Imperialism, Geopolitics and Religion: The Split Between Moscow and Constantinople

By Dimitris Konstantakopoulos

A very serious rift regarding Ukraine is now developing between the Ecumenical (Universal) Patriarchate of Constantinople and the biggest and more powerful among the Orthodox Christian Churches, the Russian one. 

The immediate reason lies on the decision of Constantinople to recognize an independent (from Moscow), Autocephalous Ukrainian Church, directly affiliated to Constantinople. Kiev is the birth place, the cradle of the Russian Orthodoxy, and its church belonged to the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate for many centuries.

This decision coincides and is related to the serious crisis in Ukraine, with this country having become the theater of bloody civil war and forefront of Cold War II, as a result of a US-supported armed coup in Kiev, with the help of Nazi militias. After provoking the crisis in Ukraine, Americans used it to launch Cold War II and destroy relations between Europe and Russia.

Destroying Greek-Russian relations 

Now, Americans want to use their influence in Greece and Constantinople to destroy relations between the Greek and the Russian world, which remains a strategic, long-term aim of their policy. This is a very important goal per se, parallel to their “Ukrainian” aims.

The destruction of any relations between Greece and Russia, and also of the image of Greece in Russia and of Russia in Greece, has been one of the most important strategic aims of the British Empire for the last two to three centuries and, also, of the US policy after 1946. They don’t even hide it. Their think tanks call both Greece and Cyprus “Trojan horses” of Moscow.

This western strategy has become more important and relevant today, for at least two reasons. Greece remains always a debt colony in a “death spiral”, so it may revolt again like it did in 2015 and turn to Russia for help. The question of the international orientation of the country may also be put again on the agenda, in case of EU dissolution.The second reason is that the most absolute control of the Balkans is necessary to wage (or threaten to wage) war against Russia. The most absolute control of Cyprus is necessary for any new, major campaign in the Middle East. Any Russian influence, even a remote one, in those two countries must be neutralized by all means.

The most serious shock for Orthodoxy since 1453 

Given what we already described, a harsh reaction from the Moscow Patriarchate was absolutely predictable and it did happen.

From time to time there have been quarrels inside the Orthodox world. But all that were intra-family, secondary ones. Now we are in front of a probable “divorce”, of a schism, which, if finalized, may represent the biggest shock Orthodoxy suffered since 1453, when Turks occupied Constantinople. The homogeneity of the Orthodox world will be also badly affected, as it is very probable that each one of the 14 existing Orthodox Churches will adopt a position of its own.

A (not so hidden) geopolitical agenda 

Both sides advance various canonical and ecclesiastical arguments, to defend their respective positions. We are not going to examine them here. We will instead focus on the accompanying geopolitical factors.

This ecclesiastical crisis is closely connected and interrelated with two strong geopolitical tendencies;

– Cold War II, with Ukraine as its forefront

– The rise of a totalitarian Empire of Finance, in the context of a deep transformation of the neoliberal era

The Greek “experiment’ since 2010, must be understood in the context of this rise. The Empire is trying systematically to “abduct” Greek institutions, political forces, symbols, even resistance or revolt symbols and subjects, using them against the meaning of the identities they bear and against Greek national interests. (It is approximatively what happened in the USSR case, when they were able to introduce western software into the minds of the Gorbachev leadership thus provoking the collapse of the structure, much in the way auto-immune diseases are acting).

The War of (on) Civilizations and the Orthodox religion

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All that has created very favorable conditions to accelerate the attack against both Orthodox countries and Churches by trying to isolate them, to split them and, if possible, abduct them or their leaders and transform them into tools of hostile to them forces.

We don’t write all that out of our imagination or emitting hypotheses. Nobody else than Samuel Huntington himself has repeatedly described Orthodox Christians as the enemies No2 (the first being Islam and all the others follow, as his world has only ennemies!)

He is the most prominent, deep and influential among Neocon theoreticians of US-Israeli Imperialism and the rising totalitarianism. Huntington is using religion as his exclusive criterion to “classify” civilizations and to structure and “justify” his neo-imperialistic, racist project for a world dictatorship after the end of the Cold War.

Huntington, a close fellow of Kissinger, has been the architect of “urbanization” of Vietnam by bombing its peasants. In 1975, he was one of the main proponents of Neoliberalism to the Trilateral Committee. His ideas have inspired a dozen or so catastrophic wars in the Middle East and they continue to inspire many of the policies of the Trump administration and of the activities of people like Steve Bannon.

His ideas represent the transition from “democratic” to clearly totalitarian Imperialism. This is creating to him some problems, as he has to use the language and ideology of the democratic bourgeois regime to express totalitarian ideas. This is becoming very clear when he speaks about Greece. To classify the country of Aristotle, Plato, Pericles and the Acropolis, whose language was used to write, for the first time in History, the words Freedom, Logos, Democracy, to the group of “inferior barbarians”, as he is portraying everybody except the West, you risk to appear simply ridiculous.

Obviously, this is not the only problem Huntington is facing with Greece and Greeks. The second one is they happen to inhabit an extremely important strategic place in Eastern Mediterranean. The third is they like from time to time to create havoc with their “anarchic” behavior and their resistance to Empires. like with their unparrallel resistance to Nazis.

Huntington admits the difficulty when he is writing that Greece represents an “anomaly”. He invents the term “Slav-Orthodox” world, in order to avoid as much as possible putting together the symbolic values of the countries of Aristotle and of Dostoyevski, thus ruining his whole racist construction.

As we already said those are not just simple ideas, but they serve to inspire the wars in the Middle East or the return of the nuclear threats. In the case of Greece, the bail-out programs create the conditions of a Greece (and Cyprus) without Greeks”, thus resolving the Huntingtonian problem of the Greek “anomaly”.

Now Greece has crossed the stage of purely economic-political catastrophe and is in the phase of its geopolitical destruction, which includes the destruction of any relationship with traditional potential allies or friends, like Russia.

Before the end of the Greek drama, the victim has to be totally isolated and in a state of such impotence and despair, to ask himself for his execution, like Mr. K. in Kafka’s trial.

Ukrainian independence 

Behind Constantinople decision there is an implicit political argument, even if not always stated in such terms, going like this: Ukraine has the right to be an independent state, so the right to have an independent Church, especially as Russia is the main threat.

This is a partial truth leading to a distortion of reality. Russia did nothing to object to Ukrainian independence back in 1991. Not only it admitted, it did it disregarding both the opposite will expressed during the March 1991 referendum in the USSR and the wishes and rights of the ethnic Russian populations which represent the majority of the population of Eastern Ukraine and Crimea. If Moscow has to be accused of something, is disregarding the rights of Russians, not of Ukrainians. Nobody asked them if they wanted to be citizens of Ukraine. Why Ukrainians have the right to self-determination and Russians do not have it?

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Never Moscow threatened Ukraine during the 2014, except incorporating Crimea, as its Russian population has asked, after the power in Kiev was occupied by a semi-Fascist politician.

The actual problem in Ukraine has been provoked when US did torpedo an agreement between the President and the opposition, negotiated by the European Union and then transformed a peaceful popular revolt against the elected President into an armed rebellion, with the help of pro-Nazi militias. It was in reaction to all that happening and to the first anti-Russian measures adopted by the new Kiev leaders, that Russians in the East revolted, claiming their right to self-determination. By doing all that, US destabilized the delicate equilibrium of a very heterogenous state leading to the civil war. As for Ukrainian independence, the main threats to it come from the IMF and NATO.

It is true that Ukrainians have the right to an independent state and it is also true that Russian-Ukrainian relations have some very dark history pages, althougth it is a distortion to reduce all history to them.

It is also true that in Ukraine don’t live only Ukrainians, Russians there have also the right of self-determination, all citizens of Ukraine have the right to live normally, without armed nazi guards threatening their life. It is an aberration to disregard all that reducing the whole problem to one of threatened independence.

Besides there is another question. Ukraine has the right to be independent, but all Europe has the also the right to feel safe. Now the Ukrainian question is used by the US to organize a very dangerous and offensive military buildup reviving of nuclear war. In the same time the foundations of the arms control regime like the ABM Treaty have been repudiated, NATO is in a process of continuous enlargement and every two months Mr. Trump makes an implicit or explicit threat to use his nuclear arsenal.

One can in extremis understand the pathos of some religious leaders for an independent Ukraine. What we are unable to understand is their complete indifference to events which may lead to annihilation of humanity!

