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Here’s what to expect out of the next Putin-Trump meeting

Both men have a different agenda they will want to discuss, and won’t always see eye to eye

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(Al-Monitor) – Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump may bring different expectations to the table if they meet face to face, as expected, this week at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Vietnam. Their last meeting took place in July at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, and produced the announcement of a de-escalation zone in Syria at the border with Israel.

Until recently, the Kremlin and the White House have been reluctant to comment with certainty on whether the two presidents will make a thorough review of some of the issues equally challenging to Russia and the United States, but the latest messages from Moscow suggest this is what the Russians are looking for. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskovsaid Nov. 4 that the men are considering a discussion of the Syrian settlement. Peskov also dropped an important clue on Moscow’s thinking behind elaborating on an agenda for the Putin-Trump talks, saying it is “in the common interest [that] both presidents could find opportunities for a rather long communication.”

Earlier, speaking at the Conference of the Russian-American Science Association in Chicago, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said the agenda for the meeting between the presidents is likely to focus on three major topics: the “war on international terrorism, prospects for the peace settlement in Syria and the North Korea nuclear problem.”

Indeed, Moscow is signaling it would still like to emphasize the issues it has long been promoting with the United States. The terror attack in New York last week by Uzbek national Sayfullo Saipov was seen in Moscow as yet another sign for Russia and the United States to start cooperating on the terrorism threat. Saipov’s radicalization seems to have occurred in the United States rather than in his native Uzbekistan; thus, Trump’s immediate response on tightening the immigration screws isn’t necessarily going to help shield America from this peril.

The problem of a rising number of extremists coming from Central Asia, however, has been something Moscow has drawn international attention to and struggled with in the past couple of years. The deadly metro bombing April 3 in Russia that killed a dozen and wounded more than 50 in St. Petersburg was carried out by Akbarzhon Jalilov, a Kyrgyzstan-born Russian citizen of Uzbek descent. Recruiting strategies of the Islamic State (IS) and other extremist groups in Central Asia are well known, and the number of those joining the ranks of terrorists in Syria and Iraq raises serious concerns among regional governments.

Yet Moscow recognizes America’s lack of enthusiasm for discussing these issues with Russia. A senior Russian diplomat told Al-Monitor, not for attribution, “It would be nice if Trump agreed to give a positive impetus to such [anti-terrorism] cooperation, but it’s highly unlikely, given the current attitudes toward Russia in Washington.” There are deep-seated beliefs in Moscow that the United States isn’t serious about cooperating on this issue. In fact, Russian decision-makers frequently refer to Putin’s own suggestion that Washington fostered extremist separatist forces in the North Caucasus in the 1990s.

“There were a few times where we thought Americans would echo our proposals on counterterrorist cooperation, like right after the 9/11 tragedy in 2001 or after the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013,” said the Russian diplomat, who works on issues related to counterterrorism. “Different issues have been discussed at multiple levels in Russia and the United States. But besides occasional breakthroughs, such as the US designation of the Caucasus Emirate as a terrorist organization, cooperation on this issue has been rather unsuccessful. The ongoing confrontation [between Russia and the United States] makes any constructive joint dealings on the threat even more difficult, if at all possible,” he said.

Nevertheless, given the scale of the terrorist threat, as well as the associated radicalization problems Russia and the United States may soon be facing in Afghanistan, Moscow believes raising these issues at the top level with the new administration is worth a try.

The Trump administration, however, seems of the opinion that the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Vietnam is a more appropriate venue for discussing what it sees as a more imminent threat: North Korea’s nuclear program. On his way to Tokyo, Trump implied Washington would seek to enlist Moscow on dealing with Pyongyang. “We want Putin’s help on North Korea, and we’ll be meeting with a lot of different leaders,” Trump said.

Yet not everyone in Moscow is happy with such an approach. Alexander Domrin, a professor at the Moscow-based Higher School of Economics, said, “Russia is likely to resist any attempts from Trump to impose America’s position over any international issue equally important to both countries.”

Domrin added, “When Americans are saying, ‘We need your help,’ it’s not going to work this way. They have their own position and we have our own stance on certain issues like North Korea and Ukraine. When they have a plan and we have a plan [on how to address these issues] we can work to bridge these two visions.” But the United States can’t view Russia as “owing assistance.”

Syria is likely to be one area where Putin and Trump may be trying to reconcile two different visions. On Nov. 2, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to discuss a number of Syria-related topics on which Moscow and Washington have been moving further apart. The UN Joint Investigative Mechanism, which is scrutinizing the chemical attacks in Syria, has recently been a bone of contention between Russia and the United States, with each submitting what the Russian government news agency Tass described as “mutually exclusive” resolutions to the UN Security Council.

Yet there are signs Russia and the United States are seeking a political settlement in Syria. So far, both seem to agree on the two principles that should be underpinning the process: Syria’s territorial integrity and an all-inclusive, nationwide dialogue under UN Security Council Resolution 2254. The devil, however, is in the details. Agreement on a role for Iranin the future Syria is barely possible, as is a consensus among a broader set of regional actors regarding who should be included in the “national dialogue.” Russia’s own initiative, the Syria Peace Congress in Sochi, seems to have suffered a pushback from Turkey, which doesn’t want the Kurdish nationalist Democratic Union Party to participate. Moscow, however, continues to court each and every actor in the process and said the congress will still be held.

