at a lucrative trough—has a lot of cards he can play, both what they call locally “administrative measures” to pad his vote and goodies to get former rivals to support him.

Most of all, he can count on western governments, notably that of the United States, and their hangers-on to not only turn a blind eye but to positively enthuse over Ukraine’s democratic vitality.

In world in which Washington routinely thunders from on high about other countries’ democratic legitimacy, the see-no-evil attitude toward Ukraine speaks volumes. (Imagine if, say, Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, or Syria’s Bashar al-Assad had while in office racked up a 10,000 percent income increase, mainly from a shady Zurich-based fund.)

At this point it’s appropriate to stop and ask: why should anyone in the US care about Ukraine and its elections? Perhaps the more important question is, why does the State Department care so much? The answer has many facets: historical, geopolitical, ideological, ethnic, moral, and—perhaps surprisingly for some who may not think of “mere religion” as being particularly important in a postmodern Europe—spiritual.

In fact, upon examination Ukraine is a revealing showcase of all that’s wrong with American global policy, including a fanatical determination to impose a post-Christian moral order on what are still unexpectedly vibrant Christian societies rebounding from decades of communist repression. Sadly, this determination has not slackened under the Trump administration but has continued as though the previous administration had never left. In this regard, whatever his very public professions of his Christian faithwhited sepulchre Secretary Mike Pompeo and his State Department area at the forefront.

One of the major claimed accomplishments of incumbent Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s reelection campaign of “army, language, faith” is creation of an autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church (i.e., completely self-governing, with no tie at all to the Russian Orthodox Church). Western governments and media have uniformly—and inaccurately—hailed this as a reality already fulfilledwith the awarding of a tomos (literally, a small book containing an authoritative pronouncement or declaration) from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople to Poroshenko and religious figures in Ukraine who had up until then been universally shunned as schismatics by all Orthodox jurisdictions. As of this writing, no other autocephalous Church has endorsed Constantinople’s actions, and several, notably the Patriarchates of Belgrade and Antioch—and notably Church of Albania, which is largely Greek by ethnicity—have taken sharp exception to it.

The Ukrainian Church situation is complex and contentious. It will be months if not years before it works itself out. Indeed, it may lead to a permanent split within Orthodoxy, not only in Ukraine but worldwide. Also, despite Patriarch Bartholomew’s stated intention to foster accord and reconciliation in Ukraine, his actions clearly have aggravated already raw feelings among believers there. Far from creating a united Ukrainian autocephalous Church, he has only managed to cobble together a new body under the authority of Constantinople in opposition to the canonical Moscow-linked Church, which continues to exist under its primate Metropolitan Onufriy. Violence in various forms is inevitable as Ukrainian authorities harass the canonical Church and prepare to seize its parishes and monasteries, notably the historic Kiev Perchersk Lavra and the Pochaev Lavra in western Ukraine.

Conspicuously, Poroshenko’s blatant politicking in Church affairs—which has been criticized even from quarters favoring autocephaly—has been applauded by western governments, notably by American officials. Just a few days after a high State Department career officer commendably declared in September 2018 that “any decision on autocephaly is an internal [Orthodox] church matter” he was reversed by endorsements of autocephaly by Secretary Pompeo, US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker, and US Ambassador in Kiev Marie Yovanovitch (an Obama appointee but still in place). Following the December Robber Council of Kiev on December 15, the US Embassy tweeted out its congratulations in English and in Ukrainian (not in Russian of course). Secretary of State Mike Pompeo placed a personal call to the “newly elected head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine Metropolitan Epifaniy” (Dumenko). US Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch extended her congratulations to Dumenko in person. It should also be noted that The Atlantic Council, an über-Establishment Washington-based think tank operating in close coordination with the US government (and heavily funded by US and allied government agencies and contractors), has been an active advocate for autocephaly in the policy community and media.

