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Trump comes to Riyadh as Saudi Arabia bankrupts itself

US President Trump arrives in Saudi Arabia at a time when Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – the country’s de facto ruler – has launched it on a runaway spending programme which is bound to end in national bankruptcy.

Alexander Mercouris

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US President Donald Trump’s choice of Saudi Arabia for his first foreign trip has provoked some criticism.

It is not difficult to understand why.

Whilst the US claims to be the leader of the “free world” the embarrassing reality is that its most important Middle East ally is a repressive autocratic Wahhabist monarchy.  Whilst Donald Trump says the destruction of Jihadi terrorism is his priority, Saudi Arabia – as everyone knows – is the country that bankrolls most of this terrorism.

Beyond that there is the fact that many Americans have not forgotten or forgiven the fact that 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers – as well as Osama bin Laden, the presumed organiser and inspirer of the 9/11 attacks – were Saudis.

The fact however remains that Saudi Arabia is the lynchpin of the whole of the US’s strategic position in the Middle East, whilst Saudi Arabia’s oil exports – and the fact that it sells them for US dollars – serve a key role in underpinning US dominance of the world economy.

Whilst this remains the case the US has no realistic option but to maintain good relations with the Saudis.  In that respect Trump’s courtship of the Saudis makes far more sense that Obama’s ill concealed disdain for them, and given the damage Obama did to this crucial relationship Trump’s priority on repairing it – and thus his visit to Saudi Arabia – makes complete sense.

What all the talk of Trump’s visit obscures however is that even as the US seeks to renew its relationship with Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom has embarked on an out-of-control spending spree which can only result in its eventually bankrupting itself.

To understand the scale of what is happening, just consider the outline of the projects that are supposed to be under discussion during Trump’s visit.  The Financial Times provides a good summary

Saudi Aramco, the state oil company, signed more than $50bn worth of deals on Saturday, around $22bn of which were new memorandums of understanding, including:

Investing $7bn with Rowan over 10 years to own and operate drilling rigs, creating 2,800 jobs in Saudi Arabia; extending a joint venture with Nabors for oil well services, seeing $9bn of investment over 10 years, creating up to 5,000 jobs in the kingdom; a new joint venture with National Oilwell Varco in Saudi Arabia to manufacture driving rigs and equipment, seeing $6bn of investment over 10 years.

Aramco also said it would boost operations at its US refinery unit Motiva, with a planned $12bn investment with a likely additional $18bn by 2023. The deal aims to create 12,000 jobs by 2023.

Six firms — including Honeywell, McDermott and Weatherford — signed MOUs to expand Aramco’s use of locally produced goods and services, bringing $19bn of investment to the kingdom.

Aramco also signed a deal with GE to deliver $4bn worth of savings via digitisation of the oil firm’s operations. This was part of a GE package of valued at $15bn.

When deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman visited Washington earlier this year, the White House estimated that Saudi investment pledges could rise to around $200bn.

In the defence sector, Lockheed Martin signed a $6bn deal to assemble 150 Blackhawk helicopters in the kingdom, supporting 450 jobs.

Raytheon and General Dynamics also signed agreements to support the localisation of defence contracts. The deals support Prince Mohammed’s plans for the world’s third-largest spender on arms to create a domestic industry led by the newly formed company Saudi Arabia Military Industries. The kingdom wants to source half of defence spending locally by 2030 from 2 per cent now.

Saudi Arabia’s $200bn Public Investment Fund, which plans to boost its assets under management to $2tn after the planned initial public offering of Aramco, will also announce its SoftBank vision fund deal, as well as launching another partnership, according to its managing director, Yasir Al Rumayyan. The SoftBank vision fund, the largest private equity fund ever created, is expected to close at more than $90bn, with half of the investment coming from PIF. Around 50 per cent of the fund is expected to be invested in the US, bankers say.

Saudi’s sovereign Public Investment Fund pledged $20bn for a $40bn Blackstone US infrastructure fund, with $20bn to be raised from other parties. Blackstone said it expects, with debt financing, to invest $100bn in infrastructure projects, mainly in the US. “This potential investment reflects our positive views around the ambitious infrastructure initiatives being undertaken in the US as announced by President Trump,” said Yasir Al Rumayyan, managing director of PIF.

