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New York Times completely wrong on Russia admitting doping conspiracy

New York Times article alleging Russian sports officials have admitted to “institutional conspiracy” to undertake doping is according to TASS based on distorted comments and is flatly contradicted by the public comments of Russian President Putin made just four days before.

Alexander Mercouris

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On Tuesday 27th December 2016 The New York Times published an article under the headline “Russians no longer dispute Olympic Doping Operation”.

The article alleged that a Russian sports official, Anna Antselovich, who is the acting Director General of RUSADA, Russia’s national anti-doping agency, had admitted to an “institutional conspiracy” to dope athletes, though she was reported to have denied that the country’s highest leaders were involved.

The key section in The New York Times article reads as follows

Over several days of interviews here with The New York Times, Russian officials said they no longer disputed a damning set of facts that detailed a doping program with few, if any, historical precedents.

“It was an institutional conspiracy,” Anna Antseliovich (sic), the acting director general of Russia’s national antidoping agency, said of years’ worth of cheating schemes, while emphasizing that the government’s top officials were not involved.

I was immediately suspicious when I read these words since they appeared to be in flat contradiction to things Russian President Putin had said about the doping scandal in his annual end-of-year press conference given just four days before on 23rd December 2016.

It turns out that I was right to be suspicious because RUSADA is now angrily complaining that The New York Times has twisted Antselovich’s words.  Here is a report of what RUSADA is saying provided by the Russian news agency TASS

In response to the publication in The New York Times, RUSADA states that the words of acting General Director Antselovich were distorted and taken out of the context.  During Antselovich’s talk with journalist Rebecca Ruiz, the acting general director made a remark that in his report of December 9, 2016 Richard McLaren had given up the phrase ‘state-sponsored doping system’ and used the words ‘institutional conspiracy,’ thus excluding the involvement of the country’s top leadership. Unfortunately, Rebecca Ruiz took these words out of the context, thus creating an impression that the RUSADA leadership admits to the institutional scheme of doping cover-up in Russia.”

In other words Antselovich pointed out to The New York Times that even McLaren has stopped talking about a ‘state-sponsored doping system’ but now talks only of an ‘institutional conspiracy’.  The New York Times twisted these words in order to claim that Antselovich had admitted to an ‘institutional conspiracy’, when she had done no such thing

It is a classic tabloid journalist’s trick, treating the denial of one thing as the admission of another.  I will here express my sorrow that a journalist of The New York Times, once a truly great newspaper, made use of it.

Before proceeding further I should say that in my opinion Antselovich is reading more into McLaren’s words than is there.  McLaren’s second report makes it quite clear that he believes that the doping conspiracy which he alleges was ‘state sponsored’.  I think the contrast Antselovich is making between McLaren’s use of the words ‘state-sponsored doping system’ and ‘institutional conspiracy’ is a false one, and is a product of wishful thinking.

Having said this, the key point to take away from RUSADA’s statement is that contrary to what The New York Times is saying, the Russians most certainly do continue to deny that there was anything which remotely resembled a state-sponsored doping system’, or an ‘institutional conspiracy’ to create such a doping system, in Russia.

What they do admit, as a careful reading of the comments of the other sports officials quoted in The New York Times article in fact shows, is that there was widespread doping in Russia.  However they place the blame for that firmly on Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, RUSADA’s former director.  They also say, and this too is evident from their comments quoted in The New York Times article, that if athletes in other countries had been subjected to the same sort of scrutiny as Russian athletes have been, the evidence of doping which would come to light would be at least as great.

I make this last point because The New York Times is reporting the comments of the sports officials, which are supposed to support the “admission” Antselovich is supposed to have made, but which she did not in fact make, in a way that does not make it clear that what the Russian sports officials were complaining about is the different treatment of their athletes.  Instead The New York Times reports these comments as a further admission of guilt, though one supposedly made without any trace of shame, and couched in words of “defiance”

But even as he and other officials signalled their acceptance of the fundamental findings of Mr. McLaren’s investigation, they were largely unconciliatory, suggesting that cheating to benefit Russia had served to offset what they perceived as preferential treatment for Western nations by global sports authorities.

