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Upping the ante – Putin sends marines to North Korean border after missile launch

Russia too is deeply concerned over the implications of Kim Jong Un’s latest test, but says blame is shared by the US

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(ZeroHedge) – After Russia announced on Wednesday that North Korea’s latest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch constituted a “provocative act” while also calling on all sides to “stay calm”, major Russian military maneuvers have been reported today along Russia’s tiny stretch of border with North Korea.

According to an alarming report detailing the new Russian military build-up in Newsweek:

Russian marines have practiced landing operations at its border with North Korea, following Pyongyang’s controversial missile launch test this week, the military said. Russian naval infantry servicemen and the crews of Russia’s Pacific Fleet ships Admiral Nevelskoy and Peresvet, carried out a swift, amphibious charge on a beachhead in the Primorye region, Russia’s only one to border North Korea.

The cargo and staff boarded Admiral Nevelskoy at Desantnaya Bay and simulated the landing at the Klerk training range, both of which are in Primorye, Pacific Fleet spokesman Nikolay Voskresenskiy told state-run news agency RIA NovostiPeresvet made its pickup elsewhere but also arrived in the area near Klerk.

Though this is not the first time such Russian military drills have taken place (similar fears over a US-North Korea war led to Russian troop deployment near the border last April), it is certainly a sign that Russia desires to back its diplomacy with muscle in a direct signalling to Pyongyang. The Russian-North Korean border (by the standards of the official Russian definition) consists of 17 kilometers of “terrestrial border” and 22.1 km of “maritime border” – and is the shortest of the international borders of Russia.

Meanwhile, TASS reports that a delegation of Russian lawmakers currently visiting the North Korean capital is seeking to meet with officials there in order to deliver an official Russian message of condemnation over the latest missile test.  According to TASS:

“A delegation of the State Duma [the lower chamber of the Russian parliament – TASS], led by Kazbek Taisayev, is currently in Pyongyang under the ‘Group of Friendship’ program with the North Korean parliament. So far, we were unable to establish any contact with them. But I’m sure that our lawmakers will deliver Russia’s stance during meetings and negotiations with representatives of the North Korean leadership,” Leonid Slutsky, the chairman of the State Duma International Affairs Committee, told TASS on Tuesday.

Russian military forces in the country’s Primorye and the far eastern Kamchatka regions are engaged in a series of war games and training exercises which involve about 1,000 soldiers, paratroopers, and over 150 pieces of military hardware and transport vehicles, and which will also reportedly involve live fire exercises. The drills were announced separately from previously planned war games, which is a clear indicator that they are in response to the escalating rhetoric between North Korea and the US over recent missile launches. 

The tiny stretch of the Russia-North Korean land border is about 17 km long. Image source: Quora

As Newsweek explains, Russia is deeply troubled by the North Korean program yet also points the finger at a US policy in the region which Russia claims is overly aggressive and designed to put the Pyongyang government on the defensive:

Moscow opposes North Korea’s nuclear program on principle and protested the regime’s latest missile launch. However, Russia has insisted that the U.S. must shoulder part of the blame for stirring the North Korean regime into a frenzy and “provoking” further tests with its ongoing defense commitments to nearby Japan and South Korea.

Indeed, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov repeated the long standing Russian position on Thursday, saying that US military drills near the Korean peninsula “consciously directed at provoking Pyongyang to some new snap actions,” according to Interfax news agency.

North Korea alarmed the international community on Tuesday when, after a two-month lull, it fired a Hwasong-15 ICBM into the waters west of Japan. State media touted the launch as its most powerful missile yet. Judging by the missile’s peak height reached during its flight, experts say the North now has the capacity to strike nearly any location in the Continental US. The North’s state media released dozens of photos and a video after Wednesday’s launch of the new Hwasong-15 missile, which North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared had “finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force”.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has urged countries to cut trade ties with North Korea over the latest tests, something which Russia has refused to do, though India cut ties in 2015, which was a significant blow to the North’s economy as India was its second largest trading partner.

