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Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas in Russia and around the world

Seraphim Hanisch

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Today, January 7th, many Orthodox Christians around the world witness the celebration of Christmas.  For Russians and most Slavic people, this day IS Christmas, and the western celebration on Dec 25th is a workday.

This is not an innovation.  It is actually because an innovation was never made to the Julian Calendar, which is followed by most Orthodox Christians in the world, so it lags behind the civil calendar by 13 days at present.  So, for the Church it is today which is December 25th.

In Russia, this brings an interesting shift in present-day life.  The Communist times were not able to destroy all the Christmas traditions, but it did shift many of them.  Father Christmas (a.k.a. Santa Claus) became “Grandfather Frost”, and got a sidekick, the “Snow Maiden”, and the celebration that is accompanied by what is unmistakably a Christmas Tree got centered on New Year’s Day.  To this day, even in post-Communist Russia, it is New Year’s that gets the bulk of attention.  This is an unwitting blessing, for it takes away the commercialized emphasis that Western Christmas has associated with it. Instead, the Nativity retains its character as a religious holiday in a very pure form.

A nativity scene in a chapel made of snow in Dubna.

The celebration of the Nativity of Christ, features very beautiful church services, lasting many hours. The one this author attended last night ran nearly six hours long, from 11pm until 4:45am.  The church was full of people from beginning to the very end.  These people have endurance.  As an American, to see the patience and dedication of the Russian people in church is humbling, especially that of the people who stand for that entire length of time.

The Russian Church has suffered greatly under the hale of Communism, but, starting in the late 1980’s and accelerating till today, the Church has regained much of its traditional role in this country as the “guardian of the conscience of Russia.”  The government and the Church work in a manner foreign to Western understanding, called “symphonia”, and this is a renewal of the ancient Byzantine model of government, where the Caesar (Tsar) was, in essence, a “bishop in charge of State affairs,” and hence a Christian believer, and responsible in his own office to uphold the Christian faith and principles in all secular and governmental matters.

While we do not have a Tsar today, some emulation of this structure exists, surrounding president Vladimir Putin.  He has long been a Christian believer (yes, even while in the KGB), and as he has grown older, he has shown an increasing level of commitment to protect Christians wherever they may be.  (This is actually part of the reason Russia got involved in Syria in 2015, because Syria is also an Orthodox Christian center, with a Patriarch resident in Damascus for the Antiochian Orthodox Church.)

President Putin attends Nativity services this year in his hometown of St Petersburg, at the Church of Saints Simeon and Anna.

The concept of symphonia means that the Patriarch of Moscow has significant say in the direction the country takes.  The Western narrative is that the Church is the “toady” to the State here, with Vladimir Putin, the thug, running the Church.  And there are some Russian people who hold the same view.  But the truth of this is the opposite, and most Russian Orthodox believers know this to be true – that the State is increasingly striving for symphonia with the Church, to gradually realign the country with the values appropriate to a Christian nation.

Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow and all Russia

Every Christmas the Patriarch sends out his own greeting, just as President Putin does at the very end of each year.  This year the Patriarchal encyclical highlighted the remembrance of the beginning of the tragic period of Communism, which began just 100 years ago in 1917.  He highlighted the theme of the love of God even in this terrible time, because the people that would be needed to help the Church survive this fearsome persecution were set in place, both in the ranks of clergy and laity, and they endured through the trial, even though the Church was all but destroyed.

Further, Patriarch Kirill pointed to things today:

Today we are undergoing a special period: afflictions have not yet left this world, every day we “hear of wars and rumours of wars” (Mt 24:6). Yet how much of God’s love is poured out upon people! The world exists in spite of the forces of evil, while human love and family values abide in spite of the unbelievable attempts to destroy, desecrate and distort them. Faith in God is alive in the hearts of the majority of people. And our Church, in spite of decades of persecution in the recent past and the endeavours to undermine her authority in the present, remains and shall always be with Christ. (emphasis mine)

In a world that seems often like it is coming apart at the seams, most particularly in the West, this message speaks to much of the heart of the matter.  In this author’s experience, the ability to truly be “red-pill” – one who sees and faces reality – is impossible without the basic understanding of the way things are.  Although one tries to avoid a sermon here, it is pretty much impossible to be truly reality based without some sort of understanding that we are not the highest power in the world, and that there is Something or Someone that is.