Dow Chemical, whose chief executive Andrew Liveris co-chaired the Saudi-US CEO Forum on Saturday, agreed to invest more than $100m for a polymers manufacturing plant, while studying a proposed investment in silicones production.

This comes on top of a $300 billion (!) deal to buy arms from the US over a period of 10 years, of which $110 billion (!) is to be spent up front.

These gargantuan arms deals oil rich Arab states regularly make are not primarily intended to strengthen their defence capacity.  The quantities of weapons these oil rich Arab states buy is by many orders of magnitude greater than they can ever use.  Rather these deals are bribes, intended to buy the favour of the country from whom these oil rich Arab states buy these arms, whilst simultaneously buying the favour of useful politicians and businessmen by recycling some of the money to them through kickbacks and commissions.

The US – and Britain and France – have long since become accustomed to this practice, and have no illusions about it.

In the 1970s, when Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya did the same thing with the USSR – buying vast quantities of arms from the USSR which it was never going to use – the Russians did not understand it, and were baffled by it, especially as they saw most of the sophisticated weapons they were supplying vanish into Libyan storehouses (many of them were still there, rusted and decaying, in 2011 when Gaddafi fell).  Today the Russians have also come to understand it.

Needless to say what Gaddafi and the Libyans did with the Soviets in the 1970s is completely dwarfed by what the Saudis regularly do, and even that is dwarfed by the Homerically vast arms deal the Saudis have struck with the US just now.

All of this spending is being driven by the grandiose and out-of-control ambitions of Saudi Arabia’s actual ruler, the 31 year old Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who seems to believe that instead of working hard to develop its own industrial and technology base Saudi Arabia can simply buy itself one wholesale.

Moreover at the same time that Prince Mohammed bin Salman has launched Saudi Arabia onto this gigantic domestic spending spree, he is doubling down on Saudi Arabia’s hugely over-ambitious and massively costly foreign policy, waging (and losing) war in the Yemen, intervening in Syria, bankrolling Pakistan, Turkey and Egypt, and confronting Iran, a country far more powerful than Saudi Arabia, with resources Saudi Arabia cannot match.

This is exactly the opposite route to the one Saudi Arabia should be following.

If Prince Mohammed bin Salman were familiar with his history (he obviously isn’t) he would know that Saudi Arabia and the other oil rich Arab states have been trying to buy their way to industrialisation since at least the 1960s.  Since this is never done by developing the economy organically and indigenously the attempt has always failed, as the plants and factories imported from Europe and North America need supplies and technicians from abroad to keep them going, and are ill-adapted to local needs.

Repeating this approach, which in the past has always failed, but doing so on a gigantically greater scale, is simply going to make the failure far greater, littering Saudi Arabia with flashy new factories that consume more in resources than the value of the goods they produce.

By contrast, if Prince Mohammed bin Salman were ever to put aside his sectarian prejudices (something which is probably impossible for him) he could do worse than look at Iran, which since the fall of the Shah in 1979, and despite many setbacks and Western sanctions (or possibly because of them) has managed through careful industrial training and management, and by relying on its own resources, to do what Saudi Arabia and the other oil rich Arab states have consistently failed to do, which is build up a significant industrial and technology base of its own.

As for where the funding for this megalomaniac spending programme will come from, the Financial Times article makes it all too obvious: from privatising Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s state owned oil company, the historic cash cow of the Saudi economy, which as a result is going to be lost forever.

All this combined with a bizarre fancy that Saudi Arabia’s financial resources can be increased by using the sale of Aramco to leverage up the paper value of the assets managed by its Public Investment Fund (ie. its sovereign wealth fund) from $200 billion to $2 trillion.

Needless to say this is not going to be anywhere near enough, and it is only a matter of time before runaway spending at this rate causes Saudi Arabia to run out of money.

That all sense of reality is being lost is shown by the extraordinary extravagance of the reception Prince Mohammed bin Salman is laying on for President Trump.  A leaked report shows that the Saudis are planning to spend an astonishing $68 million on his visit.

In reality what Saudi Arabia needs to do is not engage in a gigantic programme of over-spending which can only make the country’s economic situation worse, but on the contrary cut back radically on its existing spending, so that it can finally start to live within its means.

