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Russia and the Militarization of churches

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Perhaps this new complex and complex global analysis, the features of which the Egyptian researcher monitored meticulously to record and analyze all its chapters and scenarios for a long time, was about (the relationship between humanitarian asylum in Germany for religious reasons and the role of the religious factor in the decision of the Russian invasion of Ukraine). The uniqueness of it has large analytical areas, compared to the other military and economic aspects of the same crisis. Here, I monitored the statements of German Admiral  (Kay Achim Schönbach), commander of the German Navy, on the necessity of (extending the relationship between Christian Russia and Germany and the West in the face of atheist communist China), then analyzing the relationship of this mainly between the increase in requests for humanitarian asylum in Germany for religious reasons, that is, after “changing their religion from Islam to Christianity”, through the Egyptian researcher’s observation of hundreds of cases actually and the German welcome by granting them humanitarian and religious asylum, then my close follow-up to the issue of “Germany and the West’s politicization of Christianity in Russia to confront communist China in the crises of Ukraine and Taiwan, leading to the hidden Turkish role in Constantinople to fuel the ongoing ecclesiastical conflict between priests and the Christian religious men in both Russia and Ukraine”, until the hour of Russia’s declaration of the actual military war against Ukraine, and my presentation of that extensive analytical study on (the role of the religious factor in the first place and the employment of the sacred religious dimension of Christianity for political and intelligence reasons as a primary determinant of the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine at the instigation and role of Turkey  hidden through the Constantinople Church in Istanbul).

 The Russian Eastern Orthodox Church played (an important role in the Russian army before and during the military invasion and entry of Ukraine), and the most prominent scenes that caught the deeply analytical for Egyptian researcher to reach out to (my new analysis of the church’s role during military operations in Ukraine, and my viewing of recordings of Russian military churches  mobile during the conflict, meaning: the moving hurches whose mission is to accompany the Russian military units in military operations in Ukraine). It became one of the most prominent analytical and explanatory scenes for me, which the whole world neglected at the expense of (analysis of the military operations themselves), are pictures of the priest’s blessing of Russian weapons in the battlefields and the battle against Ukraine, and even the priest’s keenness to accompany the soldiers and officers of the Russian army and to establish and perform prayers with the soldiers and spread enthusiasm among them religious sermons.

  The Egyptian researcher was able to monitor and analyze all the hidden religious scenes of the ecclesiastical conflict between Russian and Ukrainian priests, with a hidden Turkish religious role through the “Constantinople Patriarchate in Istanbul, Turkey”, by politicizing its role by recognizing the independence of the Ukrainian Eastern Orthodox Church from the Russian in September 2018, which escalated the matter to the current events. The military conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which confirms the Egyptian researcher’s viewpoint, academically and carefully, on the background of the church-religious conflict between the cathedrals of Russia and Ukraine and its priests, monks and priests, through the Turkish support in Constantinople for Ukraine in the face of Russia, which deepened the current crisis and its military escalation between the two sides. The Russians and the Ukrainians are primarily motivated by ecclesiastical religious motives, which I can analyze to understand my deep view on this, as follows:

 The Egyptian researcher noticed the significance of that (the close relationship between the church and the army in Russia during the era of President “Putin”), which began with the construction of the Russian Armed Forces (a large independent cathedral for the Russian army and its own Russian military institution) in Moscow, which was inaugurated in 2020. It is the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ for the Russian Armed Forces in the capital, Moscow, in celebration of the 75th anniversary of Russia’s victory in World War II, and to celebrate the successes and achievements of the Russian army and its military victories in the wars it fought.

  On the other hand, we will find the extent of (the strong agreement between President “Putin” and the senior leaders of the Russian army, senior priests and Christian clergy in Russia), with the constant concern of the Moscow Patriarch “Reverend Kirill”, to deliver enthusiastic speeches expressing the pride of the Russian Orthodox Church. The East, its priests and its people with the Kremlin and the Russian army, with the direct and quick response from President “Putin” and the leaders and soldiers of his army to exchange the same feelings of pride for the Russian Orthodox Church.  The Egyptian researcher stopped at the speech of the Patriarch of Moscow “Reverend Kirill”, and his speech in one of his religious speeches with political and military meaning, about:

  “The Church’s role in ensuring the spiritual unity of the peoples in the states based on the lands of “historic Russia”, as well as its importance in protecting the system of “Orthodox values ​​that the sacred Russian civilization carries to the world”

  On the other hand, the statements of Ukrainian President “Zelensky” and his supporters, came in declaring that many Ukrainians refused to support the Russian priest “Kirill” for the rebels in eastern Ukraine, specifically in the two separate regions that caused the current crisis in eastern Ukraine, namely: (Donetsk and Lugansk). While the response of the Russian presidency in the Kremlin came, is that: “it will not interfere in the decisions of the Russian Orthodox Church in support of its own without pressure on the decisions of President “Putin” and his army commanders”. The Russian government confirmed that:

  “Moscow’s preferred scenario, of course, is the unity of the Orthodox world, noting that this information about the decisions regarding the Ukrainian Church in support of complete separation from the Russian Orthodox Church raises concern in Russia, and that conflict between the clergy in Ukraine and Russia is “a matter of dialogue between churches in  The end of the matter is, and states cannot interfere in it”

    The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia considers the Russian priest “Kirill”, as an ally of Russian President “Vladimir Putin”, and his strongly opposition to the independence of the “Kyiv Patriarchate in Ukraine”, which is trying to win the recognition of the “Patriarch of Constantinople in Turkey”. Russia sees Ukraine as “the true historical cradle of the Russian Orthodox Church”.

  In my personal opinion, and in my analysis of “the centrality of the Turkish religious role in Constantinople regarding the ongoing ecclesiastical conflict between Russia and Ukraine”, and the surprises that the future may hold regarding the Turkish intervention in the Ukrainian-Russian crisis from another new door, which is the “religious factor”, and given the consideration  Turkey is the headquarters of the “Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople”, which is based in Istanbul, and its patriarch bears the title of “Ecumenical Patriarch”, and is the spiritual leader of more than 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world. And here the danger comes in (the Turkish government’s requirement that those elected to this important international ecclesiastical position be a holder of Turkish citizenship).

  Through my analysis of the actual developments of the scene between (Turkey and the parties to the Ukrainian and Russian crisis), I actually felt a “hidden Turkish role in igniting this ecclesiastical and religious crisis of the dispute between the two Orthodox churches in Russia and Ukraine”, given (the Russian Orthodox Church’s decision to cut off its “diplomatic relations” with the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Turkey in September 2018 for its support of the Ukrainian Church against Russia), with its authority over more than 300 million Orthodox Christians, as well as its authority over thousands of cathedrals and Orthodox churches around the world. This was evident with the (Patriarch of Constantinople in Turkey, Reverend Bartholomew, actually recognizing the independence of the Church of Ukraine in September 2018 from the Patriarch of Moscow “Reverend Kirill”, a step considered by the Russian authorities to politicize religion and its use by Turkey for purely political purposes.

 I can analyze the Russian position regarding the politicized intervention by the “Constantinople Church in Istanbul”, by escalating the Russian position by the “Russian Patriarch Kirill” and declaring his boycott of the Constantinople Church in Turkey, and his boycott of the name of “Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew” and not mentioning it in his prayers. Then the ecclesiastical Russian position was further escalated through (giving high ecclesiastical orders in Russia with clear political and intelligence motives to stop all priests in churches and monasteries affiliated with the Moscow Patriarchate from mentioning the name of the Ecumenical Patriarch “Bartholomew” in all their prayers).

  As stated (the political exploitation of religion in Russia, through the threat announced by the Moscow Patriarchate to separate completely from the Patriarchate of Constantinople in Turkey), especially in the event of the continuation of these “opposed activities to the canon law by the Patriarch of “Bartholomew” of the Constantinople Patriarchate”. Here, we can find out that “Bishop Hilarion”, who is responsible for external relations in the Moscow Patriarchate, described this development as:

  “The help and support of the Constantinople Patriarchate in Istanbul, Turkey, for the Ukrainian Patriarchate in the face of Russia, is a real breakdown in ecclesiastical relations between Russia and Ukraine with the help of Constantinople, which may be analogous to the severing of diplomatic relations between countries”

  Here, and based on (my previous connection to the internal religious events in Russia and the ecclesiastical conflict between Russian and Ukrainian priests), this was accurately represented in my mind, during my long pause to reflect on one of the most prominent events that stopped the Egyptian researcher, namely the statements of the commander of the navy.  German Admiral (Kay Achim Schönbach) during his attendance at a study group meeting, which has been held in the Indian capital, New Delhi, in describing the accusations of “NATO” members against Russia of preparing to invade Ukraine, by affirming that: “as being a devout Christian, Catholic, he thinks that they are in a need for a Christian Russia in the face of China, and here it does not matter which religion the Russian President “Putin” himself embraces, whether he is a Christian or an atheist”.  It is the video clip, which spread globally in an unimaginable way, despite Admiral Schönbach’s assertion that they are personal statements that express his personal convictions and philosophy and are not official or express the general orientation of the German state or the policy of “NATO” members.

 However, these statements caused Admiral “Schönbach” to have a violent revolution, whether within China or Russia itself, in whose circles the analyzes took place, that what is happening is:

 “Perhaps West German intelligence attempts, led by Washington, to confuse religion and politics, and cause global chaos, because of the US policy of fallacies in using the debt card for political reasons, or what became known in China as “deliberate American politicization of all issues in China and Russia, which perhaps  The last of them came or appeared in “politicizing the debt file for security and military reasons”

 Perhaps my close follow-up to the decision of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, coupled with reading some “indirect hints from some historians in the West”, and their explanatory view, that (the religious factor may have played a role in the decision of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the linking of the two Orthodox churches in Russia and Ukraine, to make the Orthodox Church spearhead in Putin’s project to raise Russian nationalism with Christian religious manifestations, and to give it a national dimension), as a powerful tool to support his political ideology in Russia, and to nourish and multiply the national dimension that was prepared for him by employing his religious esteem and consideration  Intelligence in Putin’s thought, paving the way for Russia to be a major Christian superpower around the world and linking it to the national dimension of its people to revive the Soviet and ancient historical heritage of their homeland.

 We will find that President “Putin” was rejecting the idea of ​​separating the Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox churches from each other, so “Putin” made great efforts to (support the Orthodox Church financially, morally and politically before his invasion of Ukraine as a factor of attraction for the masses in both regions around him, and to mobilize Christians around the world  around him as well), starting with his plan to restore the holdings of churches that were sold and abandoned during the old communist era of Russian history, and the most importantly for“Putin”was the keenness first to (build thousands of churches and cathedrals and renovate the rest, in addition to including an article on Orthodox culture in the school curricula).

  Perhaps the Egyptian researcher’s analysis was in agreement with what the prominent American historian “Diana Butler Bass”, who is a specialist in the history of Christianity around the world, said, where the conclusion of the conclusion of the thought of the historian “Butler Bass” came that (the Russian invasion of Ukraine is nothing but a new chapter in restoring the Soviet and ancient historical heritage) from Putin’s point of view, so the main goal of Putin’s war on Ukraine is his desire to revive those nationalist feelings the ancient religious holy sites, by “celebrating Easter mass in the Ukrainian capital, “Kyiv”.

  The Egyptian researcher found, in this new proposition of the American historian “Diana Butler Bass”, that it indeed has some relevant analytical considerations, given the vision of Christian historians and priests in the world, that:

 “The Ukrainian capital, “Kyiv” for Orthodox Christians, is a Jerusalem for Christians and for all heavenly religions around the world, so the conflict “over Ukraine is also a struggle over any Orthodox Church that will mark the face of Eastern Europe”

  Therefore, the Egyptian researcher tried to return to the ancient Russian history, to understand and comprehend (the extent of the importance of Christianity as a determinant and sacred factor in the history of the old Tsarist Soviet state, and the extent of its relationship with the newly established Russian state and with President “Putin”), and even more prominent to me, is: whether this sacred religious factor or consideration is clear in the mind of the Russian President “Vladimir Putin” during his invasion of Ukraine? The result of my analysis of this new academic matter is:

 “The military operations announced by the Russians against Ukraine is no less important than that “crusade to recover the holy orthodox lands from Western heretics”

 The Egyptian researcher has found that the reason for this is the Russian invasion of Ukraine, perhaps (part of it is actually due to the great symbolism of the city of “Kyiv” as the capital of Ukraine in the history of Orthodox Christianity), as it played a founding role in the history of the Soviet era, given that “Kyiv” is considered the first foothold of the Orthodox Christian doctrine, the Russian and even international collective consciousness.

  Perhaps the immediate reason behind the relationship between (the sacred religious importance of the city of “Kyiv” and President Putin’s invasion of it), made the Egyptian researcher re-read a dangerous analysis that she realized how important and dangerous it is now to the British journalist and pastor “Gil Frazier”, in an article already published on the “Ann Herald” website, comparing the similarities between today’s President “Vladimir Putin” and “Vladimir I”, the prince of Kyiv between 978 and 1510, called “the Great Vladimir”.

  Accordingly, we find that “Putin”, regardless of his personal religious convictions, may have wanted through the Ukraine crisis (to employ traditional orthodox Christian values ​​for political influence and to revive nationalist principles among the Russian citizens). But, on the other hand, perhaps it was nothing more than (using the religious dimension and linking it to the nationalist in President “Putin” was just a functional tool to achieve its goals against Ukraine), as “Putin” is keenly to show a religious or religious side when showing his image. He was very secretive about his upbringing and private life.

  It may have been (President Putin’s intelligence use of the weapon of religion and religiosity when he invaded Ukraine, and it was carefully employed and used during a short period to confirm his idea). His neck parted, and sometimes he deliberately showed it publicly at other times prior to his invasion of Ukraine, and rumors spread that the Egyptian researcher had analyzed in an academic way that she might have (intelligence motives for President “Putin’s” intelligence service), that this chain or necklace was a gift from his Christian mother and his religious Orthodox Christian family. On the day of his baptism in the church at his birth in the early fifties, as an analytical reference to the use of the religious dimension in his upbringing and linking it to the current situation that he intends behind the invasion of Ukraine, regarding (returning the glories of the old Soviet state in reviving the Orthodox Christian religious issue, and not accepting the principle of the separation of the Ukrainian Church from its extension  within Russia).

  The Middle East may have been present in President Putin’s use of the weapon of Christian religion and religiosity, and his permanent public wearing of that (the large chain or necklace around his neck of the Christian cross sign), which President “Putin” once indicated as a blessing he had obtained during  his visit to the tomb of Jesus Christ, (during a visit by President “Putin” to Israel while he was an officer in the Russian intelligence service in the 1990s).

  President Putin was also keenly to (permanently promoting his religiosity and wrapping his speech in Christian religious premises around which the majority of the population of the religious Orthodox Christian masses in Russia and the adjacent or adjacent borders surround him), by promoting “Putin” that this necklace is in the shape or form of a cross equipped with the blessing of Christ, as it was one of the few items that survived a fire that destroyed his entire family home, but despite the fire, the Lord saved it from his blessing. Hence, the Egyptian researcher understood, that (all those details, stories, and tales that President “Putin” is now promoting about the cross, the blessing of Christ, the issue that condemns him, his upbringing, baptism, and others, it seems that they appear to be selected and very carefully chosen in order to give him a legendary dimension, and to establish the image of “Putin”, as a faithful figure among his Russian people and religious Christian peoples around the world).

 Based on the idea that President “Putin” and his intelligence apparatus were keen to highlight the religious dimension to him, before his military invasion of Ukraine, the Egyptian researcher realized, by returning only to history, that there is (there is a great similarity between the current Russian President “Vladimir Putin” and the Christian Prince of Kyiv” Emperor Vladimir”, and their joint war to suppress and eliminate the separatists and their rebels). For example, you will find that “Emperor Vladimir” in Ukraine, after celebrating his victory over all those rebels against him “converted to Christianity and made it the religion of his Ukrainian people as well”.  Hence, given the importance of that founding moment in Russian history, we can imagine that Russian President “Putin” has read the history of the Christian Prince of Kyiv “Emperor Vladimir”, therefore, he aspires to restore the city of Kyiv, as the “mother city of Russian Orthodoxy”, a reminder of its “Great Gloria’s of Vladimir”.

