We don't get it, and we definitely don’t get why nobody is asking any questions. The IMF and EU make a lot of noise – through the Eurogroup – about all the conditions Greece has to address to get even a mild extension of support, while the same IMF and EU keep on handing out cash to Ukraine without as much as a whisper – at least publicly...
With Ukraine, Germany, and France all expressing their concern this morning about "conflict escalation" between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukraine military, the so-called "truce" appears to be hanging by a thread of semanticism (despite OSCE's please for respect of the cease-fire and the demarcation line). Today's triple whammy of 'escalation' appears more focused on the non-Russian side as first, France begins sending tanks into Poland; second, Ukraine shifts its tanks to the front-line; and third - and potentially most inflammatory for Putin - NATO has confirmed plans to create permanent command centers in Eastern Europe. Putin has not responded yet but reports of 'nuclear bombers' flying above the English Channel "with transponders turned off," suggests the sabre rattling continues.
"My humble thesis tonight is that the entire 20th Century was a giant mistake. And that you can put the blame for this monumental error squarely on Thomas Woodrow Wilson - a megalomaniacal madman who was the very worst President in American history... well, except for the last two."
With NATO's top military commander, General Breedlove, proclaiming that fighting in Ukraine is worse than pre-truce levels (and noting he could not confirm Poroshenko's Russian force numbers accusations), the news overnight, as The Telegraph reports, that Ukrainian forces appeared to withdraw from Donetsk airport last night, ending an 8-month battle in a bitter blow for pro-Kiev forces and apparent triumph for the Russian-backed separatists they are fighting. While the Pro-Russian separatists' Pyrrhic victory over the completely destroyed (as we noted here) airport may be a blow, a Ukrainian military spokesman on Thursday played down the surrender of the terminal buildings, saying it was simply a tactical withdrawal. Additionally, Russia has denounced an attack on a bus in separatist-held Donetsk which killed civilians as a "monstrous crime."
Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian state energy giant Gazprom to cut supplies to and through Ukraine amid accusations, according to The Daily Mail, that its neighbor has been siphoning off and stealing Russian gas. Due to these "transit risks for European consumers in the territory of Ukraine," Gazprom cut gas exports to Europe by 60%, plunging the continent into an energy crisis "within hours." Perhaps explaining the explosion higher in NatGas prices (and oil) today, gas companies in Ukraine confirmed that Russia had cut off supply; and six countries reported a complete shut-off of Russian gas. The EU raged that the sudden cut-off to some of its member countries was "completely unacceptable," but Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller later added that Russia plans to shift all its natural gas flows crossing Ukraine to a route via Turkey; and Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak stated unequivocally, "the decision has been made."
Some are thinking that 2015 will be a repeat of 2014 with a few incremental changes, However, the interesting question to ask is, how has the ground shifted in 2014, if indeed it has? To our mind, the really interesting development of 2014 is that the world as a whole (with a few minor exceptions) has become quite lucid on the topic of what the United States, as a global empire, is and stands for. Another major shift we have observed is that a significant percentage of the thinking people in the US no longer trusts their national media. In case somebody out there in the media realm is tired of playing it safe and printing stuff that's only fit for wiping your Kardashian with, here are a some points for you to try to refute...
Precious Metals Dealer To Pay Employees In Bitcoin Even As "Go-To" Bitcoin Exchange Is Massively HackedSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/06/2015 14:49 -0500
Earlier today, a small Denver-based precious metals dealer AmagiMetals announced something curious: it would paid its staff in Bitcoin. As it reported in its press release, "its entire staff will voluntarily accept a portion of individual employee paychecks in Bitcoin in 2015 through a new service called Bitwage. CEO of Amagi Metals Stephen Macaskill said the company is taking this action to advance its ability to function fully in Bitcoin going forward. Macaskill will accept $40,000 of his annual salary in bitcoin to demonstrate his support of Bitcoin." Whether it is a marketing gimmick, or the PM dealer is one of the few companies to put its (electronic) money where its ideological mouth is, and press for a world without dollar intermediation remains to be seen, however, for the sake of its employees we hope they did not put any part of their bonuses in the Bitstamp exchange which as we learned overnight, was the next big Bitcoin exchange to suffer a major hack following the now defunct Mt. Gox, and where a little over $5 million in bitcoins were stolen.