Russia seems to be one of the very few places in the world where this relationship is understood and put into practice.  This is the real reason the Western media and politicians are so antagonistic, because to be traditional is “uncool”, “outdated”, and “not with the times…” – but the things that crowd to replace traditional values all share a very destructive tendency – to put people out of touch with their own reality, to deny the truth, and to blame everyone around them and insist that the world is full of persecutors and victims, with one’s self always the victim.

Russia stands in a much more honest and reality-based frame of reference than this.  And one major reason for this is in the souls of those thousands, maybe millions of people who stood for hours and hours in churches across the Russian land last night and today.

To all, a very merry Christmas!

 

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Russia makes HUGE strides in drone technology

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The US and Israel are universally recognized leaders in the development and use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. Thousands of American and Israeli UAVs are operating across the world daily.

The US military has recently successfully tested an air-to-air missile to turn its MQ-9 Reaper drone into an effective long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance unmanned spy aircraft capable of air-to-surface as well as air-to-air missions. This is a major breakthrough. It’s not a secret that Russia has been lagging behind in UAV development. Now its seems to be going to change with tangible progress made to narrow the gap.

Very few nations boast drones capable of high-altitude long endurance (HALE) missions. Russia is to enter the club of the chosen. In late 2017, the Russian Defense Ministry awarded a HALE UAV contract to the Kazan-based Simonov design bureau.

This month, Russian Zvezda military news TV channel showed a video (below) of Altair (Altius) heavy drone prototype aircraft number “03”, going through its first flight test.

Propelled by two RED A03/V12 500hp high fuel efficiency diesel engines, each producing a capacity of 500 hp on takeoff, the 5-ton heavy vehicle with a wingspan of 28.5 meters boasts a maximum altitude of 12km and a range of 10,000km at a cruising speed of 150-250km/h.

Wingspan: about 30 meters. Maximum speed: up to 950 km/h. Flight endurance: 48 hours. Payload: two tons, which allows the creation of a strike version. The vehicle is able to autonomously take off and land or be guided by an operator from the ground.

The UAV can carry the usual range of optical and thermal sensors as well as synthetic-aperture ground-surveillance radar with the resolution of .1 meter at the range of 35km and 1 meter at the range of 125km. The communications equipment allows real-time data exchange.

Russia’s UAV program currently underway includes the development of a range of large, small, and mid-sized drones. The Orion-E medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV was unveiled at the MAKS 2017 air show. Its developer, Kronstadt Technologies, claims it could be modified for strike missions. The one-ton drone is going through testing now. The Orion-E is capable of automatic takeoff and landing.

It can fly continuously for 24 hours, carrying a surveillance payload of up to 200 kg to include a forward looking infra-red (FLIR) turret, synthetic aperture radar and high resolution cameras. The drone can reach a maximum altitude of 7,500 m. Its range is 250 km.

The Sukhoi design bureau is currently developing the Okhotnik (Hunter) strike drone with a range of about 3,500km. The drone made its maiden flight this year. In its current capacity, it has an anti-radar coating, and will store missiles and precision-guided bombs internally to avoid radar detection.

The Kazan-based Eniks Design Bureau is working on the small T-16 weaponized aerial vehicle able to carry 6 kg of payload.

The new Russian Korsar (Corsair) tactical surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will be upgraded to receive an electronic warfare system. Its operational range will be increased from 150km to 250km. The drone was revealed at Victory Day military parade along with the Korsar unmanned combat helicopter version.

The rotary wing drone lacks the speed and altitude of the fixed wing variant, but has a great advantage of being able to operate without landing strips and can be sea-based. Both drones can carry guided and unguided munitions. The fixed-wing version can be armed with Ataka 9M120 missiles.

The first Russian helicopter-type unmanned aerial vehicle powered by hydrogen fuel cells was presented at the Army-2018 international forum. With the horizontal cruising speed of the drone up to 60 kph, the unmanned chopper can stay in the air at least 2.5 hours to conduct reconnaissance operations. Its payload is up to 5 kg.

Last November, the Kalashnikov Concern reported that it would start production of heavy unmanned aerial vehicles capable of carrying up to several tons of cargo and operating for several days at a time without needing to recharge.

All in all, the Russian military operate 1,900 drones on a daily basis. The multi-purpose Orlan-10 with a range of 600km has become a working horse that no military operation, including combat actions in Syria, can be conducted without. Maj. Gen. Alexander Novikov,
the head of the Russian General Staff’s Office for UAV Development, Russian drones performed over 23,000 flights, lasting 140,000 hours in total.

Russia’s State Armament Program for 2018-2027 puts the creation of armed UAVs at the top of priorities’ list. Looks like the effort begins to pay off. Russia is well on the way to become second to none in UAV capability.

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Via Strategic Culture

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Struggling US farmers worry about one thing: a resurgent Russia

Russian wheat exports are booming despite a crushing price slump, as the country’s farmers finally emerge from decades of neglect

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Via The Wall Street Journal

Otradnaya, Russia – Vladimir Mishurov transformed the remnants of the “Lenin’s Path” collective farm in this village into a profitable business. He also helped make Russia the world’s largest wheat exporter for the first time since the last years of the czars.

Over the past decade or so, Mishurov has changed the aging Russian machinery to dozens of modern machines from John Deere and other manufacturers and has begun to make extensive use of new efficient fertilizers and seeds. He bought and rented additional land from neighbors and relatives, bringing the area to 1,500 hectares – the benefit that in Russia the prices for it are relatively low.

Like many American farmers, he often worked days and nights and slept very little, especially during harvesting.

The main difference between Mishurov and the average farmer from the Great American Plains is that in Russia they are lower costs, and they are mostly in rubles , and from the sale of their products abroad, he gets a lot of money, because he sells it for dollars.

Against the backdrop of a long and serious decline in grain prices, Russian agriculture is flourishing. For the year ending in June, the country exported more than 40 million tons of wheat, which is 50% more than last year, and the highest among all countries in the world in the last quarter of a century. In 2016, Russia overtook the United States in terms of wheat exports and became the first in the world, and in 2018 it repeated this achievement.

The growth of Russian competitiveness is a serious problem that creates a threat to American farmers. The United States has closed the largest number of farms since the 1980s. Overproduction of grain in the world pushed prices down, and today they are half compared to the level of 2012 when the price peak was reached. For the same reason, it is difficult for US farmers to earn a dollar profit.

Because of US trade disputes with China and other countries, Russian wheat can become even more attractive if large buyers enter reciprocal duties on American grain. China increased them by 25%, but Chinese restrictions on imports from Russia prevented Moscow from taking advantage of the emerging advantage. This was told by Swithun Still, who is the director of the Solaris Commodities SA, a Swiss company that sells Russian grain.

While there is no “trade war, but laws of economics”, they help Russian wheat compete, and even in countries that are neighbors with the United States, say, in Mexico, noted Still. According to him, Russian grain has become more quality, and it is cheaper.

Russian farmers are moving ahead when export earnings are converted into rubles. The Russian currency has fallen in price, and the dollar exchange rate is now twice as high as in 2014. Russia has the same advantage in relation to the euro and other currencies. Its farmers cover the costs of the house, continuing to sow grain, and also defeating their western competitors by price indicators.

The growth in exports of Russian agricultural products, including grain, fish and meat, is an integral part of efforts to diversify the economy and eliminate its dependence on oil. Once, oil and gas gave half of the revenues to the federal budget. Now, when oil prices are 25% below the record level in 2014 (they rose significantly after more than 60% fall), oil and gas exports account for about 40% of budget revenues.

