Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
President Dmitry Medvedev’s conference on the modern state and global security this week was an object lesson in efficiency and organisation. Four hours north east of Moscow in the ancient city of Yaroslavl, security was tight but not overbearing, hundreds of Moscow and Saint Petersburg students guided guests to their hotels and waited tables with exquisite fish, caviar, pastries, vegetables and fruit in a marquee beside the conference hall.
Russia was showing the face of a modern state with a global role.
Escaping the speeches for a view of Yaroslavl’s medieval Kremlin and onion-domed churches and monasteries, a few of us set off down the road from the conference centre in search of a taxi to drive us into town. The modern conference grounds quickly gave way to small wooden kiosks selling ‘products’, ‘vegetables’ – no brand names here.
No taxi either but there was a kiosk selling water melons, run by an Azeri eager to earn some extra cash.
His Lada stank of petrol and exhaust fumes belched inside the car every time it pulled away from every junction. He told us police sometimes stopped him because of his dark colouring – in this part of northern Russia blonde is the order of the day. And he complained that his invalid allowance – he had kidney problems – barely covered the cost of his medicine.
It’s true that Russia crushed Georgia’s army when it stepped in to help South Ossetian rebels but its forceful reaction to the Georgian attempt to retake rebel held areas scared its European partners and isolated the country. Only Nicaragua followed Moscow and recognised both South Ossetia and another breakaway region Abkhazia as independent states after the war.
The Russian Orthodox Church elected Metropolitan Kirill, 62, as its new leader on Tuesday, succeeding Alexiy II who died last month. The new leader of the 165 million-strong Church, the largest in the Orthodox world, is seen as a moderniser who may thaw long icy ties with the Roman Catholic Church.
There was speculation before the vote that nationalists, anti-westerners and anti-Catholic forces among the clergy and monks might rally to block Kirill's election. He seemed to take the possibility seriously enough to strike a conservative tone in recent days. In his address before the vote, Kirill spoke of "the assault of aggressive Western secularism against Christianity" and of "attempts by some Protestant groups to revise the teachings of Christianity and evangelical morality". He also hit out at Protestant and Roman Catholic missionaries, saying they sought converts in post-Soviet Russia -- a key point of discord with the Vatican.
There was a slightly Soviet air to the proceedings as bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church voted on Sunday for three candidates to be considered as their new patriarch. Meeting in the gold-domed Christ the Saviour cathedral overlooking the Moskva River, just a few hundred metres from the Kremlin, about 200 metropolitans and bishops had delegates badges dangling from their necks along with their usual pectoral crosses. A Soviet-style "presidium" of 16 top prelates presided over the session in the Hall of Church Councils. The proceedings started with voting for an election committee, a drafting committee and a credentials committee. Journalists covering the session couldn't help but think of the old communist party conferences.
Seated in the middle of this "presidium," Metropolitan Kirill -- the acting patriarch and frontrunner for the top post -- added to the atmosphere by chairing the meeting with a distinctively firm hand. But there were differences, of course. Voting for the three candidates was secret. And when it came time to announce the results of the vote, there was no official stamp to validate the protocol.
Posted by Andrei Makhovsky and Salah Sarrar
Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko and Libyan leader
Muammar Gaddafi found they had plenty in common when they met in
Minsk this week.
Both their countries have started to come in from the cold after years of
international isolation and sanctions that were imposed on their
countries because of their policies.
They also share a vision of a multi-polar world to
counterbalance U.S. influence.
There was an awkward moment on Sunday, when Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili stood next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Tbilisi and thanked her for having “initiated” plans to bring his country into NATO.
Anyone who followed NATO’s last summit in Bucharest back in April knows that it was Merkel who broke with Washington and spearheaded opposition to such a move.
Russia’s angry response to an accord between Washington and Prague on building part of a U.S. missile defence shield in the Czech Republic is reminiscent of the rhetoric of the Cold War. Although Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says Moscow still wants talks on the missile shield, his Foreign Ministry has threatened a “military-technical” response if the shield is deployed.
That phrase could have come straight out of the Soviet lexicon and seems more at home in the second half of the last century than now. Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer called it psychological pressure to try to encourage opposition to the missile system among Europeans, and described it as “the same sort that was used in the 1980s by the Soviet Union when the United States deployed cruise missiles in Europe.”