The Russian occupation of Crimea has raised concerns about the European Union’s dependence on its eastern neighbor for natural gas. The EU gets about 34% of its natural gas imports from Russia, a large portion of which transits Ukraine through a web of pipelines. For Eastern Europe, that dependence is much greater. In the brutally cold winter of 2009 Russia cut off gas supplies to Europe allegedly over a pricing dispute with Ukraine. However, it was also a lesson to Western Europe on its dependence on Russia for energy. The economic damage of energy supply disruptions cuts both ways. Putin likes to play the role of bully, but Russia is not exactly in a strong position in terms of using energy as a political weapon. Whether or not the Ukraine crisis deepens, it is unlikely that Moscow would intentionally turn off the taps for any prolonged period of time.
With a March 16th date set for Crimea's referendum (to confirm that the region, which has an ethnic Russian majority, is a part of Russia) and a few short days after Ukraine's Prime Minister Yatsenyuk is due to meet President Obama in the White House, Reuters reports that The United States will not recognize the annexation of Crimea by Russia if residents of the region vote to leave Ukraine. Obama has said a referendum on Crimea would violate international law and the Ukrainian constitution... but this raises 3 awkward (and apparently hypocritical) questions on the right to self-determination... and pins March 16th as a crucial inflection point between Russia and US.
If there is a new cold war with Russia, many observers believe the U.S. is losing it. First under President George W. Bush and now under President Obama, the U.S. and Vladimir Putin’s Russia have engaged in a series of foreign policy battles — and Putin has repeatedly got his way. The Russian president’s objective is clear. He wants to reassert Russia’s influence in Eastern Europe while preventing NATO’s further expansion toward Russia. Lawmakers and experts across the political sphere warn that if the Obama administration and its western allies are not effective in dealing with Putin this time, it could have serious consequences going forward. And the dangers go beyond Putin.
When one studies history, all events seem to revolve around the applications and degenerations of war. Great feats of human understanding, realization and enlightenment barely register in the mental footnotes of the average person. War is what we remember, idealize and aggrandize, which is why war is the tool most often exploited by oligarchy to distract the masses while it centralizes power. With the exception of a few revolutions, most wars are instigated and controlled by financial elites, manipulating governments on both sides of the game to produce a preconceived result. Every major international crisis for the past century or more has ended with an even greater consolidation of world power into the hands of the few, and this is no accident.
Warning Shots Fired At OSCE Mission In Crimea; Russia Warns Of Treaty Force Majeure Over "Unfriendly NATO Threats"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 03/08/2014 09:21 -0500
Perhaps it is time to finally admit that anyone who thought Putin's Tuesday press conference, which the market so jubilantly assumed was a case of "blinking" and de-escalating tensions with the west, was wrong. If there is still any confusion, following yesterday's news that Gazprom officially threatened Ukraine with cutting off its gas supplies, as well as the storming of a Ukraine base by Russian troops - luckily with no shots fired so far - then today's developments should any remaining doubts. Moments ago AP reported that as the latest, third in a row, group of OSCE inspectors tried to enter Ukraine, they were not only barred from doing so, but warnings shots were fired to emphasize the point by pro-Russian forces.
The U.S. government and the Russian government have both been forced into positions where neither one of them can afford to back down. If Barack Obama backs down, he will be greatly criticized for being "weak" and for having been beaten by Vladimir Putin once again. If Putin backs down, he will be greatly criticized for being "weak" and for abandoning the Russians that live in Crimea. In essence, Obama and Putin find themselves trapped in a macho game of "chicken" and critics on both sides stand ready to pounce on the one who backs down. But this is not just an innocent game of "chicken" from a fifties movie. This is the real deal, and if nobody backs down the entire world will pay the price.