(bold italics added)

The clearest statement of the Russian position on the doping scandal was the one made by Russian President Putin during his recent end-of-year press conference on 23rd December 2016.  I republish it here in full

Let me begin with doping as such and the problem of doping. First, Russia has never created – this is absolutely impossible – a state-run doping system and has never supported doping, and we will do our best to prevent this in the future. I wanted to repeat this as my first point.

Secondly, like any other country, we have a doping problem. We must admit this and by doing so, we must do everything in our power to prevent any doping. As such, we need to closely cooperate with the International Olympic Committee, WADA and other international organisations. We will do this. I hope that the ongoing changes, which are not only about personnel but are systemic and structural changes, will help us achieve these goals. In addition, the Investigative Committee and the Prosecutor’s Office are investigating all cases of alleged doping, and they will bring these cases to their logical conclusion.

As for the so-called whistle-blowers who ran away from the country, grass up everyone or make up things, I would like to say a few words. I do not remember exactly the name of the person who fled Russia. He headed the Russian Anti-Doping Agency. But where did he work before that? In Canada. And what did he do after that? He came to Russia and brought all kinds of nasty stuff with him, while serving as a high-ranking official.

It is hard to imagine that he managed to cross the Canadian or US border carrying banned substances without being detected. You know what it means. Many of you have crossed the US and Canadian borders, there are very strict controls there.

He travelled back and forth many times to bring this nasty stuff here. It was his personal undertaking, he forced people to take these substances, and even came up with some sort of sanctions against those who refused to do so, for example, the swimmers.

When he was exposed, he escaped law enforcement, fled, and started slurring everyone in order to protect himself and secure a place in the sun in hope of a better life. At a certain point he will get what he wants. But after that, just as it happens to any rascal, they will drop him. Nobody needs people like this.

Why did he not fight here? This makes me think that somebody was behind him. They waited for a certain moment and started spreading these false stories. But this does not mean that Russia does not have a problem with doping. We do have this problem, and we must fight it. We must acknowledge this, and in doing so we must focus on athletes’ health.

As for WADA, I am not entitled to assess its performance. It is up to the International Olympic Committee to do it. However, as I have already said, operations of any anti-doping agency, including WADA, should be completely transparent, clear and verifiable, and we must be informed about the results of their work. What does this mean? This means that the international sports community should know who is to be tested, when and by what means, what the results are and what measures are being taken to punish those responsible, what is being done to prevent such incidents in the future. What’s going on? Are we talking about the defence industry? No. But in this case it is unclear why everything is so secretive? This should be an open process. They always ask us to be transparent. Transparency is very important in this area.

I cannot fail to agree with what a number of legendary athletes said about the recent decisions to cancel major competitions in Russia. They said that nobody knew anything. But if it was known before, why was it made public right now?

You know, politics are always involved in cases like this. Just as culture, sport should be free from politics, because sport and culture should both help bring people together instead of driving them apart.

(bold italics added)

I have highlighted certain parts of Putin’s comments because in them Putin has actually gone further than any other Russian official commenting on the scandal has so far done, and some of the things he says are very interesting, and should raise eyebrows.

Firstly, and pace the article in The New York Times, Putin categorically denies McLaren’s central allegation that there was a state sponsored doping system in Russia.

Secondly, he clearly says that there was a conspiracy to dope Russian athletes, but he accuses Dr. Rodchenkov (the person whose name Putin says he cannot remember) not the Russian authorities of being behind it.

On the facts I have seen that is certainly possible.  Here is what I said about it previously

For what it’s worth my opinion is that if there was a conspiracy the facts point more to Dr. Rodchenkov being its originator and mastermind than to anyone else in the Russian political or sports structure.  This is in part because some of the elements of the state sponsored conspiracy Dr. Rodchenkov alleges – like the alleged role of the FSB – seem to me to belong more to the world of spy fiction than to real life.  I doubt the FSB had any role in this affair, and Dr. Rodchenkov’s claim it did, and his equally unlikely claim to have been one of its agents, all but confirms that he is not telling the whole truth.

