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Discussing America with Russians over a cup of tea

The geopolitical surprises just seem to keep coming

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Accusations, posturing and hysterical finger pointing is oddly the weird new normal in our world. It reminds me of an old market truism – ‘buy the rumors, sell the facts’. Amplified by continued demonization of all things Russian, including their newly re-elected president, I was curious to get current views here on the ground among connected influential Russians and just share them.

I called and met many friends, business partners and contacts in Russia whom I have known for years, some in business, politics and some in government. The result of my informal chats over tea or coffee was largely as I had expected, though it may be of interest to those not living and working in Russia. I spoke with many people, I will just cover three otherwise this opinion piece would make Tolstoy’s War & Peace look like a leaflet.

Tatiana:

One friend whom I met and spoke with about the current state of affairs is involved in Russian politics, and a highly placed champion of what is known here as the “liberal opposition”. “I am depressed. For most of my life, America symbolized for me the virtues of openness, truth, unfettered objective press, constitutional law, showing the rights and obligations which allow a democracy to function well in the world, regardless of who is at the helm. It was the example set for other countries to follow. It was like a story from some distant mythical land of long ago, perhaps a Camelot, and just as illusory it seems to me now.

Russia is still a work in progress, a tremendous amount of vision, sweat and effort have and will continue to be spent in the re-birth of my country from the chaos of less than nothing 20-/+ years ago. There is much that we have done that is successful, that we all are proud of, and we are the first to see what still has to be done – corruption, special interests, in short everything the rest of the nations on this planet also have to deal with in their own ways and in their own particular contexts.

We are not perfect, we know this well, but we will raise up our country in spite of any difficulties or pressures. There is a basic reality, we are Russian. We are not Americans or British or Germans, Italians, Turks, Japanese or Greeks. The several popularized brands of democracy that work in each of those nations is not what works for Russia in this time and space, it would be wrong, and forcing the issue will lead to failure. Russia is developing democratically, but in its own time and own terms – we have patience, and we will succeed eventually but not to the beat of any other nations drums or timelines.

It has taken a very painful period of soul searching for me to arrive at an undeniable truth, which was my degree of deep disenchantment. That the America I cherished is far from the ideal it has marketed to the world so well for decades. The strongest feeling I have is one of deep personal betrayal of both trust and faith. It was obvious back in the communist era that there was an ideological standoff, and that the American brand of democracy and the Soviet brand of communism were antithetical, oil and water, never to mix. It was Burger King versus Kotletki. This was an understandable state of affairs, and largely justified. There was an understanding that once the failed ideology of communism was off the table, and Russia turned to become an open market capitalist model with a developing political infrastructure, then there would no longer be any ideological conflict as our goals were largely the same as in the west.

Freedom to pray to whatever faith you ascribe to is deeply rooted nationwide, freedom to travel anywhere, freedom to make and spend your money as you wish, freedom to do business, freedom to responsibly and accountably protest or set out arguments for change can and are heard, freedom to vote or not to, and more. We have just had an election. Whatever others or I may wish for, it was indeed a democratic election without pressure. True, we all knew who would win, and the vast majority of our people are pleased with the win and supportive of the result.

That is the bottom line – the vast majority voted for,appreciate and do support this president. They do so in this time and place that demands consistency and follow-through, and while he may be the only realistic show in town today, he has proven himself capable and with the right intentions for the country’s internal interests. Eventually we may become an “either/or” country like America, but for now continuity and stability are preferable to experimentation and potential chaos – for we have seen both many times in our past. I can only imagine if we had an election hangover like the Trump/Clinton election paralyzing and dividing our country for more than a year after – no thank you.

Now it is apparent to me that the acceptance of Russia as a sovereign nation by the group of ‘free’ nations led by the US is wholly contingent on Russia accepting a subservient role, politically, economically and culturally. To my way of thinking, a sovereign nation has the power to do everything necessary to govern itself, such as making, executing, and applying its own laws; imposing and collecting taxes fairly; making war and peace as needed; and forming treaties or engaging in commerce with foreign nations. One example, for instance is the United States of America, which enjoys such status. I cannot say the same for many of the member nations within the EU construct, or the EU itself, even the UK, but that is their business and certainly not ours to tinker with, disparage or try to change. Russia is not exporting its views or waging any idealogical marketing campaigns, or evangelizing on how other nations should live their lives. Our priorities are first of all Russia, and keeping to our commitments with friends and allies, it’s as simple as that.

When I travel to America and several European countries, especially these past 5 years I return home almost speechless at the degree of orchestrated misunderstanding that has poisoned public perception through western media and politicians against Russia. The facts simply do not hold water if they ever are examined dispassionately.

Throughout it all I have tried to see things from a western perspective, I have gone to great lengths speaking with friends in many countries, most of whom are as shocked as I am at the positions taken in the west. I have seen disinformation and felt its claws throughout my youth in those communist times, but it pales compared to the media assault directed against my country today by the paragons of all that is supposedly free, correct and ethical. Perhaps having had the privilege to grow up and live inside such initially democratic systems, it makes it easier to disregard and make a parody of what made them special, or am I mistaken?

To my way of thinking and most Russians, being free and independent means not having to parrot the ideas of anyone, both as sovereign individuals or as a sovereign nation, it is as simple as that. Thinking and acting in the best interests of yourself, your family, town, and country. One of the many principles I have always respected that are embodied in the US constitution was that people were not to be pre-judged, they were accepted as being innocent until and unless proven guilty in an independent court of law. Those values have certainly been trashed at least on the international political and diplomatic front in the US, UK and Brussels. There is no dissonance in goals or values between Russia and the western world, this confrontation has been manufactured and marketed worldwide by the land of the free and home of the bravely exceptional, but to what democratic purpose if any? And why should it be at all when our peoples visions and values mostly correspond?”