  Perhaps this introduction and this new analysis globally is the best way to understand Admiral Schönbach’s statements, and to link them with all official statements issued by the German government to deny and reject what Admiral “Schönbach” said regarding “the sacred Christian joint between Russia, Germany and the West”. The first official move by the German Ministry of Defense came to reject these statements, and to stress that they “absolutely do not match the position of the German Defense Ministry”. Which prompted German Defense Minister “Christine Lambrecht” to request an urgent video meeting with the German Chief of Staff “Eberhard Zorn”, to determine how to address this issue and the major crisis related to Admiral Schönbach’s statements, given that they embarrass Germany’s position internationally.  Schonbach’s statements, on the other hand, also provoked strong resentment among the members of the government of the Social Democratic Chancellor himself “Olaf Scholz” and those close to him.

  But, the matter was different for the Egyptian researcher, who was present for a year to study at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in Sweden, and her close proximity during that period, and until this moment, to a number of Arabs and Muslims from the category of asylum seekers, whether (for political or humanitarian reasons), including, of course, religious ones related to changing one’s belief or religion. The observation is that hundreds of Muslim and Arab asylum seekers, most of them “Iranians and Afghans”, requested asylum on humanitarian grounds, specifically religious, in view of changing their religion from Islam to Christianity, which poses a serious threat to their lives in their countries of origin. In Germany as well, asylum requests continued for religious reasons, and a number of Muslims and Arabs changed their religion in (Trinity Evangelical Church) on the outskirts of the capital, “Berlin”.

  On the personal, academic and analytical level, I was struck by an important analysis in this regard by the former German chancellor, “Angela Merkel”, in which she had stated that what Germany is witnessing now from the increase in asylum requests for religious reasons, is something that will “change our country in the coming years”. The most dangerous thing for me is Chancellor Angela Merkel’s assertion that:

 “Germany will grant protection to those who need it because of a change of religion, but those who have not been granted asylum will be forced to return home quickly”

    Among the most prominent Muslims who changed their religion to Christianity in Germany, was the Afghan refugee “Muhammad Ali Zenobi”, who became called “Martin”, where he appeared in a video clip during his conversion to Christianity and his conversion to Christianity at the hands and supervision of the German priest “Martens Gottfried”, who was sprinkling him with holy water, by asking him: “Are you going away from Satan and his evil deeds?, will you abandon Islam?”, the Afghan refugee “Muhammad Ali Zenobi” has replied him of… Yes.

  When the German priest “Martens Gottfried” was asked about his conviction in the issue of converting some people to Christianity and entering Christianity in order to seek asylum for religious reasons in Germany, the surprise for the Egyptian researcher personally, were the assertions of “Reverend Gottfried”, certainly:

  “He knows very well that some have changed their religion in order to improve their chances of staying in Germany, but he does not consider this important since the majority, according to his opinion, convert to Christianity with conviction, given that only 10% of those who converted to Christianity did not return to the church after baptism”

  Here, it is mentioned that conversion from Islam to Christianity in countries, such as: (Afghanistan or Iran), may be punished with imprisonment or death, and therefore it is unlikely that Germany will deport Iranian and Afghan refugees to their countries after their conversion to Christianity. Also (most of the names of candidates for baptism in the church are not mentioned, that is, to enter the Christian religion in the churches of Europe and Germany in general, for fear of the repercussions of this matter on their families in their countries of origin).

 Complaints have increased in a large number of European churches and their priests, as well as in Christian Scandinavian countries, such as: (Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway), that their churches are complaining because of the dwindling and small number of believers, that is, those who come to the church and continue to pray and worship, and here  The Egyptian researcher read a statement by German priest “Martens Gottfried”, in which he has seen that:

  “His group of converts to Christianity from Islam has doubled from 150 refugees to more than 600 believers converting to Christianity, in just two years, thanks to the new refugees, especially those Muslims who converted from Islam to Christianity”

  Perhaps the most serious and serious matter for the Egyptian researcher is (most of these Muslim and Arab asylum applicants deliberately travel for religious humanitarian reasons in order to convert to Christianity in Germany to where the German priest “Martens Gottfried” resides), so some of these asylum applicants came from distant cities in Germany, such as: (Rostock, near the Baltic Sea), because “Reverend Martens Gottfried” has become known for helping everyone, especially Muslims converts to Christianity, in the success and passage of asylum applications for humanitarian religious reasons, and this became a common issue in the “German refugees society”, especially these new refugees.

 The paradox or analysis and interpretation, which may have made me stop as an academic at the statements of the German Admiral “Schönbach” regarding his linking to the element of Russian-German rapprochement and the countries of the West, given the religion of the Russian and German majority, which is Christianity, and then (analyzing the extent of its seriousness to him, whether for personal reasons related to him or for the interests of its affects on his German state, especially with Germany witnessing an unprecedented influx of asylum seekers for religious reasons related to changing the Islamic faith to Christianity), with all expectations predicting that the number of asylum applicants and immigrants to Germany will double, at large rates approaching 800,000 refugees or immigrants to Germany, which is four times more than the past years, which the German state has absorbed.

   As for my academic analysis of German Admiral Schönbach’s statements regarding the use of (the element of religion in politics, and the management of the political conflict between China and the world through a new pressure paper, related to the element of the Christian religion, as it is the religion of the majority in the Russian state), and what is new to me is the vision of “Schönbach” for how to use the element of the Christian religion in this new confrontation with communist China. In my opinion, and according to my vision of reality as I mentioned in the introduction to the analysis, there is actually support for this new theory or proposition, regarding “politicizing religion for political reasons”, given that the city of Moscow, the capital of Russia, is considered (the capital of the Eastern Orthodox Christian religion in the world). It includes “the seat of the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church”, as Moscow was called so, due to the large number of its churches, so that it was called “the city of the forty churches”. Christianity is also dominant in the Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

   The Ukrainian Church’s announcement of its separation from the Russian Church dealt a “serious blow to the ambitions of President “Putin” and the Russian Church on several levels, as Orthodox Ukrainians represent 30% of all Christians affiliated with the Moscow Patriarch”. The separation of the Ukrainian Church from the Russian one is meaning (the loss of millions of followers, and the loss of millions of dollars of church property).  In this context, some consider that one of the factors that paved the way for the current Russian invasion was (the separation of the Ukrainian Church from the Russian Church in September 2018, as it had been a part of it since 1686).

  When announcing the separation in 2018 between the Ukrainian Church from the Russian one, he described the former Ukrainian President “Petro Poroshenko”, as: “It constitutes a victory for the faithful people of Ukraine over the demons of Moscow”. While President “Putin” blamed Ukrainian politicians for “interfering in church affairs, and for his right to protect his country’s right to protect freedom of worship”.

  The declaration of the independence of the Ukrainian Church from the Russian one led to (the creation of a wider split at the level of the Orthodox churches in Russia and on its borders), especially with the announcement of the Russian Church’s separation from the Orthodox family, in protest against the role of the clergyman “Bartholomew I”, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, in (issuance of the decree recognizing the new Ukrainian Church in the face of the Russian).

 The Egyptian researcher here tried to make a strange and new link at the time, between “Schönbach’s statements”, and the dangerous statements of the internationally known historical Russian cosmonaut “Krasnov”, who is known for his atheism, and his hostility to everything that is religious in the country.  Krasnov” to the famous saying attributed mainly to the Russian historical cosmonaut “Gagarin”, when he said, after successfully carrying out his mission in space, by asking him: “I went into space and did not see God there”, and that particular phrase was one of the most prominent founding propaganda sayings of communism  Soviet “atheist”. Therefore, “Krasnov” never expected, that he would be brought to trial in Russia for “overthrowing the government and the state in Russia”, as a result of his discussions on the Internet, during which he described the Bible as “a collection of Jewish stories and legends that are nothing but sheer nonsense”, from his point of view.

   In March of 2016, the house of the Russian cosmonaut “Krasnov” was stormed by elements of the Russian police, before he was subjected by a federal judge to a (mental disclosure request of his mental and psychological integrity and the extent of his balance to ensure his eligibility for trial on charges of “insulting the feelings of believers”, and it was considered the strangest accusation, perhaps in the history of all of Russia since the Soviet era), and “Krasnov” or others did not expect the seriousness of the government of Russian President “Putin” in its application, until he officially announced that accusations against him in mid-2013.

