Voices from Russia

Friday, 30 March 2012

Patriarch Kirill Spoke with McFaul on Alaska and the “Reset”

Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias (1946- )

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Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev, the First Hierarch of the Patriarchate of Moscow and all the Russias, said at a meeting with US Ambassador Michael McFaul in Moscow on 30 March, “Resetting the relations between our countries is impossible without our changing our attitudes to each other. Today, we must think how we could add a humanitarian and spiritual dimension to the relations between Russia and the USA”. Such meetings with ambassadors from around the world are everyday routine for Patriarch Kirill… often, he has several such meetings a week. However, we could consider this one symbolic as it took place during the 145th anniversary of the sale of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands by Tsar Aleksandr Nikolaevich to the US government.

His Holiness emphasised that the deal, signed in 1867, gave a strong impetus to the development of cultural and spiritual ties between our nations, saying, “The Russian Church was the first to undertake an Orthodox mission on US territory, beginning with Alaska, followed by California and Fort Ross. Later, the Russian bishop’s residence moved to New York. In fact, the first Orthodox parishes in America were Russian. Greek and Arab parishes only appeared later. Today, the Orthodox Church in America (sic), which has Russian roots, is autocephalous, but we maintain good relations with it, and we note that our Russian ancestors stood at its foundation and were the first missionaries in America. This can’t be said about any other country of the world”.

Patriarch Kirill said that there were different periods in the history of Russian-American relations. There was active economic cooperation in the 19th century and cold estrangement in the middle of the 20th century. However, no matter what politicians said, there’s never been any strong anti-American feeling in Russia. It’s important to preserve good relations between the people of our two countries. His Holiness thought that the Church could play a certain role in this respect, saying, “The duty of the Church is to promote peace amongst people, to change the situation for the better, and to help to overcome any confrontation. When I met with President Obama in Moscow, we agreed that the Church should try to add to a humanitarian and spiritual dimension to the resetting of relations between our two countries. It’s counterproductive to rub salt into a wound, to instigate negative attitudes to each other. We should carry out political and economic cooperation, the struggle against terrorism, and cooperation in the international arena in the context of the people’s trust; otherwise, they would criticise or completely reject this policy. Apparently, this is true for both Russia and the USA”.

In turn, Ambassador McFaul emphasised that the USA is doing everything possible to find a balance between the political realities and civil relations between our countries, saying, “When we speak about resetting relations with Russia, we mean establishing relations with both state and civil organisations, including, of course, the Russian Orthodox Church. President Obama believes that both these aspects are important, and will continue to provide an opportunity of finding a balance in case of disagreement between the governments. After all, if there’s a balance in relations with civil organisations, our political relations will also be durable”. Ambassador McFaul also promised that the White House would “take a more objective attitude” when preparing its annual reports on freedom of religion in Russia. Recently, the US government published a report in which they recommended that the US State Department should put Russia on a list of countries requiring special attention due to the situation of freedom of religion. Many people in Russia considered that report unwarranted and prejudiced.

Patriarch Kirill said that when he was the head of the MP Department for External Church Relations he repeatedly addressed the US Secretary of State and the US Ambassador with suggestions of extending the range of sources for the compilation of such documents, to guarantee a more objective understanding of the situation. The Americans seem to have honoured Patriarch Kirill’s request. At present, the US Embassy and the MP DECR are preparing a meeting at which both sides could analyse the religious situation in Russia.

30 March 2012

Milena Faustova

Voice of Russia World Service

http://rus.ruvr.ru/2012_03_30/70134506/

Editor’s Note:

NO mention of this meeting on oca.org, even though His Holiness said some “nice” things about the supposedly-autocephalous OCA… it appears that the Centre left Syosset out of the loop. Or, it could simply be laziness on the part of Jillions and Lil’ Mizz Ginny. Actually, I think it was a little bit of both, with some hutsky-klutsky incompetence from Fathausen and Bobby thrown in for good measure. In any case, why’s the Centre making a big deal over a hum-drum workaday meeting with a known hostile foreign figure?

Here’s why, kids… on 4 February, the Phanar sent a letter to the Church of Czechia and Slovakia, but only released it publicly today (click here for the Greek original). Two Greek friends helped me out… basically, it’s a nastygram from the EP to the First Hierarch of the Czech and Slovak Church telling him to stop celebrating the anniversary of the granting of his church’s autocephaly from the MP. The EP doesn’t recognise that act of granting of autocephaly as legitimate. The autocephaly granted from the EP is the only one that they should recognise. Failure to heed this would result in the annulment of the autocephaly granted by the EP, and the EP would only consider the Czech and Slovak Church an autonomous body. It appears that the Phanar doesn’t recognise that the MP’s action in 1951 that granted it autocephaly was legitimate.