Alexander:

A successful influential CEO who heads an international Russian based resources holding company. Much of what was said earlier were also part of Alex’s views, but his emphasis was trade and financial. “Conspiracies are usually nonsense, like the secret more than one person knows – it does not remain secret for long. That being said, something discordant is afoot in our world and the root causes of just about anything political or economic leads to, or is led by money. Today, and for the last 70+ years since Bretton Woods global money was the US Dollar. Since Nixon delinked gold from the dollar, and the simultaneous creation then of Petro Dollars, Euro Dollars and so forth, the breadth and depth of US Dollar domination in our world just kept growing. The global financial and trading system is dominated by the dollar, and by virtue of that domination, it has also become for lack of a more appropriate description – weaponized. It is a constantly threatening stick whether you eat of the carrot or not… not very democratic.

The other side of the dollar is the inconvenient and massive debt pegged to that fiat currency throughout the world. This debt mainly finances the USA’s ability to project its sometimes peculiar brand of PC behavior, subsidized and financed by countries having little recourse other than to buy US bonds supporting such policies. It has come to the point that if you are well entrenched in dealing with only the US dollar, you must accept and accede to whatever behavior modification program Washington demands of you, or else go cold turkey for your dollar fix.

The EU and UK and several other allied to the US nations are a case in point – no serious discussion, no objective analysis, not much real professional diplomacy, and almost no respect for cultures whatsoever. It is sort of like the attitudes and Pavolvian abuse I used to get when simply enjoying a cigarette after class at Stanford on the quad…it isn’t forbidden, but you are regarded as a serial killer. Oh well, it is California, even by US standards they are off the wall.

George W. Bush once said ‘if you’re not with us, you’re against us’, well that pretty much could have been uttered today in DC as well. Let us remember the famous seemingly eternal Jackson–Vanik amendment to the Trade Act of 1974. It was originally intended to affect U.S. trade relations with countries of the Communist bloc that restrict freedom of emigration and other human rights. It remained in place and pressuring Russia long after communism was replaced by capitalism. When finally it was lifted in 2012 it was immediately substituted by the Magnitsky Act which is an example of unfounded and unproven rumor becoming legislation. Therefore, the stick remains in play regardless of anything, especially proof, only the word of a carpetbagger like Browder and his Hermitage with whom I am very familiar, hence incredulous. When Crimea re-joined Russia in 2014, even more trade limitations were introduced despite the reality that the majority of the population of Crimea yearned and voted to rejoin Russia, hence sanctions, even more sticks in our country’s wheels. It interested me to look into how many sanctions programs the United States has going today, the list is impressive and I even have it saved here on my iPhone, I’ll post it to you (he did, and here it is):

Active current US Sanctions Programs and date of inception: Balkans-Related Sanctions 02/03/2017, Belarus Sanctions 10/24/2017, Burundi Sanctions  06/02/2016, Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 (CAATSA) 03/15/2018, Central African Republic Sanctions  12/13/2017, Counter Narcotics Trafficking Sanctions 03/06/2018, Counter Terrorism Sanctions 03/22/2018, Cuba Sanctions  02/09/2018, Cyber-related Sanctions 03/23/2018, Democratic Republic of the Congo-Related Sanctions 02/05/2018, Global Magnitsky Sanctions 12/21/2017, Iran Sanctions 01/12/2018, Iraq-Related Sanctions  12/27/2017, Lebanon-Related Sanctions 07/30/2010, Libya Sanctions 02/26/2018, Magnitsky Sanctions 12/20/2017, Non-Proliferation Sanctions 01/12/2018, North Korea Sanctions 03/01/2018, Rough Diamond Trade Controls 05/21/2008, Somalia Sanctions 07/05/2012, Sudan and Darfur Sanctions  10/12/2017, South Sudan-related Sanctions 09/06/2017, Syria Sanctions 06/21/2017, Transnational Criminal Organizations  01/30/2018, Ukraine-/Russia-Related Sanctions  03/15/2018, Venezuela-Related Sanctions 03/19/2018, Yemen-Related Sanctions 04/14/2015, Zimbabwe Sanctions.

Many sanctions. Yet how many of them are in reality broadly supported in the international arena? How many countries levy such controls over free trade to themselves influence America’s unilateral actions? We have not yet come to treaties and tariffs, the stuff of open trade or conversely trade wars. The United States has a number of treaties and agreements in place, I will also post them to you (he did so again):

Andean Community (1969), ASEAN–Australia–New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) – 2010, ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) 1992, Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA) 1975, Central American Integration System (SICA) 1993, Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) 1992, Commonwealth of Independent States Free Trade Area (CISFTA) 2011, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) 1994, G-3 Free Trade Agreement 1995, Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA) 1997, Dominican Republic–Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) 2004, East African Community (EAC) 2005, European Economic Area (EEA; European Union–Norway–Iceland–Liechtenstein) 1994, European Union Customs Union (EUCU; European Union–Turkey–Monaco–San Marino–Andorra) 1958, European Free Trade Association (EFTA) 1960, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) 1981, International Grains Agreement 1995, North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) 1994, Pacific Alliance Free Trade Area (PAFTA) 2012, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP = ASEAN plus 6), South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) 2004, Southern African Development Community Free Trade Area (SADCFTA) 1980, Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) 1991.