  What is analytically remarkable for the Egyptian researcher in this context, is “analysis of the extent of the seriousness and danger and even the indication of the timing”, in which the Russian President “Vladimir Putin” approved a controversial law criminalizing insulting the feelings of the religious in the country, and stipulates (a prison sentence of up to a year,  If the “insulting” act is issued outside the places of worship, and it may reach three years if it is issued inside one of these places).

   In view of the German Admiral Schönbach’s attention about the Christian majority in Russia, and the Egyptian researcher’s reference to a number of academic researches on this matter, it is noted that there are no official statistics about religion or the numbers of adherents to religion in Russia, and estimates are based on a number of reasonable surveys, according to statistics (the American Research Center) in 2010, it is estimated that more than 74% of the population of Russia are Christians.  Whereas, the “CIA World Facebook” issued in 2010 indicates that 72% of Russians are almost Christians, and the same percentages were estimated by a number of think tanks and international statistics, such as: (Arena Foundation, Levada Center Statistics), and others. About 95% of the registered Orthodox dioceses belong to the (Russian Orthodox Church), while there are a smaller number of churches with other ecclesiastical denominations. For example: (Protestant churches, or special churches for the Christian Jew sect, or for Jews who converted to Christianity). There are a number of other Eastern Christian churches, such as: (The Church of the Old Believers, the Belarusian Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Assyrian Church of the East, the Armenian Apostolic Church), and others.

   By following the scene in China as an expert in Chinese political affairs, I found that there are vague fears in the Political Bureau of the ruling Communist Party in China about those Western and German calls in support of the establishment of a (large Christian alliance that includes Russia as a large Christian country with Germany and the West in a confrontation with the atheist Communist China). Specifically, these statements were made primarily by the German Navy Commander, Admiral “Kay Achim Schönbach”, but because of them he was forced to resign, because of his statements that embarrassed Germany and angered Ukraine itself in the face of German policies that support Russia by virtue of sharing the Christian religion or belief together.

   To clarify the previous point directly, and through my understanding of the situation and the pattern of Chinese thinking, and mainly fearing of (the entry of the “religion” element as a guide to conflicts and the mobilization of countries, regimes and peoples in confronting them), which of course is not favored by China, such as the case of the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, in the same framework. The senior leaders in the Political Bureau of the ruling Communist Party in China were afraid, because of what they considered that “Germany and the West might use the common weapon of the Christian religion with Russia to confront Chinese influence alone by playing on the chord and sensitivity of the issue of religion and not politics”, especially with what the German naval commander saw Admiral “Kay Achim Schönbach”, in his explicit and new call to China, emphasized: “We need a Christian Russia against an atheist communist China”

  There were faint whispers within the Communist Party of China and its senior leaders, because of what they considered to be a “Western and German school of thought capable of developing over time by introducing the element of religion into politics, and deliberately mixing them up”, which is why faint consultations took place from China’s leaders, in order to draw the Russia’s attention to the German and Western game that Washington is leading in their confrontation, which came in the form of reassuring phrases that:

 “This religious game, by mixing the elements of religion and politics, Putin knows perfectly well, and he knows all its dimensions”

  Based on this comprehensive new analysis, and our understanding of the nature of Chinese fears of politicizing religion and its use in the political and military conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and making (religion as a major global confrontation between Christian countries in the face of the atheist communist policies of China, according to the perception of Germany and the West with it). Therefore, from the beginning, China refused to take any clear position regarding the attempts of the United States of America and the European Union to push it to oppose or agree to the positions of Russia and President “Putin” regarding the Russian recognition of the separatists in eastern Ukraine, specifically in the (Donetsk and Lugansk regions), in anticipation of the  China for any scenarios that involve religion in any political struggle in its face.

Associate Professor of Political Science, Faculty of Politics and Economics / Beni Suef University- Egypt. An Expert in Chinese Politics, Sino-Israeli relationships, and Asian affairs- Visiting Senior Researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES)/ Lund University, Sweden- Director of the South and East Asia Studies Unit

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Russia

Democracies failed attempt in Russia

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The Soviet Union was already on the edge of disintegration in the late 1980s. The country’s economy was strained by a costly military intervention in Afghanistan, which began in December 1979. Domestic issues, such as the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, sparked fury among Soviet residents, who felt empowered to express their discontent thanks to Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev’s democratic changes. These circumstances contributed to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991. More than a dozen new democracies erupted from the ashes of the Soviet Union. True democracy has a few fundamental qualities, such as free and fair elections, the role of the media, education, the judiciary, political parties, and religious tolerance, amongst many others. This research paper will look at how democracy hyped in the Soviet Union and the commonly used tools for democracy’s timely success and giving the theoretical perspective and also looking at the factors that proved to be hurdles in the way of liberal democracy for Russia.

Soviet Union was one of the world’s largest countries in the late 1800s. It stretches from Europe’s Black Sea to Asia’s Bering Straits in the Far East.  It was difficult to govern due of its enormous size. It almost had a population of over 125 million people. Ethnic Russians made up half of the group. The rest consisted of a vast number of; Germans, Poles, Slavs, Asians. Within the Empire, there were roughly twenty different nationalities. Each had their own dialect and traditions. Many people were unable to communicate in Russian. Within this diversified community, almost every major religion was represented. The Russian Empire was politically, economically, and socially backwards in comparison to Western Europe. There was minimal industry, and peasant farmers made up the vast majority of the population. In this research paper we will try to understand the factors involved in the fall of Soviet Union and the major events leading to the rise of democracy.

The Constructivist theory can be applied on the situation of Russia and the reason why democracy failed there. As according to the constructivist everything is socially constructed and generally accepted phenomena this makes anything widely right or wrong, acceptable or not acceptable. For example ruling or governing a country is more acceptable and proper when a democratic path is chosen and wrong when any other or slightly differing way is used. The western nations try to democratise the whole globe but it’s not possible, every nation should have a form of government that is suitable for its public not something that is induced by the west. Only considering the democratised nations modern and up to date is also because of the constructivist nature of the phenomena.

The Tsar

The Tsarist state system, which was well established in the Soviet Union, had taken a long time to build. The Tsar’s authority was bolstered by a number of factors. The ‘Pillars of Autocracy’ are what they’re called. Army, civil service, Orthodox, and Church were all mentioned. There was no elected parliament in the Empire until 1905, and there were no elections for government seats. Tsarist power could not be challenged through legal or constitutional means.  

Autocracy

A succession of Tsars presided over this large and diverse Empire. As autocrats, they ruled the country. This meant that only the Tsar could rule over Russia: Tsars felt that they had a divine right to rule Russia, and that God had bestowed their position and power upon them. Ministers were chosen by the Tsar, he could also remove them whenever he wanted. They were usually selected from the Royal family or the nobility. The civil service assisted the Tsar in running the empire by carrying out his orders and preserving his power. Their privilege was owed to the Tsar and was based on their services. This instilled loyalty since opposing him would result in the loss of power and status. The Russian civil service was considered as backward and greedy around the turn of the century: many civil officials were underpaid, resulting in widespread bribery. Years of service, rather than competence, were used to determine promotion. A massive police system enforced the Tsar’s order, reporting suspicious behaviour and destroying dissident groups: The secret police played a crucial role in tracking down and spying on adversaries. They had the authority to detain possible threats as needed. Okhrana agents worked undercover, infiltrating groups that could pose a threat to the Tsar. They acted on behalf of the Tsar and treated citizens as they thought would be proper. Torture and murder were among their tactics. Exile to a remote part of Siberia was a common punishment for opponents of the Tsar. Thousands of people who were considered enemies of the state were deported to Siberia. They were so far away that they had no prospect of posing a serious threat to Tsarist control.