To add a cherry to this merry little sundae, on 29 March, the Phanar sent a letter to the Church of Greece, in which Patriarch Bartholomew Archontonis reproached various bishops of the Church of Greece for speaking out against ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue. The Phanar said that recent statements against ecumenism have reached what appear to them to be “unacceptable levels”. Patriarch Bartholomew demanded that the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece should condemn these tendencies.

In short, there’s a good game of ecclesial hardball going on here, and the Centre is using McFaul. That’s rich and delicious, as McFaul’s one of those “democracy advocates” who sticks his thumb in every pie within reach. Apparently, His Nibs has checkmated him, and the Russians have his number. Boy oh boy, is McFaul going to be pissed when he finds out that the Centre used him to take a jab at Langley’s lickspittles in the Phanar. Here’s a colloquy between me and a friend (I’m in italics):

There IS a serious fight… over the USA. The EP’s serious when it claims the USA as its own. The Centre’s not going to stand for that, and that may be the pretext for it shutting down the OCA (St Fagomyr’s has been leaning towards the EP ever since the Schmemanndorff days).

I know it’s serious, but the MP was here first… in Sitka, Alaska! So, the EP doesn’t have a claim… it’s all about money, Barbara. The Phanar’s broke; they need American money… badly.

The GOAA IS the EP… full stop. That’s why it’ll NEVER allow an “autocephalous” Church in the USA… the OCA wasn’t an autocephalous Church, it’s nothing but an MP dependency with big ideas (which caused its downfall and demise). 99% of the EP’s money comes from rich Greeks in the USA, and rich and/or influential Greek-Americans transmit Washington’s orders to the Phanar… I think that one would be the Stephanopoulos family… think of the kafuffle in the ROCOR caused by a nun in the ROCOR from that family, but who left it after the ’07 reconciliation.

In short, the pot’s bubbling away merrily on the front burner, and the cooks are arguing over the contents. In short, it bids fair to be a real Donnybrook… I’m putting my money on Kirill… bet on RED, kids…

Oh, one last thing… there was NO report on patriarchia.ru on this meeting, but there was a post on Interfax here.

BMD

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30 March 2012. Something to Think About From Mother Jones… Our Lord Christ is NOT About “Pie in the Sky When You Die”

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Christ was the carpenter’s son… not the son of the professor… not the son of the businessman… not the son of the priest. Puts the rants of the Evangelical gospellers in a different light, doesn’t it? Do attend to the fact that He drove out the money-grubbing merchants from the Temple… and that most duplicitous “preachers” today defend capitalism and its bestial depredations bareheaded in the pulpit. I think that He’d bring out the ol’ cat o’ nine tails, yet again, don’t you think?

BMD

30 March 2012. A Point to Ponder from Robertson Davies…

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VOR Presents the Russian View on Mitt Romney’s Cold War Syndrome

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Recently, one of the candidates for the US presidency, the Republican Mitt Romney, made some anti-Russian statements, earlier untypical of him. Within the last few days, Mr Romney several times called Russia “America’s geopolitical enemy Number One”. Besides, some of his statements were one step from accusing President Obama of treason against the state. Experts believe that Mr Romney did this because he wants to win the support of the more conservatively-minded Republicans, who traditionally oppose Russia. However, he didn’t probably realise that his statements might alienate moderate Republicans from him.

Mr Romney criticised President Obama mostly for what Mr Obama said at a meeting in Seoul concerning the US’s plans of a network of anti-missile facilities in Europe. Mitt Romney isn’t the only US politician who criticised Mr Obama for his “revelations” in Seoul. For example, another candidate for presidency, Newt Gingrich, said, “Obama will sell out our defence system to Russia”. Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, known for her conservative views, claimed, “President Obama will have more flexibility to weaken us if he’s re-elected in November”. She was obviously referring to Mr Obama’s words spoken recently to President Medvedev, “He (Obama) would have more flexibility after the November election to deal with the contentious issue of missile defence”.

However, Mr Romney’s criticism against Mr Obama was much sharper than Mr Gingrich’s or Ms Palin’s was. In fact, he said that, by his ‘concessions’ to Russia, Mr Obama allegedly betrayed the interests of the USA. This sudden change in Mr Romney, who hasn’t openly expressed anti-Russian sentiments until now, may seem strange. However, political observers say that it’s quite reasonable. As a candidate for the presidency, Mr Romney wants to win the sympathies of the more conservatively-minded voters. Russian analyst Boris Makarenko said, “Obviously, Mr Romney wants to look, as the proverb says, ‘holier than the Pope’… that is, more conservative than the most conservative US politicians. He may win the sympathies of some voters by this, but it’s more likely that his statements will rather alienate many realistically-minded people from him. I believe that saying such things is impermissible for a candidate for the presidency”.

Mitt Romney’s chances to win the election aren’t very high. True, at present, the candidate after Mr Romney in the ratings, Rick Santorum, lags behind him by 8 percent. True, Mr Romney has won the Republican primaries in several states where the people traditionally vote Democratic. Nevertheless, primaries are primaries, and only the result of the final election really matters. If these people are accustomed to vote for Democrats in any case, they may vote for Democrats at the coming final election as well. Therefore, at present, Mr Romney and his aides are trying to use every opportunity to raise his rating. The easiest and most effective way to look good is by criticising one’s rival… so it’s no small wonder that, at present, Mr Obama’s rivals in the presidential race are ready to pick up every word carelessly dropped by him to use against him. Russian analyst Pavel Zolotaryov said, “I don’t believe that Mr Romney’s really so set against Russia as he pretends to be. During presidential campaigns, candidates often say things sometimes totally deprived of any logic, only to be liked by their potential voters”.

Mitt Romney’s recent article, Bowing to the Kremlin, claims that Russia blocks all the American initiatives on Syria and Iran, so, the American people “deserve a foreign policy founded upon our enduring principles and a recognition of our exceptional place in the world. That’s not what they are getting now. Unfortunately, what they are getting is a sad replay of Jimmy Carter’s bungling at a moment when the United States needs the backbone and courage of a Ronald Reagan”. This rhetoric, which resembles the time of the Cold War, will hardly bring Mr Romney many new supporters. Moreover, he’s likely to loose some of his former ones who are not so conservatively-minded.

Some US journalists said that Mr Romney switched to discussing foreign policy because he has nothing to suggest regarding domestic policy. Pavel Zolotaryov said, “It’s hard to deny that whatever the successes or the drawbacks of President Obama’s foreign policy may be, his domestic policy is slowly, but surely, bringing some positive results. The American people can’t help but feel this, and this will most likely determine their choice at the presidential elections to a bigger extent than any problems of foreign policy”. President Dmitri Medvedev said that Mr Romney’s pre-election behaviour “resembled a second-rate Hollywood film”. He also advised Mr Romney to realise that the Cold War had long become a relic of the past.

Polina Chernitsa

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On Tuesday, US President Barack Obama made concrete the agenda for his meeting with newly-elected President Vladimir Putin scheduled to take place at Camp David at the end of May, as they will discuss further reduction of their nuclear arsenals. Apparently, there will be a “reset of the reset button”, as the process wound down, both due to the previous agenda being closed and to election campaign needs. Talking in front of the students in Seoul, where the US President came for a nuclear security summit, Obama announced that he was going to discuss the issue of arms reduction at an upcoming meeting with President Vladimir Putin scheduled for May 2012.

Ben Rhodes, the Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications, confirmed that during the Seoul meeting between Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev the US President suggested to his Russian counterpart that they should start negotiations on reducing non-deployed strategic nuclear warheads and tactical nuclear weapons not covered by the START. Rhodes said, “We’d like to proceed with a reduction. We’d like to continue the cooperation with Russia. We’d also like to continue the discussion of the missile defence in such a way that would allow us to reach a consensus on this issue”.

Back in December 2010, during the ratification of START III, the US Congress requested that talks continue with Russia on further reduction of nuclear weapons, primarily tactical weapons. In February 2012, the Washington Post announced that the White House gave instructions to prepare drafts of a new treaty between the US and Russia on reducing strategic weapons. According to the AP, the USA is considering options for potentially deep cuts of deployed long-range nuclear weapons, including reduction of deployed warheads to 1,100 or even 300-400. Today, the maximum quantity is 1,550 warheads for each side.

Moscow sent its answer quite quickly. On 24 February, during a meeting with security experts, Putin announced, “Further steps (in the area of nuclear security) must be of a complex nature, and all nuclear states must take part in that process. We can’t indefinitely reduce our arms whilst other nuclear states build up their armament. We rule that out!” Besides that, Putin made it clear that nuclear arms reduction shouldn’t become a way to gain advantage in other forms of weapons. He emphasised that Russia needs to reach parity in high-precision weapons with capabilities equal to those of weapons of mass destruction, saying, “We’ll give up nuclear weapons only when we have similar equipment in our arsenals”.