With such negotiated agreements and treaties in place, I am surprised that just recently the new administration in the US has declared that it shall unilaterally cancel, and then renegotiate many of them, notably NAFTA, and ASEAN that are making the news now.

This trend is extending beyond just trade. The number of international agreements have given birth to “judicial” or “legislative” bodies that have come to interpret and expand obligations well beyond what was set out in the underlying treaties, placing them beyond the effective control of domestic or international institutions. This trend has and does raise fears among nations that they will continue to see their sovereign authority erode, a sacrifice to populist political bluster and being force fed economic programs that may not be congruent with their own county’s needs or interests.

My pet theory is that some of the treaties the US is threatening to cancel will in fact be only very gently amended, but in exchange for this generosity, the US will expect a quid pro quo broad coalition of those same nations to stand behind its very specific tariff and trade war with China. Similarly as many members of the EU have been pressured to support the (probably) eternal sanctions against Russia. This at a time when America’s dominance in the Southeast Asian region is increasingly fragile, and likely to erode further without such broad backing – who knows, time will tell if my view has any weight.

What most if not all these free trade agreements have in common is that the US Dollar one way or another is the transferring medium. That in itself is not such a bad thing, but it is a unipolar monopoly, this has implications especially if like any reasonable businessman you want to diversify your risk exposure to something other than the fiat dollar, Euro, or Yen. This then leaves the Yuan as the last reserve currency in the basket, and this leads to another stink that also affects my Russia as we are neighbors, and that is the trade position US administration is now taking with China. A decision was made just this week unilaterally impose significant tariffs on imports from China, which is another stick on the back of the US rule-based global trading system camel. The sum by today’s standards is not much, only 60 billion US dollars, but it will have wide consequences, unintended or not.

I do a lot of good business with China, and aside from the numbers of business, there is a very important factor of ‘face’. It is of consequence, and it matters. It should not be taken lightly and should never be dismissed. Therefore, we will probably witness an escalating trade war between the US and China as well since Washington is pressing China to reduce its 375-billion-dollar trade surplus with the United States by 100 billion dollars as soon as possible. I often ask myself – who agreed and allowed such a trade imbalance in the first place? I am concerned that these sanctions and trade battles will undermine multilateral trading systems and destabilize the global economy that has apparently just started to recover from the US originated globally dollarized financial crisis 10 years ago.

The geopolitical surprises just seem to keep coming, as if it were not enough to sanction Russia, and initiate a trade war with China, there is the very real possibility in the coming days that the US will try to re-impose sanctions on Iran. This can only increase already high tensions between the two countries and the entire middle eastern region, but that is a whole epic by itself. As my Rabbi says – you will reap what you sow – that is the truth, we wait for the shoe to drop.

On Monday March 26th, China activated their Yuan denominated oil futures contract with gold convertibility (As it turned out, around 12 million barrels of Shanghai’s most-active September contract changed hands in the first 55 minutes of trade, more than the most-active contract for Brent).

I have no doubt that Iran, and many others in the oil business will eventually see their way clear to using that exchange and avoid the strings of the US dollar. We in Russia are now preparing to sell $1 billion worth of yuan-denominated bonds in 2018, which will be a small supportive step for the yuan as it grows to be a significant global currency.

As concerns my company, we have positioned ourselves to trade our oil on the Shanghai exchange for Yuan-Gold. I do this because it is close to our disports, pipelines and customers, and makes diversified financial sense. Recently we have shifted our portfolio positions to reflect a much larger percentage in physical gold assets as we feel this will be key in the years to come. There is an extra plus too, I will sleep calmly at night knowing I am not contributing to the new 2018 US budget of $1.3 trillion in additional debt that will never be repaid with value!”

Michael:

The Skripal incident in Salisbury is just the latest dust up coming out of the UK/EU with accusations against Russia and Putin in particular. I decided to ask a man I have known for some time who is closely associated with the state security services. Michael’s reaction to this sad affair was rather emphatic, which in translation I have paraphrased: “What utter and complete rubbish. Yes, there are times when it may be judged in the interests of any nation, even the US, UK or the gaggle that is the EU to take extreme measures such as an ordered killing. Such cases truth be told are extremely rare and extreme. If they were then carried out, it would be planned and done with care without complexity, publicity or drama. In watching the news and listening to what the political leaders in the UK and now even the EU are saying it just beggars belief.

First, if a WMD such as Novichok or any VX were used I assure you that Mr. Skripal and his daughter would not be alive today in an ICU, nor would any first responders who arrived without NBC or similar Hazmat shielded body protection, or the photographers snapping close-up pictures of the place. In short, there would be quite a number of tragic deaths. This is as fishy as the “white helmets” in Syria working without Hazmat protection in areas where supposedly Sarin was deployed against people – it cannot happen without themselves being counted among the dead, or at best thoroughly incapacitated.

Personally, I have never heard of that substance or anything similar being used in anything other than controlled military testing environments many years ago. Secondly, using a nerve agent like a Novichok in reality is simply impractical to use on an individual target, you would have to be nuts, suicidal or delusional to consider it. I do not doubt that somebody attempted to poison the man, but in my opinion, tasked professionals did not carry it out. If it were state sanctioned, I am personally certain such a folly did not come from Russia, now or ever. There are other players who need such melodrama far more than us to suit their worldviews or paint their perspectives.  Look, I know the bureaucracy of our security services, and this cluster-fuck would not have had any chance of consideration or approval – it is just that simple.