Moreover, there is reason to believe the US State Department’s involvement was not just hortatory. As reported by this analyst in October 2018, according to an unconfirmed report originating with the members of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (an autonomous New York-based part of the Moscow Patriarchate), in July 2018 State Department officials, possibly including Secretary Pompeo personally, warned the scandalridden and broke Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (also based in New York but under authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate) that the US government was aware of the misappropriation of a large amount of money, about $10 million, from an estimated $37 million raised from believers for the (now stalled) construction of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine in New York (to replace the original St. Nicholas church destroyed in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center). The State Department warning also reportedly noted that federal prosecutors have documentary evidence confirming the withdrawal of these funds abroad on the orders of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. It was suggested that Secretary Pompeo would “close his eyes” to this theft in exchange for movement by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in favor of Ukrainian autocephaly, which helped set Patriarch Bartholomew on his current course. Moreover, the State Department’s direct hand in this sordid business may not have consisted solely of wielding the “stick” of legal threat: there’s reason to believe there was a “carrot” too. There are numerous unproven reports of a $25 million payoff to Constantinople from Poroshenko (although allegedly Poroshenko initially attempted to hold back $15 million for himself). Attributions of the original source of that money differ. Some claim it came from organized crime bosses in Dnipro. This analyst was told by an unsolicited, confidential informant in the Greek Archdiocese in New York that the funds came from the State Department.

We may never know the truth about any such payment. But whatever the details, one still has to ask why the US is so keenly committed to creating an autocephalous Church in Ukraine. Aside from the obvious impropriety of the United States’ taking sides in a question of the Orthodox Church’s internal governance, why is the State Department so committed to promoting a transparently political power grab by Poroshenko, the Ukrainian schismatics, and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople?

Given the various lobbies with a lot of influence in Washington, including those of foreign states and ethnic communities, it is natural to look in that direction to identify relevant actors and driving forces on the American side with respect to formulation of policy toward Ukraine. Among those that might come to mind are the Ukrainian diaspora in the United States (just under a million people), the Greek-American community (variously estimated at between one and three million, depending on self-identification), and so forth. There is precedent for such influences on US policy in Eastern Europe. One is reminded of the role the Croatian and Albanian diaspora communities played in the breakup of Yugoslavia. It should be noted that the Yugoslav conflicts took place as the post-Cold War drive for US global hegemony was only beginning to take form, and Bosnia and Kosovo were catalytic in its development.

It is true that some Ukrainian-Americans (heavily weighted by those with western Ukraine origins) have long taken part in activities of various “Captive Nations” and “ethnic heritage” groups operating after World War II, notably the CIA front “American Committee for Liberation from Bolshevism” and the “Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations” (originally spun off by the United Kingdom’s MI6 from the earlier “British League for European Freedom”). Mainly though not exclusively oriented toward the Republican Party they operated under the banner of anti-communism but really (to an extent many non-“ethnic” Americans may not fully have understood) were vehicles for their various ethnic agendas. These agendas related less to communism than dissatisfaction with the territorial arrangements that existed after 1945, giving these groups the character of World War II losers’ associations. Russophobia (and with respect to the Balkans, Serbophobia) was a common point of agreement.

It should also be noted that while American Greeks were not notable in these activities the US government has valued the utility of the Constantinopolitan Patriarchate since at least the 1940s. Today, while his flock within Turkey dwindles to almost nil (in effect, it is what in English parliamentary context was known as a “rotten borough”), Patriarch Bartholomew has sought to expand his profile as a “player” on the world stage, exemplified by his demonstrative environmentalism as “the Green Patriarch” and, together with Pope Francis, welcoming Muslim migrants to Europe through Greece. Moreover, his actions in Ukraine are an expansion of Constantinople’s longstanding quasi-papal ambitions built on uncanonical claims to “universal” status as a kind of “Eastern Pope,” misuse of doctrinally troubling incarnational language, and adoption of a breathtakingly arrogant tone that would cause even the most ultramontane proponent of the Rome’s supremacy to blush.  Given strong support for Ukrainian Orthodox autocephaly from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which now sees a new opportunity for it to be elevated to a patriarchate within Roman Catholicism, Ukraine also advances Constantinople’s warm ecumenical embrace aimed at reunion with the Roman Papacy, with a Ukrainian church in communion with both Rome and Constantinople as a possible catalyst. In short, whatever the carrots and sticks involved, the State Department was pushing on an open door at the Phanar.