But FM Lavrov pushed back against US pressure and threats of military and economic warfare, telling a security summit meeting in Belarus on Thursday, “We have the impression that all of this is done specially so that Kim Jong Un will go off the rails and take yet another reckless step.”

Lavrov then cautioned: “It’s sad. If they want to find a pretext for the destruction of North Korea, as the U.S. representative stated in the U.N., let them say that straight. Then we will take a decision on how to react to that.”

Following Tuesday’s launch, Trump promised new sanctions in a tweet, saying that after a phone call with China’s leader Xi Jingping about “the provocative actions” of North Korea, he would impose “additional major sanctions” and that “this situation will be handled!”  Though Kim Jong Un has appeared unbowed in the face of US sanctions and regional allied military war games, it remains to be seen what the potential for increased Russian pressure and diplomacy might do.

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Ariel Cohen explains Washington’s latest foreign policy strategy [Video]

Excellent interview Ariel Cohen and Vladimir Solovyov reveals the forces at work in and behind American foreign policy.

Seraphim Hanisch

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While the American people and press are pretty much complicit in reassuring the masses that America is the only “right” superpower on earth, and that Russia and China represent “enemy threats” for doing nothing more than existing and being successfully competitive in world markets, Russia Channel One got a stunner of a video interview with Ariel Cohen.

Who is Ariel Cohen? Wikipedia offers this information about him:

Ariel Cohen (born April 3, 1959 in Crimea in YaltaUSSR) is a political scientist focusing on political risk, international security and energy policy, and the rule of law.[1] Cohen currently serves as the Director of The Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics (CENRG) at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security (IAGS). CENRG focuses on the nexus between energy, geopolitics and security, and natural resources and growth. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, within the Global Energy Center and the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.[2] Until July 2014, Dr. Cohen was a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He specializes in Russia/Eurasia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Cohen has testified before committees of the U.S. Congress, including the Senate and House Foreign Relations Committees, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Judiciary Committee and the Helsinki Commission.[4] He also served as a Policy Adviser with the National Institute for Public Policy’s Center for Deterrence Analysis.[5] In addition, Cohen has consulted for USAID, the World Bank and the Pentagon.[6][7]

Cohen is a frequent writer and commentator in the American and international media. He has appeared on CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX, C-SPAN, BBC-TV and Al Jazeera English, as well as Russian and Ukrainian national TV networks. He was a commentator on a Voice of America weekly radio and TV show for eight years. Currently, he is a Contributing Editor to the National Interest and a blogger for Voice of America. He has written guest columns for the New York TimesInternational Herald TribuneChristian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, EurasiaNet, Valdai Discussion Club,[8] and National Review Online. In Europe, Cohen’s analyses have appeared in Kommersant, Izvestiya, Hurriyet, the popular Russian website Ezhenedelny Zhurnal, and many others.[9][10]

Mr. Cohen came on Russian TV for a lengthy interview running about 17 minutes. This interview, shown in full below, is extremely instructive in illustrating the nature of the American foreign policy directives such as they are at this time.

We have seen evidence of this in recent statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, and an honestly unabashed bit of fear mongering about China’s company Huawei and its forthcoming 5G networks, which we will investigate in more detail in another piece. Both bits of rhetoric reflect a re-polished narrative that, paraphrased, says to the other world powers,

Either you do as we tell you, or you are our enemy. You are not even permitted to out-compete with us in business, let alone foreign relations. The world is ours and if you try to step out of place, you will be dealt with as an enemy power.

This is probably justified paranoia, because it is losing its place. Where the United Stated used to stand for opposition against tyranny in the world, it now acts as the tyrant, and even as a bully. Russia and China’s reaction might be seen as ignoring the bully and his bluster and just going about doing their own thing. It isn’t a fight, but it is treating the bully with contempt, as bullies indeed deserve.

Ariel Cohen rightly points out that there is a great deal of political inertia in the matter of allowing Russia and China to just do their own thing. The US appears to be acting paranoid about losing its place. His explanations appear very sound and very reasonable and factual. Far from some of the snark Vesti is often infamous for, this interview is so clear it is tragic that most Americans will never see it.