More likely, it was for a far more banal reason such as a local business or personal conflict, when such facts will no doubt reveal themselves clearly over time – then it will probably be relegated to some obscure column on the 10th page of a UK newspaper as an inconvenient truth. I cannot even speculate on what toxin was used, but it was not anything close to a military grade nerve agent.

I am not a little put out by what I call this new Twitter diplomacy, it makes noise and dances around issues but doesn’t do the job that must be done which is to sit down with counterparts and talk face to face. There seems to be a new PC stigma certainly in the US that must frighten politicians from meeting or speaking with Russians, it is absurd. That is the role of diplomacy, and that is the way to sorting out truth from lies. I am not aware of anything of value that happens without dialogue and Q&A which can only happen when people are willing to meet and sort things out. It is not Rocket Science after all.

As for the noise and accusations, I can only say that this reminds me of some Hollywood fantasy script. Vladimir Putin has been typecast by the west to be the embodiment of Le Chifre, Auric Goldfinger, Hugo Drax and Francisco Scaramanga all rolled into one, and Russia as a whole is cast as SPECTRE. This is all a ridiculously silly tragic diversion of everyone’s time and intellect, with very real and dangerous consequences, and to what purpose? It helps no-one, and all people shall ultimately lose with such undisciplined undiplomatic schizophrenia running amok.”

***

I have tried to faithfully capture the words, spirit and emotion of these talks; in any event, I hope it is of interest. Maybe I’ll cherry pick some other items in the future, but for now, this seems adequate.

 

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How other jurisdictions view Constantinople’s actions in Ukraine

Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro puts the present Orthodox dispute in simple and understandable terms while not demonizing anyone.

Seraphim Hanisch

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This piece is reprinted almost entirely from its original posting on orthochristian.com. We hope it offers a clear perspective that shared across the Orthodox Christian world regarding the recent moves by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, in regards to the legitimization of two canonically schismatic church communities in Ukraine.   
A note for US or Western European readers:While Western culture regards church affairs as something middling at best, and “not in touch with the ‘real world'”, the Orthodox Christian world takes the opposite view. These matters of how the Church’s faith and practice are handled are extremely important to millions of believers. The aforementioned actions are profoundly difficult events for Orthodox Christians and have great repercussions that extend into the geopolitical realm of secular politics.

It is for this reason that this story is being followed closely on The Duran.Recently, Metropolitan Archbishop Amfilohije of Montenegro gave an interview with Russian Channel One about the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I of Constantinople, to grant canonical status to two schismatic communities in Ukraine, pursuant to the creation of a national Ukrainian independent Orthodox Church in that region.This particular set of events also has a geopolitical basis, as the reader will discover as they peruse the interview. Any emphasis in bold is added strictly for the ease of comprehension.


The decisions of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew and his Synod concerning the Ukrainian issue, are, in my opinion catastrophic, both for the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and for resolving the Church question in Ukraine, as well as for the unity of the Orthodox Church. We in our Church are simply shocked at how the Ecumenical Patriarch—an expert on the canons—made such a decision, which is without a doubt uncanonical,” said His Eminence Amfilohije, Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral, and Brda, Archbishop of Cetinje, and Exarch of the Throne of Peć in an interview with the Russian Channel One.

Commenting on the canonical aspects of the latest decision of the Patriarch of Constantinople and his Synod, Archbishop Amfilohije explained that the Patriarch of Constantinople “in this decision refers, as other bishops of the Patriarchate of Constantinople have recently referred to, the right to appeal to the Patriarch of Constantinople from other Local Churches. This is the so called “Ekkliton.[1]

The body of the interview follows, with all the text except the Interviewer being the speech of Met. Amfilohije:

Whenever a problem arises in any of the Local Churches between individual bishops, it is alleged that they have the possibility of appealing to Constantinople, and then Constantinople could make its decision on the matter.

“However, do they actually have this right of appeal? Especially in the spirit in which Denisenko applied to it now? The Ecumenical Patriarch validates this with some historical facts, and certain Church canons. For example, the 9th, 17th, and 28th Canons of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, which were written in antiquity, and therefore, which relate to the status of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and its role at that time.

“On what basis then, was this right given? First of all, this right concerns the Metropolises under the canonical administration of the Patriarch of Constantinople. It did not apply to the whole Church. Secondly, this right is based on the canons of the Ecumenical Council, according to which the Ecmenical Patriarch received this status as the Bishop of the City of Byzantium—Constantinople—on the grounds that this city, in which this bishop is located, is the Imperial City—the residence of the emperor and the Imperial Council.

“Now, however, the imperial capital no longer exists. Constantinople ceased to be the imperial capital in 1453. And therefore, this right to which the Patriarch of Constantinople is referring is questionable. The Orthodox Church does not question its status as the first in honor in the Orthodox church, but this does not give him the right to interfere in this way in the life of any other Local Church, including the Russian Orthodox Church.

“The Patriarch is referring here to a certain decision in 1686, in which by economia[2] the right to ordain (appoint) the Metropolitan of Kiev was given to the Patriarch of Moscow, provided that the Metropolitan of Kiev commemorates the Constantinople Patriarch first at the Liturgy.

“However, Kievan Rus’[3], and Vladimir Rus’[4], and Muscovite Rus’[5] were one and the same Rus’ at that time; so it is impossible to separate Kievan Rus from Muscovite or Vladimir Rus’.

