Ukraine’s another Church dissent is on edge

Photo credit: press-office of Vladimir Zelensky

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has blamed Volodymyr Zelensky for pressure by the authorities. Its followers hoped to end persecution with the new Ukrainian President coming to power. Yet, Zelensky who stayed away from the Church affairs during the first months of his presidential term is taking on the course on further Church dissent started by the former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Back in 2019, 49 parliamentarians requested from the Constitutional Court of Ukraine to cancel the controversial draft law “On renaming the Ukrainian Orthodox Church”. This religious organization was obliged to change its name to “Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine” in order to indicate that it was allegedly “governed by an aggressor country”.

This bill was passed two years ago. The document was part of a larger strategic plan by President Petro Poroshenko to create an “independent church.” He won the support of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and then gathered the dissenters together, promising them the role of the leading religious group in the country. This explains why the Orthodox Church of Ukraine has become so powerful.

But the majority of Ukrainians, followers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, did not want to join the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, so the government organized persecutions against them and the canonical church. Moreover, it legalized the takeover of its temples widely known in the world.

In October 2020, Volodymyr Zelensky with his spouse made a visit to Istanbul to hold a meeting with Bartholomew I of Constantinople. The Ukrainian President made it clear that the Ukrainian authorities will support further expansion of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. The reaction of dissenters was swift: they announced a new wave of temple seizure making everyone believe that the power was again on their side. The courage that Ukraine has not seen since Poroshenko’s days in the office.

According to local Ukrainian experts, Bartholomew, who officially calls himself a peacemaker of all Christian world is in fact supporting the religious dissent in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian authorities, who claimed that the index of religious freedom in the country is equal to the one in Belgium (according to Andrei Yurash, the head of the Religion Division of the Ministry of Culture, this indicator was 3,2 in February, 2021, that points to the high level of religious tolerance), are also fueling the national protests in the country with their hypocritical and at times irrational policy.

Could a Third Way save Afghanistan?

As Afghanistan marks its 101st Anniversary as an independent state, both the international community and the Afghan people themselves are concerned about the country’s future pathway.

Since the fall of the monarchy the political system in Afghanistan has suffered a few major crises. The establishment of the Jihadi regimes and anti-patriotic coup along with global colonialism have resulted into the country’s destruction and led to the rise of Taliban. Moreover, President Ghani’s predecessor Hamid Karzai has led the country to a corrupt state unable to deal with the terrorist groups and Taliban.

Invaded by various foreign-backed powers and different political ideas (left and right) Afghanistan has lost its national identity and failed to build its own economic and political system. Torn with corruption, bloodshed and terrorism over the decades, the country today, as some analysts believe, could be saved by a Third Way. The Third Way is a philosophy used to describe the voice of masses, the silent majority of people all the world, including Afghanistan.

The Afghan society needs a reform. The Third Way and adoption of it by a society can lead Afghanistan to a modern state, different from which the country has experienced over the pat 40 years. The Third Way is based on the idea of establishing a secure and sustainable state where the rights of the citizens are respected regardless the influence of any political parties or social groups and ethnic, racial and religious beliefs. Ensuring security and social justice in Afghanistan can be reached through following the several principles.

A balance of Power. Afghanistan has enough of security and defense to maintain and consolidate the national power. Supported by a strong and professional political leadership with pro-national interests Afghanistan will be able to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.  

A balance of domestic politics. The political and economic strategy of Afghanistan should be focused on creating sustainable living environment for its citizen and development of the economic and labor system that will allow Afghan citizens to use the country’s national resources and increase their living standards. In this scenario the Afghan people will stop looking for any possible ways to leave the country.

Balancing of economic growth and regional development will allow Afghan people to supply with jobs and comfortable life not only in major cities but also in the country’s provinces.

Finally, to achieve a Third Way the political system of the country should be based on national and democratic principles. The national principle means the country should use its own capacities and resources, while the democratic principle means that there is no other political regime acceptable in the country, but democracy.

By listening to the needs of the society and recovering its national values Afghanistan in the long-term perspective could become a safe and sovereign state with a sustainable economic growth.

U.S. military officials are interested in further presence in Afghanistan due to luring contracts

Despite the recent Trump’s call to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, Pentagon and CIA are interested in further presence in the Islamic Republic.

One of the pillars to hold U.S. military in the region is the financial benefits from luring government contracts aimed at financial support of Afghanistan. For almost over 2 decades Washington has been providing financial aid not only for security issues in Afghanistan, but also for an economic and social development of the country. Since 2001, the U.S. spent over 130 billion dollars on Afghanistan, however not all the money was spent as intended. A huge part of it was “laundered” and used as payoffs. John F. Sopko, U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Restoration has been consistently providing the evidence for it in his reports to the U.S. Congress. Corruption schemes, according to Sopko, have intensified the U.S economic crisis. The U.S. government is using a multilevel contract system that involves a huge number of contractors on sites. The key role in this process is played by USAID as it is responsible for allocation of funds, while Afghanistan does not get a half of it.

The recent reform to alter the Ministry of finances introduced by Afghanistan’s President A. Ghani testifies on the Afghanistan’s leader attempt to corner the foreign financial aid. However, the U.S government has criticized this reform and said the decision a «corrupt scheme». Soon after the statemen Ghani cancelled the reform, a move that proves the Afghanistan political dependence on Washington.

