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NATO’s broken promises in Europe justify Russian concerns

Despite assurances it would not expand into Eastern Europe, the North Atlantic alliance did just that

Gordon Hahn

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(GordonHahn) – Some have tried to debunk the view that the West implicitly or explicitly promised Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not expand east after German reunification and dissolution of the Warsaw Pact (http://dialogueeurope.org/uploads/File/resources/TWQ%20article%20on%20Germany%20and%20NATO.pdfand http://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2014/11/06/did-nato-promise-not-to-enlarge-gorbachev-says-no/). These claims are misleading and obfuscate the historical record of at least a clear understanding, if not promise that there should be no NATO expansion eastward in any way, shape or form. At the very least the West made a implied commitment not to expand NATO east. It is more precise to say, however, that the West gave an explicit verbal, that is, unwritten guarantee not to expand NATO beyond a united Germany; something both sides understood. This broken promise or understanding and the expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders has led now to the misnamed ‘new cold war.’

One commentator, for example, argues there was no promise, claiming the discussions only touched on NATO deployments to the territory of what would become the former GDR after German reunification. But the writer obfuscates the meaning of a recent Gorbachev statement in making his claim. He quotes Gorbachev from an RBTH interview this way: “‘The topic of ‘NATO expansion’ was not discussed at all, and it wasn’t brought up in those years. … Another issue we brought up was discussed: making sure that NATO’s military structures would not advance and that additional armed forces would not be deployed on the territory of the then-GDR after German reunification. Baker’s statement was made in that context… Everything that could have been and needed to be done to solidify that political obligation was done. And fulfilled’” (www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2014/11/06/did-nato-promise-not-to-enlarge-gorbachev-says-no/ and http://www.rbth.com/international/2014/10/16/mikhail_gorbachev_i_am_against_all_walls_40673.html).

To be sure, Pifer acknowledges that Gorbachev also said that NATO’s expansion beyond Germany was “a violation of the spirit of the statements and assurances made to us in 1990” (www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2014/11/06/did-nato-promise-not-to-enlarge-gorbachev-says-no/ and http://www.rbth.com/international/2014/10/16/mikhail_gorbachev_i_am_against_all_walls_40673.html). The vagueness lies in the fact, as Gorbachev notes, that NATO expansion per se was never explicitly discussed. How can something that was not discussed be considered a violation of a trust when it later happens? Because it was assumed by all sides and implied by various Western statements that the West understood that USSR was opposed to NATO expanding to the former GDR’s territory, no less its expanding much farther east, and that per the 1990 discussions it was implicitly understood that NATO would not expanding to GDR territory or anywhere further east.

This becomes evident in reading a more precise rendering of the Baker-Gorbachev exchange than the one Pifer presents, and RBTH managed to get Gorbachev to expound on. In reality, new archival documents show that Baker said to Gorbachev: “Would you prefer to see a unified Germany outside of NATO, independent and with no U.S. forces, or would you prefer a unified Germany to be tied to NATO, with assurances that NATO’s jurisdiction would not shift one inch eastward from its present position?” As one author notes: “Baker’s phrasing of the second, more attractive option meant that NATO’s jurisdiction would not even extend to East Germany, since NATO’s ‘present position’ in February 1990 remained exactly where it had been throughout the Cold War: with its eastern edge on the line still dividing the two Germanies. In other words, a united Germany would be, de facto, half in and half out of the alliance. According to Baker, Gorbachev responded, ‘Certainly any extension of the zone of NATO would be unacceptable.’ This means that their discussion implied an assumption that the discussion was about any kind of expansion anywhere to the east, whether in Germany or elsewhere (https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/russia-fsu/2014-08-11/broken-promise). Other statements and discussions further suggest that the assumption was there should be no NATO expansion eastward in any way. That assumption means a tacit agreement was reached. 

An Assumed and Implied Promise Broken

At a minimum, the West certainly gave the impression during talks on Germany’s reunification in early 1990 that it was promising Moscow that NATO at the least for some time would not take in any new members besides reunified Germany or take advantage of the disappearance of the Warsaw Pact in any way. This approximates the position of then US Ambassador to Moscow Jack Matlock (http://jackmatlock.com/2014/04/nato-expansion-was-there-a-promise/). Western diplomats’ language in discussions with Soviet officials, moreover, resembled full-fledged promises not to expand NATO beyond Germany, and it is no surprise the Soviets perceived it that way. For all intents and purposes, there was a de facto promise not to expand NATO after united Germany’s incorporation into the Atlantic alliance. The sum of the discussions at the time makes this clear.

On 9 November 1990, for example, US Secretary of State James Baker told Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in the Kremlin’s St. Catherine Hall that NATO would not expand beyond reunified Germany “one inch in the eastern direction” if NATO even maintained its presence in Germany after reunification. He added: “We think that consultations and discussions within the framework of the mechanism ‘Two Plus Four’ should give a guarantee that the unification of Germany will not lead to the spreading of the military organization NATO to the East” (Yevgenii Primakov, Gody v Bolshoi Politike (Moscow: Sovershenno Sekretno, 1999), pp. 231-32 and Uwe Klussman, Matthias Schepp, and Klaus Wiegrefe, “NATO’s Eastward Expansion: Did the West Break Its Promise to Moscow?,” Der Spiegel, 26 November 2009, http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/nato-s-eastward-expansion-did-the-west-break-its-promise-to-moscow-a-663315.html). Baker now claims he never made any such promise. However, West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher’s chief of staff, Frank Elbe, has written that when he met with Baker on 2 February 1990, the two agreed that there was to be no NATO expansion to the East and this would be communicated to the Soviets to facilitate their acceptance of reunified Germany’s entrance into the alliance (Klussman, Schepp, and Wiegrefe, “NATO’s Easteward Expansion: Did the West Break Its Promise to Moscow?”). In his 1995 memoir, Gorbachev remembers Baker asking him: “Assuming that (German) reunification takes place, what is preferable for you: a united Germany outside NATO, fully independent without American troops, or a united Germany preserving ties to NATO but under a guarantee that NATO jurisdiction and troops will not spread to the east from today’s position.” Gorbachev says that although he did not commit to either of these at that time, “the latter part of Baker’s phrase became the nucleus of the formula on the basis of which compromise on Germany’s military-political status was later reached.” (Mikhail Gorbachev, Zhizni i reform, Kniga 2, Moscow, Novosti, 1995, p. 167).

According to declassified German documents, on 10 February 1990, FRG Foreign Minister Genscher told his Soviet counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze: “We are aware that NATO membership for a unified Germany raises complicated questions. For us, however, one thing is certain: NATO will not expand to the east” (James M. Goldgeier and Michael McFaul, Power and Purpose: U.S. Policy Toward Russia After the Cold War, Washington, D.C., Brookings Institution Press, 2003, pp. 184-5). Videos of Genscher’s and Baker’s 1990 statements to the press promising NATO would not expand beyond Germany are readily available (“Abmachung 1990: ‘Keine Osterweiterung der NATO’ – Aussenminister Gensher & Baker,” Antikrieg TV, 6 July 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXcWVTpQF3k). However, weeks later Baker was claiming he already was getting signals that “Central European countries wanted to join NATO,” to which Genscher responded that they “should not touch this at this point.” The exchange seems to suggest that at least Genscher did not necessarily see the commitment not to expand NATO as permanent or one encompassing the east outside the GDR (Klussman, Schepp, and Wiegrefe, “NATO’s Eastward Expansion: Did the West Break Its Promise to Moscow?”). Although some, perhaps all of these pledges came in discussions of a possible NATO expansion to the former GDR’s territory as part of the FRG after reunification, the assumption at the time was that expansion beyond the GDR was unthinkable. Since Western and Soviet leaders were agreeing that a unified Germany could join NATO, the promises not to expand to the east had to mean not to do so anywhere beyond the GDR.

In other discussions explicit pledges appear to have been made not to expand NATO beyond the GDR. In his memoir, the late former Russian Foreign Minister (January 1996 – September 1998), Prime Minister (September 1998 – September 1999), and perestroika-era Politburo and Presidential Council member Yevgenii Primakov quotes Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry archival documents from various meetings, showing Baker, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, British Prime Minister John Major, and French President Francois Mitterand all telling Gorbachev in February and March 1990 that former Soviet bloc countries of Eastern Europe would not become NATO members. In addition, British Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd told Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander Bessmertnykh in March that there “were no plans” to expand NATO beyond united Germany (Primakov, Gody v Bolshoi Politike, pp. 231-33). Finally, in June 1991, NATO Secretary General Manfred Worner said publicly that granting NATO membership to former Warsaw Pact members “would be a serious obstacle to reaching mutual understanding with the Soviet Union” (TASS, June 16, 1991).” Thus, again, what seems clear is that there was at least a joint assumption and informal agreement that NATO would not expand to the east beyond the GDR.

Many Russians, including Primakov, would later harshly criticize Gorbachev with justification (and hindsight’s advantage) for failing to codify this in a signed agreement (Primakov, Gody v Bolshoi Politike, p. 233). Claiming this was possible, none of them can produce evidence they proposed this to Gorbachev or his inner circle. These were heady days of rapprochement and hopes for peace in a ‘common European home’ from Paris to Vladivostok. Some would say they were days of naivete` soon trumped by cynicism. In memoirs Gorbachev’s closest advisor, Georgii Shakhnazarov, lamented the Warsaw Pact’s dissolution without “achieving the liquidation of NATO.” He added: “This is just a question of time. One should not regret the end of the military blocs. They are Europe’s yesterday. In (Europe), security should, of course, be built on a rational, collective basis” (Georgii Shakhnazarov, Tsena Svobody: Reformatsiya Gorbacheva glazami ego pomoshnika, Moscow, Rissika-Zevs, 1993, p. 128).

With the decision made to expand without Russia, American hubris was communicated to Moscow in no uncertain terms by Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, whom President Barack Obama dubbed “one of the giants of American foreign policy” after the former’s passing in 2010 (Robert D. McFadden, “Strong American Voice in Diplomacy and Crisis,” New York Times, 13 December 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/14/world/14holbrooke.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0). At a Washington conference in 1997, Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S. Yuli Vorontsov reported how Holbrooke and other U.S. officials repeatedly and sometimes abruptly rejected queries regarding Russia’s possible entry into NATO: “When the decision was originally floated, I came to the State Department and had a long talk with the then assistant secretary of state, Mr. Holbrooke. I said, ‘Have you thought about Russia while you were putting forward this idea of enlargement of NATO?’ And his answer was very honest. He said, ‘No, not at all; you have nothing to do with that.’ ‘Aha,’ I said, ‘that is very interesting, and what about an invitation for Russia to join the enlarged NATO?’ He said, ‘Anybody but Russia! No’. That was a nice beginning of our conversations about enlargement of NATO in the State Department and later on in the corridors of power in Washington. And from all quarters I received that kind of answer: ‘Anyone but Russia. Not you!’” (Yuli Vorontsov, “NATO Enlargement Without Russia: A Mistake on Four Counts,” The NATO-Russian Charter and the Emerging Relationship, Russia and NATO International Panel, George Washington University, Washington, D.C., February 1997, http://fas.org/man/nato/ceern/gwu_conf.htm and http://fas.org/man/nato/ceern/gwu_c1.htm).

The Implications of Promise Broken: Maximal Distrust

The increasingly cynical realism of Russian foreign policy as successive rounds of NATO expanded to Russia’s borders as well as the hyper-cynicism of much of Putin’s foreign policy at present have their roots in Russian disenchantment that resulted from NATO expansion. The most crucial contingent cause of the present Russo-West and Ukrainian crises was NATO expansion without the inclusion of Russia. From its outset, post-Soviet Russia was a potential threat to its neighbors and the West, especially if not integrated into the West. That potential, however, needed to be actualized to become an actual or kinetic threat. Potential’s actualization was contingent on policies—whether Western or Russian—that isolated and/or alienated Russia from the West. The expansion of Western institutions, especially NATO – world history’s most powerful military-political bloc – to Russia’s borders without Russia’s inclusion in the bloc gradually actualized the Russian threat. Moreover, NATO expansion without Russia institutionalized and reinforced the geopolitical and civilizational divides Mackinderians, Huntingtonians, and neo-Eurasianists on both sides of the Atlantic perceived.

There were several aspects of the 1993-95 discussion, the 1995 decision and 1997 implementation of the first round of NATO expansion that brought Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary into the military alliance which altered the Soviet-American and Russian-American early post-Cold War honeymoon. First, the decision to expand NATO eastward broke the trust and implied if not explicit promise not to so expand and thus take advantage of the Warsaw Pact’s dissolution. Second, the U.S. policy made no extra effort to entice Russia into NATO commensurate with the country’s great power status. To the contrary, policymakers appear to have discouraged, if not outright rejected Russian overtures. Third, NATO enlargement shifted the correlation of forces in Russian domestic politics from support for, to opposition against Westernization and democratization. Fourth, NATO expansion undermined Russian national security vis-à-vis NATO. This not only further alienated the Russian power ministries or siloviki from the West and Russia’s pro-Western leadership, it humiliated Russia’s proud military and national security establishment. This was all the more so, since NATO’s more forward-leaning configuration required adjustments to Russian force structure, defense procurement, and military and national security doctrines, many of which Moscow was in no position to carry out because of the dire economic depression into which the collapse of the USSR had plunged the country.

The idealistic and naïve Russians of the democratic perestroika generation learned a harsh lesson from the partner they hoped for in the United States. The lone superpower, increasingly hubristic hegemon, ‘victor in the Cold War’ – the United States – demonstrated that Russian national security, even domestic stability placed a distant second when it came not just to America’s maintenance of its position as world leader but also to the unlimited enhancement of U.S. power globally and especially within Russia’s traditional sphere of influence.

One can discount the promise, implied promise, assumed promise to one’s liking. But more than the spirit of statements and assurances was broken along with the ‘promise’. The spirit of that minimal trust that Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and then General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev had built up between our two countries’ elites and peoples was gravely undermined. It would be fatally undermined with each successive round of NATO expansion.

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The real reason Western media & CIA turned against Saudi MBS

The problem with MBS isn’t that he is a mass murdering war criminal, it is that he is too “independent” for the United States’ liking.

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Forces are aligning against Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, lead by elements within the CIA and strong players in the mainstream media. But what is really behind this deterioration in relationship, and what are its implications?

Following the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, western media and various entities, including the CIA, appear to have turned their back on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS). In response to the scandal, the Guardian released a video which its celebutante, Owen Jones, captioned“Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest threats on Earth. Time to stop propping up its repulsive regime.”

The Guardian was not alone in its condemnation. “It’s high time to end Saudi impunity,” wrote Hana Al-Khamri in Al-Jazeera. “It’s time for Saudi Arabia to tell the truth on Jamal Khashoggi,” the Washington Post’s Editorial Board argued. Politico called it “the tragedy of Jamal Khashoggi.”

Even shadowy think-tanks like the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the Atlantic Council released articles criticising Saudi Arabia in the wake of Khashoggi’s death.

A number of companies began backing away from Saudi money after the journalist’s death, including the world’s largest media companies such as the New York Times, the Economist’s editor-in-chief Zanny Minton Beddoes, Arianna Huffington, CNN, CNBC, the Financial Times, Bloomberg, Google Cloud CEO, just to name a few.

The CIA concluded that MBS personally ordered Khashoggi’s death, and was reportedly quite open in its provision of this assessment. Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the UN, also took time out of his schedule to express concern over Saudi Arabia’s confirmation of the killing.

At the time of the scandal, former CIA director John Brennan went on MSNBC to state that the Khashoggi’s death would be the downfall of MBS. Furthermore, the US Senate just voted in favour of ending American involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen (a somewhat symbolic victory, though this is a topic for another article), but nonetheless was a clear stab at MBS personally.

The only person who appeared to continue to uphold America’s unfaltering support for MBS, even after all the publicly made evidence against MBS, was the US president himself. So after years of bombarding Yemen, sponsoring terror groups across the Middle East, Asia, the Pacific and beyond, why is it only now that there has been mounting opposition to Saudi Arabia’s leadership? Let’s just bear in mind that western media had spent years investing in a heavy PR campaign to paint MBS as a “reformer.”

Former national security adviser under Barack Obama’s second term, Susan Rice, wrote an article in the New York Times, in which she called MBS a “partner we can’t depend on.” Rice concludes that MBS is “not and can no longer be viewed as a reliable partner of the United States and our allies.” But why is this? Is it because MBS is responsible for some of the most egregious human rights abuses inside his own kingdom as well as in Yemen? Is it because of MBS’ support for groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda? No, according to Rice, we “should not rupture our important relationship with the kingdom, but we must make it clear it cannot be business as usual so long as Prince Mohammad continues to wield unlimited power.”

One will observe that the latter segment of Rice’s article almost mirrors former CIA director Brennan’s word on MSNBC word for word who stated that:

“I think ultimately this is going to come out. And it’s very important for us to maintain the relations with Saudi Arabia. And if it’s Mohammed bin Salman who’s the cancer here, well, we need to be able to find ways to eliminate the cancer and to move forward with this relationship that is critical to regional stability and our national interests.”

In reality, this is probably the issue that western media and government advisors have taken up with MBS. Aside from the fact he allegedly held a huge hand in the brutal murder of one of their own establishment journalists (Saudi Arabia reportedly tortured and killed another journalist not long after Khashoggi, but western media was eerily silent on this incident) MBS is not opposed for his reckless disregard for human rights. With insight into Rice’s mindset, we actually learn that if the US were to punish MBS, he would be likely to “behave more irresponsibly to demonstrate his independence and exact retribution against his erstwhile Western partners.”

You see, the problem with MBS isn’t that he is a mass murdering war criminal, it is that he is too “independent” for the United States’ liking.

Last week, Saudi Arabia and the other major oil producers met in Vienna at the year’s final big OPEC meeting of the year. As Foreign Policy notes, Saudi Arabia remains the largest oil producer inside OPEC but has to contend with the US and Russia who are “pumping oil at record levels.” Together, the three countries are the world’s biggest oil producers, meaning any coordinated decision made between these three nations can be somewhat monumental.

However, it appears that one of these three nations will end up drawing the short end of the stick as the other two begin forming a closer alliance. As Foreign Policy explains:

“But Saudi Arabia has bigger game in mind at Vienna than just stabilizing oil prices. Recognizing that it can’t shape the global oil market by itself anymore but rather needs the cooperation of Russia, Saudi Arabia is hoping to formalize an ad hoc agreement between OPEC and Moscow that began in 2016, a time when dirt-cheap oil also posed a threat to oil-dependent regimes. That informal agreement expires at the end of the year, but the Saudis would like to make Russia’s participation with the cartel more permanent.”

Russian officials have been signalling their intention to formalise this agreement for quite some time now. Given the hysteria in western media about any and all things Russian, it is not too much of a stretch to suggest that this is the kind of news that is not sitting too well with the powers-that-be.

Earlier this year, Russia and Saudi Arabia announced that it would “institutionalize” the two-year-old bilateral agreement to coordinate oil production targets in order to maintain an edge on the global market.

While US president Trump has been supportive and incredibly defensive of MBS during this “crisis”, the truth is that the US only has itself to blame. It was not all too long ago that Trump announced that he had told Saudi King Salman that his kingdom would not last two weeks without US support.

Saudi Arabia is learning for themselves quite quickly that, ultimately, it may pay not to have all its eggs in one geopolitical superpower basket.

Saudi Arabia has been increasingly interested in Moscow since King Salman made a historic visit to Moscow in October 2017. While Trump has openly bragged about his record-breaking arms deals with the Saudis, the blunt truth is that the $110 billion arms agreements were reportedly only ever letters of interest or intent, but not actual contracts. As such, the US-Saudi arms deal is still yet to be locked in, all the while Saudi Arabia is negotiating with Russia for its S-400 air defence system. This is, as the Washington Post notes, despite repeated US requests to Saudi Arabia for it disavow its interest in Russia’s arms.

The economic threat that an “independent” Saudi Arabia under MBS’ leadership poses to Washington runs deeper than meets the eye and may indeed have a domino effect. According to CNN, Russia and Saudi Arabia “are engaged in an intense battle over who will be the top supplier to China, a major energy importer with an insatiable appetite for crude.”

The unveiling of China’s petro-yuan poses a major headache for Washington and its control over Saudi Arabia as well.According to Carl Weinberg, chief economist and managing director at High-Frequency Economics, China will “compel”Saudi Arabia to trade oil in Chinese yuan instead of US dollars. One must bear in mind that China has now surpassed the US as the “biggest oil importer on the planet,” these direct attacks on the US dollar will have huge implications for its current world reserve status.

If Saudi Arabia jumps on board China’s petro-yuan, the rest of OPEC will eventually follow, and the US might be left with no choice but to declare all of these countries in need of some vital freedom and democracy.

Therefore, ousting MBS and replacing him with a Crown Prince who doesn’t stray too far from the tree that is US imperialism may put a dent in pending relationships with Saudi Arabia and Washington’s adversaries, Russia and China.

Once we get over the certainty that the US media and the CIA are not against MBS for his long-list of human rights abuses, the question then becomes: why – why now, and in this manner, have they decided to put the spotlight on MBS and expose him exactly for what he is.

Clearly, the driving force behind this media outrage is a bit more complex than first meets the eye.

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Multipolar World Order in the Making: Qatar Dumps OPEC

Russia and Qatar’s global strategy also brings together and includes partners like Turkey.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The decision by Qatar to abandon OPEC threatens to redefine the global energy market, especially in light of Saudi Arabia’s growing difficulties and the growing influence of the Russian Federation in the OPEC+ mechanism.

In a surprising statement, Qatari energy minister Saad al-Kaabi warned OPEC on Monday December 3 that his country had sent all the necessary documentation to start the country’s withdrawal from the oil organization in January 2019. Al-Kaabi stressed that the decision had nothing to do with recent conflicts with Riyadh but was rather a strategic choice by Doha to focus on the production of LNG, which Qatar, together with the Russian Federation, is one of the largest global exporters of. Despite an annual oil extraction rate of only 1.8% of the total of OPEC countries (about 600,000 barrels a day), Qatar is one of the founding members of the organization and has always had a strong political influence on the governance of the organization. In a global context where international relations are entering a multipolar phase, things like cooperation and development become fundamental; so it should not surprise that Doha has decide to abandon OPEC. OPEC is one of the few unipolar organizations that no longer has a meaningful purpose in 2018, given the new realities governing international relations and the importance of the Russian Federation in the oil market.

Besides that, Saudi Arabia requires the organization to maintain a high level of oil production due to pressure coming from Washington to achieve a very low cost per barrel of oil. The US energy strategy targets Iranian and Russian revenue from oil exports, but it also aims to give the US a speedy economic boost. Trump often talks about the price of oil falling as his personal victory. The US imports about 10 million barrels of oil a day, which is why Trump wrongly believes that a decrease in the cost per barrel could favor a boost to the US economy. The economic reality shows a strong correlation between the price of oil and the financial growth of a country, with low prices of crude oil often synonymous of a slowing down in the economy.

It must be remembered that to keep oil prices low, OPEC countries are required to maintain a high rate of production, doubling the damage to themselves. Firstly, they take less income than expected and, secondly, they deplete their oil reserves to favor the strategy imposed by Saudi Arabia on OPEC to please the White House. It is clearly a strategy that for a country like Qatar (and perhaps Venezuela and Iran in the near future) makes little sense, given the diplomatic and commercial rupture with Riyadh stemming from tensions between the Gulf countries.

In contrast, the OPEC+ organization, which also includes other countries like the Russian Federation, Mexico and Kazakhstan, seems to now to determine oil and its cost per barrel. At the moment, OPEC and Russia have agreed to cut production by 1.2 million barrels per day, contradicting Trump’s desire for high oil output.

With this last choice Qatar sends a clear signal to the region and to traditional allies, moving to the side of OPEC+ and bringing its interests closer in line with those of the Russian Federation and its all-encompassing oil and gas strategy, two sectors in which Qatar and Russia dominate market share.

In addition, Russia and Qatar’s global strategy also brings together and includes partners like Turkey (a future energy hub connecting east and west as well as north and south) and Venezuela. In this sense, the meeting between Maduro and Erdogan seems to be a prelude to further reorganization of OPEC and its members.

The declining leadership role of Saudi Arabia in the oil and financial market goes hand in hand with the increase of power that countries like Qatar and Russia in the energy sectors are enjoying. The realignment of energy and finance signals the evident decline of the Israel-US-Saudi Arabia partnership. Not a day goes by without corruption scandals in Israel, accusations against the Saudis over Khashoggi or Yemen, and Trump’s unsuccessful strategies in the commercial, financial or energy arenas. The path this doomed

trio is taking will only procure less influence and power, isolating them more and more from their opponents and even historical allies.

Moscow, Beijing and New Delhi, the Eurasian powerhouses, seem to have every intention, as seen at the trilateral summit in Buenos Aires, of developing the ideal multipolar frameworks to avoid continued US dominance of the oil market through shale revenues or submissive allies as Saudi Arabia, even though the latest spike in production is a clear signal from Riyadh to the USA. In this sense, Qatar’s decision to abandon OPEC and start a complex and historical discussion with Moscow on LNG in the format of an enlarged OPEC marks the definitive decline of Saudi Arabia as a global energy power, to be replaced by Moscow and Doha as the main players in the energy market.

Qatar’s decision is, officially speaking, unconnected to the feud triggered by Saudi Arabia against the small emirate. However, it is evident that a host of factors has led to this historic decision. The unsuccessful military campaign in Yemen has weakened Saudi Arabia on all fronts, especially militarily and economically. The self-inflicted fall in the price of oil is rapidly consuming Saudi currency reserves, now at a new low of less than 500 billion dollars. Events related to Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) have de-legitimized the role of Riyadh in the world as a reliable diplomatic interlocutor. The internal and external repression by the Kingdom has provoked NGOs and governments like Canada’s to issue public rebukes that have done little to help MBS’s precarious position.

In Syria, the victory of Damascus and her allies has consolidated the role of Moscow in the region, increased Iranian influence, and brought Turkey and Qatar to the multipolar side, with Tehran and Moscow now the main players in the Middle East. In terms of military dominance, there has been a clear regional shift from Washington to Moscow; and from an energy perspective, Doha and Moscow are turning out to be the winners, with Riyadh once again on the losing side.

As long as the Saudi royal family continues to please Donald Trump, who is prone to catering to Israeli interests in the region, the situation of the Kingdom will only get worse. The latest agreement on oil production between Moscow and Riyad signals that someone in the Saudi royal family has probably figured this out.

Countries like Turkey, India, China, Russia and Iran understand the advantages of belonging to a multipolar world, thereby providing a collective geopolitical ballast that is mutually beneficial. The energy alignment between Qatar and the Russian Federation seems to support this general direction, a sort of G2 of LNG gas that will only strengthen the position of Moscow on the global chessboard, while guaranteeing a formidable military umbrella for Doha in case of a further worsening of relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

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Constantinople: Ukrainian Church leader is now uncanonical

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

Seraphim Hanisch

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

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

OrthoChristian reported this today (we have added emphasis):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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