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War Clouds over Ukraine

Alexander Athos

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Alexander Borodai (allegedly a former high ranking officer in the Russian successor to the KGB, the FSB) has recently stood down as ‘Prime Minister’ of the self-proclaimed Donetsk Peoples Republic (DNR: Donets’ka Narodna Respublika).

Whilst some see this as a good sign of perhaps thawing relations between the Ukrainian government in the West of the country and Russia to the East, this is not a good sign for peace in the Ukraine. In fact it is a likely precursor to war between Russia and Western Ukraine.
Why do I say this?

Firstly is the person replacing Borodai as PM elected? Answer no, just as Borodai was not.
Who is Borodai’s replacement?

Is he an educated Ukrainian civilian of the nature of the late Czech President Vaclav Havel?
No, hardly. Alexander 1 is succeeded by Alexander II; another para military leader loyal to Moscow, Alexander Zakharchenko. Even though Alexander II is Ukrainian, he is solidly pro-Putin. Zakharchenko, is a commander of the Donetsk branch of a group called Oplot, a pro-Russia movement that started as a fight club of young men in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, to the north.

Oplot is the name of Ukraine’s main battle tank built by Kharkiv Morozov Design Bureau, the same company that designed the famous WWII winning T-34 Soviet tank. So it’s no surprise that the rebels who support integration with Russia would adopt this as their brand name.

So the civil government of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic with a crew cut dressed in army uniform who carries a Kalashnikov and is head of a para military brigade named after a tank. He is not the sort of person who has either the education or the disposition to be the Prime Minister of anywhere or negotiate a peace with Kiev. He is likely to be a stooge of the Russian military and secret police in the mould of Ex-President Yanukovych. The fact that Alexander Zakharchenko is Ukrainian will legitimate any call he may make for Russian assistance to help the people of the Donetsk and then the Eastern Ukraine from a pro NATO regime in Kiev who have been using air strikes (hence the BUK’s supplied by Russia) and heavy artillery against Russian speaking civilians in the Donbass.

The second reason I believe a war is immanent is that the real power man on the ground in Eastern Ukraine, is a Russian citizen, Igor Girkin (aka Strlkov who incidentally is also a former KGB/FSB like Borodai and Putin himself),. Strlkov is still in charge of rebels in Eastern Ukraine/Donbass. It is Strlkov’s mission to consolidate the region which he calls New Russia “Novorossiya”.

Strlkov has under his command all those who fly the double headed eagle insignia in Ukraine including, Igor Bezler (field commander of the Gorlovka Region around Horlivka), Valery Boltov (leader of the Luhansk People’s Republic / LNR), Alexander Khodakovsky (leader of the Vostok Battalion and now Alexander Zakharchenko (PM of DNR). Across the border in Russia are many Russian soldiers who will also come under his command.
The Third reason I see war coming is Putin’s actions. They are inconsistent with peace and consistent with war.

Rather than dictate via Strlkov an immediate cease fire by the Donbass militias to allow European and Australian investigators to collect bodies and investigate the wreckage of MH17, Putin accelerated fighting in the region. If there was any truth to Russian propaganda that the Malaysian civilian airliner was shot down by the Western Ukrainian’s one can be sure he would have rolled out the red carpet for them. Instead the investigators did what they could with a Ukrainian government cease fire but are now forced to leave amid rising fighting by the rebels. Accordingly Putin has no desire for the truth about the downing of MH17 to come out as it will only further galvanize world opinion against Russia who supplied the SA-11 BUK missile system to the rebels of the kind likely to have been used to down MH17.
The sanctions against Russia have not met with Putin pulling forces back or reducing tensions in Eastern Ukraine whether they be at the site of MH17 or more broadly. He has counter attacked economically against Western sanctions by imposing year-long Russian sanctions against Western imports. That is about how long Putin anticipates the war and its aftermath will last. So it will me more than a mere supplying of more arms to Stlkov, it will be tanks and boots and aircraft.

Putin has effectively mobilized his forces ready for a large confrontation with the Ukrainian forces in the West (‘District Galizien’ from Russia’s perspective) and also the likely escalation to confront NATO forces if Russian tanks push further West than the edge of the Donbass.
 So what’s next? Wait for the press release from comrade Alexander Zakharchenko calling on Russia to stop war crimes in the Donbass.

Alexander Athos is a writer and businessman.He was awarded a Bachelor of Arts (European History) Personal background Alexander was christened Orthodox brought up Catholic and now Evangelical Christian with an acceptance of the best in Christian tradition and a respect for genuine people of faith from other cultures. Political inclinations: Christian intellectual who has an eclectic predisposition to understanding global and national political and social trends and seeking to influence them for good by thoughtful and persuasive discourse.