“300 years have passed since then, and Constantinople had never raised the question that it had ecclesiastical authority in Ukraine. He first raised this question just now, and it is absolutely impossible to accept.

“I am amazed at how the negative reaction of all the Local Churches did not stop him; the ancient Patriarchates of the East—Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch. The Patriarch of Antioch was just recently with us. I am sure that he will give his assessment.

“[The Patriarch of Alexandria] recently visited Odessa, and spoke there, together with the Metropolitan of the Polish Orthodox Church, who also quite clearly expressed his opinion.

“In general, all the Local Churches—and our Local Church—expressed at a council, a very documented letter in connection with this issue. Constantinople did not respond to our letter concerning this.

“Our Patriarch just met with the Ecumenical Patriarch in Thessaloniki. Our Patriarch gave him the position of our Church, and unfortunately, Constantinople answered as they answered.

“As it is, however, this decision, as I have already said, is catastrophic, including for the resolution of this important issue of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. It does not solve this question, but only complicates it. It creates a radical problem of interference in the life of another Local Church, and not only for the Russian Church, but for absolutely everyone.

“This at the same time calls into question the very unity of Orthodoxy. This has already affected Orthodoxy, especially the Orthodox diaspora, after that the conferences of Orthodox Bishops. According to my information, the bishops in Latin America already refuse to participate in pan-Orthodox conferences, and its going the same way in Europe[6]. I am sure that this will happen in the USA. It has partially already begun.

“But the role of the first among the patriarchs is not to separate the others, but to unite.

“By such actions, the Patriarch of Constantinople in fact separates. He does not solve this problem, but only pushes the problem deeper into the Orthodox Church.

“Recently, a lot has been said about the interference in the internal affairs of the Orthodox Church by the great world powers. Can you elaborate on which powers people are talking about, and what these power are trying to accomplish?

“Now it is seen in Ukraine itself. It is in fact the Ukrainian government that is the main player in the question of granting autocephaly to a Ukrainian church[7]. It should not be overlooked that the state would previously intervene—in other words, there was cooperation, the so called symphonia” of the state and the Church in Orthodoxy.

“But in those days, this was with regards to Christian states, and Christian rulers. In those days, the state itself defended the Orthodox Christian faith. Rulers, from the Byzantine Emperor to the Tsar of Moscow, to our kings were Orthodox Christians. The statutes of Montenegro even prescribed that the successor of King Nikola I would be an Orthodox Christian.

“Now, everything is different. These are all secular states, especially those created after the collapse of the Soviet Union. So the Soviet Union gave birth to these contradictions within the Russian nation, within the Slavic peoples of the former Russian Empire. The theme of a so-called Ukrainian Orthodox Church[8] didn’t appear only now. It arose with the creation of Ukraine by the Soviet authorities in the 1920s. It was then that this topic appeared.

“Then the so-called “Self-Sanctifiers[9]” arose, who declared themselves Metropolitans of Kiev.

“And the [legitimate] Metropolitan of Kiev—Antony (Khrapovitsky), who was buried in Belgrade, was then a candidate for the position of Patriarch of Moscow. Having fallen asleep in the Lord in 1936, he along with more than thirty bishops were forced to leave Russia, and our Local Church helped them to create what was called the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, which still exists today. This Church recently reunited with the Moscow Patriarchate.

“So it’s one thing—contemporary states, modern authority—and a totally different thing—the time when Constantinople was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, or when Moscow was the capital of the Russian Empire, as the successor of the Byzantine Empire.

“But this epoch, the epoch of the symbiosis of the Church and State, the so-called “Constantinian Age,” began with Emperor St. Constantine the Great, and it ended—in my, and not only in my opinion—with the murder of the Imperial Family in 1918.

“In other words, this imperial period of Christianity is dogmatically fixed in the West in the person of the Bishop of Rome—the Supreme Pontiff. In the East, it was and remains a temptation.

“However, after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, there was no longer a Byzantine Emperor, who previously provided the Bishop of Constantinople with the status that he had possessed since the time of Emperor Constantine.

“And then this role of the Byzantine Empire passed through Kiev, and Vladimir, to Moscow—that is to say—to the Russian Tsars. But the Russian Tsar and his family were murdered in 1918. And this completed the epoch of Constantine in the history of the Church. It has ended.

“And now the Church must return to the pre-imperial structure, without imitating what was in past centuries, when there was a symbiosis of the state, Church, nation. It must return to the structure that existed before Emperor Constantine, respecting everything that has happened since then, but not being limited to historical experience.

“Thus, the first Rome fell away from the faith, the Second Rome fell, disappearing in 1453, and after the murder of the Imperial Family, the Third Rome had already lost that place in the life of the Church it had occupied in past centuries. Therefore, the way the Church lived and functioned in the imperial period should be left to the past.

“From this point of view, Constantinople committed what it had no right to do.

“First of all, this state—Ukraine—is the fruit of Leninist-Stalinist communist secularism. And this situation for the people of Ukraine, the Christian people is also the result of the unleashing of the Unia[10] on Ukrainians of the 16th century, and what happened with these people in the 1920s.

“It is necessary to keep in mind the meaning of the name itself—Ukraine (Ukraina). It is similar to our word Kraina: a krai / borderland[11]. The question is—the edge or border of what? On the one hand, Kiev was the former Mother Church of the Russian Church, then its center moved to Vladimir (during the period of Vladimir Rus’) and then to Moscow.

