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Chronically deluded Poland wants to dominate Europe from the Baltic to the Adriatic

Europe’s most pathetic chauvinists want to resurrect a failed hegemony strategy from the 1920s

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(New Eastern Outlook) – Poland’s Three Seas Initiative to date is a thinly-disguised geopolitical attempt to create a counter to the influence of both Russia to the east and of Germany to her west. Comparisons with Poland’s ill-fated Intermarium following World War I come to mind, not without reason. Following that war Poland’s leader Josef Pilsudski attempted to create a de facto union of states from the Black Sea to the Baltic to oppose both the Soviet Russian and the German empire under the name Intermarium. If we superimpose the states geographically from the various configurations of Intermarium with that of today’s Three Seas Initiative we see a clear resemblance, if you will, a kind of demarcation line between Germany in the west and the Russian Federation in the east. The similarities do not end there.

The current Three Seas Initiative was formally founded in Dubrovnik in August 2016 and includes twelve central and eastern European states as members. Member countries span the space between the Baltic, the Adria and the Black Seas, hence the name. In addition to Poland and Croatia, members presently include Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovenia. It’s second meeting in Warsaw in July 2017 was attended by the US President Trump, who gave the group his clear imprimatur.

The question is what political or economic notions are driving Poland’s Three Seas Initiative? If we look more closely at its initial focus on energy, much becomes clearer.

US Shale LNG

On July 6, 2017 en route to the Hamburg G20 Summit, US President Donald Trump made a high-profile stop in Warsaw to attend the second meeting of the Three Seas Initiative, a project first publicly proposed by Polish President Andrzej Duda.

While the prime actors, Poland and Croatia, insist that the Three Seas Initiative is not at all geopolitical, but rather a forum to better integrate common infrastructure projects north-south in the new EU states of central Europe, it’s clear that the opposite is the case, it’s geopolitics. The real driver of the initiative, Washington, is clearly opposed to the German-Russian undersea Baltic Nord Stream II gas pipeline. Poland for her part stands to lose gas transit fees as the present transit routes of Russian gas via Ukraine and Poland would be phased out, but that is not the major driver. For Germany and for Russia, since the US-initiated February 2014 Kiev coup d’etat broke Ukraine’s ties with Russia, Ukraine transit of Russian gas has been a highly explosive and uncertain issue.

In July in Warsaw Trump told his audience, “We are committed to securing your access to alternate sources of energy, so Poland and its neighbors are never again held hostage to a single supplier of energy.” The remarks were a not-so-veiled slap at Moscow where Washington alleged, falsely, in 2008 that Russia’s Gazprom cut gas supplies via Ukraine to western European consumers, something Moscow vehemently denied, stating it was done by Ukraine, with the almost certain backing of Washington. During the worst tensions of the Cold War Moscow never disrupted gas deliveries to Europe. They had no reason to do so in 2008, rather the opposite. However, US-backed President Viktor Yushchenko did.

A Polish Gas Hub

For their side Poland has dreams of using the Three Seas Initiative to make Poland into a new gas hub for the EU by importing US Liquified Natural Gas (LNG).

To ship gas by LNG tanker is a costly process. It requires construction of special LNG terminals at both port of origin and of destination. The gas must first by transformed into a cold liquid state at about −260 °F, and loaded on the specially-made tankers. At destination a similar special LNG terminal is required where the gas can be again changed from liquid to gas state for ultimate consumption. All this is quite costly compared with pipeline gas routes.

By contrast, Russia today delivers most of its gas via pipeline to the EU market. The cost of Russian gas as a result of this and other factors is significantly lower. For Poland this seems not to matter. They dream of replacing Ukraine as the gas transit to the EU with gas from Norway and LNG gas from the USA and perhaps gas from Qatar if Washington does not manage to disrupt that via Saudi sanctions.

In late June, 2017 Poland’s new LNG terminal on the Baltic Sea at Swinoujscie received the first US LNG shipment from the Texas terminal of Cheniere Energy, currently the only US LNG terminal for export of LNG. During the Trump visit Poland’s president made clear he wanted long-term contracts with US LNG suppliers, ultimately to export to other countries of the Three Seas Initiative in place of Russian gas via Ukraine. In the process, Poland has dreams of replacing Russia also as supplier to Ukraine.

