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Russia in the 21st Century [Superthread]

In the battle for hearts and minds, Russia is now engaged with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Religion is such a powerful motivator, and this has the potential to get really ugly:


Ukraine’s Spiritual Split From Russia Could Trigger a Global Schism
For Moscow, the crisis is geopolitical as well as religious.

“This is a victory of good over evil, light over darkness.” That’s how Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko described the announcement Thursday that the Orthodox Church’s Istanbul-based leader, Patriarch Bartholomew, will grant Ukraine’s Church independence from Russia.

In televised remarks, Ukraine’s president dubbed this a “historic event,” which it undoubtedly is: For more than three centuries, Ukraine and Russia have been religiously united within the Russian Orthodox Church. It was a union Poroshenko characterized this summer as a “direct threat to the national security of Ukraine,” given his view that the Russian Orthodox Church fully supports Kremlin policy; he said then that it was “absolutely necessary to cut off all the tentacles with which the aggressor country operates inside the body of our state.”

Now, four years after Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, Ukraine is asserting its territorial independence by demanding its own national Church. For Russia, the crisis is geopolitical as well as spiritual. The stakes are so high that in order to protest Ukraine’s religious autonomy, Russia may respond harshly enough to trigger a deep schism in the Christian world.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin
Trump, Putin, and the Art of Appeasement
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko meets with servicemen during his visit to Donetsk region, Ukraine on June 14, 2017.
Will U.S. Arms Resolve the Conflict in Ukraine?
At the core of this issue is a fundamental question of both religious and territorial identity, as Russian actions in eastern Ukraine aimed to undermine the country’s very independence. The Ukrainian Church had sought independence from the Russian one for decades, but it only became “inevitable after the Russian military excursion in eastern Ukraine, no question about it,” said Aristotle Papanikolaou, a co-chair of Orthodox Christian studies at Fordham University. Ukraine will join several other countries that have their own independent national Churches, among them Serbia, Greece, and Romania.

Read: Ukraine is ground zero for the crisis between Russia and the West.

The Russian Church claims that Ukraine and its backers are the ones pushing the Church to the brink of catastrophe. A top Russian Church official said that by supporting Ukraine’s bid for an independent Church, Istanbul “threatens the global Orthodox world with a schism.” That schism would have an outsized effect on Russia: Severing ties between the Russian Church and its parishes in Ukraine would strip Moscow of a crucial component of its sphere of influence to its west. George Demacopoulos, the other chair of Orthodox Christian studies at Fordham, told me an independent Ukrainian Church would strip the Russian Church of a third of its jurisdiction, and Russia would “symbolically suffer a very big blow because they have been presenting themselves as the leaders of the Orthodox world in the 21st century.”

The Moscow Church “is frequently accused of being a tool of the Kremlin,” Katherine Younger, who directs the Ukraine in European Dialogue program at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, told me. She said she believes that’s why Poroshenko portrayed the issue of Church independence “as a matter of state security”— it’s “a way to weaken a major ideological interference and source of Russian propaganda.” Poroshenko’s apparent concerns have some basis in fact: The Russian hackers indicted by the U.S. special prosecutor in July have tried for years to access private correspondence from top Orthodox Church officials, according to an investigation by the Associated Press. And beginning with the 2014 invasion of Crimea, the Russian Orthodox Church—which is not technically affiliated with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin—has been accused of spreading “misinformation” about Ukraine.

Read: Ukraine’s long-smoldering war for independence

There are a few different ways Russia could react to Patriarch Bartholomew’s announcement. It could withhold recognition of Ukraine’s Church, which would be a purely symbolic statement of disapproval. Or, according to Demacopoulos, Russia might take “the nuclear option of breaking sacramental unity,” which means people who belong to Orthodox Churches aside from the Russian one could not receive communion while in Russia. That might not sound like much to outsiders, Papanikolaou said, but “it’s a pretty severe step.”
The fight over the Church goes back to a single event that took place more than 1,000 years ago. In 988, Vladimir the Great, the prince of an empire known as Kievan Rus (and Putin’s namesake), converted to Christianity in what is now Ukraine. Russia claims that empire as the birthplace of its historical heritage as a nation. But Ukraine does, too, and Ukraine is the country that actually has Kiev in its territory.

Read remainder at link.
So if Russia goes with the "nuclear option" and refuses to provide communion to people who belong to an Orthodox Church that isn't the Russian Orthodox Church...God all of a sudden stops forgiving these same people, due to a political matter outside of their control?  ::)

I'm not trying to be disrespectful of anybody's religion.  Not in the slightest. 