However, as described below, by 2005 the ideological and methodological aspects of the US policymaking establishment’s aspirations for global hegemony were already fully formed. A key part of this was turning Ukraine into a forward salient against Russia, as attested to in the “Orange Revolution” of 2004-5 and the 2008 NATO Bucharest declaration regarding Ukraine’s (and Georgia’s) destiny as part of NATO. Today, attacking the Orthodox Church in Ukraine is another logical—and well-targeted—element of that aggressive aim. While some elements in the Greek and (especially) Ukrainian communities no doubt had a hand in it, they don’t have the influence to set the agenda and should be regarded more as implementing a program thought up by others. I would compare the US apparat in this regard to that of the Soviet Union: the imperatives are ideological and bureaucratic; while ethnic lobbies (comparable in their day to pro-Soviet Third World “national liberation movements”) are useful, they are the tools of policy, not its masters.

The origin of the US focus on Ukraine and its religious issues must instead be sought within the larger perspective of American policy since the end of the first Cold War in 1991 and the development of the current one in the course of the 1990s: the American “unipolar moment,” as the bipartisan US policy establishment sought to consolidate and perpetuate its hegemonic control over the entire planet, taking advantage of the vacuum left by the demise of the USSR. Perhaps the fullest expression of this was a 1996 article by neoconservative ideologists William Kristol and Robert Kagan, misleadingly titled “Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy,” in which they called for the US to establish and maintain indefinitely “benevolent global hegemony”—American world domination. As scrutinized by this analyst in Chronicles magazine the following year, Kristol and Kagan laid down virtually all of the elements that have guided US foreign policy during the ensuing years. It is no accident that GOP neoconservatives were enthusiastic supporters of Bill Clinton’s Balkan interventions of 1990s, under the guidance of people like then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who once opined regarding the sanctions-related deaths of a half million Iraqi children that “the price is worth it.” In the US establishment, there is little dissent on either side of the partisan aisle with Albright’s sincere conviction that a militant United States has a special wisdom: “If we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future . . . ”

The result is a kind of neo-Bolshevism, where as the vanguard of all progressive humanity the United States sees itself as the midwife of history to advance the principles not of the USSR’s “peace, progress, and socialism” but of a similarly ideologized triad of “democracy, human rights, and free markets.”

Viewed this way, a revived, non-ideological, nationally minded Russia is an obstacle that must be overcome—one way or the other. (A similar attitude exists toward China and Iran.) Recently the administration of US President Donald Trump, who as a candidate repeatedly stated his desire to improve ties with Russia but has been prevented from doing so, has taken to describing the neoconservative program of previous administrations as (in Secretary Pompeo’s words) as reassertion of sovereignty (but only for the US and our allies!) and “reform” of “the liberal international order.” The rhetoric is new but the policies are the same as under Trump’s predecessors.

Sometimes we are told that the current Washington-Moscow standoff is just a turf war, that unlike the 1945-1991 rivalry it “lacks an ideological dimension” beyond the authoritarian determination to elevate “the Russian state, ruled by [Vladimir Putin] and his clan.” Such a view totally dismisses the fact that following the demise of communism as a global power bloc there has been an eerie spiritual role reversal between East and West. While it’s true that during original Cold War the nonreligious ruling cliques in Washington and Moscow held basically compatible progressive values, ordinary Christian Americans (mainly Protestants, with a large number of Roman Catholics) perceived communism as a murderous, godless machine of oppression (think of the Roman Catholic men’s organization Knights of Columbus’ campaign to insert “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance). Conversely, today it is western elites who rely upon an ideological imperative to justify a materialist global empire and endless wars, much like the old Soviet nomenklaturadepended on Marxism-Leninism both as a working methodology and as a justification for their prerogatives and privileges. In that regard, promotion of nihilist, post-Christian morality—especially in sexual matters—under the guise of “democracy and human rights” has become a major item in the West’s toolkit.

