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The fate of the world cannot be determined by one country

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Welcome to the Caspian Daily, where you will find the 10 most important things you need to know on Caspian Sea Region. We appreciate ideas, reports, news and interesting articles. Send along to Caspian[at]moderndiplomacy.eu or on Twitter: @DGiannakopoulos

1Russia says the fate of the world countries and nations cannot be put in the hands of a country or a limited number of countries seeking to keep their dominance over others, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov wrote in an article titled “Lessons of History and New Milestones.The article was published on Sunday in Russia’s Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily as well as China’s Renmin Ribao newspaper on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in August 1945. In an apparent reference to the interventionist policies of the US and its NATO allies in other countries, the Russian foreign minister said that global developments, including the occupation of Iraq and the conflict in Libya and Ukraine prove the “tragic consequences” of striving to capture and retain global dominance at any cost. “We are resolute opponents of imposing one’s will on sovereign countries, including by military means, of unilateral sanctions pressure, and in general of employing the practice of ‘double standards’,” he wrote. Lavrov said that the “lessons of the Second World War” proved that global woes can only be resolved through collective efforts.

2Turkmenistan, Iran trade to hit USD60b in 10 years. An Iranian official said that the two nations are committed to grow relations in all sectors as its presidents stressed in Iran’s Exhibition, therefore the trade between them is set to hit USD60 billion over the next decade. The oil, gas, construction, energy, water and engineering products and services exhibition resulted in Turkmen traders, economic activists and investors becoming acquainted with the capabilities of Iranian companies. The expo, called ‘Iran Project’, focused on increasing Iran’s non-oil exports and paving the way for developing trade, mainly exchanging Turkmenistan’s gas with Iranian goods and services.

3Japan has lodged a protest over Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to one of four disputed Pacific islands that have strained ties between the two countries since the end of World War II. The decades-old argument over the territory, claimed by both states, could set back Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to court resource-rich Russia and keep the door open to dialogue, despite the Ukraine crisis. While on the island, Mr Medvedev said Japan’s attitude would not stop more such visits.”Our position is simple: we want to be friends with Japan, Japan is our neighbour. We have a good attitude towards Japan, but this shouldn’t be linked in any way with the Kuril islands, which are part of the Russian Federation,” he said.”Therefore, we have made visits, we are visiting and we will make visits to the Kurils.” Mr Medvedev emphasised economic development plans for a region potentially rich in oil and gas and invited foreign investors. Russia ordered a quicker build-up of military facilities in the disputed islands in June, following comments by Mr Putin in April that he was ready to discuss the issue, while blaming Japan for a lack of dialogue.

4Despite the forecasts announced by investment group Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Kazakhstani experts say that the probability of a default in Kazakhstan remains low, Tengrinews reports citing business newspaper Kursiv. Last week, the American bank placed Kazakhstan on the ninth place among ten countries with the highest likelihood of sovereign default. Experts in the country acknowledge certain risks exist but contend that a default is not on the horizon.

5Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan are in talks for the establishment of a joint bank whose branches would conduct financial operations in the two countries, Press TV reports. Speaking in an exclusive interview with Azerbaijan’s Trend News Agency, Iran’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mahmoud Vaezi emphasized that further development of the two countries’ banking cooperation is necessary for expansion of trade relations between Tehran and Baku. “Currently, the trade volume between our countries is about USD 500 million…. I think that it’s not a very good indicator for the two neighboring countries and peoples so close to each other. Azerbaijan and Iran have set a goal to increase this figure by four times to USD 2 billion,” he said.

6The Black Sea Trade and Development Bank is seeking to increase the number of financial intermediaries in Azerbaijan. This was noted in the BSTDB cooperation strategy with Azerbaijan in 2015-2018, published on its website. The bank hopes to find suitable partners for the development of leasing in Azerbaijan.”It is an area of great potential in Azerbaijan and the Bank intends to use the leasing product not only for financing capital expenditure of SMEs but also for other companies as an effective financing tool for the promotion of regional trade. Medium-term credit lines opened to leasing companies for trade related purposes will enable them to offer their customers finance for capital expenditures on imports from other countries in the region,” the document said.

7Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and his Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov have discussed relations between their two former Soviet republics in Central Asia. Tajikistan’s presidential press service quotes Berdymukhammedov as saying that Tajikistan and Turkmenistan “have common positions on the issues related to peace and stability in the world and in the region.”Rahmon said the two countries have a “common position towards the struggle against terrorism, [and] extremism [that] creates a base for developing economic ties.” The presidents’ concerns about terrorism follow reports in recent months that Taliban fighters have intruded into Turkmenistan and Tajikistan from neighboring Afghanistan.

8Kazakhstan’s national gas supply company KazTransGas has signed with China Development Bank Corporation and Bank of China an agreement on a syndicated loan worth US $2.5 billion for the period until 2028. The loan will be used to finance the construction of the Beyneu-Bozoi-Shymkent gas pipeline, the press service of KazTransGas said on August 19. The Beyneu-Bozoi-Shymkent pipeline will deliver natural gas from gas fields in western Kazakhstan to southern parts of the country.

9The Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping CJSC will increase the number of the vessels engaged in cargo transportations in the Black Sea to four.The company said the ‘Teymur Ahmadov’ dry cargo ship, with an ability to carry a load of 3,000 metric tons, will reach the Black Sea through the internal waters of Russia.Aside from the ‘Teymur Ahmadov’ ship, the Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping CJSC has the ‘Garadagh’, ‘Natavan’ and ‘Uzeyir Hajibeyli’ vessels in the Black Sea.

10Kazakhstan’s currency recovered some of its recent losses against the dollar Monday with a 15 percent rise, even as the country’s stock market slumped. The tenge traded at 218.61 to the dollar in the morning session on the Kazakhstan stock exchange, down from 252.47. The tenge had slumped by over 25 percent against the dollar on Thursday when Kazakhstan’s government and central bank moved to a free float, abandoning a trading corridor.

Journalist, specialized in Middle East, Russia & FSU, Terrorism and Security issues. Founder and Editor-in-chief of the Modern Diplomacy magazine.

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FOCUS magazine: This is how war becomes U.S. business

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Photo: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Beaux Hebert (Courtesy Image)

Former President Calvin Coolidge’s sentence has been applicable for centuries: “After all, the main business of the American people is business.”

The United States supports Ukraine like no other country in the world. But this help is not entirely disinterested. Because even Joe Biden has nothing to give away, notes Gabor Steingart, one of the most famous German journalists in his article at FOCUS magazine.

The President of the United States is betting on “armament on credit.” Germany, on the other hand, can only hope that the war will soon end not far from its front door. Since the beginning of the war, the United States has provided more than $50 billion in military, financial and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Much more than in any other country.

In May 2022, the Senate passed a law allowing the US government to quickly and without bureaucratic delays provide military equipment to Ukraine – the Lend-Lease Act for the Defense of Democracy in Ukraine of 2022. Approximately US$23 billion in military support has not been wasted. It states that “any defense loan or lease to the Government of Ukraine is subject to return, reimbursement and repayment.”

Arms on credit, which is what it is, was invented during World War II when Winston Churchill found he could not defend Britain alone. The government has now remembered the procedure for selling weapons against bills. The fact is that the United States is strict in these matters. Britain delayed its Lend-Lease contributions until 2006, when the World War was already 61 years old.

An analysis by Foreign Policy magazine found that the United States nearly doubled the number of approved arms sales to NATO allies in 2022 compared to 2021, from $15.5 billion to $28 billion. This is how war becomes business.

Economic sanctions—trade restrictions, asset freezes, payment system bans, or oil export bans—have isolated Russia. This will irrevocably disrupt the old German-Russian trade for a very long time. American energy companies offer themselves as helpers in an emergency.