That means thinking of how to end the vast system of subsidies and privileges that are distorting and stifling the economy, and which are robbing it of vitality because they are unearned since they are paid for from oil revenues and are not paid for by taxes.

It means working towards ending the peg between the Saudi riyal and the US dollar, which is exaggerating the problems of the country’s budget at a time of low oil prices, and which is increasing its non-oil trade deficit by stifling the competitiveness of the non-oil part of the country’s economy.

It also means reining back on the country’s ludicrously over-ambitious and inherently destabilising foreign policy, which has achieved nothing save to spread terrorism throughout the Middle East, including in Saudi Arabia itself, whilst locking Saudi Arabia into an arms race with Iran, which because of Iran’s vastly superior resources Saudi Arabia can never win.

As for the vast sums Saudi Arabia spends on arms – which it cannot use and often doesn’t intend to use – Saudi Arabia would be far better advised spending them instead on educating its people so as to prepare them for a genuine role in the country’s government.

As well as improving the national education system – which by all accounts is in an extremely poor condition, blighted by bigotry and prejudice – that means providing scholarships to young Saudis – men and women – from poorer families to study in universities abroad.

Objectively all this is possible, and it is not too late to do it.  If it were done then in 10 to 20 years time Saudi Arabia would be transformed vastly for the better.

In reality none of this is going to happen, and most likely it would not happen whoever was Saudi Arabia’s ruler.  Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s peculiar genius is to accelerate the now inevitable collapse, so that it will all happen far more quickly than it otherwise would have done, and at supersonic speed.

Patrick Cockburn, that most insightful of commentators on Middle East affairs, has compared the cost and extravagance of Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s reception of President Trump to the similarly empty and inflated pomp of the Shah of Iran’s Persepolis Party of 1971.

That event together with the Shah’s runaway spending on a manic and unsustainable industrialisation programme eerily similar to the one now planned by Prince Mohammed bin Salman led eventually to the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the fall of the Iranian monarchy.  If the same thing happens in Saudi Arabia the results will be far more bloody.

In the meantime all sorts of people are making hay whilst the good times last.  In the words of the Financial Times

……dozens of chief executives from Saudi Arabia and the US were convening at a forum where they discussed Saudi financial flows into America, and how the US could help diversify the kingdom’s oil-reliant economy. “The government is taking a back seat and putting the private sector as the locomotive to drive the economy,” said Khalid al-Falih, the Saudi energy minister. “There will be risks, but we will work with you to mitigate it.”….

At the close of the Saturday morning forum, about 70 senior Saudi executives and US chief executives boarded buses outside the Four Seasons hotel, bound for lunch with King Salman and Mr Trump at the royal court.

The elite business delegation is set to hold postprandial talks with prince Mohammed, architect of the kingdom’s reform plans. Around 30 US executives were approved to attend the lunch, including names such as Larry Fink of BlackRock, Michael Corbat of Citigroup, Roy Harvey of Alcoa, Adena Friedman of Nasdaq and financial adviser Michael Klein.

Amid tight security, royal guards took the executives’ phones, before they boarded the coaches.

As the horizon darkens, all that is left is to wish these gentlemen bon appetit.

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The Trump Miracle and the Logical End of US Democracy: What Happened?

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I don’t wish to dine with a Clinton Snowflake.

And a Clinton Snowflake would rather see me off to San Quentin, the Deplorable that I am.

Something happened under Obama-Clinton rule that has never happened before, not even in the heat of passions culminating in the Civil War. The country polarized, splitting into two groupings. Forever.

Obama’s, Grand Canyon divide was cemented, subsequently, by Clinton’s “Deplorables” gaff interpreted as disdain and disrespect for the working, one-half of the country. Millions of Americans will never accept her and her Snowflakes and vice versa. “Never say never,” it’s said, often enough. But, this time, “never,” is an unequivocal: “Never!”

Quite simply, the Obama-Clinton regime politicized that which should never be politicized, namely, core beliefs and values, starting with God.

Debate is one thing, but the regime followed up with direct and indirect actions, which some writers call rainbow fascism. “You won’t bake a wedding cake for two gays out of some fossilized belief in scripture? We’ll shut you down.”

The regime’s aggression against the Church, the family, and the infant in the womb is dynamite inserted into the foundation on which the country stands.