Thirdly, Putin clearly implies – though he does not quite say – that Dr. Rodchenkov was acting on instructions from someone in the West, and that his activities were being controlled from there, and were intended to create the very doping scandal Russian sports is now going through, presumably in order to damage Russia and to discredit Russian sport.  

That would make Dr. Rodchenkov not just a criminal but an agent provocateur.

I have seen no evidence that supports this claim.  Nor obviously do I know whether Putin has private information that supports it, or whether he simply spoke out of anger. 

What I do say, and what I have said many times before, is that the whole claim of a state-sponsored doping conspiracy in Russia seems to me to be heavily over-reliant on the largely unsupported evidence of Dr. Rodchenkov, who has an obvious motive to fabricate the claim

[McLaren’s] final report, like his first report, depends heavily – in my opinion excessively – on the evidence of a single witness: Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov. 

Personally I would be far more uneasy about accepting the truth of what Dr. Rodchenkov has to say than Professor McLaren appears to be, given Dr. Rodchenkov’s own admitted role in the doping scandal, and the fact that he is on the run from the Russian police. 

Both of these facts seem to me to give Dr. Rodchenkov an obvious motive to implicate the Russian authorities in his own admitted misdeeds, both in order to exculpate himself in the scandal, and to secure his claim for asylum in the West. 

That fact never seems to worry Professor McLaren or indeed anyone else in the West, where Dr. Rodchenkov is constantly hailed as a whistleblower rather than as a fugitive from justice, even though I would have thought the point was obvious.

On the subject of the Western authorities and media ignoring all the obvious doubts there should be concerning Dr. Rodchenkov, and accepting him uncritically as a heroic whistleblower, we have a further example in the article in The New York Times

Russian sports officials had vehemently denied the doping operation’s existence despite a detailed confession by the nation’s former antidoping lab chief, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, in a New York Times article last May that was subsequently confirmed by global antidoping regulators.

This is one of only two references to Dr. Rodchenkov by name in the entire New York Times article, though it beggars belief that the Russian officials it quotes, including Anna Antselovich, did not bring up his name frequently.  Suffice to say that Antselovich is now the head of Dr. Rodchenkov’s laboratory.

I do not know how this article in The New York Times came to be written.  Possibly Rebecca Ruiz, its author, misunderstood the points the Russian sports officials were making to her, though I find that difficult to believe.

However given that what the article claims the sports official told her is so flatly contradicted by what President Putin said in his end-of-year press conference just four days before the article was published, and which Putin said after Rebecca Ruiz had carried out her interviews, the decision of The New York Times’s editors to publish the article under the headline “Russians no longer dispute Olympic Doping Operation” without apparently making any modification to it in light of what Putin said seems to me little short of extraordinary.

Since the article is obviously wrong I wonder whether The New York Times – the ‘paper of record’ – will now admit its mistake, and retract and apologise for the article?  I have to say that I don’t expect it to.

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‘Treasonous’ Trump in the Conspirators’ Crosshairs

Every effort will continue to be made to ensure no concrete progress can be made on whatever was discussed in Helsinki while maintaining the 24/7 drumbeat of demonization.

Jim Jatras

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At least the White House can be happy that the resident Hitler-in-Chief’s inhuman separation of innocent migrant children from adults caught illegally crossing the US border with Mexico matters to nobody anymore.

Everyone’s moved on. “Children in cages” is yesterday’s news.

The issue now is treason, a crime carrying the death penalty.

On that score America and the entire world owe former CIA Director and onetime communist voter John Brennan a debt of gratitude for pointing out that President Donald Trump’s expressing the slightest hint of doubt about conclusions reached by the US Intelligence Community is both impeachable and treasonous.

Brennan didn’t just make that up, you know. It’s in the Constitution of the United States, right there in black and white:

Article II, Section 1: “The executive Power shall be vested in an Intelligence Community of the United States of America.”

Article III, Section 3: “Treason against the United States, shall consist in doubting the Intelligence Community in any way, shape, or form.”