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Eastern Europe

Russia–Armenia Relations and the April Revolution

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Starting in April, 2018, Armenia witnessed a remarkable political revolution, prompted by Serzh Sargsyan’s attempt to remain in office by becoming the country’s Prime Minister. As massive crowds packed Yerevan’s Republic Square, the veteran Armenian politician ultimately bowed to popular pressure and stepped aside on April 23. The second phase of the April Revolution saw the ascendancy of protest leader Nikol Pashinyan to the Prime Minister’s office. Pashinyan’s proposed electoral reform promises to pave the way for a more competitive political system in Armenia, breaking the monopoly of the ruling Republican Party, which has dominated Armenian politics since the late 1990s.

Even more remarkable was the lack of any foreign involvement in the April Revolution. There were no “little green men” in the Ararat valley, nor was America’s Victoria Nuland on hand to pass out cookies on Republic Square. In reality, the involvement of United States was nonexistent, while the role of Russia was minimal, although not insignificant. In contrast to the reaction to the Electric Yerevan protests in 2015, there was no rush in the Russian media or among Russian political elites to draw parallels with the Ukrainian Maidan or the “color revolutions.” Instead, Moscow was cautious and pragmatic, emphasizing the necessity of a legal transition of power. Publicly, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova even supported the demonstrators, writing “Armenia, Russia is always with you!”

Two-sided nature of the Russia-Armenia relations

The Russia-Armenia relationship is two-sided. For Armenia, Russia means protection from neighboring Azerbaijan and Turkey. For Russia, Armenia represents an important ally in the Caucasus, a region critical to Russian security concerns. Therefore, Russia observed the recent developments in Armenia very closely. Behind the scenes, Russian officials were in contact with both sides in order to gain a clear understanding of the events. According to protest leader Armen Grigoryan and certain unnamed sources, the opposition emphasized to Russian officials that the protest was strictly domestic and was not directed in any way against Russia. This message was further emphasized by Pashinyan to the delegation of Russian Duma deputies who visited Yerevan. Not only were Russia-Armenia relations under no threat, but they would be “deepened” should Pashinyan become Prime Minister. The protest leaders also made an effort to ensure that no EU or American flags were flown during the Armenian protest.

Russian officials were also in contact with representative of the Armenian government and the ruling party. In the early days of the protest, it became clear to Moscow that Serzh Sargsyan had no political future. His decision to remain in power was a major misstep in the Armenian context, and therefore supporting him would be a liability for the Russian side. However, in terms of his successor, Moscow was initially more inclined to support acting Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan. A reform-minded politician, Karapetyan governed Armenia from the Prime Minister post effectively for a year and a half, although the Republican Party machine prevented him from making major changes. The former chief executive of ArmRosGazprom, he also has good business and political contacts with Russia, including with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Russian-Armenian billionaire Samvel Karapetyan (no relation to Karen). Therefore, he represented both stability and change to Moscow.

However, it soon became clear that the protestors in Yerevan wanted to abolish the ruling Republican Party machine entirely. Although Sargsyan’s bid to stay in power served as the immediate motivation for the protests, the causes – chiefly jobs and economic inequality – were much deeper. Fundamental changes were required to remedy them. In this case, Pashinyan’s bid, to both become interim Prime Minister and to reform the electoral laws, represented a better alternative for the demonstrators. Gradual reform of the existing system was no longer a tenable option. Therefore, Moscow remained neutral, while Karapetyan rejected the offer to become the Prime Minister candidate of the Republican Party, leaving the ruling party with no candidate to nominate.

Putin-Pashinyan personal chemistry

The situation was reinforced by Pashinyan’s meeting with the Duma MPs on April 29, which cleared the way for his eventual victory on May 8. Notably, after Pashinyan’s election as Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin was one of the first political leaders to congratulate him. Later, in a phone conversation with Putin, Pashinyan exchanged greetings with him on the occasion of Victory Day, commemorating the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. Notably, Pashinyan’s grandfather and namesake, Nikolai, fought in the Red Army and died in the war. The new Armenian PM also reaffirmed Armenia’s commitment to the Eurasian Economic Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). However, within the context of the Eurasian Economic Union, he may push for a more democratic and egalitarian relationship among the member states to ensure that smaller republics, like Armenia, will have more of a say in determining the policy of the union.