LNG imports from America doubled in 2022. U.S. oil is also suddenly in demand, with about 500 U.S. oil tankers heading to Europe since February 2022, according to data provider ‘OilX’, and helped push U.S. crude oil exports to a record high last year. Between December 2021 and December 2022, US exports increased by 52 percent.

In the medium term, the concentration of uncertainty in Europe will also benefit the US capital market, which is perceived by investors as a safe haven. The outflow of capital from Europe in the first months of the war was significant.

BASF reported a loss of billions of dollars, which was mainly caused by the write-down of the Russian business, which has since ceased.

The Europeans, and Germany in particular, have a primary strategic interest in ending the conflict as soon as possible, or at least freezing it, and in no case in the direction of the Western European metropolises.

The stronger and more intense the war rages in Europe, the more pessimistic are investment conditions both in the real economy and in the capital markets in London, Paris and Frankfurt.

Conclusion: Trading partner Russia is de facto exchanged for trading partner America. Thus, the Americans are also strengthening their negotiating position for negotiations on future free trade agreements and a strategy for China.

If there were a planning headquarters in the Ministry of Defense, then it would write down the following paradox for the minister in the summary: Russia is at war with Ukraine – and America is winning.

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Zelensky regime’ war against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church

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Armed SBU officers seize an Orthodox church in Kyiv. Image source: International Affairs

The American Conservative’ published a very detailed story about what kind of war the president Zelensky unleashed to destroy the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. It’s very important to mention that the information was signed by a person from Kyiv, who is aware of all the events, but he can’t reveal his name and chose a pseudonym Yevhen Herman – Yevhen Herman is the pseudonym of a journalist in Kyiv, – notes ‘The American Conservative’. The  story is very accurate and detailed:

“The religious situation in modern Ukraine is complicated.

The country has been considered Orthodox since 988, when the bishops of Constantinople baptized this land, which was then ruled by the Kievan Rus. The Russian Orthodox Church originates from Kyiv. The first metropolitans of this church had their sees there, and only centuries later were they transferred to Moscow.

The emergence of independent Ukraine in 1991 and the activation of Ukrainian nationalism plunged the Orthodox environment into turmoil. Filaret, the ruling bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), broke away from the church, with the help of the new Ukrainian authorities, and founded a new church structure, which he called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP). Several other priests founded another structure, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC).

So the split of Orthodoxy in Ukraine was provoked and took place…

The rest of world Orthodoxy never recognized these structures. The fact is that there are very strict rules called canons in the Orthodox Church. For ecclesiastical crimes, Filaret was in 1992 deprived of his episcopal dignity and of divine power in the performance of church sacraments.

However, bishops, like all people, live in the modern world and are affected by outside influences. This is what happened with the head of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Bartholomew. In 2018, the multimillionaire and then president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko went to Istanbul to Patriarch Bartholomew and requested a legalization document (tomos) for the unrecognized Ukrainian churches, the UOC-KP and the UAOC. At the same time, pressure was put on the UOC so that it would join these breakaway structures.

Thus, at the end of 2018, Bartholomew revoked the act of 1686 transferring the Kyiv Metropolis to the Russian Church. He reinstated Filaret in his priesthood and retroactively recognized all rites performed by the anathematized metropolitan. The two churches were united under the name the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU).

At that time, the UOC was twice as big as the OCU. Millions of Ukrainians call themselves parishioners of the UOC throughout the country. However, this did not bother either Bartholomew or Poroshenko. The latter began to implement a campaign throughout the media where the UOC was called the “Moscow Church” and the OCU the “Ukrainian,” although there are only Ukrainians in both denominations.

If you think that the United States stood aside while this was unfolding, you are mistaken. The State Department and politicians of both parties carried out work to promote the new church. Two months before the creation of the OCU in 2018, Filaret and Epifaniy met in the United States with Joe Biden, who declared his gratitude for their work. State Department Ambassador for Religious Freedom Samuel Brownback, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and special representative for Ukraine Ambassador Kurt Volker declared their support for this project.