There you have it, it’s an open and shut case of treason, committed in full view of the global public within feet of Russian President Vladimir Putin – who, as the crack journalists of our intrepid Fourth Estate have now revealed through their diligent investigative work, was once an officer in the Soviet  KGB!  Trump’s unmasking, through his very own perfidious words, now adds “traitor” to all the other terms of opprobrium already justly appertaining to him.

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We all know what happens to traitors, don’t we?

A day later Trump hastily sought to cover up his treachery with the lame suggestion that he had inadvertently dropped the semi-syllable “-n’t” during his Helsinki press conference with his Russian “handler.” (Actually, that “wouldn’t/would” dodge is pretty cute. Who thought it up – Steve Miller? Sarah Huckabee Sanders? Trump himself? Genius! One can almost hear them brainstorming over what explanation would most insult the limited intelligence of their critics.)

But try as he might, Trump can’t escape. His media pursuers have caught on to his Houdini routine:

‘President Donald Trump’s attempt on Tuesday to backpedal on his disastrous remarks siding with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which the stone-faced president read from a monotone prepared statement but deviated several times from it, was eerily reminiscent of the way he handled his infamous false equivalence in response to the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer.

‘After accepting Putin’s denial instead of affirming U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, Trump on Tuesday tried to reverse course. Reading from prepared remarks, he said that he accepts the intelligence agencies’ conclusion and claimed that he misspoke during Monday’s press conference. (He added ‘that perhaps “other people” were responsible, and reverted to his usual talking point that “there was no collusion” between his campaign and Russia, which appeared to be unscripted.) [ … ]

‘Many reporters, commentators and other political observers made similar observations, noting that Trump could quickly reverse himself again, just as he did in his response to the events in Charlottesville.’

Indeed, just the day after his “stone-faced,” “monotone” semi-contrition, Trump was right back at it, colluding with fellow Putin-puppet Tucker Carlson on Fox News. (Even worse, the Trump-Carlson duo even blasphemed against the holiest of holies of US national security, Americans’ willingness to risk nuclear annihilation in World War III over tiny, corrupt Montenegro.)

Not only did this two-man, latter-day analogue to the Gunpowder Plot belittle the supposedly proven fact of Russian hacking of the 2016 election (which nonetheless is still disbelieved by almost 40% of Americans!), they took the opportunity to inject a note of – you guessed it!  racism:

‘Carlson used literal white supremacy to defend Trump’s news conference.

‘“I mean I’m not a shrink, so I don’t fully understand it. I mean I don’t think Russia is our close friend or anything like that. I mean, of course, they tried to interfere in our affairs; they have for a long time. Many countries do. Some more successfully than Russia, like Mexico which is routinely interfering in our elections by packing our electorate,” Carlson said, suggesting Mexican immigrants who become naturalized citizens and vote are somehow illegitimate voters.

‘Former FBI Director James Comey criticized Trump for sitting down with Hannity and Carlson.

‘“Having sold out our nation on an international stage, Mr. Trump will now explain it all to Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson? I’m guessing RT and [Sputnik] were unavailable.’

But aside from Carlson, virtually all of Trump’s supposed defenders (mostly on Fox News) agreed entirely with the President’s accusers that questioning the intelligence community was totally impermissible.

Indeed, both his defenders and even Trump himself have tried to deflect criticism by citing the myriad ways in which his Administration has been “tough” on the Russians: sanctions, expelling diplomats, striking Syria twice, and most of all reveling in the slaughter of Russian contractors in Syria.

This reflects a troubling fact that undermines optimism that the Helsinki summit will herald a change for the better in the US-Russia relationship. The fact is, Putin is master in his own house but Trump is not.

There is no order or instruction Trump can give that he can be sure will be carried out, either by the Pentagon or the intelligence community – and certainly not the Justice Department, which blatantly tried to sabotage the summit with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s issuance of avacuous indictment of 12 GRU officers. As described by former CIA intelligence officer Michael Scheuer:

‘Why should any American worry about the unending, manic claims that Russia interfered in the 2016 election? This story, after all, has been made up and perpetuated by aspiring traitors like Clapper, Hayden, Tapper, Acosta, Hillary Clinton, Comey, John Podesta, Maddow, McCabe, Brennan, Page, Strzok, Wray, the reporting staffs of the Washington Post and the New York Times, the Council on Foreign Relations, and most of all, by the foreign-born Obama.