On May 14, Pashinyan and Putin met in Sochi where they had very positive and constructive talks. In the meeting, Putin hailed Armenia as a “close ally and partner in the region.” For his part, Pashinyan assured Putin that “there is a consensus in Armenia: no one has ever questioned the strategic importance of the Armenian-Russian relations, and I think it will not be questioned ahead.” He also met with Eurasian Union Chairman and former Armenian PM Tigran Sargsyan and held a rally with the Armenian community of Sochi.

Why Armenia’s opposition shied away from anti-Russian rhetoric

While Russia exercised incredible restraint in reaction to the April Revolution, the leaders of the revolt also learned valuable lessons about Russia-Armenia relations and the potentially adverse impact of their past anti-Russian statements. Given the extraordinary importance of the Russia-Armenia relationship, most Armenian politicians across party lines traditionally understood that Russophobia was counter-productive for the country. However, in recent years, some Armenian opposition leaders, taking cues from developments in Ukraine and Georgia, began to incorporate such discourse into their attacks on the government. Although Pashinyan has never been known to be exceptionally anti-Russian, even he adopted this position in his criticism of the Eurasian Economic Union.

In one way, anti-Russian rhetoric was useful for both the Armenian government and the opposition, to alert Russia that it could not take Armenia for granted. However, the April Revolution demonstrated that Armenian Russophobia could also be fatal for the opposition. Amid their stunning success, it soon became clear that anti-Russian policy was in fact hindering their far more important objectives (e.g., challenging the Republican Party monopoly). Consequently, Pashinyan moved quickly to reassure the Russian press and the Russian political elite that the revolution was not directed in any way against Moscow.

Meanwhile intending to capitalize on Pashinyan’s past remarks, the ruling party attempted to paint the revolutionary leader as a reckless Russophobe for both Russian observers and Armenia’s domestic audience. In the end, they failed to convince these two audiences, both of whom gave Pashinyan the benefit of the doubt. However, it was a close call for Pashinyan and it clearly illustrated the pitfalls of unnecessary anti-Russian bluster in Armenia.

Alternative path

Not only is anti-Russian discourse counter-productive in terms of its immediate political impact, but also in terms of its broader relevance. The April Revolution in Armenia has regional and even global significance that the Rose or Orange Revolutions or the Maidan would never attain since they allowed themselves to be blinded by the allure of geopolitics and national chauvinism. Shifting away from the geopolitical context, the revolution in Armenia presents an alternative path for the post-Soviet states. Instead of excluding Russia and casting it as an “eternal enemy,” why not include it in broader regional discussions about democracy, economic justice, and state-building?

Although each former Soviet republic is unique, they all share broadly similar socioeconomic problems as well as the common historical and cultural experiences of Imperial Russia and the USSR. In an age of globalization, these commonalities are the foundation for greater regional cooperation. Therefore, maintaining broad transnational cultural and economic connections across the post-Soviet space is an asset for all. The April Revolution in Armenia is significant as is a civic movement that realizes such potential.

First published in our partner RIAC

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Eastern Europe

Stephen Cohen’s Misrepresentations about the 2014 Coup in Ukraine

Eric Zuesse

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The restoration of the Cold War now, between Russia and the United States, is based on frauds by the United States, as will be documented here; and one of the biggest responsibilities that historians have, is to state this publicly — to acknowledge it publicly and clearly — so that the necessary public pressure can finally come to be brought upon the U.S. Government, to acknowledge that it has been wrong about this matter, which is a matter increasingly threatening the entire planet with World War III, a nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia, the war that would end the world.

Most historians fail this fundamental professional obligation to truthfulness especially about important matters such as this, and don’t even acknowledge publicly that the overthrow in February 2014 of Ukraine’s democratically elected President was a “coup” instead of a ‘revolution’ (which the U.S. Government and its foreign allies call it), but even most of the historians who do call it a “coup” do not say that it was perpetrated by the U.S. Government upon, and greatly harmed, the people of Ukraine; and, so, their admission fails to apply any pressure at all upon the U.S. Government, to stop its constant lying about this.

Wars do not result merely from force of arms, but even more fundamentlly, they result from force of lies. In the present matter, those lies can have a world-ending consequence; so, at least the biggest of these lies need to be addressed in public, by historians.

Dr. Stephen C. Cohen, the prominent Russia-specialist now retired from Princeton and NYU, has said on at least two occasions, that the February 2014 overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych was a “coup.” Cohen has never said, like the founder and head of the ‘private CIA’ firm Stratfor, Dr. George Friedman, once admitted, that it was “the most blatant coup in history”, but he did call it some kind of “coup”; and yet he has persistently refused to call it a coup that started in and was perpetrated by the U.S. Government — started in the Obama Administration, long before the coup’s culmination-period, 20-26 February 2014, when the EU finally became shocked on February 26th to discover that it had been a coup. I don’t understand why Dr. Cohen constantly presents it in that false way — as something it wasn’t. The following note is therefore intended specifically to correct Dr. Cohen’s false account that it had started elsewhere than inside the Obama Administration:

On May 9th, at an event co-sponsored by Columbia University’s Harriman Institute and New York University’s Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia, Cohen stated (at 28:45 in the video) that it was “a coup, an unusual coup, it originated in the streets.”