“It is this continuum of the Orthodox Church in Russia, which begins in Kiev, passes through Vladimir, and then ends in Moscow. This is an uninterrupted succession. So what point is there to now appeal to a status that existed in the 15th or 16th century? The Ukrainian question today cannot be resolved on that basis.

“In reality, it must be resolved on the basis of the modern structure of this state—a secular state, not dissimilar to all the modern secular states in the West. It’s a fundamentally different relationship between a state and a nation, moreover no longer a ‘Christian nation;’ a similar problem has now manifested itself in Macedonia.

“There, the secular authorities, the communists, also created a so-called Macedonian Orthodox Church. The communists, the heirs of the Tito regime, tried here too, in Montenegro, to create a so-called Montenegrin Orthodox Church. The authorities of Montenegro killed 129 priests here during the communist time; the communist authorities killed the Metropolitan of Montenegro Joanikije.

“It was these authorities who were first to raise the question of the so-called autocephalous Montenegrin Orthodox Church. The godless authorities, the atheistic powers, the secular authorities in a secular state, where the Church is separate from the state, are interfering in the internal affairs of the Church. The same thing is happening in Ukraine, and in other countries that emerged after the Bolshevik revolution.

“The Church should try to unite society, and thereby solve this painful issue for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

“There, under the guise of the “Ukrainian Church,” there exist the so-called Uniates—the Greek Catholics—and then the so-called Ukrainian Autocephalic Orthodox Church, and the self-proclaimed “church” of the “Kiev Patriarchate.”

“For the first time, Constantinople, on the basis of the alleged “right to appeal” (ekkliton)[12], the right to receive appeals in this way is interfering with the life of another Local Church, even over 300 years after Constantinople’s ecclesiastical jurisdiction over Ukraine ended.

“Thus, there is talk about these events as being an absolutely incomprehensible phenomenon. Until this very moment I still hope there is an opportunity to refrain from granting this Tomos, which cannot be issued without the consent of the canonical Church.

“Constantinople [previously] recognized only the Church of the Moscow Patriarchate as the canonical Church in Ukraine. But now, Constantinople has recognized bishops who were deposed from their positions and excommunicated from one of the Local Orthodox Churches. It’s simply inconceivable that the Ecumenical Patriarch could have gone through with this.

“As for these interventions, and I’d like to say that these are not only those from the Ukrainian authorities themselves, but it is clear that these interventions are directed against Russia, and in fact—against Orthodoxy.

“They were able to separate everyone in these krais[13] (borderlands/marches).[14] Only the Orthodox Church remained united. Now these forces, the demonic forces of this entire world are striving in the end to divide the Orthodox Church. For this they managed to use the ancient Church of Constantinople to apply a canon that belonged to it back in imperial times.

“In the battle for Ukraine—that is to say for undermining the foundation of Russia—the hand of America is visible.

“They speak about the supposed “Russian intervention,” but how can Russia intervene if Russia itself was born there? Kievan Rus’ was born there, and continuously developed for 1030 years. The fact that the Western powers, the EU, and above all, America are fueling and supporting fratricidal wars, as they did against us Serbs in Kosovo, reveals that what is happening in Ukraine is the second act of the tragedy of Kosovo: A group of evil-doers and criminals, who dishonor the worthy Albanian folk, have been made the rulers of Kosovo, and they recognized the so-called independent Kosovo—and the Orthodox Church of God, our age-old culture, and the Serbian people were expelled from there.

“What the communists began[15], the NATO bloc continued with their bombings of Serbia and Montenegro.

“What began in Russia with the arrival of the Bolsheviks and the assassination of the Imperial Family now brings such bitter fruit. I regret that the Patriarch of Constantinople did not understand how deep and serious these problems are.

“He went forth with good intentions—to unite—only this isn’t the road of unification, but only the deepening of the difficulties that seized Ukraine, as well as the creation of a deep schism in the Orthodox Church—which undoubtedly will not bring forth any good fruits if these efforts are continued.

“And this applies not only to Russians and Ukrainians, but also to us [Serbs]. After all, Denisenko[16]was the only one to recognize our Miraš Dedeić,[17] whom the Patriarch of Constantinople deposed and anathematized.

“We relayed this to the Patriarch of Constantinople, but he has of yet not answered this question. Of course, he does not recognize Dedeić, but by this act—by accepting as a canonical organization those who support all kinds of schisms in other locations—it involuntarily strengthens schisms that undermine the unity of the Orthodox Church.[18]

“And furthermore, this is all based on ethnophyletism,[19] which was previously condemned by the Church. Even the Cretan Council (it’s a pity that the Moscow Patriarchate wasn’t present, but despite this, it’s decisions remain valid) confirmed the decisions of this great council in 1872, condemning ethnophyletism as heresy and serpentine venom, destroying the unity of the Church.

“Constantinople confirmed and signed this decision of a large synod, and now a church is created on the basis of the demands of those formed under the influence of Bolshevism (like Macarius[20]), and now worshipers of Bandera[21]—Ukrainian fascists and former Nazis.

“Is this normal? Of course not! Not to mention the fact that Denisenko strove, when he was Ukrainian Metropolitan, for the position of Patriarch of Moscow, and when he was not elected, he declared himself Patriarch [of Kiev].

“Such is his madness. How can this be declared normal, without the consent of the Mother Church? And the Mother Church of Ukraine is not the Patriarchate of Constantinople, but for more than 300 years the Moscow Patriarchate.[22]”

[INTERVIEWER]: Not long ago, Milo Đukanović (The President of Montenegro) said that the Russian Orthodox Church is the striking fist of Russian Imperial interests. What did he mean by this?

“You’ll have to ask him. He probably assumed that the Metropolis of Montenegro, which has existed here for over 800 years, still has connections to the Russian Church and to Russia, as it had for centuries, and especially during the time of Metropolitan Danil.

“Were it not for this “Imperial Russia,” as he puts it, there would be no Montenegro, neither in 1878, nor later. Russian Emperor Nicholas II saved Serbia and Montenegro in 1915 and 1916, when Montenegro was forced to capitulate, and King Petro with the entire Serbian army retreated through Kosovo to the Albanian coast. Then the Russian Tsar gave an ultimatum to the allies, threatening that if they did not help save the Serbian army (the Austro-Hungarian army was in pursuit of the Serbs), then Russia would conclude a separate peace treaty with Germany and Austro-Hungary. So the allies had to send ships for the Serbs.

“If Nicholas II had signed a separate peace treaty, he would not have been assassinated nor would his family have been murdered. The German Kaiser sent Lenin, who conducted a revolution in Petrograd in 1916-17. The Emperor and his family were murdered by the hands of the Bolsheviks, but in fact they were murdered by the Germans. The Imperial Family and tsarist Russia paid with their lives to save their brothers—Serbia and Montenegro.”

[INTERVIEWER]: So what is this all about; what is this “Imperialist Russia?”

“Montenegro, since 1700 and to this moment, was created through the efforts of Russia—it’s education, and the entire structure before King Nikola in 1918. The metropolia only continues the tradition. And no form of “Imperialist Russia” is interfering here. Russian Bishops visit us, with whom we recently erected a monument to the Royal Passion-Bearers at Duklevo monastery, on which their faces are carved. This may be the most beautiful monument to the Imperial Family. Is this what he calls imperialism?

“I sometimes say these are sanctions of the metropolia against Russia. Mr. Đukanović, in his fight against “Russian imperialism” has become a pawn in the hands of the Western European and American Empires, and the NATO bloc—those who bombed Montenegro, Serbia, and Kosovo, which was part of Montenegro when it was an independent Kingdom.

“Now Đukanović recognizes Kosovo, while the Russians tried to save the unity of our nation and state. Unfortunately, Russia was then ruled not by the one who rules today, but by his predecessor, who did not understand this.

“Therefore, I do not know what Đukanović implies when speaking of “imperialism.” If it’s about what I said, then yes.

“I would also add further about the decision of Constantinople: This decision is a catastrophe for the Constantinople Patriarchate and for the unity of the Orthodox Church. Therefore, we hope that in the near future, as called for by the Moscow Patriarchate and other Local Churches, which have the full right to do so, we will resolve this issue in a pan-Orthodox format.

“The Ukrainian Question cannot be resolved by any single Local Church, because this issue is so extensive that it requires the participation of all Local Churches. This question is more important than all that was discussed at Crete. Therefore, the position of Constantinople is shocking, as he had always turned to other Local Churches (for example, during the schism in the Bulgarian Church in 1994, Constantinople appealed to the representatives of other Local Churches to solve the issue of schism in a canonical way).

“And now there has been discussion that based on the Ukrainian precedent—invading the canonical territory of another Local Church—the issue with the Macedonian Orthodox Church could be resolved.

“The Ecumenical Patriarchate is prevented from doing so only because of his demand that they abandon the name “Macedonian Orthodox Church” (In Ukraine, the name “Ukrainian Orthodox Church” does not trouble him.[23] He is still a Greek, and I fear that this is how Hellenic ethnophyletism has manifested itself in light of the Macedonian issue.

“There is talk that this Macedonia goes back to the time of Alexander the Great and King Philip; that is to say, we are going back to the issue of communist myths. Just like in Montenegro, the neo-communists continue to develop them. They demanded that the Montenegrin Metropolis, that is to say, the Serbian Orthodox Church be re-registered, as if we existed only since yesterday.

“A 1987 law requires the registration of only new religious organizations, and not the registration of traditional Churches and religious organizations. But now our neo-communists have began to demand this, and almost begun persecutions. Russian monks and nuns live among us, and priests from the Republika Srpska[24], and from Serbia, and as they are not citizens of Montenegro they do not grant them residence permits. The same approach has been implemented in Macedonia.

“The so-called Metropolitan of Montenegro, who was created by the neo-communists—Dedeić—who was deposed by Constantinople, was recognized only by Philaret. For many years he served with him. And what will Constantinople do now if he recognizes Philaret who was deposed for violating the resolutions of the Moscow Patriarchate? Would it not follow that he would have to recognize someone who serves with Philaret, whom Constantinople himself had previously deposed from his position?

“This is how poorly our brothers in Constantinople have reasoned.

“I pray to the Lord, that He will help them.

“And we also pray that the Moscow Patriarchate and our brothers in Ukraine can overcome an unhealthy schism with patience and humility—a schism that is nothing but the fruit of all those political circumstances of the past, especially in the 1920s.

“The Church is the only force that united the nations created there, and now the demonic powers of this whole world, and destructive forces inside the Church, and the rulers of the world are carrying out the real imperialistic plans.

The war in Ukraine is already underway, and now Constantinople must confirm that this is in fact a war continuing against the Church, and the unity of the People of God—and against Russia as the largest-ever Orthodox country.

“This is not good, and there is nothing good here for Constantinople as well. He had no right to take such a step. There is still hope that people will still turn to reason and to the true canonical order.