Nicholas II

Tsar Nicholas II controlled Russia in 1894. He and his German-born wife Alexandra were staunch supporters of autocracy. He was, however, a weak individual who considered the mundane task of a king to be tedious. He was more interested in his personal matters than running the state affairs. Tsar Nicholas II, who was unsure of himself and indecisive, was readily swayed by persuasive government workers. He was not a reformist like his grandfather neither an oppressor like his father, knowing no where to begin he invited everyone to his coronation including the peasants. Seeing free food and drinks the poor people which lead to a stampede and 1500 died and got injured, the Khodyna Tragedy happened in May, 30th 1896. Soon after the tragedy Nicholas went to a party with the French due to which he was referred to as Nicholas, The Bloody. The rule of Tsars was quickly becoming outdated and the people were in search of new form of government and. for many the solution was simple looking at the west republics, democracies and constitutional monarchies. But a small group of people rejected the idea of following the west and were more interested in giving birth to a new idea called Communism.  Bolsheviks’

The Russian Social Democratic Labour Party gathered for their Second Party Congress on August 11, 1903, and the members voted. As a result, the Mensheviks (‘minority’) and the Bolsheviks (‘majority’) divided the party into two sections. In reality, the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, were a minority party that did not gain power until 1922. Differing opinions on party membership and ideology caused the party to split. Lenin envisioned the party as a forerunner of people devoted to a proletarian revolution. This helped the Bolsheviks gain popularity, and their tough stance against the bourgeoisie appealed to the younger generation.

Bloody Sunday On Sunday, January 22, 1905, everything was up in the air. Unarmed people were fired upon by the Tsar’s army during a peaceful protest led by a preacher in St Petersburg. There were 200 people dead and 800 injured. The Tsar’s subjects would never trust him again.

 The Social Revolutionary Party became the major political party, establishing the October Manifesto later that year, riding on the subsequent surge of popular outrage. The Bolsheviks were pushed by Lenin to adopt violent action, but the Mensheviks opposed these demands as compromising Marxist values. The Bolsheviks had 13,000 members in 1906, while the Mensheviks had 18,000. The Bolsheviks remained a minority group in the party in the early 1910s. Because Lenin was exiled in Europe and the Duma elections were boycotted, there was no political platform from which to campaign or gather support. Furthermore, revolutionary politics were not in high demand. The years 1906-1914 were mostly peaceful, and the Tsar’s moderate reforms deterred extremist backing. Rallying cries for national unity put the Bolsheviks’ demands for reform on the back foot when the First World War broke out in 1914.

World wars and its impact on the Socio-Politics of USSR

The Russian empire of Czar Nicholas II was one of the empires that fell apart during World War I. Nicholas was the undisputed monarch of a realm of nearly 150 million people stretching from Central Europe to the Pacific from the edge of Afghanistan to the Arctic when he declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary in July 1914. Nicholas was forced to abdicate less than three years later, in March 1917, after soldiers in Petrograd joined striking workers in protest of his authority. The Romanov dynasty’s three centuries of power came to an end in July when he and his family were dragged into a cellar by Bolshevik revolutionaries and shot and stabbed to death. The Soviet Union rose quickly from the ruins of the Russian empire to become a global force. Czar Nicholas II’s Russian empire was one of the empires that came apart during World War I. When Nicholas declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary in July 1914, he was the unchallenged ruler of a realm spanning about 150 million people from Central Europe to the Pacific, from the edge of Afghanistan to the Arctic. Nicholas was forced to abdicate less than three years later, in March 1917, when soldiers in Petrograd joined strikers in defiance of his authority. In July, Nicholas and his family were carried into a cellar by Bolshevik revolutionaries and shot and stabbed to death, bringing the Romanov dynasty’s three centuries of dominance to an end. From the ruins of the Russian empire, the Soviet Union rose quickly to become a global force. Historians continue to dispute whether World War I was a game-changer that triggered the Russian Revolution or merely hastened the inevitable collapse of an outmoded monarchy unfit to compete in the contemporary world. Russia was at a critical juncture prior to the conflict. “Some believe that before 1914, Russia was progressively adopting more modern political and social structures, that it had a lively culture, a highly educated elite, that it had survived the turmoil of the 1905 revolution, and that it had the world’s fastest-growing economy,” Miner adds. However, as he points out, the Czarist administration faced numerous dangers to its stability, ranging from deplorable urban working conditions to labour unrest, which the Czar’s army attempted to quell in 1912 by massacring gold miners in Siberia. To make matters worse, Nicholas II began to reverse the meagre democratic reforms to which he had consented in 1905. As a result of the archaic czarist regime’s drive to maintain power, “the Russian Empire trailed behind the rest of Europe in terms of economic and industrial strength,” according to Lynne Hartnett, a historian. As the consequences of its manufacturers couldn’t produce enough weaponry and ammunition to equip the Czar’s 1.4 million-man army, Russia became vulnerable in a conflict. The Russians had 800,000 men in uniform at the outset of the war who didn’t even have rifles to train with, and those who did had to make do with antiquated weaponry that were nearly 40 years old. Some soldiers were forced to fight unarmed until they were able to obtain a weapon from a soldier who had been killed or injured. Because Russia’s initial bullet output was only 13,000 rounds per day, they had to make every shot count.

The war swiftly devolved into a fiasco, with Russia suffering a humiliating defeat in the Battle of Tannenberg only a few weeks in. Approximately 30,000 Russian soldiers were killed or injured, and the Germans captured approximately 100,000. As the months went on, things didn’t get any better. The Russian empire had lost over one million troops by the end of the year. Russia’s ammunition supplies were nearly depleted, and the country’s infrastructure was ill-equipped to replace troops efficiently. Despite the fact that peasant soldiers suffered the most casualties, the most serious losses for regime stability were within the officer corps, when push came to shove in 1917, the army was not a reliable supporter of the monarchy. Despite the fact that Russia produced enough food to sustain its population during the war, Russians went hungry. The issue was not manufacturing but distribution and transportation, which resulted in frequent shortages. The czarist state’s inefficiencies began to erode political support. Russia had won World War I, the struggle that had brought an end to the Czarist monarchy, but there would be no peace. Later that year, civil war broke out between the Bolsheviks and regime opponents. The Bolsheviks eventually won, and a treaty establishing the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was signed in 1922.

The tale of the Soviet Union in World War II is one of many wars. When World War II began, the Soviet Union was virtually allied with Nazi Germany in a rather standard European interstate conflict. Despite the fact that the Germans did the most of the combat in Poland, the Soviet Union took control of the eastern half. The Soviet Union supplied Nazi Germany with huge supplies of crucial raw resources until June 22, 1941, when Germany began Operation Barbarossa. In addition, the Soviet Union provided Germany with access to the Far East, particularly rubber, which was transported across Siberia. It also battled Finland in the 1939–1940 “Winter War” and invaded Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and what is now Moldova in 1940. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, wanted Germany to provide greater technological assistance than it was willing to provide.  Part of Hitler’s motivation for conquering the country was to acquire its natural resources. The second war was fought over control of the Mediterranean and did not involve the Soviet Union. On June 22, 1941, the Germans launched an attack on the Soviet Union, possibly the largest single component of World War II. The Soviet Union became an ally of the United Kingdom and a beneficiary of US Lend-Lease aid almost overnight. In the Soviet Union and Russia, the “War on the Eastern Front” is known as the “Great Patriotic War.” It lasted 1,418 days, and between 26 and 27 million Soviet citizens, largely civilians, died as a result. The Soviet Union continued to engage the majority of German forces even after the Western Allies landed in Europe. The total number of Soviet soldiers killed on the battlefield was 8.7 million. Following Germany’s defeat, the Soviet Union entered the Pacific War, which had begun on December 7, 1941, with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. The Soviet Union attacked the Japanese Army in Manchuria on August 9, 1945, and it surrendered eight days later. The Soviet endeavour, particularly the sudden turn of events in 1942 and 1943, transformed a “pariah state” experimenting with a new economic and political system into a successful proponent of the same, as well as a space-bound superpower with resurrected imperial trappings. For example, the Soviet nuclear programme began in 1942. During the Cold War, the importance of its armed forces to the overall Allied victory was overlooked in the West. However, the reconciliation effort that began in the 1980s and the disintegration of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991 changed this.

End to the Mighty Soviet Union

During the Russian Revolution of 1917, revolutionary Bolsheviks deposed the Russian tsar and formed four socialist republics. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was formed in 1922 when Russia and her far-flung republics merged. Vladimir Lenin, a Marxist revolutionary, was the first leader of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was billed as “a pure democracy,” but it was just as restrictive as the czarist monarchy that preceded it in many ways. It was dominated by a single party, the Communist Party, which insisted that every Russian citizen pledge loyalty to it. Following the Dictator Joseph Stalin’s rise to power in 1924, the state took entire control of the economy, overseeing all industrial activities and constructing collective farms. It was also in charge of all aspects of political and social life. Those who spoke out against Stalin’s policies were either jailed and transported to gulags or executed. Stalin’s ruthless actions were criticised by Soviet authorities after his death in 1953, but the Communist Party remained in power. They concentrated on the Cold War with Western countries, in which they engaged in an expensive and deadly “arms race” with the US while using military force to suppress anticommunism and establish their hegemony in Eastern Europe.

Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev, a long-serving Communist Party official, was elected President of the Soviet Union in March 1985. He came into office with a stagnating economy and a political system that made reform nearly impossible. Gorbachev enacted two sets of policies in the hopes of making the USSR a more rich and productive country. Glasnost, or political openness, was the first of them. Glasnost removed remnants of Stalinist repression, such as book bans and the ever-present secret police, and granted Soviet citizens unprecedented freedoms. Political detainees have been released. Newspapers might publish government criticism. For the first time, elections were open to parties other than the Communist Party.

Perestroika, or economic restructuring, was the name given to the second series of reforms. Gorbachev believed that loosening the government’s control on the Soviet economy was the best way to resuscitate it. Individuals and cooperatives were allowed to own enterprises for the first time since the 1920s because he believed that private initiative would lead to innovation. Workers were given the freedom to strike in order to demand better pay and working conditions. Gorbachev was also a proponent of foreign investment in Soviet businesses.

These reforms, however, took a long time to produce fruit. The “command economy” that had kept the Soviet state afloat had been destroyed by Perestroika, but the market economy took time to evolve. Gorbachev’s initiatives seemed to have only one result: rationing, shortages, and long lines for scarce products. As a result, people became more dissatisfied with his government. Gorbachev believed that improving the Soviet economy necessitated improved relations with the rest of the world, particularly with the United States. Even as President Ronald Reagan dubbed the Soviet Union the “Evil Empire” and began a massive military build-up, Gorbachev declared that he would not participate in the weapons race. He declared that Soviet forces would be withdrawn from Afghanistan, where they had been fighting since 1979, and that the Soviet military presence in the Warsaw Pact countries of Eastern Europe would be decreased. This noninterventionist policy had significant consequences for the Soviet Union–for starters, it caused the Eastern European alliances to “crumble like a dry saltine cracker in just a few months,” as Gorbachev put it. The first revolution of 1989 occurred in Poland, where non-Communist trade unionists in the Solidarity movement negotiated with the Communist government for more liberal elections, which they won handily. As a result, nonviolent revolutions erupted across Eastern Europe. In November, the Berlin Wall came down, and in the same month, Czechoslovakia’s Communist government was overthrown by the “velvet revolution.”

This sense of possibilities rapidly spread throughout the Soviet Union. Frustration with the dismal economy, along with Gorbachev’s laissez-faire attitude toward Soviet satellites, sparked independence movements in republics on the periphery of the Soviet Union. The Baltic republics (Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia) declared their independence from Moscow one by one. Concerned members of the Communist Party in the military and government placed Gorbachev under house arrest on August 18, 1991. The official explanation for his detention was that he was “unable to lead due to health issues,” but the public knew otherwise. The coup leaders announced a state of emergency. The military advanced on Moscow, but human chains and residents erected barricades to protect the Russian Parliament. Boris Yeltin, the then-chairman of parliament, rallied the masses by standing on top of one of the tanks. After three days, the coup failed. On December 8, a newly liberated Gorbachev proceeded to Minsk to meet with the presidents of the Republic of Belarus and Ukraine, signing a deal that separated the two republics from the Soviet Union and established the Commonwealth of Independent States. “The Soviet Union as a topic of international and geopolitical reality no longer exists,” the accord stated. After a summit in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan, eight of the nine remaining republics declared their independence from the USSR a few weeks later. (Georgia became a member two years later.) Back in Moscow, Gorbachev’s star was fading, while Boris Yelstin, the man who had stood atop that tank in front of parliament, now controlled both parliament and the KGB. Gorbachev’s departure as president was unavoidable, and he stepped down on Christmas Day, 1991, declaring, “We’re now living in a new world.” The Cold War, the weapons race, and the country’s insane militarization, which have wrecked our economy, public attitudes, and morality, have all, come to an end.” The once-mighty Soviet Union had been demolished.

Democracies Failed attempt in Russia

Each of the liberal democratic canon’s features has been adopted in Russia, although in a strangely warped form. Its democracy reflected in a samovar, to quote Trotsky. Economic disintegration, rampant crime, the collapse of public morals, growing death rates, loss of international influence, and the continuation in power of most of the old communist-era elite have all accompanied its stumbling steps down the road to democracy. Western liberals generally blame these problems on Russia’s political culture or the personal traits of its leaders, rather than questioning the applicability and appropriateness of their own democratic model. Russia has failed democracy, not democracy that has failed Russia. In fact, limiting democracy to a collection of ideals and institutions using a checklist method is extremely foolish. Any consideration of politics is missing, including the struggle for resources and clashes of ideas among various social and political groupings. The premise is that once democratic norms and institutions are in place, political parties will arise to compete for votes, and sensible policies and effective governance would follow. Rather than a forum for policy resolution, democracy is considered as a source of political legitimacy. After all, according to the market democracy paradigm, the new Russian government had no choice but to liberalise the market. When you think about it, it’s a strange kind of democracy that starts by telling people they don’t have any other options.

Conclusion

The western nations need to learn the lesson that any political ideology is not forcibly induced upon a nation especially a country like Russia with a strong history of authoritarian regimes. Every nation has its own set of ways and rules to modernize its society and economy. For the most part, democracy in the USSR or Russia is not defined by what is contained in decent Western constitutions or university textbooks. It’s what happened once Communism fell apart in the country. Before 1991, democracy was regarded to be the best form of government. However, in Russia, elections were rigged, elderly people died hungry, tanks blew up the parliament, and colonial wars were launched. The Russians were all perplexed as to whether or not this was democracy. They looked to the West for guidance because western democratic governments were the ultimate source of guidance for them. However, due to differences in society’s upbringing and cultural norms, democracy could not flourish as much as it could in the West, and a more authoritarian regime was established.

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The Fate of Ukraine: Can the West Stop Russia?

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Image source: war.ukraine.ua

The options of financial containment are exhausting as Russia bristled through the last obstacle to its domination in the Luhansk province of Donbas. With the anticlimactic fall of the city of Lysychansk, Russian troops have turned to Kramatorsk and Slovyansk – the forefront cities in the neighboring Donetsk region. A heavy shower of artillery rocks both the cities as Russian forces (alongside the separatist fractions) are tilting toward drawn-out ground warfare to triumph over Ukraine’s southeast –  cementing a formation extending down to Crimea, the former southern-Ukrainian territory annexed by Russia in 2014. The strategic victory over Donbas would compensate for the initial failure in central Ukraine and allow Russia to regroup to eventually pressure Kyiv into surrender. Despite visible attrition in Russian forces, intense missile strikes have resumed in Kyiv and Kharkiv while Ukrainian defensive forces are preparing to launch a counteroffensive to reclaim Kherson. The Western coalition is privy to this subtle shift in momentum – albeit reacting a little too late!

The G7 summit was a mockery of the supposed resolve the West wished to portray. Banning gold imports from Russia and debating on an oil price cap was the highlight of the meeting (looking past the crude retorts by soon to be the ex-prime minister of the UK). Admittedly, the embargo on gold exports would hurt the Russian economy. Russia holds approximately $100-140 billion in gold reserves – about 20% of the total holdings of its central bank. Budgetary estimates reveal that gold is Russia’s second-most profitable export commodity – secondary only to energy exports. The ban would significantly dent trade as almost 90% of the gold export revenue comes from the G7 economies. And while Russia would still be able to streamline gold to alternative economies in Asia, the embargo would effectively “[deny] access to about $19 billion of revenues a year,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in his interview with CNN. Thus, the US is seemingly determined to tumble the Russian economy to cripple the Kremlin’s ambitions in Ukraine. The mantra is the same – cutoff maximum revenues to the point that Russia struggles to finance its war of attrition. Unfortunately, such strategies are not enough.