To believe this crew’s statements about anything at all is to believe that John McCain and Lindsay Graham can open their mouths without lying us into yet another interventionist war. […]

‘In the face of what Jefferson surely would call a “long train” of perfidy, treason, obsessive avarice, and murder by the national government, one must ask why would any commonsensical American fail to see that the Russian-meddling narrative is transparently an attempt by Obama leftovers and the seething, quite mad Neocons to push the United States into a new Cold War with Russia, one that would lead to a hot war, as well as a means of keeping themselves out of the slammer and off the gallows.

‘Indeed, there is not a loyal American citizen who has a single credible reason to believe any intelligence-based claims made by the Obama administration, or the Obama leftovers in Trump’s administration, about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The citizenry’s only fair-minded conclusion is that Obama ordered his intelligence and military lieutenants to stand down on responding to “Russian hacking” in summer, 2016, because no such hacking occurred.

Certainly, the two indictments of Russians – written by Obama acolytes led by Rosenstein, Strzok, and old-man, disgrace-to-the-Marines Mueller and his merry band of Trump-hating attorneys — are clearly dreamed-up travesties that would disgrace a first-year law-school student and get him the boot therefrom.’

The bottom line is that, even after Helsinki, Trump remains besieged inside his own Administration. It cannot be said with any assurance that there is a single high official, including Trump’s own appointees, who agrees with the President’s desire for rapprochement with Russia.

Congress is almost entirely against him, as evidenced by a virtually unanimous Senate vote on a nonbinding resolution against treaty-based law enforcement cooperation with Russia (as discussed by the two presidents) and talk of fast-tracking more sanctions legislation.

Even in areas theoretically under Trump’s full control, most importantly his constitutional command of the military, there is pushback. One early deliverable of the summit should be US-Russia cooperation in Syria to help wind down that war.

But General Joseph Votel, who leads U.S. Central Command, was quick to point out that he’s received no instructions and that under prohibitory legislation enacted in 2014 no such cooperation would be legal without Congressional action to create an exception – which will not be forthcoming.

In a rule of law state, law enforcement should be politically neutral. In most countries it’s not, with those in power using police, prosecutors, and courts as weapons against the opposition. Only in America, and only since Trump’s election, has anyone seen the bizarre phenomenon of election losers abusing law enforcement against the winner.

Even as Trump talks optimistically of a second summit with Putin in Washington in a few months, the criminal Deep State conspiracy against him rolls on with the complicity of top appointees like Rosenstein.

Every effort will continue to be made to ensure no concrete progress can be made on whatever was discussed in Helsinki while maintaining the 24/7 drumbeat of demonization. (There’s even an attempt to force Trump’s interpreter in Helsinki, Marina Gross, to divulge what transpired in private between the presidents. Gross herself may draw suspicion on account of an unconfirmed report that she may actually speak Russian…)

For his part, Trump must seek support from the only direction he can: the tens of millions of “Deplorables” who voted for him. The more the media, the Democrats, and the GOP establishment trash him, the more they are convinced he is on the right track. By doubting the truth of Russian hacking and our sacred NATO obligation to every insignificant country few ordinary Americans could find on a map, he has increasingly mainstreamed those notions with his base.

Trump’s only way forward is continuing to be the wrecking ball he was elected to be. Twitter and his ability to change the subject with outrageous and “impermissible” utterances and actions are his main weapons. In that vein, as long as he’s being accused of treason, he might as well make the most of it:

Mr. Trump, fire Rosenstein and let the chips fall where they may.

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James Clapper rats out his former boss Barack Obama (Video)

Trump-Russia witch hunt started with order from former US President Barack Obama.

Alex Christoforou

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All roads in the Trump-Russia witch hunt lead to Barack Obama…at least that is what his former intelligence czar James Clapper admitted to fake news, CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

Former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper admitted in a CNN interview Saturday that former President Obama instigated the ongoing investigations into Donald Trump and his inner circle of advisors and staffer.