“As oil prices fell, grain came on ahead. Grain is our oil , “said the then Minister of Agriculture, Alexander Tkachev, in 2016.

Cheaper wheat from Russia squeezes American and European grain from the markets of import-dependent countries in the Middle East and North Africa, where the Kremlin has in recent years been fighting to strengthen its military and diplomatic influence.

In 2017, exports of agricultural products amounted to $ 20.7 billion in monetary terms, outstripping arms exports and ranking second in revenue. Wheat is about a quarter in total.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, the crop area of ​​wheat in Russia as of June was almost twice as high as in the US. American farmers, not seeing the opportunity to earn, sowed the smallest area in wheat in the history of statistical observations. This year, the production of wheat in the US declined by 25%.

The farm Mishurova is located in the fertile steppe in the south of Russia. This region is the largest grain producer in the country. For the rich in minerals black earth and mild climate it has long been called the granary of Russia.

Mishurov today is 46 years old. In his youth he worked as a tractor driver, driving around on a roaring tractor, whose engine had to be repaired every year, which made his hands forever rough. Money was not enough, and the workers received wages in kind: sacks of flour, wheat and sugar. Drunkenness in the countryside was ubiquitous.

In the early twentieth century, Russia was the world’s largest exporter of wheat. The Soviets killed and threw in jail millions of people, including the most hard-working and successful farmers. They did this in an attempt to create a system of collective farms, which turned out to be ineffective. By the 1970s, the Soviet Union was forced to import grain.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the collective farms struggled, but continued to exist, and they were run by the same bosses who had neither business acumen nor money to invest .

“There was no master,” says Mishurov. “They could not adapt to a market economy.” They are accustomed to follow the instructions without thinking. ”

Farm workers came to work “to kill time, and waited for the end of the working day to go home,” says farmer Andrei Burdin, who lives in a neighboring village and cultivates land that once belonged to the collective farm “Dawn of Communism”. “Agriculture has reached a dead end,” he adds.

In the late 1990s, Russia allowed the sale of land, but new investors and their managers were far from agriculture and did not want to take risks.

Mishurov, who worked as the chief agronomist in a large multidisciplinary agricultural company, recalls how in the early 2000s he told one manager that if pesticides were used, the yield of barley could be increased by a quarter.

“No, Vova, that’s enough for us, too,” the manager replied. “Why should I try to persuade someone to earn more money?” – says Mishurov.

In the mid-2000s, he decided to start his own business. First he collected the land of his relatives and all the equipment he could find. Today, Mishurov grows wheat, barley, beets, corn, sunflower, peas and other crops.

43-year-old Burdin in 2005 began to cultivate about 100 hectares of land on his visionary tractor and seeder. The profit he invested in more efficient machinery and fertilizers, and then expanded the area of ​​his arable land, renting them from neighbors.

“When we earned the first money, I did not buy a Mercedes and an apartment ,” Burdin said. “I invested them in the next season.”

First he bought Russian equipment, but then switched to tractors and harvesters “John Deere”, which the Russians call “green technology.” According to Burdin, he tested the John Deere harvester in comparison with the Russian combine and found that from the same area it can grind a third more grain.

He also bought a precision seeder from the Swedish company Vaderstad AB, which plants seeds at optimum depth and at optimal intervals, which increases yields. Today, Burdin cultivates about 1,500 hectares.

Downloading seeds in April in the seed drill, he joked with his workers on the topic of old technology. Burdin recalled how he worked with a sprayer of pesticides, which permeated him with poisonous chemicals. According to the farmer, he worked on it no more than four hours a day, fearing for his own health. Now its installation itself measures how much to spray pesticides and where, which leads to cost reduction.

Voronezh, Russia. Tempo F8 plant corn and sunflower, Tempo R12 prepares the land for planting sugar beet.

The prices for land in the area where Mishurov and Burdin live are much lower than in many of the competing countries. On average, agricultural land in Romania, which is located on the Black Sea and is a member of the European Union, costs almost three times more than in Russia. And the land in Iowa and Kansas is more expensive than Russia’s more than five times, as evidenced by the research data of the Moscow firm SovEcon, which specializes in the analysis of agricultural markets, forecasts for Russian agriculture and consulting services.

According to Burdin, Russian seeds and fertilizers are cheaper than Western seeds, although their quality has improved significantly in recent years. He buys semen from the State Institute of Agriculture, and can use the crop for seeding next season. Many US farmers use expensive and high-yielding patented seeds from companies such as Bayer AG and DowDuPont Inc.; but the crop obtained from them can not be used for planting, because of which farmers are forced to annually purchase fresh seeds.

Transportation costs in the region are also low. It is located near the Black Sea ports, and diesel fuel and gas there are much less than in Western Europe. Burdin and Mishurov own a fleet of trucks, on which they export grain to the port of Novorossiysk, located at a distance of 320 kilometers.

Private and state-owned companies in recent years have modernized grain terminals and increased their throughput. Farmers using the application in their smartphones can order a time interval for the delivery of grain by their trucks, so that cars are no longer waiting for days in the queue.

Record harvests create a serious strain on the infrastructure . Windows for grain discharge are dismantled very quickly, and farmers are often given time with a delay of several days, says Burdin.

Export could be further increased, they find the opportunity to ship more, he notes.

Russia views this as a priority task. President Vladimir Putin ordered officials to eliminate bottlenecks in the infrastructure, which hinder the increase in exports. In the interior of the country, long distances, as well as a shortage of wagons and elevators, is the main obstacle to supplying grain to the foreign market.

In one of Russia’s largest Novorossiysk terminal this year, modernization is being completed, and it will almost double its capacity. Other companies also plan to build and expand terminals on the Black and Baltic Seas, as well as in the Far East. According to officials, the expansion of ports is capable of increasing the export of grain by 50%, and by 2020 it can be brought up to 7.5 million tons per month.

The government in every possible way praises state subsidies, including inexpensive loans, which help farmers to change old equipment. Analysts and farmers note that the state’s efforts to support farmers are unsystematic and give variable success. Subsidies often fall into companies with the right connections, investments go to agriculture slowly, and bureaucrats and officials often wait for bribes.

“Farmers have found freedom and can do their work as they see fit and effective ,” said Andrei Sizov, director of the SovEcon Analytical Center. “The role of the state in the past ten years is very small, and this is good for the industry.”

Giant agricultural holdings, which are multidisciplinary companies created by wealthy tycoons and close to federal and regional authorities, operate on such a scale that Western farmers are looking like dwarfs against their backdrop. The share of private farms of more than 100 thousand hectares or thousands of square kilometers in Russia accounts for about 13% of all cultivated land, says Sizov.

Now Mishurov can afford such luxury as collecting and restoring old Soviet cars and rest in the Maldives or in Thailand. But he says he prefers to stay at home.

Here, poor villages depend on the generosity of wealthy farmers. Mishurov allocated money to repair the statue of Lenin and the monument to local residents who died during the Second World War, and Burdin paid for the repair of the local kindergarten.

Mishurov has 10 agricultural workers, three security guards and a cook preparing food for the workers. “It’s a lot for our squares, but we try to keep jobs in the countryside,” he says. One morning a man came to the house to ask Mishurov to ask for a bucket of corn for his hens. He was a former collective farm chairman.

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Russia Gives Up on Trump and the West

In looking at America’s global commitments, greatly expanded since our Cold War victory, one word comes to mind: unsustainable.

Patrick J. Buchanan

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By the end of his second term, President Ronald Reagan, who had called the Soviet Union an “evil empire,” was strolling through Red Square with Russians slapping him on the back.

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive.

And how have we husbanded the fruits of our Cold War triumph?