The U.S. Defense Industry officials are interested in financial aid provided by the U.S. government to Afghanistan. Procurement purchases for the needs of the U.S and Afghan troops and NATO are often made at higher prices. For instance, Washington continues buying rifles M-4 and M-6 for 57 cents per item. Instead, the U.S. government could have built a military plant in Afghanistan that would produce the rifles for 12 cents per item. The United States have also refused to buy kerosene from Russia for as much as 94 cents per liter and preferred to use the complicated scheme with Greece and wire the purchase at $1,4 per liter. The United States are supporting Afghan military by its own structures that allow them to avoid transparent schemes in international organizations and unnecessary control. The same scheme is used by U.S contractors in its civil projects where the key role is again played by the USAID. For instance, Afghanistan has issued 10K COVID-19 tests at $48 per item while the real price for 1 test is $5 per item.

Obviously, the most luring contracts are those that relate to oil and gas sector, military provision for the Afghan troops and the NATO. They are being lobbied by U.S. Congressmen that appoint their relatives as CEOs of contracting companies. It’s no surprise that huge U.S. military aid to Afghanistan has gone far beyond the planned budget that was proposed by the Marshall plan. Besides, money acquisitions by U.S. contractors rank from 50% to 90%.

The scale of the U.S. financial aid is also impressive. In February, 2020, John Sopko in his report to the U.S. Congress mentioned the amounts of the funds provided to Afghanistan are far beyond the capability of the Afghan economy. According to John F. Sopko, the U.S. investments to Afghanistan should be from 15% to 45% of the country’s GDP, while in 2007 and in 2010 they were estimated of over 100% of Afghanistan’s GDP. Such schemes create enormous opportunities for stripping. Besides, the U.S government attempts to stop funding Afghanistan are opposed by the U.S. military as they are interested in keeping the «income». On March, 23 Mike Pompeo claimed the U.S. would better decrease money infusions to Afghanistan by $1 billion due to the internal political crisis in Afghanistan. However, the decision was not proceeded.

US policy in Syria aims to cause further chaos in EU

The US recent claims to withdraw its troops from the North-Eastern provinces of Syria and the official vows of pausing collaboration with Syrian Kurds are widely regarded as an effort of Washington to build closer relations with Ankara. However, while pursuing this policy, the Pentagon and the CIA continue expanding communication channels with Syrian Kurds in case if Ankara’s political compass is navigated towards Russia rather than the US after Turkey elections in June 2018.

The United States has also encouraged its partners, members of the Anti-Terrorism Coalition to send more of their troops to the so-called Syrian Kurdistan, a territory located north-east of the Euphrates. As a result, Germany and France, along with increasing numbers of their military troops in this region, have also been given authority to provide support to Kurdish military troops in Syria. Given how sensitive the Kurdish issue is for Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria this will, beyond any doubts, cause further tension between the EU and the Middle Eastern countries and will let the US avoid any possible accusations of the international law violations amid the Syria war.

With ambitious plans in Syria that included the stabilization of the country, getting rid of Bashar al-Assad, knocking out Iranian influence, fighting ISIS and becoming a hero who brought an end to the seven-year Syrian war the US did not seem (and perhaps still does not seem) to care that its new policy might cause much bigger conflicts in the region and go far beyond defeating ISIS only. Similar to the EU migration crisis, the US acts as an invisible mediator while the EU takes all the fire.  This time, Washington’s goals of aggravating the further conflict between the EU countries and the Middle East are rather economical: Washington tries to undermine the EU investment opportunities and provoke further financial crisis in Europe.

EU’s bitter lessons

The European Union continues to struggle with its economic and migration crises. The huge debt, obsolete political and economic regulations and inability to manage its migration policy are important alerts for the EU indicating the Brussels’s need to change its compass, says Pino Arlacchi, Member of the European Parliament.

By pursuing the US political course in the Syria war, the EU did not get any visible profit. Instead, it was left alone to cope with the increasing flows of illegal migrants posing safety threats for the EU citizens.

Indeed, The Syrian scenario is very much alike to the one in Afghanistan in 1979. When the Soviet army entered in 1979 trying to set up a friendly government in the country and altering the Cold War balances in the region, The United States, Saudi Arabia, and other countries started arming the anticommunist Afghan militia groups. The country was flooded with weapons while most of those weapons were in hands of Taliban. Shortly after that the US became the number one enemy for Afghanistan, says Arlacchi.

During the Syria war, the US have once again learned the bitter lesson as they did in Afghanistan. However, the Syrian opposition is so diverse and uncontrolled that its arming could have much tragic consequences. This is why the US used Saudi Arabia and Qatar as a sort of a liaison to keep the balance in the region. But we also saw the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Qatar that split the countries apart. Obviously, the strategic alliance of Iran, Russia and Turkey has played a crucial role in the Syria war. All the countries could be able to gain the trust from both people and decision-making powers in the region. At the same time the US along with the EU received little credibility from the Syrian government.

Moreover, the EU is swamped with its internal issues that it faces the risk of splitting apart. Ironically it may be, but with integrity being its main value, The European Union is falling apart today. A huge debt of Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Cyprus and other EU’s members and their inability to repay it explains the attempts of those countries to boycott the Brussels’s regulations.

According to Arlacchi, the world is changing its compass and the EU has to adapt to it. The West is losing its role of the world economic and political dictator due to its huge debt and ineffective policy. Instead, China and Eurasia are on the rise today.