This has a special importance with regard to Russia, where under Putin the Orthodox Church has largely resumed its pre-1917 role as the moral anchor of society. This elicits not only political opposition but a genuine and heartfelt hatred from the postmodern elites of an increasingly post-Christian West, not only for Putin personally and Russia generally but against the Russian Orthodox Church—and by extension against Orthodox Christianity itself.

This points to why, from the point of view of the State Department, the Russian Orthodox Church – and hence the canonical autonomous Ukrainian Orthodox Church—is nothing more than an instrument of the Kremlin’s soft power. According to one person rather new to the relevant issues but nonetheless considered authoritative by the State Department:

‘The Church, for its part, acts as the Russian state’s soft power arm, exerting its authority in ways that assist the Kremlin in spreading Russian influence both in Russia’s immediate neighborhood as well as around the globe. The Kremlin assists the Church, as well, working to increase its reach. Vladimir Yakunin, one of Putin’s inner circle and a devout member of the ROC, facilitated in 2007 the reconciliation of the ROC with the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile (which had separated itself from the Moscow Patriarchate early in the Soviet era so as not to be co-opted by the new Bolshevik state), which reconciliation greatly increased [Patriarch of Moscow] Kirill’s influence and authority outside of Russia. Putin, praising this event, noted the interrelation of the growth of ROC authority abroad with his own international goals: “The revival of the church unity is a crucial condition for revival of lost unity of the whole ‘Russian world’, which has always had the Orthodox faith as one of its foundations.”’

Hence, weaken “Russian state’s soft power arm,” weaken the Russian state.

But there is even more to it than that. The authors of the current US anti-Russia, anti-Orthodox Church policy know, or at least instinctively sense, that the revival of Russia’s Church-State symphonia after a hiatus of eight decades is not just a political alliance of convenience but is the source of deep spiritual, moral, and social strength. This is reflected, for example, in Putin’s warm remarks on the dedication of a Moscow monument to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the acknowledged godfather of Russia’s restoration as a Christian country, on the centenary of the writer’s birth.

In Russia’s reborn symphonia, President and Patriarch speak as one:

‘At the height of the Cold War, it was common for American conservatives to label the officially atheist Soviet Union a “godless nation.”

‘More than two decades on, history has come full circle, as the Kremlin and its allies in the Russian Orthodox Church hurl the same allegation at the West.

‘“Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a recent keynote speech. “Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan. This is the path to degradation.” [ . . . ]

Mr. Putin’s views of the West were echoed this month by Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow, the leader of the Orthodox Church, who accused Western countries of engaging in the “spiritual disarmament” of their people.

‘In particular, Patriarch Kirill criticized laws in several European countries that prevent believers from displaying religious symbols, including crosses on necklaces, at work.

‘“The general political direction of the [Western political] elite bears, without doubt, an anti-Christian and anti-religious character,” the patriarch said in comments aired on state-controlled television.

“We have been through an epoch of atheism, and we know what it is to live without God,” Patriarch Kirill said. “We want to shout to the whole world, ‘Stop!’”’ [“Who’s ‘godless’ now?Russia says it’s U.S.: Putin seizes on issue of traditional values,” by Marc Bennetts, The Washington Times, January 28, 2014]

Such sentiments can hardly sit well with Western elites for whom celebration of the same-sex partnerships decried by Putin is a mark of social enlightenment. That’s why an inseparable part of the “European choice” the people of Ukraine supposedly made during the 2014 “Revolution of Dignity” is wholesale acceptance of “European values,” including the kind of “Pride” symbolized by LGBT marches organized over Christian objections in Orthodox cities like AthensBelgradeBucharestKievOdessaPodgoricaSofia, and Tbilisi. (Note that after the march in Odessa in August of this year a priest of the canonical Church targeted by Poroshenko cleansed the street with Holy Water.)

There is no doubt that the moral/sexual component of undermining Orthodox Christianity in Ukraine is a key factor in US policy. There is a curious consistency between advocacy for non-traditional, post-Christian sexual morality and support for the schismatics sponsored by Poroshenko and Patriarch Bartholomew. This is well understood by Constantinople’s pseudo-Church in Ukraine. In December, shortly after his “enthronement,” “Metropolitan Epifaniy” Dumenko responded to a phone caller claiming to be a western parliamentarian (but in fact was a Russian prankster), suggesting that “if the new church will soften its position regarding the LGBT community, the gays of Ukraine, and it will take liberal values, it will be a great stimulus to develop European values. We spoke with Secretary Pompeo and he agrees that you should the increase your LGBT and gay values in the future.” Taking the bait, Dumenko said that “because we are moving towards Europe . . . we should depart from the Russian conservative tradition” and adopt a progressively more “open” position on such matters.

Indeed, the relevant US government officials cheering on Poroshenko and the Ukrainian church schismatics are remarkably up-front and visible in their advocacy of the LGBT agenda in Ukraine. The US Embassy Kiev website displays Pompeo’s declaration on behalf of all Americans that “The United States joins people around the world in celebrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) Pride Month, and reaffirms its commitment to protecting and defending the human rights of all, including LGBTI persons.”

Ambassador Yovanovitch has really gone the extra mile – literally. Not only did she tweet out her own Pride message, she also participated in the parade (and took 60 Embassy personnel and family members with her!) proudly marching behind the American flag (as shown in this MUST WATCH video tweeted by the embassy—your American tax dollars at work!). Additional videoposted by HromadskeUA, an “independent” Ukrainian media outlet reportedly funded by, among others, the US Embassy, the Canadian Embassy, and George Soros’s International Renaissance Foundation (though the cited HromadskeUA financial reports no longer seem to be available). Both Yovanovitch’s remarks in the video and the posted text draw an explicit connection between the “freedom” of the 2014 regime change and the new sexual morality (Google auto-translation from Ukrainian):

‘The atmosphere is wonderful. It is important for us because we maintain equal rights. In 2014, people in Ukraine were in favor of freedom, and this is an organic continuation—US Ambassador Marie Yovanovich goes to the March of Equality Column. With her together with about 60 representatives of the American embassy.’ [emphasis added]

The locals were quick to make the same connection. “KyivPride,” a local LGBT advocacy group unsurprisingly supported by the US Embassy (again, our tax dollars at work), the Canadian government, the German embassy, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and Freedom House were quick to hail creation of the new pseudo-church, no doubt reflecting the deep Orthodox piety of the group’s members. As posted by OrthoChristian.com, The organization posted a message on several platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, reading:

‘KyivPride congratulates all LGBTI Orthodox believers on the formation of a united and independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church and reminds everyone that love does no harm to others! Also remember that article 35 of the constitution of Ukraine states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of personal philosophy and religion. This right includes the freedom to profess or not to profess any religion.” Human rights above all!’

Last but certainly not least should be noted the involvement of certain fringe elements in the Orthodox Church itself, who perhaps can be compared to the Roman Catholic Church’s far more powerful “Lavender Mafia.” As this analyst warned months ago the Ukrainian church crisis seemingly facilitates the anti-Christian moral agenda of certain marginal “Orthodox” voices like “Orthodoxy in Dialogue,” Fordham University’s “Orthodox Christian Studies Center,” and The Wheel. As Anatoly Karlin points out, “many of the biggest supporters of Ukrainian autocephaly in the West are for all intents and purposes SJWs [social justice warriors]. The website Orthodoxy in Dialogue, for instance, wants Orthodoxy to get with the times and start sanctifying gay marriage:”

‘We pray for the day when we can meet our future partner in church, or bring our partner to church.

‘We pray for the day when our lifelong, monogamous commitment to our partner can be blessed and sanctified in and by the Church.

‘We pray for the day when we can explore as Church, without condemnation, how we Orthodox Christians can best live our life in Christ in the pursuit of holiness, chastity, and perfect love of God and neighbour.

‘We pray for the day when our priests no longer travel around the world to condemn us and mock us and use us as a punching bag.

‘We pray for the day when the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of Christ ceases to be our loneliest closet.’