Commenting on the Polish wish, Trump declared that “many more” US LNG shipments will be coming to Poland, but added that the price might rise. “Maybe we get your price up a little bit, but that’s ok, tough negotiations,” Trump told his audience in Warsaw. “We are sitting on massive energy, we are now exporters of energy. Whenever you need energy, just give us a call.” Tough negotiations, to be sure.

Poland is building a strategy to make it the new energy hub of central Europe to replace Russian gas. This is at the heart of her Three Seas Initiative project. The new LNG terminal which was built at a cost of $ 1 billion can accept 5 billion cubic meters of gas per year, about one-third Poland’s nnual gas consumption. Poland is discussing doubling that.

But that’s only the first part of what in fact is a NATO strategy to drive Russian gas out of EU markets. The strategy calls for making Poland a natural gas hub for Central Europe by linking Poland with Lithuania, Ukraine, Slovakia and the Czech Republic through interconnectors.

Blocking Nord Stream II

The Polish Three Seas Initiative on energy infrastructure for importing US LNG is at one and the same time a strategy against German influence on EU energy markets and against Russia as major energy supplier. It is no wonder, given Poland’s gas hub ambitions that the country takes the lead in trying to block the German-Russian Nord Stream II under-Baltic gas pipeline.

On November 1, Krzysztof Szczerski, head of the Chancellery of the President of Poland, announced that Poland’s government will do everything possible to block Nord Stream II. “We must be aware of the Nord Stream 2 issue, of what scale of interests we are facing,” he stated. “We are dealing with the interests of two large states (Germany and Russia-w.e.), which will launch significant resources for the implementation of this project. Nord Stream 2 is not a side project, but a foundation to their interests. Simultaneously, it has a deep anti-European character (sic!),” he said.

Blocking Nord Stream II is also a high Washington priority. In June, 2017 the US Congress passed and President Trump signed into law severe new anti-Russian sanctions that among other aims explicitly targeted investment in Nord Stream II. The latest US economic sanctions against Russia take direct aim at the companies involved in backing the German-Russian Nord Stream II pipeline expansion across the Baltic, independent of Poland transit. If activated by the US President it would impose severe economic sanctions on EU companies involved in energy projects with Russia, such as Nord Stream II.

The governments of Germany and Austria immediately registered vehement opposition to the latest possible US sanctions for obvious reasons. On June 15 the German and Austrian foreign ministers issued an unusually US-critical joint statement. They declared in very strong terms, “Europe’s energy supply is a matter for Europe, not the United States of America. We cannot accept … the threat of illegal extraterritorial sanctions against European companies that participate in the development of European energy supply.” Austria boycotted the Trump July 6 appearance before the Three Seas Initiative as well to signal its disapproval of the US gas talks.

Poland’s Costly US LNG

On November 21, 2017 Poland’s state gas firm PGNiG signed its first mid-term deal for liquefied natural gas (LNG) deliveries from the United States, as part of their plan to cut dependence on Russian supplies. PGNiG said that as part of the deal, signed with Centrica LNG Co. an Anglo-American energy group, it will receive nine LNG shipments in 2018-2022. The company has not revealed the volumes and prices agreed under the contract. Market indications are that the Polish government is paying a huge penalty for its Russo-phobia.

Estimates of Russia’s Gazprom suggest that Poland must pay for winter 2017-18 in the range of $265-$295/1,000 cubic meters. Russian gas via pipeline is being delivered for an average price of $190/1,000 cu m. If accurate, it suggests that Poland is paying up to 50% more for its US LNG deliveries. To deliver that US LNG further to other Three Seas Initiative partner countries implies far higher gas prices in central Europe.

What is developing are new major EU fault lines around the economic lifeline of energy, explicitly of natural gas energy. On the one side is the axis between especially Germany but also Austria, France and other EU states currently tied to major Russian gas supplies. Now emerges clearly the opposed axis of Poland allied with Washington.