Speaking with Anderson Cooper, Clapper mad the stunning admission…

If it weren’t for President Obama we might not have done the intelligence community assessment that we did that set up a whole sequence of events which are still unfolding today including Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. President Obama is responsible for that. It was he who tasked us to do that intelligence community assessment in the first place.

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Via Zerohedge

Recall in May, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) fired off a letter to the Department of Justice  demanding unredacted versions of text messages between FBI agent Peter Strzok and former bureau attorney Lisa Page, including one exchange which took place after Strzok had returned from London as part of the recently launched “Operation Crossfire Hurricane”  referring to the White House “running” an unknown investigation.

Strzok had been in London to interview Australian ambassador Alexander Downer about a drunken conversation with Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, who – after reportedly being fed information – mentioned Russia having Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Strzok: And hi. Went well, best we could have expected. Other than [REDACTED] quote: “the White House is running this.” My answer, “well, maybe for you they are.” And of course, I was planning on telling this guy, thanks for coming, we’ve got an hour, but with Bill [Priestap] there, I’ve got no control….

Page: Yeah, whatever (re the WH comment). We’ve got the emails that say otherwise.

With Clapper’s admission that Obama was in the know the whole time, it looks like Peter Strzok’s text message stating “the White House is running this” was spot on.

House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) told Fox’s Maria Bartiromo that the American public needs to see an unredacted version of the Carter Page FISA application.

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NATO’s eastward push clashes with Church Canons in the Ukraine

Amid other geopolitical machinations on the “Eastern front” there is one that has so far largely passed under the radar although its potential as a crisis detonator (or perhaps more properly, exacerbator) in the Ukraine and the surrounding Eastern Orthodox domains should not be underestimated.

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Petro Poroshenko meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

Quite “spontaneously,” as these things are, won’t to happen, agitation at state and ecclesiastical levels in the Ukraine has been turned on to demand autocephaly, which in Orthodox church terminology is self-ruled status for the Orthodox religious community in the Ukraine.

But not for just any of the existing communities (there are at least two major ones, the Orthodox church in spiritual communion with the Russian Orthodox patriarchy in Moscow, and a breakaway group espousing all the politically correct Ukrainian nationalist and Russophobic views). Alert and politically savvy readers should have guessed that in this controversy center-stage is the breakaway, NATO-friendly group.

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The seemingly plausible argument is that since the Ukraine is an “independent” country, it is entitled also to have its own “independent” national Orthodox church to go along with that. That may or may not be so, depending on how church authorities in charge of these matters interpret and apply the relevant provisions of church law, or cannons. But before the issue was even presented to higher church councils for a ruling, the Ukrainian government itself avidly jumped into the fray to support its local Russophobic ecclesiastical proteges.

Needless to say, the Moscow Patriarchy affiliate in the Ukraine, which is followed by a majority of believers in that country, has taken a strong stand against the combined offensive against it of the NATO backed regime and its allies, anti-Russian zealots in cassocks. That means that now a new religious front also has been opened in the portion of Ukraine controlled by the Kiev regime.

It is an attempt to complete the process already begun in the spheres of language, culture, education, history, and a number of other key areas, in this case to extirpate the last vestiges of “malign” Russian spiritual influence by severing the last remaining ecclesiastical link to Moscow. Driving the point home are the fervent partisans of the “native” Ukrainian church, led by defrocked former bishop Philaret Denysenko, now styling himself the new Ukrainian patriarch.

The fact that in the early 90s the same Denysenko, who at that time was an Orthodox bishop, had no qualms about putting forward his candidacy for Patriarch of Russia, and that, although a Russian-speaker, he subsequently embraced Ukrainian nationalism and conveniently developed passionate anti-Russian sentiments only after failing to achieve that objective, is beside the point. What matters is that he has now become a willing tool and visible symbol of the hybrid war being waged by NATO against Russia in the region, a war which in this instance has also a vibrant religious component.

