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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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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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Kiev ‘Patriarch’ prepares to seize Moscow properties in Ukraine

Although Constantinople besought the Kiev church to stop property seizures, they were ignored and used, or perhaps, complicit.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The attack on the Eastern Orthodox Church, brought about by the US State Department and its proxies in Constantinople and Ukraine, is continuing. On October 20, 2018, the illegitimate “Kyiv (Kiev) Patriarchate”, led by Filaret Denisenko who is calling himself “Patriarch Filaret”, had a synodal meeting in which it changed the commemoration title of the leader of the church to include the Kyiv Caves and Pochaev Lavras.

This is a problem because Metropolitan Onuphry of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which is canonically accepted and acts as a very autonomous church under the Moscow Patriarchate has these places under his pastoral care.

This move takes place only one week after Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople unilaterally (and illegally) lifted the excommunications, depositions (removal from priestly ranks as punishment) and anathemas against Filaret and Makary that were imposed on them by the hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchate.

These two censures are very serious matters in the Orthodox Church. Excommunication means that the person or church so considered cannot receive Holy Communion or any of the other Mysteries (called Sacraments in the West) in a neighboring local Orthodox Church. Anathema is even more serious, for this happens when a cleric disregards his excommunication and deposition (removal from the priesthood), and acts as a priest or a bishop anyway.

Filaret Denisenko received all these censures in 1992, and Patriarch Bartholomew accepted this decision at the time, as stated in a letter he sent to Moscow shortly after the censures. However, three years later, Patriarch Bartholomew received a group of Ukrainian autocephalist bishops called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA, who had been in communion with Filaret’s group. While this move may have been motivated by the factor of Bartholomew’s almost total isolation within Istanbul, Turkey, it is nonetheless non-canonical.

This year’s moves have far exceeded previous ones, though, and now the possibility for a real clash that could cost lives is raised. With Filaret’s “church” – really an agglomeration of Ukrainian ultranationalists and Neo-Nazis in the mix, plus millions of no doubt innocent Ukrainian faithful who are deluded about the problems of their church, challenging an existing arrangement regarding Ukraine and Russia’s two most holy sites, the results are not likely to be good at all.

Here is the report about today’s developments, reprinted in part from OrthoChristian.com:

Meeting today in Kiev, the Synod of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” (KP) has officially changed the title of its primate, “Patriarch” Philaret, to include the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras under his jurisdiction.

The primate’s new official title, as given on the site of the KP, is “His Holiness and Beatitude (name), Archbishop and Metropolitan of Kiev—Mother of the cities of Rus’, and Galicia, Patriarch of All Rus’-Ukraine, Svyaschenno-Archimandrite of the Holy Dormition Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras.”

…Thus, the KP Synod is declaring that “Patriarch” Philaret has jurisdiction over the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras, although they are canonically under the omophorion of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, the primate of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Philaret and his followers and nationalistic radicals have continually proclaimed that they will take the Lavras for themselves.

This claim to the ancient and venerable monasteries comes after the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced that it had removed the anathema placed upon Philaret by the Russian Orthodox Church and had restored him to his hierarchical office. Philaret was a metropolitan of the canonical Church, becoming patriarch in his schismatic organization.

Representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate have clarified that they consider Philaret to be the “former Metropolitan of Kiev,” but he and his organization continue to consider him an active patriarch, with jurisdiction in Ukraine.

Constantinople’s statement also appealed to all in Ukraine to “avoid appropriation of churches, monasteries, and other properties,” which the Synod of the KP ignored in today’s decision.

The KP primate’s abbreviated title will be, “His Holiness (name), Patriarch of Kiev and All Rus’-Ukraine,” and the acceptable form for relations with other Local Churches is “His Beatitude Archbishop (name), Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus’-Ukraine.”

The Russian Orthodox Church broke eucharistic communion and all relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate over this matter earlier this week. Of the fourteen local Orthodox Churches recognized the world over, twelve have expressed the viewpoint that Constantinople’s move was in violation of the canons of the Holy Orthodox Church. Only one local Church supported Constantinople wholeheartedly, and all jurisdictions except Constantinople have appealed for an interOrthodox Synod to address and solve the Ukrainian matter in a legitimate manner.

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