It did not  originate in the streets. It originated in offices, specifically in U.S. Government offices, and assisted by other entities, including private entities, which worked closely with the U.S. Government, in order to plan it, and to carry it out.

I thus asked him, on May 17th, via email,

You think it originated in the streets, in November 2013 — really, it didn’t originate on 1 March 2013 when the U.S. Embassy started its CIA-run training-sessions for organizing the Maidan demonstrations? It didn’t originate in, or at least by, June 2011, when Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen visited Julian Assange at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, in order to deceive him into revealing the tricks he’d use to organize such a mass-movement (the public cover behind which the coup would be perpetrated) — fooled him into thinking that they were on his side, the pro-democracy side — certainly not on the side of coups and other “regime-change” operations? As I pointed out in that just-linked-to article, “Only in retrospect did Assange come to recognize that, as he headlined in October 2014, “Google Is Not What It Seems”. That’s when he noted, “Jared Cohen could be wryly named Google’s ‘director of regime change’.” He recognized too late, that they were manipulating him, using him, to help in overthrowing both Assad and Yanukovych — to help in their and Obama’s fascism.

Dr. Cohen replied,

“Obama’s fascism”? Do you even know what it is?

I answered,

Ask these people what “Obama’s fascism” is. They experienced it, through his agents — the people he installed to run their country (and Obama never criticized those stooges for doing his dirty-work, not even for doing it in such a blatantly “fascist” way).

Cohen didn’t reply, though perhaps he will, some day. If he will, then I shall welcome his response, because, if I am wrong, then I want to know in what way I am wrong; and if I am right, then not only is Dr. Cohen wrong, but our entire U.S. foreign-policy Establishment is wrong and has been lying pervasively about how the “restored Cold War” happened. Did Putin seize Crimea? Or, instead, did Obama seize Ukraine (via this coup)?

Like I, Professor Cohen — according to his own testimony, and mine — voted for Obama, both in 2008 and in 2012. I would do it again, against Hillary Clinton and John McCain, and against Mitt Romney, because those opponents of his, were even more fascist than Obama turned out to be; but this is the type of electoral choice that remains to the people, in today’s American ‘democracy’. That’s what it is: choices between ‘public’ representatives such as that.

Until the United States Government, and American academics such as Professor Cohen, publicly acknowledge the reality, that Obama lies, and that Trump lies, to allege that Russia ‘seized’ Crimea and that America didn’t seize Ukraine in a prior coup, a coup which has even been publicly admitted by some of the coup’s own actual participants — a coup that shortly thereafter was followed by an ethnic-cleansing campaign to get rid of enough people who had voted for the democratically elected Ukrainian President whom Obama overthrew, an ethnic-cleansing so as to stave off a subsequent electoral victory in Ukraine for restoration of a neutralist Ukrainian Government similar to the Government that was overthrown — as long as they instead hide the fact, that this was an American coup, against Ukraine, in order to grab Ukraine on Russia’s very doorstep, so as to make it a NATO member — there can be no constructive settlement of the ‘new Cold War’, because the fact is: it’s a war that the U.S. has been secretly waging against Russia, ever since at least 24 February 1990.

The termination of this war between the U.S. and Russia cannot be achieved by continuing the lies about what is behind it. This has been a decades-long war to eliminate Russia’s friends and allies, to turn the European ones into NATO members, to surround Russia with our missiles and nukes being positioned just five minutes’ striking-time from Moscow, and then to issue an ultimatum for Russia’s surrender, so as to achieve the world’s first global and all-encompassing Empire.

Continued lies just cannot do the job that the entire world needs to be done: the U.S. (the most dangerous country in the world) must terminate its obsession to expand its empire to an all-encompassing scope, and must cease-and-desist its continuing war against the sovereign nation of Russia, and against all other nations that have continued to resist America’s all-grasping aristocracy’s reach for the ultimate Empire.

The Big Lie today is that “Putin stole Crimea” not “Obama stole Ukraine.” The Big Truth today is that Obama stole Ukraine, not Putin stole Crimea.

