Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias Kirill (Gundyayev) are celebrating the Divine Liturgy at Mount Athos in Greece Saturday to commemorate the 1,000th anniversary of a Russian monastic presence on the Holy Mountain.
Eurasianist ideologue Alexandr Dugin announced at the website of his think tank Katehon that the services with Patriarch Kirill will be broadcast live from Athos beginning at 13:00 Moscow time on Saturday, May 28. (Note: after Dugin's widely publicized denial of entry to Greece, it appears the junior bureaucrat who wanted to keep him from visiting the country and Mt. Athos to cover this historic event was overruled). For those RogueMoney readers who have a high speed Internet connection, the link to watch live at Tsargrad TV's Russian language channel is here (note: we will update this post with video to insert in this space when it appears online).
For an introduction to Mt. Athos and the Orthodox Christian monastic way of life there that has continued unbroken by wars, pirates or rulers' depredations for at least twelve centuries, watch the CBS 60 Minutes documentary from 2011 with the late reporter Bob Simon here, with 'trailers' for this highly recommended program below:
The Russia Analyst's commentary on this highly symbolic and extraordinary event is below:
Athos and the Symbolism of Neo-Tsarist Symphonia in Russia
That Putin would need a spiritual and physical retreat from the pressures of Moscow at a time like this is not surprising. While Russia has withstood the pressures of economic sanctions and seemingly limitless information warfare while fighting proxy wars in Ukraine and Syria, the cracks in society are starting to show.
Real hardships for working and middle class Russians due to the general global economic crisis, the collapse in trade with Europe and oil price slump are increasingly evident. However, a spirit of resistance to globalism, to the degradation and nihilism post-Western societies offer the world is also evident, with a growing number of Russians participating in the life of the Orthodox Church and new temples going up all over Moscow and other major cities.
The Russia Analyst claims no insights into the state of Mr. Putin's soul, but even some of Vladimir Vladimirovich's fierce critics like ex-NSA analyst John R. Schindler acknowledge that his adult return to the Orthodox Christianity of his secret baptism as an infant in the officially atheistic USSR may be authentic. The symbolism of the Patriarch and Putin visiting the Holy Mountain at the same time is clear: without contradicting the Russian Federation's Constitution which establishes a secular state, Putin is affirming the ancient Byzantine Roman idea of symphonia, that is the State and Church working together for the spiritual and physical benefit of the people. Clearly this is a notion that predates Enlightenment ideas of a purely secular state or the oft-repeated phrase 'separation of Church and State' in America.
Hardliners' Influence? Putin's Rhetoric on NATO Gets Tougher
What is also evident from the visit of the Russian Patriarch and President to the Holy Mountain is that their pilgrimage, not visits with Greece's elected leader Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, are the highlight of the trip. Nonetheless, Putin found the time during his press conference with Tsipras to remind the governments of Romania and Poland that hosting elements of a U.S. ballistic missile defense system (one that as we've discussed here, has offensive capabilities via Tomahawk-cruise missile capable launch tubes) makes them targets for Russia's growing arsenal of hypersonic and supersonic missiles.
Putin's tougher rhetoric about Russia being prepared to counter and if necessary take out the NATO BMD system, as well as the calls by the powerful chief of the country's Investigative Committee (the rough equivalent to the director of the FBI) Alexander Bastrykin for Internet censorship and abandonment of what he calls "false democracy" in the face of U.S. and NATO hybrid warfare against Moscow's national sovereignty are indeed ominous signs that the Kremlin is increasingly fed up with what it sees as Washington's provocations.
Like Putin's grey cardinal retired KGB/SVR Lt. Gen. Leonid Reshetnikov, Bastrykin has called for the introduction of a "national idea" in Russia that would "ideological education" of the young to ensure “destabilization won’t happen even with the most generous external funding". Bolstering Orthodox Christianity alongside Russian patriotism and Eurasianist ideals for the non-Orthodox Christians from Russia's extensive Muslim or Buddhist populations would be part of any coherent program of the type Reshetnikov or Bastrykin envision. Such ideological indoctrination, in the minds of Reshetnikov or Bastrykin, would also serve the deterrence function of making clear to Russia's enemies in the post-Western capitals that Moscow is increasingly ready for war, whereas Europe and America's increasingly decadent populations are not prepared to endure the hardships (including radioactive fallout or at least massive casualties from a conflict that miraculously doesn't go nuclear) that might come with an actual shooting war rather than just another cold war.
Of course, not everyone among the Russian elite or Moscow's prospective partners in Europe wants to go down that road, and many remain optimistic that peace and commerce will prevail over war and subversion. For his part, Tsipras called for visa-free travel for Russians to the EU to promote tourism to Greece and said, "European security cannot be achieved without cooperation and dialogue with Russia...I don't believe that we can move forward or ensure compliance with international law while caught in a vicious circle of sanctions, militarization and Cold War rhetoric.” But as former MI6 agent Alastair Crooke warned this month in the Huffington Post, "Putin is Being Pushed to Abandon his Conciliatory Approach to the West and Prepare for War".