In sum, US official involvement in Ukrainian Church affairs is not really about Ukraine or Ukrainians at all. It is about hostility to Russia, which in turn reflects Washington’s own drive for unlimited worldwide political and moral supremacy. Breaking Ukraine’s spiritual ties with Russia is at least as important to breaking of political ties and enlisting Ukraine as part of NATO’s anti-Russian deployment. Even something as simple as Poroshenko’s making (western) December 25 Christmas a public holiday with (Orthodox) January 7 is hailed by The Daily Signal, a publication of the Heritage Foundation, as “a leap of faith” towards “ditching Russian influence.”

But underlying this geopolitical aspect is another, darker motive: to inflict on Ukraine and indeed all Orthodoxy the social, especially sexual, pathologies that have wrought havoc in western societies. As an ideological imperative built on Cultural Marxist dichotomies of oppressor and victim classes according to sex, race, language, religion, etc. (as  described by this analyst in Chronicles) this effort to transform all human society supplies a missionary zeal no less relevant to American officials’ and their fellow travelers’ efforts than their aspirations of global political dominion.

Jim Jatras is a former U.S. diplomat and former foreign policy adviser to the Senate GOP leadership. He is the author of a major study, “How American Media Serves as a Transmission Belt for Wars of Choice.” Find him on Twitter @JimJatras.

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German fake news reports Russian invasion of Estonia [Video]

German TV’s Russian invasion ruse meant to uphold the narrative that Russia is evil; Russian reaction is, “just more of the same nonsense.”

Seraphim Hanisch

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Germany’s news media joined the chorus of fake news regarding Russia as “threat” as the 70th anniversary of NATO was being marked by the alliance’s member nations. On the news program “Heute” (English: “Today”) hosted by Claus Kleber, the anchor announced that Russian Armed Forces carried out an invasion of Estonia.

From Sputnik News, this translation:

“The US Army along with German and European allies are heading for Estonia in order to boot out units of the Russian military forces that intruded there just like they did several years ago in Crimea”, RIA Novosti cited Kleber as claiming.

Shortly after inciting an understandably strong reaction from his viewers, Mr. Kleber then simply announced that this was not true, but that it was a description of realistic events.

Ostensibly this act was played out to justify the continued existence of NATO, even as questions rise about the purpose of the alliance now that the Soviet Union (which it was intended to ward off) is no more.

The Russian news media and political spokesmen were not happy about this. Apparently, neither was NATO itself, as General Petr Pavel, the chairman of the NATO Military Committee went on record specifically saying that the alliance does not see any open aggression from Russia regarding the Baltic states.

Vesti News made their own set of comments about this stunt:

According to the website www.tellerreport.com, the Chairman of the Russian Federation’s Council’s committee on Information Policy, Alexei Pushkov, had some things to say about this event:

The Russian senator in his Twitter noted that “Russia has not invaded and will not invade Estonia.”

In his opinion, the statement of the German TV channel is an “information provocation” in order to “play along” with the North Atlantic Alliance.

And since Russia has no aggressive plans, they need to be invented. In this and only this is the meaning of information provocation on the ZDF channel. Play up NATO, demonize Russia.The attack on the brain is in the spirit of the current information war, ”he wrote.

It would appear that this assessment is correct. Russia has repeatedly noted it has no intentions or desires to exceed its borders for any reason. However, the country has developed an array of extremely powerful weapons, from tsunami-causing nuclear torpedos to hypersonic missiles that cannot be stopped.

While the Western angle on this weapons development has not quite established a footing on the claim that these weapons developments are aggressive in nature, the media seems eager to push as close as they can to making such a claim. This “report” by the German anchorman is a good example of when this desire for sensationalism and perhaps some further scapegoating exceeds its bounds.

Relations between Russia and the West began to sour at least as early as 2014, when Russia’s President Vladimir Putin forbade homosexuals to be anywhere near children at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games. (The common narrative blames the Maidan Revolution and the rejoining of Crimea to Russia as the cause of pressure, but these are likely only to be the “acceptable” excuses for the increasing pressure not only on Russia, but on its Orthodox Church, and all Orthodoxy Christianity in general.)

A very nasty ideological war is simmering right now between Russia and the West, and military action would actually be a distraction from that war. Still, agitprop is the weapon of choice by the West to isolate Russia for not going the way of the world.

 

 

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