Forms of government are forged mainly in the fire of practice, not in the vacuum of theory. They respond to national character and to national realities….But when Soviet power has run its course, or when its personalities and spirit begin to change (for the ultimate outcome could be one or the other), let us not hover nervously over the people who come after, applying litmus papers daily to their political complexions to find out whether they answer to our concept of “democratic.” Give them time; let them be Russians; let them work out their internal problems in their own manner. The ways by which peoples advance toward dignity and enlightenment in government are things that constitute the deepest and most intimate processes of national life. There is nothing less understandable to foreigners, nothing in which foreign interference can do less good.
-George F. Kennan, diplomat and author of U.S. containment policy toward the Soviet Union
Stephen Cohen, in his latest weekly interview with John Batchelor, discusses Obama’s speech at NATO’s Warsaw Summit – the hawkish Obama, and his reported plan to propose a nuclear arms treaty with Russia – the dovish Obama. In an accompanying article by Cohen in The Nation, the Russia scholar wonders what we are to make of the president’s mixed actions on foreign policy:
In last week’s broadcast, Cohen and Batchelor discussed reports that Obama wants to achieve some kind of rapprochement with “Putin’s Russia” as part of his foreign-policy legacy instead of the new Cold War. Last week’s evidence was confirmed by reports that Obama had proposed to Putin real US-Russian military cooperation against the Islamic State in Syria. This week there was an additional report that Obama is preparing to propose to Putin new mutual steps in the area of nuclear-arms control, including taking warheads off “high alert” status and adoption of a “no-first-use” doctrine by Washington and Moscow. Both measures would considerably reduce the growing risk of nuclear war.
Unlike Europe’s pro-détente “dove” leaders, Obama has been extremely inconsistent in words and deeds, both on Syria and in regard to the NATO buildup and Ukraine. His speech at the Warsaw Summit, for example, was extremely hawkish, though overshadowed by his need to respond on television to the events in Dallas. (Cohen wonders how many American viewers asked themselves, “What is he doing there, anyway?”) Whether Obama’s irresolute conduct on these vital issues of war or peace is due to his own irresolute nature in foreign policy or to the high-level struggle we know to be under way inside his own administration is not yet clear.
German Newspaper Der Spiegel conducted an interview, published on July 13th, with Sergey Karaganov, who is the “honorary head of the influential Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, which develops geopolitical strategy concepts for Russia. In May, the council issued new foreign policy premises. The council includes politicians, economists and former military and intelligence officers. Karaganov is an advisor to Vladimir Putin’s presidential administration and deacon of the elite Moscow college National Research University Higher School of Economics.”
In the interview, Karaganov reiterates the lack of trust among the Russian political elite toward the west as a result of NATO expansion, provocations, and harsh propaganda:
We currently find ourselves in a situation where we don’t trust you in the least, after all of the disappointments of recent years. And we are reacting accordingly. There is such a thing as tactical surprise. You should know that we are smarter, stronger and more determined.
With respect to the recent mobilization of troops to Poland and the three Baltic states, Karaganov said:
This chatter that we intend to attack the Baltics is idiotic. Why is NATO stationing weapons and equipment there? Imagine what would happen to them in the case of a crisis. The help offered by NATO is not symbolic help for the Baltic states. It is a provocation. If NATO initiates an encroachment — against a nuclear power like ourselves — it will be punished.
On the NATO-Russia Council, Karaganov dismissed it as virtually useless:
It is no longer a legitimate body. Plus, NATO has become a qualitatively different alliance. When we began the dialogue with NATO, it was a defensive alliance of democratic powers. But then, the NATO-Russia Council served as cover for and the legalization of NATO expansion. When we really needed it — in 2008 and 2014 — it wasn’t there.
Read the full interview here.
It appears that Kerry has concluded his 3-hour talks with Putin and 8-hour talks with Lavrov regarding “cooperation” in Syria and, according to Alexander Mercouris, the lack of a public statement or substantive joint press conference, indicates a deadlock:
As we reported before, the US offer to Russia – essentially an offer of a junior place in a US led coalition against Jabhat Al Nusra and Daesh in return for Russia’s agreement to the eventual overthrow of President Assad – was hardly one to appeal to Moscow. The Russians, in what look like difficult talks, will have pointed this out.
Though reports of the talks are sketchy, it seems the Russians instead tried to pressure Kerry and the US to return to the course the two sides agreed back in February: a “cessation of hostilities” between the Syrian government and its opponents excluding terrorist groups like Daesh, Jabhat Al Nusra and their affiliates, the separation of US backed rebels from Jabhat Al Nusra, and an exchange of information between the US and the Russians to enable each of them to continue with their respective bombing campaigns against Jabhat Al Nusra and Daesh without either interfering with the other.