Despite the authorities' best efforts to keep everything orderly, we know how this global Game of Geopolitical Tetris ends: "Players lose a typical game of Tetris when they can no longer keep up with the increasing speed, and the Tetriminos stack up to the top of the playing field. This is commonly referred to as topping out."
"I’m tired of being outraged!"
Although every bad thing that is not the fault of climate change is allegedly the fault of Putin, it seems the EU commissariat “didn’t really mean it” and wants to see South Stream built after all.
Earlier today, in a stunning announcement, Putin revealed that the South Stream project is now finished. As the WSJ reports, "Putin said Moscow will stop pursuing Gazprom’s South Stream pipeline project that would supply natural gas to Europe with an underwater link to Bulgaria, blaming the European Union for scuttling the project." Putin is right: Europe - Austria excluded - had seen rising resistance to the South Stream in recent months. The EU is concerned that the project would cement Russia’s position as Europe’s dominant supplier of natural gas. Russia already meets around 30% of Europe’s annual needs. So what does Putin do? He signs a strategic alliance with NATO member Turkey, the only country in Europe that is anything but European and which lately has been increasingly anti-Western, to build a new mega-pipeline to Turkey instead. And the exclamation point:
TURKEY, RUSSIA AGREE TO USE LOCAL CURRENCIES IN TRADE: TRT
Or, as Obama would put it, Russia just got even more "isolated."
With French youth revolting, Spanish regions seeking secession, and GREXIT back on the cards, Europe's social unrest concerns are starting to rise once again to troubling levels. However, it is in Europe's poorest nation, Bulgaria that the message of dissatisfaction is loudest. As The BBC reports, a woman has set herself ablaze near the presidency building in the Bulgarian capital Sofia. There were six similar self-immolations in Bulgaria last year, amid anger over chronic poverty and alleged corruption.
- Republicans expect gains, but many races close on election day (Reuters)
- Ahead of tough election, White House blames dismay with Washington (Reuters)
- On Election Day, a Tale of the Young and the Old (WSJ)
- Because the recovery: Sprint to Cut 2,000 Jobs as Mobile Customers Keep Leaving (BBG)
- Ukraine's rebel leader is sworn in, crisis deepens (Reuters)
- Brilliant: Burkina Faso Army Promises Religious Leaders It Will Step Down (BBG)
- More Unknowns Leave Central Banks Facing Greater Internal Strife (BBG)
- Scapegoat found: IBM to Change Leadership at Global Services Unit (WSJ)
- Explains why Europe just slashed its GDP forecast: Don’t Be Fooled by Warm Spell as Cold Air About to Return (BBG)
- BULGARIA CENTRAL BANK CORPBANK PRE-JUNE REPORTS 'MISLEADING'
- BULGARIA CENTRAL BANK SAYS CORPBANK ASSETS ARE 6.7B LEV
- BULGARIA CENTRAL BANK SAYS CORPBANK AUDIT SHOWED ONLY 13 PERCENT OF LOANS HAD VALID COLLATERAL
While Greek government yields (and political leaders) proclaim the troubled peripheral European nation is 'recovering', the risk of major political upheaval in Greece has not gone away ahead of next year's presidential vote next year. As Reuters notes, under growing pressure from anti-bailout leftists, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras desperately needs a new narrative to get the backing of lawmakers and rally Greeks fed up with four years of austerity. We wish him luck as Keep Talking Greece notes, it is high time that the real data of the economic situation of the Greek society come to the surface and so it did this week. A report from Greece's State Budget Office found that three in every five Greeks, or some 6.3 million people, were living in poverty or under the threat of poverty in 2013 due to material deprivation and unemployment.