Along with compassion and sensitivity to opposing views, compromise used to help mend political wounds. It allowed the nation to move on after an election. However, when religious tenets are challenged by a political Party with executive order power, the door on possible compromise slams shut. Obama-Clinton politicized the sacred and the Holy, a big no-no considering that politics divide. It wasn’t done out of ignorance, disrespect, or plain arrogance. It was a conscience, systematic attack by the Godless against God-fearing Christians.

God either exists or He doesn’t – no compromise, here. That is, “He might exist,” placates neither the believer nor the atheist. The Bible is either the Word of God as delivered through His prophets or it isn’t. No compromise possible.

Abortion-on-demand is another issue without compromise considering the commandment: Thou shalt not kill (murder). There is also common sense compassion, which makes us human and says that abortion is wrong. You’re either for murder of the defenseless or against it.

A partial birth abortion, despite the insinuation of compromise in the term, is actually a viler variant of infanticide because it’s performed in the last trimester, at 5-7 months. The well-developed, living infant is pulled out of the womb, legs first. The medical executioner then plunges a probe with a catheter into the living brain in order to suction out a bloody slurry and collapse the skull. Is it murder of the defenseless or a “woman’s right” as Snowflakes call it?

Clinton claims: “Fetuses feel no pain and have no rights.” Curiously, Himmler leaned on a nearly identical contention to justify ghoulish, medical experiments on pregnant women in Konzentrationslager. Is there a difference? Indeed, there is. Clinton is a woman, making her serial murders more of a monstrosity.

The Holy Bible is either the Word of God or it isn’t. It’s not a book to be adapted to one’s whims or sexual lusts. Scripture strictly condemns male homosexuality in at least three passages and, implicitly, in some one-half dozen others. Nonetheless, Obama-Clinton attached the promotion of LBGTq-ism to the Democratic plank, overriding scripture. Clinton informed one audience that Christians would have to change their beliefs on some issues.

Hold on! “I’m getting my musket,” as more than one American has said.

I used to enjoy dialogue. But a sour aftertaste remains from the last time that I waded, innocently enough, into an after-dinner, back-and-forth. The topic was the upcoming primaries.

Dodging a flurry of leftism hooks from a New York Cityite at a Hamptons hideaway, I smiled through early-round attacks recalling how Mohammed Ali used to taunt opponents and cockroaches until they lost their cool. It worked. My opponent promptly tangled himself up in the ropes of his emotions.

It became apparent, in the ensuing minutes, that the Achilles heel of the Left was the absence of a viable candidate. That is, one who could be liked – a leader with charisma with a realistic chance winning.

Hillary was the only figure looming big on the horizon. After flying about on her crooked broom, peddling influence and laundering bloody cash from terrorism-sponsoring sheiks, wads of cash stuffed her Pampers. The Wicked Witch of the West, as victims of her foreign policy still address her, apparently, had it all. Except likeability. Or, something new to offer millions of working Americans beyond the scandals, a world in flames, and the same old corrupt things, starting with her foundation, which kept the cash but forgot Hattian children.

Deep-down inside, my opponent knew that getting excited about Hillary would be a daunting task. It’s precisely Hillary’s inability to generate enthusiasm that eventually metamorphosed into, “What Happened?” It wasn’t Russia; it wasn’t the dog that ate her homework.

As Secretary of State, Clinton’s role in creating and sponsoring head-choppers, baby burners, and heart-eating fanatics in ISIS’s jumpsuits was already well-established for anyone who was interested in looking beyond the hyaluronic acid smile and the praise of her attendant, media handlers.

Propagandists led by CNN and MSNBC did their best to sequester her “Arab Spring” fiascos. Her ties and support of the Muslim Brotherhood, apparently, inspired by live-in aide and right-hand woman, Huma Abedin were off limits for the press. Lesbian lover or not, the real issue is the between-the sheets confidences of one woman, holding one of the highest positions in the US Government and another with connections to jihadist circles inspired by Sayyid Qutb, the godfather of al Qaeda. What would have been made of it by the press if Trump had a mistress whose grandfather was Osama bin Laden?

Clinton’s connivance, her intrigue, and her use of the sword to overthrow foreign governments constituted the essence of her foreign policy. Now, the rich, sweet thing is crying over supposed, Russian interference that she claims cost her the election! No proof of Russian involvement has been found, despite massive efforts and the wasteful expenditure of millions of dollars. Even so, in her warped sense of reality, it’s inconceivable that American voters chose a vulgar, thrice-married, casino operator who trash talks instead of her. Curiously, it was Christians, in particular – Catholics, Protestants and the Orthodox – fearing a de facto Obama third term, who voted in droves for Trump.

Jonathon Van Maren writes: “…Christians are having conversations around the dinner table about what do if the government forces curricula on them that they cannot accept, because their own government is increasingly indicating that Christian parents are too homophobic and too hateful to teach their own children.”

Fear is setting in at both ends of the political spectrum. Meltdown, weep-in snowflakes fear Trump yet he and Christians are not forcing the LGBTq groupings etc., to make lifestyle changes. In contrast, Obama-Clinton’s Rainbow Fascism demands core value changes, or else! It’s already ruining the lives of those who cannot compromise religious tenets. What’s next? Obviously, children must be taken away from homophobic and irresponsible parents. It’s already happening in Norway and Sweden.

Curiously, WaPo’s entire editorial board endorsed her. Isn’t endorsement of Clinton’s terrorism by proxy tantamount to being a terrorist? Can WaPo be trusted, again? Another liberally slanted paper, the NY Times largely swept Clinton’s sordid past under the carpet, with about 90 percent of its articles casting her in a positive light. In contrast, it was open season on Republicans and, soon enough, on Trump.

“Considering her international war crimes record, if you vote for her, as I’m sure you’ll end up doing, you’re going to be an accomplice. Of terrorism,” I sighed. “So unfriend me now, please.”

Swinging, aimlessly – now, a bug in my web – my opponent’s accusations turned Archie-Bunker-personal – “You’re a SOB, M#*/!er. All you do is criticize but you haven’t done squat! Do something in the community instead of blaming everything on Obama and Clinton.

“Some time ago, I saw little, practical sense in it,” I replied. “That is, in wasting time to change the system.”

If it was ever possible to improve matters on a local level, those days are gone. Plato, Socrates and Aristotle did not consider the rule of money to be compatible with democracy. After three, consecutive, two-term geniuses steering the US Titanic – Clinton, Bush, Obama – the scraping sounds of hitting the iceberg are all-too-audible. The mass media orchestra plays on yet the waterline has reached the nation’s gunwales.

“Sorry, trends are apparent enough. Liberty, freedom of expression – all on the wane. Government as well as media controls are tightening! Prisons are full. Stalin has been outdone. His maximum Gulag stay was 15 years regardless of the charge. What’s ours? A life sentence for being in a romantic relationship with a drug smuggler? Common sense is being pushed aside by nonsense. Sorry, I find little sense building sandcastles at ebbtide.”

My opponent had had enough. Spilling whisky to get away from me, he spewed more venom and parted the room. Forever.

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How American propaganda bypasses the Constitution

While the First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press, this amendment only guarantees the government will not manage the news.

Seraphim Hanisch

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We are in a propaganda war unlike anything anyone ever expected in the United States. As recently as the 1970’s and 1980’s, the common knowledge even among young elementary school students was that the Government of the United States cannot restrict the operation of a free press. Freedom of speech was taught and vaunted as one of our most precious rights, and the Soviet Union’s history of oppression was the catalyst by which love of the right of free speech was protected.

Do not let go of this freedom, or we will become like them, we were told.

But the most recent couple of years we are seeing media control in very clear obvious ways.

On October 11, Facebook’s internal news site noted that it was removing what it calls “inauthentic news sites”:

11 October 2018

Removing Additional Inauthentic Activity from Facebook

Today, we’re removing 559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior. Given the activity we’ve seen — and its timing ahead of the US midterm elections — we wanted to give some details about the types of behavior that led to this action. Many were using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names and posted massive amounts of content across a network of Groups and Pages to drive traffic to their websites. Many used the same techniques to make their content appear more popular on Facebook than it really was. Others were ad farms using Facebook to mislead people into thinking that they were forums for legitimate political debate.

But on October 20th, with this information known, Google searches on “Facebook fake news midterm” elections first revealed absolutely nothing any earlier than August, and nothing related to the recent developments in October.