Clearly not everyone in Moscow believes time is on Russia's or its Eurasian allies' side and eventually the patient approach of waiting out U.S. demanded sanctions imposed by the European Union while EU member states undermine and eventually throw off the Washington-imposed yoke as the dollar or euro collapses will be vindicated. Yet with the alternatives being some sort of return to the failed Soviet attempts at autarky or at least a re-militarized economy in concert with the Chinese and Iranians, some sort of response to the growing pressure seems to be coming. Whether that will take the form of a 'purge' of Medvedev and others in the Russian elite who seem to be too post-Western for the tastes of the hardliners remains to be seen.
Fears of NATO Aggression or a Repeat of Perestroika and Collapse
There seem to be growing frustration and fears among Moscow's hardliners that history will repeat itself and the U.S. has once again as in the Reagan years embarked on a program consciously designed to force the Kremlin to choose between nuclear war or concessions to the (post)West that may result in internal upheaval followed by State collapse. The problems with repeating that old 1980s magic formula that individuals like 'W the Intelligence Insider' helped to implement of course are manifold: Russia is not the late great Soviet Union, Syria is not Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, and post-Western leaders are far more arrogant and stupid than the sober team of Reagan (who was accused of being a trigger-happy cowboy plotting a nuclear first strike on the USSR to usher in Hal Lindsey's Late Great Planet Earth version of Armageddon), Thatcher, Mitterrand and Kohl ever were.
The (post)West is also in a deteriorating economic, monetary and aging demographic situation compared to how it was in the 1980s -- meaning that the window for Washington aggressively imposing its will on Russia and other rival centers of power is closing fast. But the flip side of such a long term piece of good news for the rest of the planet is the short term bad news of how desperate this makes D.C.'s neocons and neo-liberal hawks.
Whereas the USSR had at least in conventional terms some Warsaw Pact buffer between it and the conventional forces of NATO, today hostile forces are at Russia's 'peacetime' borders for the first time since the spring and summer of 1941. While a handful of NATO battalions consisting of a few thousand troops in the Baltics pose no serious threat of invasion, the psychological button pushing against the Operation Barbarossa-recalling Russian mindset involved in placing German troops and Leopard 2 tanks with iron crosses on them in Latvia, where SS veterans are still honored with marches every year, is self-evident. Washington is trying to induce fear and frustration into the minds of the Russian elite, and appears to have at least partially succeeded, despite the Empire's ticking debt bomb and failed aggressive wars from the Ukraine to the Middle East.
Russia's Role in the Psychological and Spiritual War for the World
Washington also has informational and subversive (and some would argue, psychotronic) tools at its disposal like the Internet and social media that it didn't have in the 1980s, when the Voice of America, Samizdat and occasionally satellite TV were the cutting edge of bringing down the 'Evil Empire' (in fairness, Russia's own informational efforts such as RT and Sputnik are far more effective than Radio Moscow ever was either). The ideals of symphonia, sobornost and the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church itself have also not been spared informational attacks, most notoriously the Pussy Riot episode where the activists have been feted in the post-West for blasphemy and intruding on a church service. In response, some Russian Orthodox clergymen have stated clearly what they believe is happening in terms of the cosmic war behind all the eathly wars, hot and cold:
Powers, Principalities, and End Times Greek and Russian Orthodox Christian Prophecy
We do not know, though we can speculate, that one of the monks of the monks that knew Elder Paisios could whisper a warning into Vladimir Putin's ear about the prophecies of the 18th century saint Kosmas and the 20th century Athonite, who reposed in +1994, concerning a huge war between Turkey and Russia, a war the Russians will win to liberate Constantinople for the Greeks and restore the Hagia Sofia to Orthodoxy. Or whether some of the Russian monks on the Holy Mountain believe in the prophecies of the late Archbishop Theophan of Poltava spoken under the Bolshevik yoke, that a final Tsar will come to restore Russia before the return of Christ. But it would be irresponsible of us to state any of those possibilities as facts.
The monastery where Putin dined as a guest is dedicated to St. Panteleimon, revered as a young physician martyr and healer of the sick in the Orthodox Christian church
What we do know is that Mt. Athos existence after centuries under the Muslim Ottoman yoke and its prayers "without ceasing" offered around the clock are potent symbols of the deeper reality that the Orthodox Church and its daughter Holy Rus (not necessarily the Russian nation, which can be mostly destroyed in nuclear fire, but the highest spiritual ideals of Russian Orthodoxy) abide all of the flaming darts the New World Order and Satan himself can throw. The survival and triumph of Russian Orthodoxy after the Satanic efforts of the Bolsheviks to exterminate the Church are living testimonies to this truth.
Despite the personal failings and sins of the Patriarch or Putin, both men are tapping into a source of Power and resistance to the hidden powers and principalities of the air that govern our fallen world. As the monk said in an interview with the late reporter Bob Simon posted above, the monasteries of Athos (or the Athos of the North at Valaam) are fortresses, centers of the ceaseless prayer and spiritual warfare on behalf of the Church militant everywhere. Whenever the Russia Analyst is tempted to despair at seemingly intractable personal problems or the seeming triumph of evil, we remind ourselves of the humble monks in their cells and the invincible Patroness and Protector of the Holy Mountain:
UPDATE: Saturday, May 28, 2016 11:15 p.m. Eastern -- just in case anyone missed the neo-Tsarist, neo-Byzantine symphonia symbolism around Putin's visit to Mt. Athos, Alexander Dugin made it about as subtle as a sledgehammer with this tweet: