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China, Russia and Gold in the De-Dollarizing World

An asset backed currency, used by Russia and China, may be the biggest challenge to Emperor Dollar.

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Trending and gaining traction throughout the economic world is the increasingly relevant search for safe, stable and secure alternatives to the US Dollar. Some due to geopolitical reasons and pressures, others from recognizing the significantly deepening debt associated with the US Dollar and government. Many have started questioning and doubting aspects of its sustainability and inviolability over the ballooning short and long term. Recently underscored by expected “trade negotiations” with the US’s largest debt holders (Japan & China) which are now to include exploring sovereign debt restructuring, usually an indicator of financial indigestion.

Others are looking to innovative crypto ideas in the hope that extra-governmental blockchain backed mechanisms of peer-to-peer “agreed value” might be the path to securing wealth. In short, all of these approaches are looking for the security which gold together with similar recognized hard assets like silver have provided and assured since the dawn of our varied successive civilizations.

China, Russia, Turkey, Iran and quite a few others see themselves sanctioned, shackled and hindered by the overwhelming market dominance of the American currency and the quickly changing policies linked to it by successive US administrations most especially of late. Some refer to this as the  “weaponization” of the US Dollar as this millennia’s new normal, the gatekeeper of trade permission.

The tariffs introduced by the US government as a form of behavior modification for other nations are understandably unappreciated and are increasingly resisted. It is likely that worsening currency as well as trade tiff’s are in the cards across the board.

The Chinese yuan is gaining internationally among users. Russia, Turkey, and Iran are making payments in their national currencies. Iran recently announced a switch from the dollar to the euro as its reporting currency. Russia and China already have a currency swap agreement that avoids settlements in the greenback. Even Saudi Arabia will have to make a choice probably sooner than later, to stay with the petrodollar fix, or go with its biggest customer – China and therefore the yuan.

China is Russia’s largest trading partner with 15% of Russia’s international trade for 2017. This year it has grown to 17.2%. In 2014 just 2% of payments for Russia’s exports to China were paid in rubles, and 9% of China’s exports to Russia were paid in yuan. In 2017, this has increased to 9% and 15% respectively and continues to grow.

There is persistent speculation and growing talk in the financial markets that Russia and China may be discussing expanding the role gold, silver and possibly other hard assets might have in realigning the value of both the yuan and the ruble independently of the US Dollar. So far it remains in the realm of rumors, then again that too is a start. Whether this remains rumor, or emerges as something more, it is a topic well worth examining if only from a risk management point of view.

There are a number of countries, which no doubt are paying close attention to what may develop. Some to join and some to try and spoil the party. However this plays out, such shifts will not be smooth or pleasant as the effects are global and will resonate throughout all financial systems, especially within the United States.

It is no secret that the central banks in China, Russia, Turkey, India and some other nations have been steadily increasing their physical gold holdings, as well as repatriating their bullion from the United States, for example Germany, and Turkey just recently this past April.

There are persistent and growing unconfirmed rumors here in Moscow that both Russia and China have formulated or are outlining plans to launch some form of a gold-participatory currency system to replace the greenback as the world’s dominant currency. Whether it will be a Ruble or a Yuan, or something entirely different is still unclear, but something interesting is no doubt afoot within this fog of speculation. Already mechanisms have been developed as potential alternatives to SWIFT, both the the Eurasian/Asia regions, and unsurprisingly as a recent development in the Euro Zone as well.

That being said I have no idea how such a system might actually look, it’s organizational profile, how it would be regulated, standardized and traded, or whether it would be a basket of hard assets (gold, silver, energy) securing it, or only gold. The key attractor for the financial world which has traditionally parked its funds in US Dollar government bonds, is if an alternative currency system is governmentally supported, asset backed and interest bearing, then the appeal of that added value and security should make such an alternative realistically appealing. It may be the single key factor which will allow any chances for real competitive use against the Dollar, Yen, Renmimbi or Euro, all of which are like the Dollar – fiat.

Backing currencies today exclusively with gold is highly unlikely; however, there is realistic potential for a new form of currency possibly connected with a state regulated blockchain crypto-currency concept, or the partial exchange within such a currency system for gold as its referenced anchor. These do have possibilities and can occur without unduly testing credulity or imagination.

The trend towards de-dollarization is happening, of that there is little doubt. Equally true is the fact that today this is just an irritant to the US government and the Federal Reserve. If implemented, it will in time erode capabilities the US can bring to bear economically, militarily and politically to all corners of the world through global financing of its dollar debt. That would be much more than just an irritation for the US. After all, according to BIS 80% of all international trade is contracted in US Dollars, it will take some time to shorten such a massive lead.

No major country currently backs its currency with gold, but many have in the past, including the US. The US effectively abandoned the gold standard nationally in 1933, silver in 1968, and completely severed any linkage between the US dollar and gold internationally in 1971. The US since then has remained a fiat money system, meaning the dollar’s value is not linked to any independently redeemable asset other than trust in the stewardship of the US government, and faith in the Treasury Dep’t and Federal Reserve to do the right thing.

Looking back, the inflection point for the US to begin dollar de-linkage from gold and similar assets was to help combat the Great Depression. Faced with mounting unemployment and spiraling deflation in the early 1930s, the U.S. government found it could do little to stimulate the economy. To deter people from cashing in deposits and depleting the gold supply, the US and other governments had to keep interest rates high, but that made it too expensive for people and businesses to borrow. Therefore, in 1933, FDR cut the dollar’s ties with gold nationally, allowing the government to print (“QE”) dollars into the economy, thereby lowering interest rates.

The U.S. continued to allow only foreign governments to exchange dollars for gold until 1971, when President Nixon abruptly ended the practice. It is worth noting that that before delinking from gold, the dollar had a fixed value reference of $35 to an ounce of gold, which limited and severely constrained financial and political policies. The value of gold was not permitted to be set by an open free market. Only after the dollar delinked from gold was the metal allowed to be openly traded as a commodity, at that time notably via the London Fix, and New York COMEX.

It is unlikely that a fully gold-backed currency mechanism will emerge onto the world financial markets as it was before 1933, especially in this interconnected economic and digital information age. However, a basket of hard assets as a reference point or linkage anchor to currencies does have traction, and may very well be what is now being discussed between China and Russia. This especially as the market can and will establish relative values indexed to the assets comprising such a basket, and not be limited to a single fixed price. This also suggests that some control may shift away from the central banks and instead become market sensitized and responsive. This can be a frightening concept, as it is a distinct departure from today’s Fed practices, requiring significant political, procedural and audit realignments.

Russia and China have been in working discussions to introduce gold-backed futures and similar mechanisms to circumvent the U.S dollar. It could be that over the next few decades we may witness the demise of fiat currencies such as the US Dollar, Yen, Euro and the debt excesses the printing of non-asset backed money has encouraged.

Currently, with geopolitical pressures, sanctions and trade tariffs increasing against Russia and China, these two countries have come to be seen as the standard bearers or ‘white knights’ for de-dollarizing global free trade. Whether they want this role foisted on them or not. This view is growing within a number of countries who have been limited and constrained from development by the dominant default role of the US Dollar, and by extension the US Government in its follow-on ability to dictate policies and pressure their sovereign national affairs in the interests of the USA.

The creation and introduction of a gold-inclusive indexed currency mechanism appears to be a likely event, perhaps sooner than we think. Russia has openly said that its national interests can be best served by reducing its exposure to the vulnerabilities and volatilities of global geopolitics by reducing the role of the greenback in its economic affairs.

Moscow and Beijing have been actively reducing their dependence on the dollar in mutual and regional trade. In October 2017, China launched a PVP payment system for transactions in yuan and Russian rubles. This means that payments for Russian oil deliveries to China, which have reached 60 million metric tons per year and continue to increase, are now working without the US Dollar as intermediary. This also has the added benefit to allow confidentiality of transactions. This is not possible if the US Dollar is used as the medium for trade as currently all such transaction details have to be cleared, therefore known in New York.

China’s launch of its own oil futures on the Shanghai International Energy Exchange plays a de-dollarization role and supports the gold-asset function as well. Today, shifting the China oil trade out of dollars into yuan takes between $600 billion and $800 billion worth of transactions out of the dollar each year.

One of the several factors supporting the creation of a Russia/China gold related currency system is that just the other day the global debt has reached $237 trillion.

The IMF warned this past week that the debt burden of the global economy is deeper today than it was before the financial crisis of 2008. The latest numbers for global debt is $237 trillion, up from the $140 trillion before the 2008 financial crisis. It is also worth noting that according to the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), there is also approximately $750 trillion in additional debt outstanding in derivatives, much of which is formally still “on the books” but practically can be considered swept under the financial rug, at least for now.