“As I have already said, by such actions, Constantinople calls into question its primacy.

“I reiterate that he justifies his actions by saying that he is in the imperial capital, but that capital ceased to exist after the fifteenth century. It is no longer in Russia nor in Constantinople, and therefore there is no longer a Russian or Eastern Roman Empire, but the Church has remained, and it must function on a healthy evangelical foundation—just as it functioned prior to Emperor St. Constantine.”

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Foreign Banks Are Embracing Russia’s Alternative To SWIFT, Moscow Says

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative.

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Via Zerohedge


On Friday, one day after Russia and China pledged to reduce their reliance on the dollar by increasing the amount of bilateral trade conducted in rubles and yuan (a goal toward which much progress has already been made over the past three years), Russia’s Central Bank provided the latest update on Moscow’s alternative to US-dominated international payments network SWIFT.

Moscow started working on the project back in 2014, when international sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea inspired fears that the country’s largest banks would soon be cut off from SWIFT which, though it’s based in Belgium and claims to be politically neutral, is effectively controlled by the US Treasury.

Today, the Russian alternative, known as the System for Transfer of Financial Messages, has attracted a modest amount of support within the Russian business community, with 416 Russian companies having joined as of September, including the Russian Federal Treasury and large state corporations likeGazprom Neft and Rosneft.

And now, eight months after a senior Russian official advised that “our banks are ready to turn off SWIFT,” it appears the system has reached another milestone in its development: It’s ready to take on international partners in the quest to de-dollarize and end the US’s leverage over the international financial system. A Russian official advised that non-residents will begin joining the system “this year,” according to RT.

“Non-residents will start connecting to us this year. People are already turning to us,”said First Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Russia Olga Skorobogatova. Earlier, the official said that by using the alternative payment system foreign firms would be able to do business with sanctioned Russian companies.

Turkey, China, India and others are among the countries that might be interested in a SWIFT alternative, as Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed out in a speech earlier this month, the US’s willingness to blithely sanction countries from Iran to Venezuela and beyond will eventually rebound on the US economy by undermining the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency.

To be sure, the Russians aren’t the only ones building a SWIFT alternative to help avoid US sanctions. Russia and China, along with the European Union are launching an interbank payments network known as the Special Purpose Vehicle to help companies pursue “legitimate business with Iran” in defiance of US sanctions.

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative. For one, much of Europe is dependent on Russian natural gas and oil.

And as Russian trade with other US rivals increases, Moscow’s payments network will look increasingly attractive,particularly if buyers of Russian crude have no other alternatives to pay for their goods.

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US leaving INF will put nuclear non-proliferation at risk & may lead to ‘complete chaos’

The US is pulling out of a nuclear missile pact with Russia. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty requires both countries to eliminate their short and medium-range atomic missiles.

The Duran

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Via RT


If the US ditches the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), it could collapse the entire nuclear non-proliferation system, and bring nuclear war even closer, Russian officials warn.

By ending the INF, Washington risks creating a domino effect which could endanger other landmark deals like the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and collapse the existing non-proliferation mechanism as we know it, senior lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev said on Sunday.

The current iteration of the START treaty, which limits the deployment of all types of nuclear weapons, is due to expire in 2021. Kosachev, who chairs the Parliament’s Upper House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that such an outcome pits mankind against “complete chaos in terms of nuclear weapons.”

“Now the US Western allies face a choice: either embarking on the same path, possibly leading to new war, or siding with common sense, at least for the sake of their self-preservation instinct.”

His remarks came after US President Donald Trump announced his intentions to “terminate” the INF, citing alleged violations of the deal by Russia.

Moscow has repeatedly denied undermining the treaty, pointing out that Trump has failed to produce any evidence of violations. Moreover, Russian officials insist that the deployment of US-made Mk 41 ground-based universal launching systems in Europe actually violates the agreement since the launchers are capable of firing mid-range cruise missiles.

Leonid Slutsky, who leads the Foreign Affairs Committee in parliament’s lower chamber, argued that Trump’s words are akin to placing “a huge mine under the whole disarmament process on the planet.”

The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The deal effectively bans the parties from having and developing short- and mid-range missiles of all types. According to the provisions, the US was obliged to destroy Pershing I and II launcher systems and BGM-109G Gryphon ground-launched cruise missiles. Moscow, meanwhile, pledged to remove the SS-20 and several other types of missiles from its nuclear arsenal.

Pershing missiles stationed in the US Army arsenal. © Hulton Archive / Getty Images ©

By scrapping the historic accord, Washington is trying to fulfill its “dream of a unipolar world,” a source within the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“This decision fits into the US policy of ditching the international agreements which impose equal obligations on it and its partners, and render the ‘exceptionalism’ concept vulnerable.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov denounced Trump’s threats as “blackmail” and said that Washington wants to dismantle the INF because it views the deal as a “problem” on its course for “total domination” in the military sphere.

The issue of nuclear arms treaties is too vital for national and global security to rush into hastily-made “emotional” decisions, the official explained. Russia is expecting to hear more on the US’ plans from Trump’s top security adviser, John Bolton, who is set to hold talks in Moscow tomorrow.

President Trump has been open about unilaterally pulling the US out of various international agreements if he deems them to be damaging to national interests. Earlier this year, Washington withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program. All other signatories to the landmark agreement, including Russia, China, and the EU, decided to stick to the deal, while blasting Trump for leaving.

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