Some policymakers in Moscow thought it was no coincidence that, days before the anticipated Putin-Trump encounter, the US Justice Department issued indictments in its investigation of possible ties between Russia and members of Trump’s campaign/administration. In private conversations, these policymakers share views that it’s all part of a continuing “establishment plot” in Washington to hinder Trump’s cooperation with Russia on security issues. Others raise concerns that Trump’s own threats following the terrorist attack in New York — threats that IS will pay “a big price for every attack on us” — might serve as a pretext to begin a new American surge in Syria and Iraq, all to dismantle Russian and Iranian plans.

Even if these theories are mere speculations, Moscow and Washington have accumulated piles of disagreements that need to be discussed at the top level. Tacit preparations — at least on the Russian side — for the two leaders’ meeting suggest Russia is aiming for something in-depth and substantial.

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Foreign Banks Are Embracing Russia’s Alternative To SWIFT, Moscow Says

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative.

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Via Zerohedge


On Friday, one day after Russia and China pledged to reduce their reliance on the dollar by increasing the amount of bilateral trade conducted in rubles and yuan (a goal toward which much progress has already been made over the past three years), Russia’s Central Bank provided the latest update on Moscow’s alternative to US-dominated international payments network SWIFT.

Moscow started working on the project back in 2014, when international sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea inspired fears that the country’s largest banks would soon be cut off from SWIFT which, though it’s based in Belgium and claims to be politically neutral, is effectively controlled by the US Treasury.

Today, the Russian alternative, known as the System for Transfer of Financial Messages, has attracted a modest amount of support within the Russian business community, with 416 Russian companies having joined as of September, including the Russian Federal Treasury and large state corporations likeGazprom Neft and Rosneft.

And now, eight months after a senior Russian official advised that “our banks are ready to turn off SWIFT,” it appears the system has reached another milestone in its development: It’s ready to take on international partners in the quest to de-dollarize and end the US’s leverage over the international financial system. A Russian official advised that non-residents will begin joining the system “this year,” according to RT.

“Non-residents will start connecting to us this year. People are already turning to us,”said First Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Russia Olga Skorobogatova. Earlier, the official said that by using the alternative payment system foreign firms would be able to do business with sanctioned Russian companies.

Turkey, China, India and others are among the countries that might be interested in a SWIFT alternative, as Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed out in a speech earlier this month, the US’s willingness to blithely sanction countries from Iran to Venezuela and beyond will eventually rebound on the US economy by undermining the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency.

To be sure, the Russians aren’t the only ones building a SWIFT alternative to help avoid US sanctions. Russia and China, along with the European Union are launching an interbank payments network known as the Special Purpose Vehicle to help companies pursue “legitimate business with Iran” in defiance of US sanctions.

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative. For one, much of Europe is dependent on Russian natural gas and oil.

And as Russian trade with other US rivals increases, Moscow’s payments network will look increasingly attractive,particularly if buyers of Russian crude have no other alternatives to pay for their goods.

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US leaving INF will put nuclear non-proliferation at risk & may lead to ‘complete chaos’

The US is pulling out of a nuclear missile pact with Russia. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty requires both countries to eliminate their short and medium-range atomic missiles.

The Duran

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Via RT


If the US ditches the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), it could collapse the entire nuclear non-proliferation system, and bring nuclear war even closer, Russian officials warn.

By ending the INF, Washington risks creating a domino effect which could endanger other landmark deals like the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and collapse the existing non-proliferation mechanism as we know it, senior lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev said on Sunday.

The current iteration of the START treaty, which limits the deployment of all types of nuclear weapons, is due to expire in 2021. Kosachev, who chairs the Parliament’s Upper House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that such an outcome pits mankind against “complete chaos in terms of nuclear weapons.”

“Now the US Western allies face a choice: either embarking on the same path, possibly leading to new war, or siding with common sense, at least for the sake of their self-preservation instinct.”

His remarks came after US President Donald Trump announced his intentions to “terminate” the INF, citing alleged violations of the deal by Russia.

Moscow has repeatedly denied undermining the treaty, pointing out that Trump has failed to produce any evidence of violations. Moreover, Russian officials insist that the deployment of US-made Mk 41 ground-based universal launching systems in Europe actually violates the agreement since the launchers are capable of firing mid-range cruise missiles.

Leonid Slutsky, who leads the Foreign Affairs Committee in parliament’s lower chamber, argued that Trump’s words are akin to placing “a huge mine under the whole disarmament process on the planet.”

The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The deal effectively bans the parties from having and developing short- and mid-range missiles of all types. According to the provisions, the US was obliged to destroy Pershing I and II launcher systems and BGM-109G Gryphon ground-launched cruise missiles. Moscow, meanwhile, pledged to remove the SS-20 and several other types of missiles from its nuclear arsenal.