This month, China’s leader-for-life Xi Jinping stood beside Vladimir Putin as 3,000 Chinese troops maneuvered with 300,000 Russians, 1,000 planes, and 900 tanks in Moscow’s largest military exercise in 40 years.

It was an uncoded message to the West from the East.

Richard Nixon’s great achievement of bringing in Peking from the cold, and Reagan’s great achievement of ending the Cold War, are history.

Bolshevism may be dead, but Russian nationalism, awakened by NATO’s quick march to Russia’s ancient frontiers, is alive and well.

Moscow appears to have given up on the West and accepted that its hopes for better times with President Donald Trump are not to be.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is berating Russia for secretly trading with North Korea in violation of U.N. sanctions, saying, “Lying, cheating, and rogue behavior have become the new norm of the Russian culture.”

Cold wars don’t get much colder than defaming another country’s culture as morally debased.

The U.S. has also signaled that it may start supplying naval and anti-aircraft weaponry to Ukraine, as Russia is being warned to cease its inspections of ships passing from the Black Sea through the Kerch Strait into the Sea of Azov.

The three-mile-wide strait lies between Crimea and Kerch Peninsula. In Russia’s eyes, both banks of the strait are Russian national territory.

With U.S. backing, Ukraine has decided to build a naval base on the Sea of Azov to “create conditions for rebuffing the aggressive actions of the Russian Federation in this region.”

Kiev has several patrol boats in the Sea of Azov, with a few more to be transferred there in coming months. Russia’s navy could sink those boats and wipe out that base in minutes.

Are we going to send our Navy across the Black Sea to protect Ukraine’s naval rights inside a sea that has been as historically Russian as the Chesapeake Bay is historically American?

Poland this week invited the U.S. to establish a major base on its soil, for which the Poles will pay $2 billion, to be called “Fort Trump.”

Trump seemed to like the idea, and the name.

Yet the Bush II decision to install a missile defense system in Poland brought a Kremlin counter-move: the installation of nuclear-capable Iskander cruise missiles in Kaliningrad, the former German territory on Poland’s northern border annexed by Stalin at the end of World War II.

In the Balkans, over Russian protests, the U.S. is moving to bring Macedonia into NATO. But before Macedonia can join, half of its voters have to come out on September 30 to approve a change in the nation’s name to North Macedonia. This is to mollify Greece, which claims the birthplace of Alexander the Great as it own.

Where are we going with all this?

With U.S. warships making regular visits into the Eastern Baltic and Black Sea, the possibility of a new base in Poland, and growing lethal aid to Ukraine to fight pro-Russian rebels in the Donbass and the Russian navy on the Sea of Azov, are we not crowding the Russians a bit?

And are we confident the Russians will always back down?

When Georgia, believing it could kick Russian peacekeepers out and re-annex its seceded province of South Ossetia, attacked in August 2008, the Russian army came crashing in and ran the Georgians out in 48 hours.

George W. Bush wisely decided not to issue an ultimatum or send troops. He ignored the hawks in his own party who had helped goad him into the great debacle of his presidency: Iraq.

So what exactly is the U.S. grand strategy with regard to Russia?

What might be called the McCain wing of the Republican Party has sought to bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO, which would make the containment of Russia America’s policy in perpetuity.

Are the American people aware of the costs and risks inherent in such a policy? What are the prospects of Russia yielding always to U.S. demands? And are we not today stretched awfully thin?

Our share of the global economy is much shrunk from Reagan’s time. Our deficit is approaching $1 trillion. Our debt is surging toward 100 percent of GDP. Entitlements are consuming our national wealth.

We are committed to containing the two other greatest powers, Russia and China. We are tied down militarily in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, with the War Party beating the drums for another larger war with Iran. And we are sanctioning adversaries and allies for not following our leadership of the West and the world.

In looking at America’s global commitments, greatly expanded since our Cold War victory, one word comes to mind: unsustainable.

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Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of a new book, Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever. To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at www.creators.com.

Via The American Conservative

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