Placing an oil price cap on Russian supplies is trickier than banning gold imports. For starters, gold is not essential for economic and social survival and, frankly, not the basis of upheaval in many developed economies struggling with skyrocketing inflation. While gold exports cannot flow easily to alternate markets, Russia has been sufficiently successful in replacing Europe as the prime market for its crude supplies.

Six months since the invasion and revenues earned by Russia from oil exports are already up by more than 50%, according to a market report by the International Energy Agency (IEA). Since the invasion, Europe has relatively reduced its reliance on Russian oil while the US has absolutely banned crude imports from Russia. Still, India has procured roughly one-fifth of total Russian exports since the invasion – up from less than 1% pre-war quota. According to an exclusive Reuters report, Indian customs documents reveal that companies are rapidly replacing the US dollar to evade sanctions and purchase Russian energy supplies. In June alone, India imported roughly 44% of its 1.7 million tonnes of Russian coal via non-dollar settlements – either in yuan or the Hong Kong dollar. In July, that number increased over a fifth to a record high of 2.06 million tonnes.

Alternatively, China has been the core defiant force against Western pressure – despite not outright supporting Putin – terming sanctions against Russia as “illegal” and “Immoral”. China has also been a crucial economic lever for Russia – both symbolically and practically. According to the General Administration of Customs China, bilateral trade with Russia increased by 29% YoY during the first seven months this year. The most notably traded commodity is the Russian crude. Beijing imported roughly 55% more Russian oil in May compared to the same period last year, prodding Russia to replace Saudi Arabia as its biggest oil supplier. In combination, China and India have counterbalanced the revenue shortfall by $24 billion in energy imports from Russia – more than $13 billion in revenue compared to 2021. The US should now question: how exactly can a price cap work in this scenario?

According to official sources, the G7 coalition is considering placing a cap at $40-60 per barrel of Russian oil. However, the mechanism of implementation is still hazy. As of now, the ambitious plan to cap Russian oil revenues is still very much an ambition, without any concrete structure or broader consensus. On one hand, the G7 is considering to cap the oil revenues of Russia. On the other hand, the EU is easing payment restrictions for oil supply from Russian monopolies like Gazprom Neft and Rosneft. Many experts have questioned the viability of such a theoretical (and contradictory) policy. “The price cap policy would not put Russia under the immediate fiscal stress many expect,” said Mark Mozur, a market analyst at S&P Global Commodity Insights.

Failure to bring India and China on board would automatically tune the futility of the plan before it even gets launched. European insurance services provided to Russian oil cargoes could be replaced by Asian counterparts, assuming that the European companies would comply instead of overriding the cap to avoid a retaliatory cut back on oil supply from Russia. The recent slash in gas supplies through Nord Stream 1 (NS1) pipeline hints that Russia could potentially choke oil supply to Europe if a price cap is enacted. “As far as I understand, we won’t be supplying oil to those countries which would impose such price limits. And our oil (and oil products) will be redirected to the countries which are ready to cooperate with us,” said Elvira Nabiullina – Governor Russian Central Bank. According to the Russian Ministry of Finance, fossil fuel revenues have already surpassed last year’s budget projections. Thus, Russia is not short on finance for the remainder of this year. Yet a winter without Russian oil or gas would be a nightmare for a Europe already grappling with hyperinflation. Citing recent estimates by JP Morgan, if Russia resorts to retaliatory output cuts, the global oil prices could soar to around $380 per barrel. Hence, despite cutting export volumes, profits from oil sales would still flourish the Russian coffers. Ultimately, the superficial policy of a price cap could only spell doom – not just for Europe but for the entire global economy teetering on the cusp of a recession.

Mr. Richard Connolly – Director of the Eastern Advisory Group – perfectly sums my position: “For as long as the political will is there in the Kremlin and for as long as export prices remain high, I don’t see any immediate financial constraints confronting the Kremlin.” Thus, the desperate cartel-like strategies by the G7 economies only highlight the West’s constrained toolkit. Russia has successfully projected force in eastern Ukraine while simultaneously pressing intensely for Kyiv. The West, on the other hand, has focused on fortifying its own security instead of resolving the conflict in Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly exuded optimism – refusing to cede the captured territory to Russia and hoping to negotiate from a position of strength. However, that position would almost certainly falter by 2023 when Western aid starts to dry up. “No one expects another $54 billion [in aid to Ukraine],” said Peter Baker, the Chief White House correspondent for The New York Times.

The truth is, while the NATO expansion might detain Putin from launching another invasion in Europe; it would not impede Russia from further dismantling Ukraine. Perhaps the Western bloc should pause and consider a few harsh realities. Firstly, the prospective expansion of NATO was the very catalyst that sparked the invasion in the first place. And secondly, an embargo on Russian commodities would not substantially damage the Kremlin unless Asia (predominantly India and China) supports the western consensus. And that support would certainly not be gained by pressuring India or evoking tensions over Taiwan with China.

The skewed western logic evades common sense sometimes. The West is cautious not to supply advanced weaponry to Kyiv; avoid tilting the war against Russia to the point of risking a nuclear retaliation from Putin. However, advancing Ukraine to retrieve captured territory in the south is somehow a safer strategy. It is unbelievably naive! And I believe the US already realizes this paradoxical reality yet continues to push forward – to save face and prolong the defeat of its pseudo-democratic rhetoric. Understandably, a push for diplomacy with Russia – though the ethical path to prevent further bloodshed – would be a swift political death to President Biden, as he prepares his bid for re-election in 2024. Therefore, we should be ready for two outcomes: a segregated Ukraine or mass destruction in Europe.

Ultimately, these sanctions and strategies, the NATO induction of Finland and Sweden, and the supposed candidacy of Ukraine to the EU have done nothing to derail Russia. Putin shows no sign of distress while political and economic attrition is gradually gaining a foothold in the US-led coalition. And expecting Putin to hang his gloves just because the West is exhibiting its renewed post-cold war cohesion is as fantastical as expecting a Ukrainian victory against Russia without detrimental consequences. Wishful at best!

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The Moscow–Tehran Axis: Alliance without Rigid Obligations

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Image source: kremlin.ru

Russia and Iran are finding ever more points of convergence in their foreign policies and across the domain of economic cooperation. It is no coincidence that a record number of high-level visits between the two countries have taken place this year, the most recent being Vladimir Putin’s visit to Tehran to take part in the Syria summit of the leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran.

Fostering relations with Iran, along with the continued functioning of the Astana Process, demonstrate Moscow’s increasing use of pragmatism in its foreign policy: any non-Western power is a welcomed partner, even if there are contradictions and inconsistencies in its relations with Russia.

Biden in the Background

The Astana summit and Putin’s visit to Tehran came immediately after U.S. President Joe Biden’s tour of the Middle East. Despite numerous commentators suggesting that the Russian leader’s visit to Iran was a “response” to the initiative of the American president, there is no real substance to this argument. What Biden’s trip does do is place the trilateral meeting in the Iranian capital into a wider context.

The Middle East is one of those regions where the presence of the United States and Russia matters, although the dynamics of their engagement are diametrically opposed to one another. While Washington is gradually pulling out of the region that holds less and less allure for the White House, Moscow is doing exact the opposite, being increasingly pulled into the processes unfolding in the Middle East.

The basic approaches of the two sides differ as well. The United States has become accustomed to finding allies in the region so that they can become conductors of its policy, while at the same time looking for key troublemakers that it can try to contain and isolate. Russia, on the other hand, does not have friends or enemies in the region. Over the past decade, Moscow has been trying to act as a universal mediator, maintaining relations with all the key forces in the Middle East.

Against the backdrop of the events in Ukraine, the United States has set about trying to turn Russia into an international pariah. Moscow sees the Middle East as a possible route to circumventing the sanctions, even if partially, so it is only logical that Washington would seek to isolate Russia in the region. This is proving somewhat difficult, however, even with its impressive list of allied states and the lukewarm reaction of Middle Eastern countries to Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine. For one thing, no one in the Middle East wants to be faced with a choice between Moscow and Washington. In the Middle East, Russia remains a player to be reckoned with, and its interests coincide with those of almost all the countries in the region—including Washington’s partners—on a whole range of issues.