The tragedy for the US leadership that buys this strategy is that they appear to be blinded so much by their own passion that they cannot break free of it to save themselves.

This is not the first time that such events have happened to an empire. It happened in Rome; it happened for England; and it happened for the shorter-lived empires of Nazi Germany and ISIS. It happens every time that someone in power becomes afraid to lose it, and when the forces that propelled that rise to power no longer are present. The US is a superpower without a reason to be a superpower.

That can be very dangerous.

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Even a Vacuous Mueller Report Won’t End ‘Russiagate’

Too many reputations and other interests are vested in the legend for it to vanish from American politics anytime soon.

Stephen Cohen

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Authored by Stephen Cohen via The Nation:


Russiagate allegations that the Kremlin has a subversive hold over President Trump, and even put him in the White House, have poisoned American political life for almost three years. Among other afflictions, it has inspired an array of media malpractices, virtually criminalized anti–Cold War thinking about Russia, and distorted the priorities of the Democratic Party. And this leaves aside the woeful impact Russiagate has had in Moscow—on its policymakers’ perception of the US as a reliable partner on mutually vital strategic issues and on Russian democrats who once looked to the American political system as one to be emulated, a loss of “illusions” I previously reported.

Contrary to many expectations, even if the Mueller report, said to be impending, finds, as did a Senate committee recently, “no direct evidence of conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia,” Russiagate allegations are unlikely to dissipate in the near future and certainly not before the 2020 presidential election.

There are several reasons this is so, foremost among them the following:

  1. The story of a “Kremlin puppet” in the White House is so fabulous and unprecedented it is certain to become a tenacious political legend, as have others in American history despite the absence of any supporting evidence.
  2. The careers of many previously semi-obscure Democratic members of Congress have been greatly enhanced—if that is the right word—by their aggressive promotion of Russiagate. (Think, for example, of the ubiquitous media coverage and cable-television appearances awarded to Representatives Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, and Maxine Walters, and to Senators Mark Warner and Richard Blumenthal.) If Mueller fails to report “collusion” of real political substance, these and other Russiagate zealots, as well as their supporters in the media, will need to reinterpret run-of-the-mill (and bipartisan) financial corruption and mundane “contacts with Russia” as somehow treasonous. (The financial-corruption convictions of Paul Manafort, Mueller’s single “big win” to date, did not charge “collusion” and had to do mainly with Ukraine, not Russia.) Having done so already, there is every reason to think Democrats will politicize these charges again, if only for the sake of their own careers. Witness, for example, the scores of summonses promised by Jerrold Nadler, the new Democratic chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
  3. Still worse, the top Democratic congressional leadership evidently has concluded that promoting the new Cold War, of which Russiagate has become an integral part, is a winning issue in 2020. How else to explain Nancy Pelosi’s proposal—subsequently endorsed by the equally unstatesmanlike Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, and adopted—to invite the secretary general of NATO, a not-very-distinguished Norwegian politician named Jens Stoltenberg, to address a joint session of Congress? The honor was once bestowed on figures such as Winston Churchill and at the very least leaders of actual countries. Trump has reasonably questioned NATO’s mission and costs nearly 30 years after the Soviet Union disappeared, as did many Washington think tanks and pundits back in the 1990s. But for Pelosi and other Democratic leaders, there can be no such discussion, only valorization of NATO, even though the military alliance’s eastward expansion has brought the West to the brink of war with nuclear Russia. Anything Trump suggests must be opposed, regardless of the cost to US national security. Will the Democrats go to the country in 2020 as the party of investigations, subpoenas, Russophobia, and escalating cold war—and win?

Readers of my new book War With Russia?, which argues that there are no facts to support the foundational political allegations of Russiagate, may wonder how, then, Russiagate can continue to be such a major factor in our politics. As someone has recently pointed out, the Democrats and their media are now operating on the Liberty Valance principle: When the facts are murky or nonexistent, “print the legend.”

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Patriarch Bartholomew slaps down effort to solve Ukrainian Church crisis

Seraphim Hanisch

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Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I has a problem.

In October last year, by his order, two schismatic churches and their leaders were “rehabilitated” and the schismatic churches were combined and relaunched as a new national church, ostensibly for the people of Ukraine.

However, everything about this action was wrong.

The Patriarch attempted to reinterpret Church history and assumed the power to take over the situation in Ukraine, when Orthodox Christian ecclesiology says that no bishop (even a Patriarch) is permitted to impose his will outside his own See. Ukraine was not the territory of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, nor has it been for hundreds of years.

The people he lifted into power – Filaret Denisenko and Makary Maletich, both were formerly out of communion with canonical Orthodoxy, and Filaret is notable for having a terrible record with his priests, a common-law wife (forbidden for a bishop) and most notably, Filaret was also anathematized by the Russian Church for his actions.

Thirdly, the new church has yet to go on record with any statement at all about how its formation serves the will of God. This is because it cannot do so. The Orthodox Church in Ukraine exists as an ultranationalist thumb in the eye of Russia, even to the point some people in the new community said “now we have our own God. We don’t need the Russian God.”

This is a very bad sentiment because in the Orthodox Church there is only one God, and he does not pick between nations because of national identity.

To date, none of the other fourteen universally recognized Local Orthodox Churches has accepted the new Church and none of the local Churches are in communion with the OCU (Orthodox Church in Ukraine). Everyone who has said anything at all about this matter has rejected communion with schismatics, though a few monasteries on Athos did allow services with these people.

In essence, at this time the Patriarch has a new church on his back that no one wants but him. His statements that the other local Churches, namely Russia, will have no choice but to accept the OCU have not been proven right so far.

In fact, the pressure is running in the opposite direction.

Patriarch John X of Antioch, the oldest Christian Church in continuous existence, received a letter from Patriarch Bartholomew in response to the request by many leaders of local Churches to hold a pan-Orthodox discussion to resolve the dispute in Ukraine. According to the Union of Orthodox Journalists, the letter amounted to a slap in the face, borne of Patriarch Bartholomew’s own petulance, arrogance, and pettiness (We have added emphasis):

In a letter to the Primate of the Antiochian Orthodox Church, Patriarch John X, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople declared that “he has good reasons” to refrain from a general Orthodox meeting on the Ukrainian church issue, reports the official website of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Patriarch Bartholomew called the discussion of the religious situation in Ukraine “useless” and reminded the Primate of the Antiochian Church of his refusal to participate in the Crete Council of 2016, which Constantinople had been prepar[ing] for a long time.

“After the four Orthodox Churches, from a church and theological point of view without a reason, refused to be present at the Ecumenical Sacred Council, for which there are no excuses, and your ancient Church was one of them, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has good reasons to refrain from such a meeting at the pan-Orthodox a level that will be useless since it will only lead to the agreement that the participants will disagree with each other,” wrote the Patriarch of Constantinople.

According to him, the autocephalous nature of the OCU became a reward for the Church of Ukraine, and the Phanar returned “to the fold of the canonical Church” the members of the UOC KP and the UAOC who were “unfairly” outside it. At the same time, Patriarch Bartholomew assures that he returned the schismatics to the bosom of Orthodoxy exclusively “following church traditions and canons.”

In other words, the Patriarch appears to be digging in. This situation is entirely wrong according to Church canons. The Patriarch is acting as though he has jurisdiction over all other Orthodox Churches, which is a position remarkably similar to that perceived by the Bishop of Rome prior to the Great Schism of 1054 which split the Roman Catholic Church apart from the other ancient Orthodox Patriarchates.

The result of that split was a slow disintegration of Christian integrity in the Roman Church, the eventual development of Protestantism and the present result of a severely degraded form of Christianity in the West, where the law of God is not considered at all, and one can essentially believe or act however they want and find a “church” that will back them up, or they will start their own.

The current actions of the Ecumenical Patriarch have caused concerns, even fears, of a new split in the Orthodox Church, and with the present geopolitical climate being strongly anti-Russian, there is a lot of thought that the United States is influencing and encouraging the split in order to isolate both Russia and its Orthodox Church, which is the largest and strongest in the world at this time.

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