If Dr. Cohen has any objections to the factuality of any of the allegations that I have made here, or to any of the documentation that I have linked to as the sources for these allegations, then I publicly welcome him to state what those objections are. Otherwise, I shall continue to take strong exception to Dr. Cohen’s account of these matters.

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Eastern Europe

Hard way to Westphalia: Ukraine on the brink of new Thirty-Year War?

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Does Petro Poroshenko see the red line drawn 370 years ago in Westphalia and will the leaders of the democratic world remind him of it again?

The President of Ukraine has declared his intention to unite several largest Ukrainian Orthodox confessions into one Church. Wow… Even the first sentence was too much for me. It’s hard for a modern European to imagine it. It’s too strange. It’s too unbelievable. Nevertheless, it clearly depicts the complicated religious situation in Ukraine.

Let me do it this way: The President of Ukraine has declared his intention to unite several largest Ukrainian Orthodox confessions into one Church to defend against the hybrid aggression from Russia and to provide an ideological independence of the state. Yes, this is how the Ukrainian authorities justify their involvement in Church affairs. This is a matter of national security, preserving the unity of the state and nation.

Of course, the process is also aimed at boosting the president’s popularity. Next year, Ukraine is to witness presidential elections. The role of religion in Ukrainian society is highly important, polls show. The Ukrainian authorities may have preferred the nation to be less religious: being a dimension of the social life, faith introduces additional divisions and nuances that not always comply with the economic and political ones. This makes ruling the country more complicated.

The Ukrainian Orthodox communities (the UOC MP (Moscow Patriarchate), the UOC KP (Kyiv Patriarchate) and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC)) are divided by the issue of the Moscow Patriarchate’s jurisdiction. After the beginning of war in Donbas in 2014, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate compromised itself by its pro-Russian position. Tolerating it means supporting the aggressor. President Poroshenko was elected as a European democratic leader and peacemaker who promised to end the war in two weeks after his inauguration. That’s why the Ukrainian authorities are eager to get rid of the Moscow Patriarchate by forming a new national Church based in Kyiv and securing for it an independent status (autocephaly) bestowed by the Constantinople Patriarchate, to which the Orthodox Ukraine had been subject to until the 17th century.

No one asks for the Moscow Patriarchate’s opinion: the new Church will be formed of the UOC KP and UAOC. However, without the UOC MP, the goal of Poroshenko’s church project cannot be reached. Which means it will be forced to join the new religious organization. The Primate of the competing confession, UOC KP, Patriarch of Kyiv and all Rus-Ukraine Filaret stated at one of European Parliament events that “there is only one Church in Ukraine”, the UOC MP will lose its status and name and that the biggest monastery of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine will be handed over to the new Ukrainian Church, that is the one created by Poroshenko.

The UOC MP’s rivals claim that this process won’t be difficult as, according to polls, it is not popular among the faithful. Maybe the numbers are objective but once even Protestants seemed to be minority in Europe. If there are no faithful, who then maintains each of 12,000 UOC MP parishes in Ukraine? Putin and Russian oligarchs? According to the national statistics, it’s more than all largest Ukrainian Churches have altogether! For comparison, the Kyiv Patriarchate controls just 3640 congregations, and others even less.

According to the Ministry of Culture, only 70 UOC MP communities joined the Kyiv Patriarchate since 2014. But these conversions often caused the restraint of those who opposed them.

The Moscow Patriarchate’s faithful quickly and smartly get organized to act together, as shown by numerous religious marches and protests in recent years. Ukrainian experts admit that no political power in Ukraine can immediately take so many people out to the streets. Among UOC MP members are also those who can make resistance, and maybe even radicals.

However, the Administration of the President of Ukraine, Verkhovna Rada and government keep acting like they’ve not seen it and are not aware of it. It’s unclear why the authorities are so blind and what they count on in the upcoming conflict, which can be provoked by the new Single Local Church. The Greek Catholics have declared their neutrality. The only way the balance of powers can be affected is the involvement of law enforcers and radical nationalists acting under their cover. But what will be the consequences then?

The nationalists’ leader Oleg Tyahnybok urges the authorities to act instead of waiting for the autocephaly from Constantinople: “We believe the Ukrainian authorities can do a lot more without Constantinople. For instance, to seize the relics captured by the Moscow Patriarchate, which in fact belong to the Ukrainian people. We shouldn’t ask for Bartholomew’s permission. Hand over Kiev Pachersk Lavra, Pochayiv Lavra to the Ukrainian Church. Any problems?”

Indeed, there is only one problem – the start of the election race. Petro Poroshenko seems to be blind to other issues. The question is whether Washington and Brussels see them.

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