Consequences of a Schism 

The two Patriarchates command now roughly half of the international influence of Orthodoxy. But a split will let them with less than half.

The Russian church will be pushed to a narrow, Russian, at best Slavic role. The consequences for Constantinople will be more serious. It is surprising it seems to be oblivious to them.

To put it in a different way. Russia, Greece, other Slavic and Arab Christians together make much more than the addition of them sepoarated.

A schism will be a blow to the standing of the Constantinople Patriarchate, making it more vulnerable than today to the Turkish regime and much more dependent upon Washington, for its very survival.

The standing of all Orthodox Churches towards Vatican risks to be seriously diminished.

If the (legitimate) ambition of Patriarch Bartholomew is to establish an ecumenical role for Constantinople, he runs the risk of “killing” it himself for good with his Ukrainian policy. Such a role does not depend so much upon the number of believers directly affiliated to his jurisdiction. It depends more upon the international appeal of his Patriarchate.

It will make no good to its reputation, even in Greece, if it ends by being understood as a simple corollary of American Cold Warriors, of the CIA and of a semi-dictatorial Poroshenko regime, with its Neo-nazi militias. Such a description would be probably unjust for the Patriarch, still impressions do matter, and sometimes more than realities.

What a reasonable person waits from an Ecumenical Patriarch, or from any sound political, intellectual or religious leader, for that matter, is to try with all his forces to reconcile Orthodox believers and their Churches in Ukraine, to work for reconciliation of Ukrainians and Russians, for peace in Europe, to stop the drums of War once more beating now in our continent.

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The Orthodox World under siege 

The teachings of Jesus Christ found an enormous echo, among popular, poor masses in Palestine, and later, along the whole Eastern Mediterranean basin, because they seemed the convenient antidote to the asphyxiating atmosphere of the ancient Globalization, the Roman Empire.

Nowadays, the key for any Church to really command a serious influence, it to put its weight behind the suffering peoples and nations, first of all the peoples and nations whose majority belongs to the same religious belief.

A closer look to the Orthodox nations, easily proves most of them have become objects of Western Imperialism and Neo-colonialism, sometimes with use of military power, more often with use of political and financial one.

Nowadays, nearly all the Orthodox nations face the fierce attack of the West, of an ascending Empire of Finance, aiming at putting the whole world under the totalitarian domination of Finance:

a) First to feel that were the Serbs. With Vatican playing an important role in orchestrating the campaign to dismember multinational Yugoslavia .

b) Greeks became the object of an unprecedented “experiment” in 2010, which is leading to their social, economic, political and demographic catastrophe

– C) Russia is facing a Cold War II

– D) In all the region of South-Eastern Europe, from Cyprus to Ukraine, mostly inhabited by Orthodox Christians, you see an array of ruins, a region of states turned into protectorates, oligarchic pseudo-democracies, commanding even less autonomy than under the iron discipline of the Cold War. The whole Orthodox world, outside Russia, inside or outside the EU, has become the object of a very harsh economic neocolonialism, reserved, before 1991, only to Third World countries

The very physical existence of those nations is under threat, as a large part of their population is emigrating to survive.

We could also speak here of the Orthodox Christian communities in the Arab world, indirect victims of the neocon wars.

If those nations want to survive they will be in need, sooner or later, to give a very hard struggle for such a survival and in order to do it they will need to keep all their institutions and symbols, including religious ones. They will need them on their side, not on the side of Western imperialism and neocolonialism. They will also need to cooperate on an equal footing between themselves and also with Russia.

They badly need Russia, but Russia also needs them, as it has become now the object of Cold War II, a gigantic Western effort to encircle and submit Moscow. Such a cooperation can be fruitful only on terms of equality and parity.

The future of the Orthodoxy 

From the above analysis, we believe one conclusion is imposed. The Orthodox Churches will have a future only as allies of their nations in the struggles for survival they have to give. The Orthodox world has not an alternative vision to the forces of Western Capitalism which are threatening and attacking it. Its capacity to resist will depend to a large degree from its capacity to produce such an alternative, a counter-vision.

All that does not mean to counterpose the Eastern to the Western part of the continent. By defending their interests, Eastern European peoples and nations can  contribute to the emergence of a social and independent Europe, absolutely necessary to the struggle for overcoming the most important crisis humanity has faced during all its history.

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