Take Turkey, for example, a NATO member who has serious disagreements with Russia over Syria, Libya and the South Caucasus. Worse still, Ankara has openly criticized Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, lending active support to Kiev by supplying hi-tech weapons. At the same time, Turkey, much as Russia, does not hide its annoyance at the U.S.-established order in the regions adjacent to its territory, notably the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean. Let’s not forget Russia–Iran trade relations as trade turnover between the two amounted to some $33 billion in 2021 and the bilateral trade is expected to reach even greater heights by year-end 2022. Given this, Ankara will clearly want to continue dialogue with Moscow, both with regard to Syria and on other issues.

A somewhat similar situation has been the case for the Arab countries in the Persian Gulf. Not a single one of these has joined the Western sanctions against Russia, and the United Arab Emirates is turning into something of a hub for Russian capital. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has made it clear that his country places its agreements with OPEC+, where Russia is a key player, above U.S. interests, and Joe Biden’s visit did nothing to change this.

Outside the Persian Gulf, President of Egypt Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has also refused to pursue a policy to isolate Moscow. Cairo has been one of the biggest importers of Russian weapons in recent years. And, like the United Arab Emirates, the country is also cooperating with Russia on Libya. Finally, there is another important U.S. partner, namely, Israel. Despite some friction with Moscow, Tel Aviv is still willing to cooperate with Russia to sustain its policy of containing the Iranian threat in Syria. In other words, all these players have more than enough reason to turn their backs on the binary approach that Washington imposes on them, where they are forced to choose between the United States and Russia.

The Astana Model

It would be quite a mistake to dub Joe Biden’s tour of the Middle East a complete failure. He got some wins here and there, such as the Saudi decision to open flights to and from Israel. Besides, it is unlikely that the U.S. was harboring any real hopes to reverse the regional alignment, including the attitudes towards Russia, all in a single trip. What is telling here is the situation as such. The events in Ukraine were indeed a turning point in relations between Moscow and the West—however, the Middle East did not undergo any major changes until February 24, 2022, and later.

Today, the situation in the region is much different to the Cold War-style polarization that analysts bring up so frequently. The Middle East of 2022 is a complex combination of multi-vector approaches of various countries. All this is not so much a reflection of Washington’s weakness as it is an illustration of the fact that Russia continues to be an important and legitimate player for Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and this is unlikely to change any time soon.

It is this difficult political climate that gave rise to the Astana format, a platform where the parties with different approaches—and even waging a proxy war against each other—can come to the negotiating table as partners who resolve issues. True, this format may only have worked in relation to the Syrian dossier in years gone by, but the most recent summit took the paradoxical relations between the countries to a new level. Turkish drones carry out targeted attacks on the Russian Army, which in turn shoots them down. But this did not prevent Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan from sitting at the same table and having a constructive conversation at the meeting in Tehran. Moreover, one of the main topics on the summit’s side-lines did not even have anything to do with the region, and that was finding a solution to the issue of exporting grain through the Black Sea.

This has nothing to do with banal hypocrisy on the part of sides with opposing interests. The participants in the Astana summit were not hiding behind smiles, sticking their middle finger up at each other from inside their pockets… no, they held a constructive dialogue. The grain issue was eventually resolved thanks to the negotiations between Turkey and Russia, and the summit in Tehran was largely responsible for getting the two together in the first place.

The Astana summit is swiftly turning into a model that reflects the basic principles of Russia’s foreign policy. What this model essentially boils down to is political realism in its purest form, where everyone is invited to cooperate, regardless of accumulated problems and disagreements, assuming the sides have overlapping interests.

And the invitation has effectively been extended to the West: despite the proxy conflict waged between Europe and Russia on the Ukrainian soil and despite the economic war in the form of sanctions, Moscow is nevertheless prepared to sell oil and gas to Europe. “Gazprom has always fulfilled and will continue to fulfil its obligations in full. If that’s what European countries want, of course, as they are the ones closing the pipes,” Vladimir Putin noted calmly at a press conference following the Tehran summit.

At the same time, the Astana format stands at odds with the traditional integration models of the West, which believes similar values to be a prerequisite for alliances. Certainly, the Americans do not always follow this approach. Still, even those relationships where common values typically play little if any role—such as that between the United States and Saudi Arabia—become bogged down by human rights issues (in this case, Biden’s condemnation of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi). In the present situation, we see that the Astana model of radical realism allows Russia, in such a difficult situation, to pursue dialogue with all players in the Middle East, while the United States is facing problems talking to its traditional allies.

Engaging Iran

With the relations with the West collapsed owing to the Ukraine crisis, Russia’s policy towards Iran is increasingly perceived as a policy case that could be heading in a promising direction. Putin’s trip to Iran did not bring any significant breakthroughs, although news reports about the summit and events surrounding it were overwhelmingly positive. One newsworthy item, for example, was the launch of the rial/rouble pair on the Tehran Currency exchange on the day of the summit, while another was a memorandum signed between National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and Gazprom to involve investments of approximately $40 billion into Iran’s oil sector.

Some important news came out shortly after the Russian President’s visit, such as the decision to increase the number of flights between Russia and Iran up to 35 per week, or the announcement that an agreement on the supply of aircraft parts and maintenance work was being drawn up, or plans to earmark $1.5 billion for the development of railway projects in Iran.

It must be noted here that there is no guarantee that all these initiatives will be successful in the end. For one, timelines have not been set out for most of the projects, and not all of them will even reach the stage of implementation. And those that do—for example, the supply of aircraft parts—will concern a limited set of products. The Iranian aviation industry has been in a rut for a number of years now, thanks to the sanctions. They have learned to make certain things on their own, sure, but most parts are either imported through third countries or stripped from old planes that no longer fly.

Despite all this, some projects might turn out to be rather successful. The number of areas where cooperation between the two countries is possible is clearly expanding, and this is thanks to the sudden spike in interest on the Russian side in Iran. In addition to this, traditional pockets of cooperation are getting a new push. For example, the export of Russian agricultural products against the backdrop of the global food problem is fast becoming a key element of Iran’s food security. And the North–South Transport Corridor, which has been operating in test mode for the past few years, could very well become the main export route for Russian products.

A certain rapport can also be witnessed in the domain of foreign policy. Iran’s reaction to the events in Ukraine was more positive than that of the other Middle Eastern states. During his meeting with Vladimir Putin in Tehran, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, stressed that NATO would have started a war with Russia on the pretext of Crimea if it had not been stopped in Ukraine. Certain changes can also be seen in Syria, where Russia’s responses to the actions of Israel are becoming increasingly harsh. Finally, the hallmark of the trilateral summit in the Iranian capital was the attempt of Tehran and Moscow to convince Ankara to abandon its military operations in Syria.

Be that as it may, there is no way the alignment between Russia and Iran would turn into a full-fledged alliance. The main reason why this will never happen is because of Russia’s image in Iran, which is riddled with negative historical connotations. Distrust of Tehran and a poor understanding of its policies can be found among the Russian elite as well. Besides, the sides disagree quite strongly on a number of issues, including their respective policies in the Middle East and how to resolve the territorial disputes over the Caspian Sea.

Also keep in mind that Russia and Iran are competitors in the energy market. The agreement with Gazprom largely stems from Russian efforts to gain leverage over the Iranian oil and gas industry. Exactly how much leeway the Iranian side will give to Russian companies remains to be seen.

However, paradoxical as it may sound, the bunch of contradictions that has accumulated in Russia–Iran relations does not stand in the way of rapprochement between the two countries. Russia is realistic in its approach, and this makes it possible to focus on areas of common interest, even when there are far more problems in bilateral relations, for example in Moscow’s relations with Ankara. At the same time, both Moscow and Tehran are extremely interested in an alternative to the West-dominated economic order. Neither country can do this alone, but these two “political outcasts” countries are better suited to the task than anyone else.

Here, positive developments were reflected in the conclusion of a long-term strategic agreement between Russia and Iran similar to the documents that Tehran signed with China and Venezuela. Judging by what Russian officials said, the project will be finalized quite soon. Importantly, the agreement will take the form of a memorandum—a formal confirmation that the intentions do not impose any direct obligations on the two countries. The “Russia–Iran axis” will continue to move in more or less the same direction. Relations between the two countries may well expand and deepen with each passing year to never-before-seen levels, but the sides harbor no intention of taking any unwanted obligations, including becoming allies.

From our partner RIAC

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