Pershing missiles stationed in the US Army arsenal. © Hulton Archive / Getty Images ©

By scrapping the historic accord, Washington is trying to fulfill its “dream of a unipolar world,” a source within the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“This decision fits into the US policy of ditching the international agreements which impose equal obligations on it and its partners, and render the ‘exceptionalism’ concept vulnerable.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov denounced Trump’s threats as “blackmail” and said that Washington wants to dismantle the INF because it views the deal as a “problem” on its course for “total domination” in the military sphere.

The issue of nuclear arms treaties is too vital for national and global security to rush into hastily-made “emotional” decisions, the official explained. Russia is expecting to hear more on the US’ plans from Trump’s top security adviser, John Bolton, who is set to hold talks in Moscow tomorrow.

President Trump has been open about unilaterally pulling the US out of various international agreements if he deems them to be damaging to national interests. Earlier this year, Washington withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program. All other signatories to the landmark agreement, including Russia, China, and the EU, decided to stick to the deal, while blasting Trump for leaving.

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Kiev ‘Patriarch’ prepares to seize Moscow properties in Ukraine

Although Constantinople besought the Kiev church to stop property seizures, they were ignored and used, or perhaps, complicit.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The attack on the Eastern Orthodox Church, brought about by the US State Department and its proxies in Constantinople and Ukraine, is continuing. On October 20, 2018, the illegitimate “Kyiv (Kiev) Patriarchate”, led by Filaret Denisenko who is calling himself “Patriarch Filaret”, had a synodal meeting in which it changed the commemoration title of the leader of the church to include the Kyiv Caves and Pochaev Lavras.

This is a problem because Metropolitan Onuphry of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which is canonically accepted and acts as a very autonomous church under the Moscow Patriarchate has these places under his pastoral care.

This move takes place only one week after Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople unilaterally (and illegally) lifted the excommunications, depositions (removal from priestly ranks as punishment) and anathemas against Filaret and Makary that were imposed on them by the hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchate.

These two censures are very serious matters in the Orthodox Church. Excommunication means that the person or church so considered cannot receive Holy Communion or any of the other Mysteries (called Sacraments in the West) in a neighboring local Orthodox Church. Anathema is even more serious, for this happens when a cleric disregards his excommunication and deposition (removal from the priesthood), and acts as a priest or a bishop anyway.

Filaret Denisenko received all these censures in 1992, and Patriarch Bartholomew accepted this decision at the time, as stated in a letter he sent to Moscow shortly after the censures. However, three years later, Patriarch Bartholomew received a group of Ukrainian autocephalist bishops called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA, who had been in communion with Filaret’s group. While this move may have been motivated by the factor of Bartholomew’s almost total isolation within Istanbul, Turkey, it is nonetheless non-canonical.

This year’s moves have far exceeded previous ones, though, and now the possibility for a real clash that could cost lives is raised. With Filaret’s “church” – really an agglomeration of Ukrainian ultranationalists and Neo-Nazis in the mix, plus millions of no doubt innocent Ukrainian faithful who are deluded about the problems of their church, challenging an existing arrangement regarding Ukraine and Russia’s two most holy sites, the results are not likely to be good at all.

Here is the report about today’s developments, reprinted in part from OrthoChristian.com:

Meeting today in Kiev, the Synod of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” (KP) has officially changed the title of its primate, “Patriarch” Philaret, to include the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras under his jurisdiction.

The primate’s new official title, as given on the site of the KP, is “His Holiness and Beatitude (name), Archbishop and Metropolitan of Kiev—Mother of the cities of Rus’, and Galicia, Patriarch of All Rus’-Ukraine, Svyaschenno-Archimandrite of the Holy Dormition Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras.”

…Thus, the KP Synod is declaring that “Patriarch” Philaret has jurisdiction over the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras, although they are canonically under the omophorion of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, the primate of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Philaret and his followers and nationalistic radicals have continually proclaimed that they will take the Lavras for themselves.

This claim to the ancient and venerable monasteries comes after the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced that it had removed the anathema placed upon Philaret by the Russian Orthodox Church and had restored him to his hierarchical office. Philaret was a metropolitan of the canonical Church, becoming patriarch in his schismatic organization.

Representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate have clarified that they consider Philaret to be the “former Metropolitan of Kiev,” but he and his organization continue to consider him an active patriarch, with jurisdiction in Ukraine.

Constantinople’s statement also appealed to all in Ukraine to “avoid appropriation of churches, monasteries, and other properties,” which the Synod of the KP ignored in today’s decision.

The KP primate’s abbreviated title will be, “His Holiness (name), Patriarch of Kiev and All Rus’-Ukraine,” and the acceptable form for relations with other Local Churches is “His Beatitude Archbishop (name), Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus’-Ukraine.”

The Russian Orthodox Church broke eucharistic communion and all relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate over this matter earlier this week. Of the fourteen local Orthodox Churches recognized the world over, twelve have expressed the viewpoint that Constantinople’s move was in violation of the canons of the Holy Orthodox Church. Only one local Church supported Constantinople wholeheartedly, and all jurisdictions except Constantinople have appealed for an interOrthodox Synod to address and solve the Ukrainian matter in a legitimate manner.

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