Role of Atlantic Council

For Washington Poland’s Three Seas Initiative is a win-win situation. That should come as no surprise when we consider that the Atlanticist NATO think tank, Atlantic Council, is playing a shaping role behind formation of the Poland Three Seas Initiative.

The naming of former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State was no accident. It is part of a longer-term Washington strategy to make the United States, particularly with its recent exploitation of unconventional shale gas and shale oil, to become the dominant global energy power. US actions in Syria and with Saudi Arabia against Iran and Qatar fit into that strategy. Elimination or sharp curtailing of Qatar LNG exports, including to Poland, stands to benefit US gas suppliers.

One reason for the Saudi sanctions on Qatar, imposed following the May 21 Trump meeting in Riyadh to discuss creation of an “Arab NATO,” had little to do with claims that Qatar supported the Muslim Brotherhood, something that had been true. Saudi Arabia for its part had spent billions backing every terror group in Syria from Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front, to ISIS, in its effort to dislodge Bashar al Assad. The real issue for the US-backed Saudi embargo of Qatar was the fact that Qatar had begun secret negotiations with Iran on joint development of their shared Persian Gulf gas fields, the largest known in the world. Were that Qatar-Iran cooperation to happen with Bashar al Assad firmly in power after Russia’s intervention in Syria, it would change the entire world energy geopolitics in Russia’s favor and against the US role.

In reality the Qatar blockade by the Saudis is aimed not at stopping radical terrorists. It is aimed at keeping Iranian and Qatari and, potentially, Syrian gas out of the EU gas market, estimated to become the world’s largest gas consumer in coming years. For Washington, Poland and their Three Seas Initiative are merely a chess play in a larger geopolitical game.

The creation of Poland’s costly LNG terminal and its strategy to become a central European gas hub via the Three Seas Initiative was not an idea born in Warsaw. It came from Washington, specifically from the geopolitical strategists of the Atlantic Council. The Atlantic Council, created by Washington during the height of the Cold War, today is a major think tank of NATO policy financed by the Pentagon and US intelligence agencies. Official donors include the US Department of the Air Force; Department of the Army; Department of the Navy and the US National Intelligence Council. As well the US State Department and Energy Department contribute to the Council, along with NATO itself.

In April, 2017 the Atlantic Council held a conference in Istanbul on the Three Seas strategy. The theme of the conference was “Making the Three Seas Initiative a Priority for Trump.” The keynote speech was made by General James L. Jones, chairman of the Atlantic Council, and former Obama National Security Advisor. The Atlantic Council was present in Warsaw in July for the Trump appearance at the three Seas Initiative meeting.

Jones remarked in his April remarks on the Three Seas Initiative, “This is a truly transatlantic project that has enormous geopolitical, geostrategic, and geo-economic ramifications.” Jones went on to confirm that the Three Seas Initiative is designed to “alleviate the Kremlin’s strong hand in the European energy sector.” Jones noted also that he had spoken with Secretary Tillerson about the importance of supporting the Three Seas Initiative: “He understands it. He understands the strategic interest; he understands the economic interest,” Jones noted.

Another Initiative Shows Limits of Three Seas

On November 27 a quite different forum assembled, hosted by a member country of the Three Seas Initiative. The China – Central and Eastern Europe summit in Budapest, hosted by Prime Minister Viktor Orban included all 12 members of the Three Seas Initiative as well as non-EU states Serbia, Bosnia Herzogovina, Macedonia and Albania. The China-CEE countries discussed participation in China’s vast One Belt, One Road infrastructure to increase European-Eurasian trade flows. They discussed creation of new infrastructure funds, of currency cooperation and much more. It was a far contrast to the prospects of the Three Seas Initiative to spend billions in risky US shale gas LNG projects in order to alienate Russia and Germany further.

The contrast of the China-CEE summit to that of the Three Seas Initiative couldn’t be more stark. It shows the geopolitical fault lines of what little positive Washington is able to offer its European NATO allies today in contrast with the possibilities to join with China and Russia in building a new Eurasian infrastructure to Europe.

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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.

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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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