But religion & spirituality is about your relationship with a higher power, and how that relationship with a higher power helps you to improve yourself as a person.  Does that relationship all of a sudden change because "We're calling it something different now, on this side of the imaginary line our governments recognize as a border!"

I'm truly hoping people won't let political leaders interfere with their relationship with whatever name they call God, especially to the point where they are manipulated into being violent towards others.  (I know, I know...)  ::)
CBH99 said:
So if Russia goes with the "nuclear option" and refuses to provide communion to people who belong to an Orthodox Church that isn't the Russian Orthodox Church...God all of a sudden stops forgiving these same people, due to a political matter outside of their control?  ::)

I'm not trying to be disrespectful of anybody's religion.  Not in the slightest. 

But religion & spirituality is about your relationship with a higher power, and how that relationship with a higher power helps you to improve yourself as a person.  Does that relationship all of a sudden change because "We're calling it something different now, on this side of the imaginary line our governments recognize as a border!"

I'm truly hoping people won't let political leaders interfere with their relationship with whatever name they call God, especially to the point where they are manipulated into being violent towards others.  (I know, I know...)  ::)

And that is precisely why the First Amendment to the US Constitution states : 
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.[1]

For those that are doubtful of the role of religion in establishing modern liberal governance.

Religion was top of mind for the authors of the rules and regulations that would govern the United States and was considered ahead of, but in conjunction with freedoms of speech, publication and assembly.  The whole point of the exercise was due to groups of Frenchmen, Germans, Swiss, Dutch, Scots, Irish, Welsh and various Englishmen all agreeing that they couldn't tolerate the imposed conformity of Europe but couldn't agree on an absolute alternative.  So they agreed to disagree and tolerate each other's practices.  Quite liberal, as Adam Smith would have said.
Big "oops"


Russia’s only aircraft carrier is damaged when dock sinks, crane punches huge hole in ship
By: The Associated Press     1 day ago

MOSCOW — Russia’s only aircraft carrier was damaged in a dock accident Tuesday that left one person missing and four injured, officials said.

A floating dock sank early morning in Murmansk, dropping a crane on the deck of the Admiral Kuznetsov carrier, the United Shipbuilding Corporation said.

The corporation’s chief, Alexei Rakhmanov, said the 70-ton crane left a hole of 215 square feet, but added that it didn’t damage any of the ship’s vital systems.

The accident happened as the ship was leaving the dock following repairs. Rakhmanov said it may have been caused by a sharp power surge that led to pumps' failure.

The Russian naval grouping is led by the Northern Fleet’s guided missile cruiser Marshal Ustinov.

Rakhmanov said that accident wouldn't lead to a significant extension of the carrier's refurbishment. Following the repairs, the carrier is to be fitted with modern control systems and new weapons.

Rakhmanov acknowledged, however, that the loss of the huge, 80,000-ton dock would disrupt the planned modernization of other Russian navy ships. The dock is the only structure of that capacity that Russia has, and it wasn't immediately clear whether it could be lifted.

The Admiral Kuznetsov carrier was launched in 1985 and has repeatedly been plagued by technical problems.

While the ship with its turbines belching black smoke looks outdated compared with the U.S. nuclear-powered carriers, it allows the Kremlin to project power far away from Russia's shores.

Two years ago, the Admiral Kuznetsov was deployed to the eastern Mediterranean as part of Russia’s campaign in Syria, launching the first carrier-mounted attacks in Russia’s navy history.
More on Russia's naval woes:



The big takaway is much of Russia's Blue Water capability and ability to do force projection is dependent on a dwindling number of large, soviet era ships, many of which are both old and maintainence intensive. Russia's ability to carry out maintaining these ships is limited by the remaining drydocks in service, as well as the state of the Russian economy and how much they actually can afford to spend. The Russian submarine fleet is really the only big stick they have left, but once again, a large portion of the submarine fleet is Cold War submarines buiilt before the fall of the wall.

How this is going to play out, and how we should respond to this is an interesting question.
Russia doesn't need a large, powerful blue water navy.  It doesn't have the economic or political clout to justify a large, powerful blue water navy.  That navy would have no Russian-state interests to rush to the aid of, unlike the US needing to rush to Europe or SE Asian allies.

What Russia would really benefit from is a large & capable green water navy.  Their newer frigates are lethal, as are their newer submarines.  A healthy fleet of those, along with air assets - would, in my opinion, serve Russia far better.  It would be a better use of resources & give Russia  a robust capability to control situations along it's borders...which is where a lot of our current trouble spots are.

Let's not forget.  It's not Russian ships sailing in the islands off of BC, or parking themselves just outside of Canada's EEZ.  It's western ships sailing around the Baltic sea, etc.

Personally, I think Russia would be far better off building a robust & capable fleet for near it's own shores.  It doesn't need tons of subs prowling the Atlantic, ready to strike back against a nuclear onslaught by the US.  It does need the ability to assert it's own interests close to it's own borders, which I believe would actually really help normalize relations. 
Depends on how you define blue water.  Russian needs to challenge NATO force projection.  This means going after aircraft carriers/subs, and pushing them out further and further from threatening Russia.  Which is why a "blue water" submarine fleet is a good idea.  As for a surface fleet Russia can do well with a smattering of heavy surface ships and a bunch of smaller vessels.  This is one of the reasons for the Syrian intervention.  They get access to a Med military port, pushing NATO even further away from Crimea and Ukraine on one axis and threatening the southern route into Russia.
And they have there...interests...and...maybe not partners, but certainly people with similar interests, on the western side of the Pacific.
Ukraine: Intercepted communications suggest Kremlin directed Azov Sea crisis

Looks like this might be part of a bigger Russian game plan

Further to this post on hypersonic Avangard glide vehicle for ICMBs,

the latest (serious missile defence and arms control implications with coming hypersonic, Russian, Chinese and American):

Russia announces successful flight test of Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle

Russian President Vladimir Putin on 26 December 2018 announced a successful initial all-up flight test of the Avangard (Vanguard) hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV).

According to Putin, the Avangard HGV (previously designated Objekt 4202, Yu-71, and Yu-74) was launched from the Dombarovskoye missile base in the southern Ural Mountains, flew about 6,000 km, "manoeuvering horizontally and vertically at hypersonic speeds" and successfully engaged a simulated target at the Kura Range in Russia's Kamchatka peninsula.

"The Avangard has fully passed through its test program and will become operational on schedule. The weapon has fully confirmed its specifications," said Putin.

Developed by the NPO Mashinostroyenia Corporation and furnished with a solid propellant scramjet engine, Avangard has a claimed engagement speed of Mach 27 (32,202.36 kph). The HGV can reportedly be integrated as a multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV) with the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces' (Raketnye voyska strategicheskogo naznacheniya - RVSN) RS-18B/UR-100UTTKh SS-19 Mod 3 'Stiletto', R-36M2, and RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) [emphasis added].

The Avangard system has already been integrated onto the UR-100UTTKh ICBM, according to Russian Security Council member, Sergei Ivanov. "We have several dozen brand new UR-100N UTTH ICBMs, with which the Avangard fits very well," he said. According to Ivanov, the new HGV also complies with the existing strategic arms reduction treaties, including the New START [emphasis added] (SNV-3).

RVSN Commander Colonel General Sergey Karakayev confirmed on 17 December 2018 that RVSN's Dombarovo Missile Division would receive the first Avangard HGVs integrated with the UR-100N UTTKh ICBMs in 2019. The UR-100N UTTH (SS-19 mod. 3 Stiletto) ICBM weighs 105.6 tonnes and carries a 4,350 kg payload. The baseline variant of the missile is fitted with six HGVs. Col Karakayev said the RVSN will stand up two missile regiments, each equipped with six Avangard systems by 2027 [emphasis added].



Pair of SU- 34 collide mid air, some air crew rescued in Pacific: https://www.rt.com/russia/449092-su-34-collide-russia/

I thought these were crewed by 2 but it appears only one flyer per bird.
The new nuclear capable missile violates 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty  INF. So whats a super power to do ? Cancel the treaty or build our own version ?

New toy for Russian Special Forces and irregular troops everywhere: a captive piston "silent" mortar:


The Russian army is getting “silent” mortars
Justin Rohrlich  2 days ago

Russian Army troops have begun taking delivery of advanced “silent” mortars, stealthy light artillery used by special commando units, Russia’s TASS news agency recently reported.

The 82mm 2B25 “Gull” mortar is manufactured by CRI Burevestnik, part of state-owned tank manufacturer UralVagonZavod. They are piston-launched, producing very little smoke or muzzle flash, and have a range of more than 1 km, or about six-tenths of a mile. Gull mortars are silent in the same way “bulletproof” vests are bulletproof: They aren’t, at least not 100% so. Picture a suppressed Kalashnikov rifle, only a lot bigger.

There are no other silent mortars on the market aside from the Gull, which Burevestnik says can fire 15 rounds per minute. Unnamed defense industry sources cited by TASS said a smaller 60mm version with a range of up to 4 km (2.5 miles) is in the works.

A Pentagon spokesperson declined to provide a statement, telling Quartz: “We don’t comment on matters of intelligence.”

The Gull “provides the advantage of concealed operation,” Burevestnik says in its marketing, explaining that it can be easily carried by one soldier. “All these advantages make the mortar attractive for Special Forces, especially in counter-terrorism operations.”

Sharon Burke, a former US assistant secretary of defense under the Obama administration, says the Gull could be useful for Russia given its “penchant for sneak attacks on neighbors with irregular forces, which the Russian government then denies responsibility for.”

“A long-range, large-caliber, stealthy and portable weapon would serve that end nicely,” says Burke, now a senior advisor to the New America Foundation.

The element of surprise

A regular mortar is not overwhelmingly loud to begin with; it produces a low thump that retired US Army colonel Jeff McCausland describes as something akin to a “cough.”

McCausland, a former Army War College dean who also commanded an artillery battalion during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, sees the Gull as a “not-insignificant improvement” over existing mortars. He says the Gull’s most important feature is the element of surprise.

“If they don’t hear you coming, you can just sit there and keep dropping shells down the tube till the barrel melts,” he tells Quartz. “You can pump out 15 rounds a minute from one of these things; you can do a good amount of damage.”

The Gull could also be a reliable moneymaker for Russia vis-a-vis overseas arms sales, McCausland believes. Countries like Sudan and DRC Congo “are all light infantry places, by and large, so selling it on the world market to folks like that is a distinct possibility,” he says.

Small systems like the Gull can be shipped easily, and should be simple for the Russians to get into the hands of various militaries and separatist groups without attracting much notice, explains former CIA military analyst Cindy Otis.

“Mortars are not what most people think of in terms of modern military technology,” she tells Quartz. “But they’re cost-effective, light, easily transportable, and adding a silencer is an extra plus.”
Russia should be somewhat wary. China isn't Europe. China won't enable Russia to kill the gas or oil not by any means once. Putin may as of now be shooting himself in the foot.
RUS has more ways to #$%^Y&*( up GPS - an overview here
A new investigative report* by the Russian independent media group “The Project” into luxury dachas owned by high-ranking government officials revealed that most all include GNSS jammers among their amenities. Attempts by the journalists to photograph the dachas from the air using drones were routinely foiled by jamming.

More @ link

* - Report in Russian
milnews.ca said:
RUS has more ways to #$%^Y&*( up GPS
Absolutely.  The US Centre for Defense Studies put out an excellent report in March 2019, "Above Us Only Stars: Exposing GPS Spoofing in Russia and Syria." LINK
They are routinely active in messing with GNSS for VIP/strategic facility protection, as well as active combat zones like Syria for airspace denial.
Nuclear weapons arms control treaties--two detailed analyses by very serious Americans with extensive personal involvement in the subject:

Intermediate-Range Missiles Are the Wrong Weapon for Today’s Security Challenges

Bringing Russia’s New Nuclear Weapons Into New START [hypersonics: Avangard glide vehicle for ICBMs; Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missile for, say, Tu-22M3 bomber]

Several news outlets have reported that Russian special forces were seen entering the Svalbard archipelago and mainland Norway.

According to Aldrimer news outlet, sources in NATO and in Norwegian intelligence have reported that the Russian troops were studying the terrain and important infrastructure. The US has obtained satellite images depicting the Russian special forces troops in Norwegian territory.

Oslo said that the incident was related to Russia’s military exercise in the Barents Sea, during which Russia’s North Fleet approached Svalbard.
From Norwegian media source(original in Norwegian - Google Translate into English) …
Tactical groups of Russian special forces have been operating on Norwegian soil in recent days, both in Svalbard and mainland Norway. Special Forces Operators have performed reconnaissance against key objects and critical infrastructure. The operators have also deployed technical monitoring systems and sensor platforms …
Google English of entire Norwegian article here.
Nyet. They are just playing their made for TV role: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupied
Cloud Cover said:
Nyet. They are just playing their made for TV role: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupied
They're all on leave or just retired, right? ;) #UkraineNorth

Meanwhile, as someone smarter than me often says, don't believe it until the Kremlin denies it
Russia’s Embassy in Oslo has dismissed as a gross provocation a report published by a Norwegian media outlet that a Russian special ops unit was allegedly carrying out a mission in the kingdom, the Russian diplomatic mission said on its Facebook page on Monday.

"Information published in an article by Aldrimer.no on September 27, 2019 on alleged actions by a Russian special forces unit in Spitsbergen is fake news. We cannot call it otherwise than a gross provocation. We consider this publication as part and parcel of the ongoing systemic work carried out by certain circles in Norway on imposing an image of an enemy on Russia," the embassy said ...