It is now clear that that course is no longer acceptable to the hardliners in the US because it leaves Syrian President Assad in place and hands the initiative to the Russians. That is why Kerry went to Moscow: to get the Russians to agree to scrap the February agreement by dangling them an offer which would enable the US to achieve its objectives in Syria in return for what were actually no more than symbolic concessions to the Russians.
It is possible the Russians also sought to build on the February agreeing by suggesting – in a counter to Kerry’s proposal – that the US and the Russians actually exchange targeting information so as to guide each other’s bombers, thereby in effect merging their bombing campaigns whilst however maintaining their separate chains of command. However that would have made Russia an equal partner of the US in the military campaign in Syria, an idea that is most unlikely to appeal to the US, and which would have meant the US effectively abandoning their effort to overthrow President Assad. If the Russians did make such a proposal, Kerry would almost certainly have rejected it.
In Ukraine, the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarch – as compared to the break-away Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarch which started in 1992, planned a procession of peace in the country, with one portion of the procession set to start from the east of the country on July 3rd and another from the west on July 10th, converging in Kiev on July 26th.
Canadian academic Halyna Mokrushyna, who has written several on-the-ground reports from Ukraine provided more details:
An all-Ukrainian cross procession for peace, initiated by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate -MP), is taking place in Ukraine. Many thousands of people have joined the procession in the polarized regions of eastern and western Ukraine in an expression of peace, civil reconciliation and an end to the civil war that has wracked eastern Ukraine. The procession started from two opposite parts of Ukraine. In the East, processioners departed from the Holy Assumption Sviatohirsk Lavra in Donetsk region (approximately 150 km to the north of Donetsk city) on July 3. On July 9, another procession started in Western Ukraine, from the Holy Assumption Pochaiv Lavra in Ternopil region. The two processions will meet in Kyiv on July 26, 2016. They will join on Vladimir Hill and will walk together to Holy Assumption Kyiv-Pecherska Lavra, where solemn masses will be held.
….The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate emerged in 1992 as the result of a schism within Ukrainian Orthodox Church. This was an effort to create an independent, truly ‘Ukrainian’ Orthodox church. Prior to 1992, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church existed within the Moscow Patriarchate as a self-governing church with the rights of wide autonomy, which it preserves today. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate is headed by Patriarch Filaret, a former Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. In 1995, he proclaimed himself “Patriarch of Kyiv and of all Rus-Ukraine”. In 1997 he was excommunicated from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate for his schismatic actions.
According to the 2011 data of the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) remains the largest in Ukraine. It has 12,340 parishes, 191 monasteries and employs 9,922 clerics. By contrast, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate has 4,482 parishes, 49 monasteries and 3,088 clerics. It is not recognized as a canonic church.
Since the beginning of civil war in eastern Ukraine in April 2014, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate took a neutral position, not taking sides and serving the needs of parishioners on both sides of the conflict. Many experts believe that the church of the Moscow Patriarchate is one of few institutions which could preserve Ukraine as a country. Because of its pacifist position, the church has been harshly criticized by ‘patriotic’ Ukrainian politicians and public figures for being an ‘agent’ of Kremlin, an outpost of Russian aggression in Ukraine.
….The Union of Orthodox Journalists reports that over 10,000 people started the procession on July 9, 2016 from Pochaiv Lavra in Western Ukraine. Video can be seen here. Around 1,000 people started the procession from Sviatohirsk Lavra on July 3. Video can be seen here.
On July 10, the cross procession from the east reached Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city. Over 10,000 people walked through the streets of the city wearing icons. Old, men, women with little kids and babies walk for peace in Ukraine.
Ultra-nationalists, however, expressed displeasure at the planned procession and possible disruptions were announced, stating that the procession was a provocation of the Kremlin.
Interfax Religion (a private Russian media outlet), reported that Neo-Nazis activists from Right Sector have, in fact, attacked and harassed the procession:
As the website of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate reported, a total of 20 nationalists marched in a parallel to the Christians and interrupted the prayer for peace with shouts and insults. Moreover, the far-right extremists drove in constant close proximity to the sacred procession.
The nationalists marched parallel to the procession holding red and black banners. According to witnesses, the radicals shouted slogans, alternating them with obscenities addressed towards the participants in the procession.
The participants in the procession were filmed and threatened. Some of the nationalists attempted to break through the procession to the sacred relics, but were prevented from doing so.