Many people seem to think that America has lost its sense of purpose. You don’t have to seek further than the USA’s sub-soviet-quality passenger railroad system, which produced the spectacular Philadelphia derailment last week that killed eight people and injured dozens more. Six days later, we’re still waiting for some explanation as to why the train was going 100 miles-per-hour on a historically dangerous curve within the city limits. The condition of our trains is symptomatic of the shape of the nation.
With a deal between Greece and its creditors seen as exceedingly unlikey at Monday's Eurogroup meeting, officials and analysts alike debate the logistics of default and a return to the drachma while Greeks may be called upon to choose between austerity or preparing for the possible introduction of a parallel currency and the economic malaise that will invariably follow.
The biggest slow motion trainwreck in history, one that everyone knows how it ends just not when (especially since the "when" is about 5 years overdue), that of the Greek sovereign default may just got a bit more exciting earlier today when the WSJ reported that the IMF can no longer lie - like Mario Draghi did to Zero Hedge in 2013 - that there are preparation for a Plan B. To wit: "the International Monetary Fund is working with national authorities in southeastern Europe on contingency plans for a Greek default, a senior fund official said—a rare public admission that regulators are preparing for the potential failure to agree on continued aid for Athens."
The US is applying political pressure to Greece in an effort to dissuade Athens from participating in Russia's Turkish Stream Pipeline project which has been implicitly used, at various times, as a negotiating tactic in discussions with EU creditors. As the Times suggests, this is further evidence that Washington is becoming increasingly concerned that the world is rapidly shifting away from the US-dominated, unipolar model that has existed, in one form or another, since the collapse of the Soviet Union. This consternation is beginning to manifest itself in the revitalization of Cold War politics.
Turkey is currently trying to decide which of the two similar though competing projects - the Eurasian or the European Energy Union - would be more beneficial for the country. Russia’s attempts to build an ever closer relationship with Turkey - and the latter’s openness to such gestures - will complicate regional energy geopolitics further. Thus, Brussels and Ankara are likely to disagree on strategically important energy security issues over the coming years unless Turkey and the EU can achieve tighter cooperation under the framework of the European Energy Union. But if Turkey instead starts to pursue a more independent policy, particularly one at odds with the European Union, the Eurasian region will experience ever more unstable and competitive energy geopolitics.
With talks between Greece and its creditors expected to go mostly nowhere in Riga later this week, and with speculation about an energy deal between Athens and Moscow (i.e. the precursor to the dreaded "Russian pivot") looking less like speculation and more like reality with each passing day, Europe is going the spite route by filing anti-trust charges against Gazprom.
It appears that Herr Schaeuble will be left in the cold disappointed as following comments from the Greek energy minister that a deal is coming "soon," it is being reported that:
*RUSSIA MAY SIGN GAS LINK ACCORD W/ GREECE TODAY: ROSSIYA 24
*GREECE MAY GET LOANS USING RUSSIA GAS TRANSIT GUARANTEE: MILLER
According to Gazprom's CEO comments on Greek TV, following his meeting with Greek PM Tsipras, Russia will guarantee 47BCM/YR of gas via Greece with the link to be built by a Russian-European group at a cost of around €2 billion.
As Gazprom CEO Arrives In Athens, EU (Coincidentally) Files Anti-Trust Charges Against Russian GiantSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 04/20/2015 11:38 -0400
As the head of Russian gas giant Gazprom, Alexei Miller, arrives in Athens tomorrow (for talks with Greek PM Tsipras about "current energy issues of interest," which we suspect will include finalizing the "Turkish Stream" pipeline heralded by many as Greece's potential get-out-of-Troika-jail-card), he will face an increasingly anxious European Union. Fresh from its suit against Google, the WSJ reports, the EU's competition regulator plans to file formal antitrust charges against Russia’s state-owned gas company OAO Gazprom on Wednesday. This re-opens a suit from 2012 saying that it suspected the company of abusing its dominant position in those countries’ natural-gas supply. It appears Europe is getting nervous...
With Greece teetering on the edge of insolvency and forced to raid pension and most other public funds, ahead of another month of heavy IMF repayments which has prompted even the ECB to speculate Greece should introduce a parallel "IOU" currency, a white knight has appeared out of nowhere for Greece, one who may offer $5 billion in urgently needed cash. The white knight is none other than Vladimir Putin.
The entire global financial system resembles a colossal spiral of debt. Just about all economic activity involves the flow of credit in some way, and so the only way to have “economic growth” is to introduce even more debt into the system. Unfortunately, any system based on debt is going to break down eventually, and there are signs that it is starting to happen once again.
A large number of European countries have effectively quarantined Greece in a bid to minimize the consequences on their credit systems in case of a Greek "accident." As ekathimerini reports, the actions are being taken in order to shield themselves and minimize the danger of contagion in case the negotiations between the Greek government and the eurozone do not bear fruit. This has sparked broad-based selling across global risk assets but particularly in Europe. Stocks from Germany to Spain are having their worst day of the year, European sovereign bond risk is exploding higher (contagion Mr. Schaeuble?), and Greek bank bonds and stocks are getting crushed.
Update: as always is the case in Europe, nothing is confirmed until it is officially denied by officials, so here you go: GREEK GOVT OFFICIAL DENIES FT REPORT GREECE PLANNING DEFAULT
It should hardly come as a surprise that after the latest round of Greek pre-negotiation negotiations with the Troika, in which the Greek representative was said to behave like a taxi driver, who "just asked where the money was and insisted his country would soon be bankrupt" and in which the Eurozone members "were disappointed and shocked at Athens' lack of movement in its plans, and in particular its reluctance to talk about cutting civil servants' pensions" that the next Greek step is to fall back - yet again - to square zero: threats of an imminent default. Which is precisely what, according to the FT, has happened "Greece is preparing to take the dramatic step of declaring a debt default unless it can reach a deal with its international creditors by the end of April."
Emergency legislation can be drawn up over-night. While Austria may be the first in enacting bail-in legislation there is no guarantee that savers, particularly in the peripheral nations, will receive any indication that their deposits may be at risk.
While Russia's envoy to NATO notes that statements by the deputy head of NATO testify to the fact that the leaders of the bloc want to intervene in Russia’s internal politics, and are "dreaming of Russian Maidan," Washington has a bigger problem... Germany. As Der Spiegel reports, while US President Obama 'supports' Chancellor Merkel's efforts at finding a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis, hawks in Washington seem determined to torpedo Berlin's approach. And NATO's top commander in Europe hasn't been helping either with sources in the Chancellery have referred to Breedlove's comments as "dangerous propaganda."
Bill Clinton Dusted Off the Same Marketing Strategy Which Bad-Mustache Used On the Eve of Invading Poland ... And Obama's Been Using It Ever Since