"If they want to lecture us on democracy building, let them lecture students at some American university," Russia’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law Konstantin Dolgov said Tuesday, regarding the collapse of a bilateral arrangement struck in 2009 between Moscow and Washington. Fortunately for Dolgov, it doesn't appear as though he, or any other Russian diplomats for that matter, will be forced to endure a "lecture" on democracy from the US anytime soon because as the positioning of 250 Bradleys and self-propelled howitzers, and associated armored brigade combat team equipment" in Eastern Europe makes clear, the time for dialogue of any kind has long since passed.
A fund manager for one of the largest mutual fund and investment groups in the world, Fidelity, has warned investors and savers to have an allocation to “physical cash,” “including precious metals” to protect against "systemic risk".
This is an eventful period for EU-Russia gas relations. How should the most recent evolutions of the Russian waltz of pipelines be interpreted? There are three possible scenarios...
Greece completes stage one of the dreaded "Russian pivot" as energy ministers from Athens and Moscow ink an MOU on Gazprom's Turkish Stream pipeline. Meanwhile, Gazprom signs a deal with Shell and others to double the capacity of the Nord line, a move which will, over time, decrease the energy giant's dependence on Ukraine for transport.
The European Commission has ordered 11 EU countries to enact the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD) within two months or be hauled before the EU Court of Justice, according to a report from Reuters on Friday.
Greece has received what The New York Times recently described as “dueling sales pitches” on two proposed natural gas pipelines, with the US pressing Athens to support The Southern Gas Corridor rather than Gazprom's Turkish Stream project. It appears Moscow may have made the more convincing case because, much to Washington's dismay, Greece is set to sign an MOU for the Greek portion of The Turkish Stream pipeline in June.
The EU issued a press release this morning which could perhaps be summed up in 2 words - "not fair." Following the denial-of-entry by Russia of several EU politicians, Russia has released a list of 89 names who will face travel bans - of exactly the same type as EU and US enforced upon numerous Russian elites. Europe is displeased that Russia would dare do unto them as they have done unto others... "we deem this measure as totally arbitrary and unjustified," they exclaimed, adding, "we don’t have any further information on the legal basis or the criteria or the process of these decisions."
Just hours after being force to admit that they were hacked (by Russians apparently), an inspector general's report shows that The IRS has rather remarkably continued to pay refunds on hundreds of thousands of fraudulent tax returns in recent years, and sent dozens of checks to the same addresses, including in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. While some progress has been made, $2.3 billion of real US taxpayer's money was wrongfully refunded to fake US taxpayers... but with this new cyber-attack, we suspect that number will soar.
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.