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Russia and Egypt are rapidly boosting military ties

A recent visit by Vladimir Putin to Cairo tops off a slew of arms and trade deals

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(Strategic Culture Foundation) – A few hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Cairo to meet with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Dec. 11, he ordered the Hmeimim air base in Syria’s Latakia province to begin withdrawing the bulk of Russian troops stationed in Syria, while maintaining a presence at Hmeimim and the Russian naval facility in Tartus.

Putin went to Cairo to hold a joint summit with Sisi, which resulted in the signing of the final contracts for the construction of the Dabaa nuclear plant in northern Egypt. Putin also revealed Moscow’s readiness to resume Russian flights over Egypt, as all flights had been suspended after a Russian aircraft was downed in the Sinai on Oct. 31, 2015. In addition, both presidents discussed ways of countering terrorism.

This visit followed the signing of a draft agreement between Egypt and Russia on Nov. 30, allowing the military aircraft of the two countries to share airspace and air bases.

The text of the Nov. 30 agreement was included in a decree issued by the Russian government, which ordered Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to conduct direct negotiations with Egyptian officials and sign the document once the two parties reached an agreement.

According to the draft agreement, Russian and Egyptian warplanes would be able to use each other’s airspace and air bases after five days’ notice. This renewable agreement is expected to be valid for five years.

Egypt and Russia signed the draft agreement on the sidelines of Shoigu’s visit to Cairo on Nov. 29, during which he participated in Russian-Egyptian joint military-technical cooperation sessions.

The agreement is expected to include more joint training between the two sides and would make it easier for Egyptian pilots to fly Russian planes. Russia and Egypt also would be able to carry out bilateral anti-terrorism measures in the Sinai Peninsula, where terrorist operations are on the rise, according to the Russian news website RBC.

The Egyptian-Russian military cooperation to combat terrorism was demonstrated during the joint exercise known as Protectors of Friendship 2 on Sept. 14, carried out by Egyptian paratroopers and Russian air-landing forces in the Russian city of Novorossiysk. The training aims to regain control of vital locations by leading an eradication of terrorists in Sinai.

During the joint press conference between Sisi and Putin in Cairo on Dec. 11, Putin hinted at the role of the Russian air force in the fight against terrorism, saying, “I revealed to President Sisi the results of my visit to Syria today. Thanks to the Russian air force, all of the Syrian territories have been liberated from terrorists, and I believe that the objectives for which the Russian army intervened have been achieved.”

Egypt has been suffering from an increase in terrorist attacks since July 2013, the latest of which was the attack on Al-Rawda Mosque in North Sinai on Nov. 24, which killed about 310 worshippers.

In a meeting with foreign journalists in Sharm el-Sheikh on Nov. 9, Sisi expressed his concerns about Islamic State (IS) terrorists relocating to Sinai and western Egypt after being defeated in both Iraq and Syria.

Nurhan al-Sheikh, a Russian affairs expert and a professor of political science at Cairo University, told Al-Monitor over the phone, “It is in Egypt’s best interest to cooperate with Russia when it comes to countering terrorism, especially after Russia’s unprecedented success in liberating all Syrian territories from IS.”

Sheikh said, “Cooperation with Russia in the fight against terrorism is not a matter of choice but a necessity imposed by the need to protect Egypt’s national security, especially since large numbers of armed militants are expected to arrive in Egypt and defeating them requires Moscow’s expertise.”

For his part, Russian political analyst Taimour Dwidar, who works with several Arabic channels, told Al-Monitor, “Russia needs bases in Africa to fight terrorism in the region and play a role in the Libyan crisis,” noting that Russia expressed a desire to use the Sidi Barrani base in March on the northern coast near the Libyan border, a request that Egypt denied.

Russia supports the Libyan army forces led by Khalifa Hifter. Russian Ambassador to Libya Evan Molotkov had announced in May Russia’s readiness lift the ban on arming the Libyan armed forces. Hifter met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Shoigu in August. In May 2017, the Russian naval forces conducted maneuvers near the Libyan coast.

The agreement between Egypt and Russia to use each other’s air bases seems to be of more convenience to Egypt, which opposes foreign parties building their own bases on its territory or renting Egyptian military bases.

On Oct.16, 2016, Sisi told the Egyptian press that the building of air bases by foreign parties in Egypt was out of the question, saying, “Egypt is not like that. It never was and it never will be.”

Hussein Haridi, former Egyptian ambassador to Washington and former assistant Egyptian foreign minister, told Al-Monitor over the phone, “This agreement will be a very strong addition to the Egyptian army in terms of modernizing the troops and providing equipment and advanced weapons.”

Haridi, saying Egypt’s relationship with Russia is no less than Turkey’s, said he expects Russia to provide Egypt with the S-400 surface-to-air missile system; Russia is in the final stages of talks with Turkey on supplying the system.

Haridi added that Russia would soon supply Egypt with MiG-29 fighter jets and has won a tender to sell Egypt Ka-52 helicopters for French-built Mistral ships.

As for the US response to the Egyptian-Russian military rapprochement, Haridi said Egypt has a special vision regarding the changes taking place in the region, stressing that Washington has no right to dictate to Egypt the sources of its weapons.

For her part, Sheikh said that the United States is one of Egypt’s key partners, that both countries cooperate within the partnership program with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and that Russia has not interfered in the Egyptian-US relationship. Sheikh also said that Turkey is a member of NATO but still enjoys good military relations with Moscow, ruling out the possibility that the military rapprochement between Egypt and Russia will affect Egypt’s relationship with the United States.

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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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Ukrainian leadership is a party of war, and it will continue as long as they’re in power – Putin

“We care about Ukraine because Ukraine is our neighbor,” Putin said.

RT

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Via RT…


Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has branded the Ukrainian leadership a “party of war” which would continue fueling conflicts while they stay in power, giving the recent Kerch Strait incident as an example.

“When I look at this latest incident in the Black Sea, all what’s happening in Donbass – everything indicates that the current Ukrainian leadership is not interested in resolving this situation at all, especially in a peaceful way,” Putin told reporters during a media conference in the aftermath of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This is a party of war and as long as they stay in power, all such tragedies, all this war will go on.

The Kiev authorities are craving war primarily for two reasons – to rip profits from it, and to blame all their own domestic failures on it and actions of some sort of “aggressors.”

“As they say, for one it’s war, for other – it’s mother. That’s reason number one why the Ukrainian government is not interested in a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” Putin stated.

Second, you can always use war to justify your failures in economy, social policy. You can always blame things on an aggressor.

This approach to statecraft by the Ukrainian authorities deeply concerns Russia’s President. “We care about Ukraine because Ukraine is our neighbor,” Putin said.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been soaring after the incident in the Kerch Strait. Last weekend three Ukrainian Navy ships tried to break through the strait without seeking the proper permission from Russia. Following a tense stand-off and altercation with Russia’s border guard, the vessels were seized and their crews detained over their violation of the country’s border.

While Kiev branded the incident an act of “aggression” on Moscow’s part, Russia believes the whole Kerch affair to be a deliberate “provocation” which allowed Kiev to declare a so-called “partial” martial law ahead of Ukraine’s presidential election.

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When Putin Met Bin Sally

Another G20 handshake for the history books.

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Via Zerohedge


In the annals of handshake photo-ops, we just may have a new winner (much to the delight of oil bulls who are looking at oil treading $50 and contemplating jumping out of the window).

Nothing but sheer joy, delight and friendship…

…but something is missing…

Meanwhile, earlier…

Zoomed in…

And again.

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