The US Treasury Department on May 1st said the government borrowed a record $488 billion in the January-March quarter. This exceeds the old record of $483 billion set in the first quarter of 2010, when all stops were pulled to prop up the financial system. The US Treasury continues to face the growing need to finance government operations when annual deficits are heading to new record levels, and a federal budget now normal at over a trillion.

Global debt has increased by roughly $21 trillion in 2017 alone. That is roughly the equivalent of this year’s US national debt. This has led to a forward-looking undercurrent of anxiety in the world’s markets, and a growing desire by some countries to do something to pre-empt being terminally caught up in these increasingly uncertain, predominantly dollar denominated risks.

The latest sanctions against Russian oligarchs and their companies, as well as trade tariffs against China are also having unintended consequences. Rusal is a major aluminum producer. They provide an estimated 6% of the world’s supply. Companies are now scampering every which way to secure new supply sources because the Russian supply might be cut off by US sanctions. The sanctions caused both the Russian stock market and the Russian Ruble to fall sharply and sent aluminum prices soaring. This simply underscores the need to create alternatives to the US Dollar sooner rather than later.

Unintended consequences certainly do not stop with sanctions against Russian companies. The dollarized trade and tariff war between China and the U.S. is also enjoying its moments in the sun. After the US imposed tariffs on China that hit aluminum products, robotics, aircraft parts, vaccines, dishwashing machines and many other items, the Chinese retaliated in turn with tariffs that hit soybeans, cars, and chemical products among others.

China’s response negatively affected agriculture products notably from the very same agricultural states that backed Trump. Aircraft parts and engines were a top U.S. export to China, totaling some $16.3 billion. Soybeans are a top agriculture product with $12.4 billion exported to China every year. Today we are expecting to see a further $200 billion in tariffs imposed on China, with an additional $267 billion package of tariffs “waiting in the wings” if the $200 billion doesn’t win China’s hearts and minds.

As this evolves, we should be seeing inflation in the US and elsewhere rather higher than the Fed’s “2% sweet spot”, in fact it may unpleasantly surprise us all.

Keeping in mind when loans are made in dollars, the debtor is then essentially a hostage, having to agree to the issuing central banks’ policies. The central bank determines the price of those dollars through politically guided monetary policy, and its (fiat) value thanks to currency printing. If such loans were issued in gold or asset-backed instruments, such counterparty pressures would lessen, or no longer be a feature.

China for many years has made it clear that gold purchased in China is to remain in China. Russia, Turkey and recently India are of the same conviction. This allows for each of these nations to be the secure custodian and guarantor of their gold assets, reducing the risk of politically motivated seizure as can happen with currencies and debt instruments.

Decisions have been acted on already by several countries repatriating their gold from the US. This is a telling sign that US control and influence is starting to shift, along with th essential element of trust that had allowed the US to play a custodial role over foreign reserves for so long.

Russia, Turkey, Iran and China are countries that are increasingly seen as threats by the West, in one form or another, and are rocking the currency boat. Various measures have been taken against them to make international trade and negotiations onerous at best. Whether through fear mongering, sanctions or trade tariffs, countries are feeling the force and weight of the US and its allies’ powers. As a result, they are increasingly considering re-enlisting gold and perhaps a basket of similar assets to shield themselves protect their financial reserves, and their ability to function as economically viable independent sovereign nations.

The process has begun, where it may take us over the coming years is the big question and one that will redefine international trade and geopolitics for decades to come. Today, after the US unilaterally exited the Iran nuclear agreement and is reimposing sanctions. North Korea and a host of other nations understandably might wonder if any agreement with the US is workable, and European allies and neighbors of the US are no doubt wondering if marching alongside America is truly in their best national interests.Trust is being frittered away quickly, and trust is what has mostly kept the US Dollar afloat in this guns & butter world. While today this possibility is still in the realm of market hearsay, rumors, and fake news – but in this increasingly curious age what isn’t?

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The real reason Western media & CIA turned against Saudi MBS

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

RT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Multipolar World Order in the Making: Qatar Dumps OPEC

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

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Constantinople: Ukrainian Church leader is now uncanonical

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

Seraphim Hanisch

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

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

OrthoChristian reported this today (we have added emphasis):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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