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In research for this piece, one known article on The Duran was found and brought up. By use of the specific search term “removing additional inauthentic activity from Facebook”, we were then able to get the Facebook news page. Subsequent searches on “Facebook midterms fake news” revealed quite a different response:

Oh! There it is! But several Google searches made before directly fingering the information yielded nothing, just as though the news of FB’s efforts didn’t exist.

We already know that Facebook has a core corporate culture that leans left. We also know that many groups have been removed for suspicions of being dishonest or fake news.

What we may not get is how well intertwined the majority of information services on the Internet are, and how they cooperate to manage information.

Google was the search engine used in this research. And indeed, the big four major purveyors of information and social media are Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. These sites are so widely used that they are easy to consider the first stop, the last stop and the only stop for anyone seeking information from the Internet about anything.

The absence of a search result is often enough to lead one to believe the story doesn’t really exist, or that it is a rumor. After all, if it is real news it must be on Google, right?

Wrong.

This would seem to fly in the face of the First Amendment, but it doesn’t, because the Amendment applies only to a limit of powers on the Federal Government. It cannot touch private industry, and indeed, the First Amendment actually protects the rights of individuals and companies to make any statements they wish, or to not make them.

Think of it this way: A newspaper that supports the conservative party writes and publishes news and opinion in such a manner as to bolster support for that party. The paper and its staff are entirely within their First Amendment rights to do so because the Constitution never said anything about reporting the truth. It only says that the press’ freedom cannot be abridged by the government.

So if a liberal paper wants to report the same news and give its editorial bias that supports its own causes, it may. There is not a soul in government that can stop them. But the owners of the company can.

However, those owners and editors can certainly be influenced by hidden efforts. While there is no law restricting free speech in the US, there is certainly a lot of power and money that can accomplish the same thing.

A sweetheart deal between a company CEO and his or her senator or congressman can subtly change the balance. There is no law to break involved here, though such efforts can rightly be called “collusion.” Collusion happens all the time, though, and it is always a cooperative effort so there is very little that can be done to stop it. It is not illegal in most situations, either.

Conservatives know this. They have seen the slant of mainstream media lean unerringly to the side of secular humanism, suppression or humiliation of traditional values and lifestyles, and the crazy, psychotic mixture of pacifism or warmongering as best suits the desires of the Left. We have observed this in stark fashion just this year, as critics hysterically railed at President Trump for his tough stance with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and as they hysterically railed at President Trump for going against his promise to get out of Syria, and then again for not attacking them, and sanctioning Russia even more.

The reasoning behind the Left’s attacks was simple: If Mr. Trump wanted it, they didn’t. This is simple reasoning, indeed but it is also hysterical reasoning, which means it is insane.

The most recent outburst of media control came during the Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination and confirmation events. The eleventh-hour attacks alleging that Brett Kavanaugh was a drunken would-be rapist and the testimonies of Dr Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnik were reported with a heavy emphasis on “believe the women” and they were also tailored for a time to target Judge Kavanaugh for his anger in his response, with CNN heads saying that this anger shows that the Judge is unhinged.

Conservative media efforts to give the truth to this story were certainly going full force on Fox News and with conservative media hosts like Rush Limbaugh, but they were heading for failure. The reason for this was that the conservative arguments were not fielded on mainstream media, so they were not heard or read.

The Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation might not have gone through because of this. But one move saved this nomination.

President Trump began talking about it in his rallies, which the media had to cover. When Mr. Trump noted in clear language that none of these allegations were corroborated by anyone, most significantly the named witnesses of Dr Ford’s, the widespread dissemination of that news (because the press had no choice) helped turn that debacle into the nothing-burger it always was.

When news gets around that someone is trying to suppress a story, that often can result in the story getting much bigger. Social media networks have to give the appearance of fairness, after all, and refusing to report a huge story because it runs counter to the political opinion of the network is a risk no network (except maybe CNN) is willing to take.

The First Amendment means the government cannot control our news media. But this also means that the responsibility lies with the American people to control it, to uphold its freedom and to uphold the freedom of speech, be it risky or offensive or politically perilous. There is a good reason for that need.

The most risky, offensive and politically perilous pieces of news are quite often the truth.

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How other jurisdictions view Constantinople’s actions in Ukraine

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

Seraphim Hanisch

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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