What must be making hybrid war experts at the headquarters in Mons and other centers which attend to such matters jubilant is that igniting a religious confrontation in the Ukraine holds for them much more than merely local benefits. It is equivalent to opening a Pandora’s Box in the most literally geopolitical, and not just purely religious sense of the expression. A dispute of this nature cannot be properly settled either within the Ukraine itself or by means of intra-church dialogue between Kiev and Moscow.

In the Orthodox world it is possible for a national church to gain self-rule, or autocephaly, but only under strictly prescribed conditions designed to preserve church unity and harmony. That means, at a minimum, that the consent of the Mother Church (in this case the Moscow Patriarchate) is required, as well as the approval of all the other churches around the world which form the Orthodox communion. And on top of that, to greatly complicate matters, there is also the ambiguous role in this process of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchy in Constantinople (Istanbul).

That see traditionally enjoys the position of “first among equals,” and it is not expected to act unilaterally but in consultation with other churches in resolving important issues. In the last couple of decades, however, it has notably tried to shake off those institutional constraints and has sought to turn itself into the Orthodox equivalent of the Roman Catholic Vatican.

The precarious position of the Ecumenical Patriarchy in Turkey, where it has very few, mostly ethnic Greek, followers remaining and is under heavy, and frankly unreasonable pressure from the essentially hostile Turkish government, since about the middle of the last century has motivated its patriarchs to seek the friendship and protection of Western NATO powers, simply to survive. That protection, however, did not come free of charge. Increasingly, and in particular during the Cold War period, the Ecumenical patriarch has been obligated to actively support various Western political initiatives. The increasingly Islamist complexion of the Turkish regime has now made toeing the Western line an existential necessity to an even greater degree.

Hence the unprecedented move by Poroshenko, during his visit to Turkey in April, taking a practical shortcut to resolve the Ukrainian situation without waiting first for a broad Orthodox Church consensus on the issue to emerge. Instead, Poroshenko urged directly the trapped  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to personally, and without bothering to consult peers, issue to Denysenko and his Kiev flock a grant of self-rule, in the requested form as patriarch of the NATO-invented and anointed “Ukrainian Orthodox Church.”

To sweeten the deal, Poroshenko was supposed to bring in his coffers $25 million collected by devout Ukrainian oligarchs in the US, as a humble offering to patriarch Bartholomew to take a benevolent view of the fervent plea delivered to him on behalf of the Ukrainian faithful. Remarkably, the delivery of only a $10 million gift to the Patriarchy was recorded by the time the pious emoluments actually reached their destination in Istanbul. Where the missing $15 million might have evaporated can only be guessed, but given the Ukrainians’ sticky fingers when handling cash it does not require a long stretch of the imagination.

Predictably, the Russian Orthodox Patriarchy took a very dim view of such back-door church politicking lubricated with plenty of cash, even if one considers only the diminished sum that actually reached the designated recipients. Its foreign relations spokesman, Metropolitan Hilarion, warned the patriarch in Istanbul that he was playing with fire by turning a receptive ear to Kiev’s entreaties because, in his view, granting Ukrainian church self-rule (autocephaly) in disregard of canonical regulations would be “to cause a Great Schism equivalent to the one that occurred a thousand years ago”.

It should not be forgotten that this is no idle threat because the Russian church is the most numerous among Orthodox nations and a split between it and the Ecumenical see in Istanbul would plunge the entire Orthodox world into disarray. But that is just what the NATO doctors ordered, isn’t it?

It is, of course, quite normal for officials of the Russian church to seek to protect their faithful and safeguard their status in the Ukraine. But the impending, NATO-engineered convulsion, using the alleged spiritual needs of its Ukrainian colony as a hollow pretext, unleashed within the Orthodox religious community which sits astride the arc of geopolitical competition stretching from the Balkans to Russia, and from the Black Sea basin into the Caucasus, with a significant historical presence throughout the Middle East, is fraught with serious implications.

For one thing, its clear purpose is to add another layer to the campaign to “isolate Russia,” this time around by disrupting Russia’s spiritual and cultural ties to other kindred Orthodox lands, which may soon face a contrived “religious” choice between Moscow and Istanbul. The fact that the “choice” is couched in seemingly canonical rather than unapologetically and crudely political terms, makes it no less political.

Via Strategic Culture

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