For a time, it seemed that the seizure of UOC churches was at an end. However, the Russian Special military operation in Ukraine, alongside the support for that invasion by the leadership of the Russian Church in Moscow, changed everything. Seizures of UOC churches resumed, carried out by the forces of radicals without the participation of the central government. And this was only the calm before the storm.

Zelenskyy and Ukrainian officials brought down repressions on the UOC; in comparison, Poroshenko’s methods seemed like child’s play.

Cathedrals and monasteries were searched by Ukrainian SBU officers (photo), who reported that they allegedly found evidence of collaboration between bishops and priests of the UOC and ‘the enemy’.

These findings were often ridiculous. Security officials exhibited photos of children’s bibles, prayer books, old liturgical books, archival collections of newspapers and magazines featuring the words “Russian,” and Christmas or Easter sermons of the Russian Church patriarch. In cases where there was nothing to find, the special services planted compromising evidence themselves.

Fox News journalist Tucker Carlson assessed the situation accurately: “Zelenskyy’s secret police have raided monasteries across Ukraine, and even a convent full of nuns, and arrested dozens of priests for no justifiable reasons whatsoever and in clear violation of the Ukrainian Constitution, which no longer matters. And in the face of this, the Biden’s administration has said nothing. Not one word. Instead, they continue to push to send Zelenskyy more tax dollars.”

Carlson is absolutely right. The president, in violation of Ukrainian laws, imposed sanctions against Ukrainian bishops and then revoked the Ukrainian citizenship of some other bishops, despite the fact that this clearly contradicts the Constitution.

However, it seems that Zelenskyy is set to completely outlaw and destroy the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. On January 20, a bill on the de facto ban of the UOC was submitted to parliament.

It marks a return to a shameful era when a state in the center of Europe intends to crack down on the religion of its own people.

International Affairs

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Burkina Faso: Former colony orders French troops to leave

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A soldier from Burkina Faso stands guard along the border with Mali and Niger during a military operation against terrorist suspects.(file photo) © Michele Cattani

Burkina Faso has demanded the withdrawal of French troops stationed on the territory of the West African nation, local media reported, citing a government decision. Relations between Paris and its former colony have been on a downward spiral for months now, with the local population blaming France for their security problems.

Agence d’Information du Burkina (AIB) reported that the government of Burkina Faso had suspended a 2018 agreement with France, which regulated the deployment of its service members in the country. Paris now has one month to remove its soldiers, the agency said.

France currently has 400 troops in the African country, who are stationed there as part of efforts to combat Islamist terrorist groups in the region.

In November 2022, French President Emmanuel Macron officially announced the end of anti-insurgent ‘Operation Barkhane’ in the Sahel region, which has been largely viewed as a failure. In doing so, France also vowed to “reduce the exposure and visibility of [its] military forces in Africa.”

The Sahel is a region in northern Africa that includes Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, and a number of other neighboring countries.

Paris ended another military mission in neighboring Mali last August after relations went sour, with the government calling France’s military involvement “not satisfactory.”

Hundreds of people protested in the Burkina Faso’ capital Ouagadougou against the French military presence, chanting anti-French slogans.

Mohamed Sinon, one of the main leaders of the collective that called the demonstration, said it was to show support for junta leader Traore and the security forces fighting jihadists. “We are a pan-African movement and we want cooperation between Burkina Faso and Russia, but also the strengthening of friendship and of cooperation with Guinea and Mali,” he added.

Protesters carried huge posters showing the presidents of Mali and Guinea — both of whom also came to power in coups — as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A source close to the government clarified it was “not the severance of relations with France. The notification only concerns military cooperation agreements”.

Sources familiar with the matter told AFP that France’s preferred option would be to redeploy its forces in the south of neighbouring Niger, where nearly 2,000 French soldiers are already stationed.

French troops withdrew from Mali last year after a 2020 coup in the former French colony saw its rulers also inch closer to Russia.

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