Most importantly, Russia viewed the process of reduction of the assault weapons in conjunction with strategic defence. The Soviet-American missile defence treaty of 1972 reflected such an ideology, which the USA disregarded during G W Bush’s administration. However, that ideology is part of the Preamble to START III. That’s why the link between arms reduction and missile defence talks is inevitable.

In the history of the Russian-American relations, such a sharp confrontation is occurring for the second time. During Perestroika, Mikhail Gorbachyov, the then-leader of the USSR, had to solve the difficult problem of confronting the Reagan’s Strategic Defence Initiative, which included multilayered missile defence with elements of space deployment. During the meeting between Reagan and Gorbachyov that took place in Reykjavík in October 1986, an agreement on a package deal on missile defence and START was quite close. However, it didn’t happen. The USSR wasn’t ready for it, as it believed that the Strategic Defence Initiative was a fake, a “paper tiger”, as Oriental people say. However, now, Moscow views the threat as quite real. Two areas of missile defence basing already exist on US territory. Today, Europe is being included in the plan, not to mention sea-based missile defence systems. Newly-developed missile defence weapons based on new principles of physics are about to appear.

Nevertheless, there’s a chance that Moscow and Washington won’t clash on the issues of arms reduction in Camp David. ABC News reporters managed to record a portion of the Seoul talks between Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev not meant for public release. Obama asked Medvedev to transmit to Putin his request not to force the resolution on the missile defence problem. Specifically, the US President said, “On all these issues, but particularly missile defence, this can be solved, but it’s important for him to give me space. This is my last election. After my election, I’ll have more flexibility”.

Naturally, the election campaign in the US seriously affects its foreign policy. Mitt Romney, the leading Republican candidate, criticised Obama’s statement and called Russia, “the main geopolitical rival of the USA”. It’s obvious that since Romney’s 10 percent behind Obama, according to the latest polls, such exercises in rhetoric predominate. Nevertheless, in general, Obama and Putin already made an agreement during their telephone conversation on 10 March that both sides should disregard propaganda statements made during the election campaign.

Naturally, the eccentric statements made by Obama’s rivals won’t set the atmosphere during the Camp David talks. Retired Lieutenant General Gennady Yevstafiev, a former foreign intelligence officer, said, “We need a new agenda in Russian-American relations, and there isn’t one”. Meanwhile, both Obama and Putin need a new agenda… Obama seriously needs to focus on his re-election to present a clear foreign policy programme for his next term, and Putin’s starting his new 6-year presidential term. Nobody needs a confrontation.

Andrei Ilyashenko

28 March 2012

Voice of Russia World Service

http://english.ruvr.ru/2012_03_28/69919600/

http://english.ruvr.ru/2012_03_28/69835100/

Editor’s Note:

It’s disturbing that Romney’s appealing to the Know Nothing element in the USA. This group believes in the bullshit about “A City on a Hill” and the crackbrained notion of “American Exceptionalism“. Of course, this stems from the American Radicalism enshrined in the so-called American Revolution (the first of the Three Great Godless Revolutions, and the most successful of the trio, by the way). There is NOTHING “conservative” about it in the least. In the USA, we have a Radical Right party (Republicans) and a Radical Centre party (Democrats), but we do NOT have a classical Left party (the Socialists were destroyed as a discrete organised movement during World War I). By the way, you should take Radical in the European sense… as an ideology advocating a bourgeois profit-oriented society with no real traditions or beliefs (Evangelicalism is nothing but a semi-religious apologia for this godless state of affairs). Make no mistake on it, the Mormons are fully a part of American Radical Sectarianism (sorry, Evangelicals… so are the JWs and SDAs, as well), so, Romney’s remarks are fully in sync with his sect’s attitudes.

Orthodox people would be interested to know that Paffhausen (and the konvertsy in general) supports the Russophobia of the Extreme Right (his links to the circles around the extremist Moonie-owned Washington Times and the American Enterprise Institute prove that assertion). He defends American Radicalism, and always has, thus, it’s no stretch to suppose that he supports Romney’s stupid remarks (and those made by other vacuous rightwing nutters). He and his clique spit on the Tradition of the Church by signing such worthless scraps of paper as the Manhattan Declaration, by participating in the bootless “March for Life” (do note that he welcomed a convicted felon as a clergyman, as part of his “official” delegation), and by his support of the mindless “Culture War“. The Church is the Big Tent for All Sinners… it is NOT the Little Flock of the Smug and Priggish Elect. Do reflect on that… we’re NOT similar to Evangelicalism in way, shape, or form, nor should we have ANYTHING to do with such religious hucksterism (spare a prayer for the poor sods entrapped in it, though). Give me Our Genuine Lord Christ any day, not the chimera of My Personal Saviour Jayzuss…

BMD

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