It appears Obama's latest "one hour" conversation with Putin has just made things downshift from bad to worse. Moments ago Russia accused the European Union of taking an "extremely unconstructive position" by freezing talks on easing visa barriers that complicate travel between Russia and the EU over Ukraine. "Russia will not accept the language of sanctions and threats" and will retaliate if sanctions are imposed, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement about agreements reached at an emergency EU summit on Thursday. And assuring that the imminent Crimean referendum due in just over a week will rapidly deteriorate the current detente was overnight news that Russia's upper house of parliament will support Crimea in its bid to join the Russian Federation, the speaker of the upper house of parliament said Friday. "If the people of Crimea decide to join Russia in the referendum, we, as the upper house, will certainly support this decision," Valentina Matvienko said at a meeting with Vladimir Konstantinov, his counterpart in the Crimean parliament.
"Will there be war in Ukraine? I am afraid so. After all, the extremists who seized power in Kiev want to see a bloodbath. Only fear for their own lives might stop them from inciting such a conflict... Russia will not annex Crimea. It has enough territory already.
At the same time, however, it will also not stand by passively while Russophobic and neo-Nazi gangs hold the people of Crimea, Kharkiv and Donetsk at their mercy."
Dismally drifting towards deflation as credit creation is a long and distant thing of the past in the European Union, this morning's decision to hold rates unchanged leaves a lot of "whatever it takes" hope left for the press conference. Whether he will ease lending standards, cut haircuts, enable more securitization, push direct lending (there's no demand!), or "promise" open-ended QE - it's all on the table but we suspect it will be more talk and "whatever" he is doing so far is working... stocks are near record highs and bond yields record lows - which must mean Europe is fixed...
- Spot the inaccuracies: Stocks rise on Ukraine diplomacy, ECB easing speculation (Reuters)
- Bank of England Extends Record-Low Rates Into a Sixth Year (BBG)
- China's Chaori Solar poised for landmark bond default (Reuters), explained here previously
- EU leaders meet in Brussels to address Ukraine crisis (FT)
- Nine-month-old baby may have been cured of HIV, U.S. scientists say (Reuters)
- China Raises Defense Spending 12.2% for 2014 (WSJ)
- China Stock Index Rises as Developers Jump on Policy Speculation (BBG)
- VTB Cancels New York Forum as U.S. Relations Sour (BBG)
- IBM workers strike in China over terms of Lenovo takeover (FT)
- College Board Redesigns SAT Exam Making Essay Portion Optional (BBG)
While the world is convinced that Putin's Tuesday press conference was an admission of blinking to the west, the reality is anything but that, and hours ago Crimea's parliament voted to join Russia on Thursday and its Moscow-backed government set a referendum within 10 days on the decision in what Reuters said is a "a dramatic escalation of the crisis over the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula." To be sure, the Crimea - which has an ethnic Russian majority - affiliation to Moscow as opposed to Kiev is well-known, yet still the sudden acceleration of moves to bring Crimea formally under Moscow's rule came as European Union leaders gathered for an emergency summit to seek ways to pressure Russia to back down and accept mediation. And now all Putin has to do is sit back and say the people have spoken and without spilling a drop of blood has effectively split the country in two parts, with the entire east of Ukraine, where pro-Russian sentiment also runs high - sure to follow Crimea. Just as we said from the very beginning.
Palladium has gained 5.5% during the last five days of the crisis and is up 7.9% year to date. Ore deposits of palladium are rare and are mostly located in Russia and South Africa. Russian resource nationalism, as has been seen with natural gas, could lead to supply disruptions and to palladium going higher in the coming months. Some analysts believe palladium may be in deficit for most of the next decade as Russia depletes stockpiles and industrial uses and investment demand for the precious metal increase.
There are days when it seems that the Nobel Peace Prize should just go home and put their feet up, ask the home-help to make them a cuppa and to bath them and then they can be put to bed and tucked in
Following warnings from US and European nations over economic (and travel) sanctions against Russia, the upper house of Russia's parliament has struck back. As RIA reports, Russia is mulling measures allowing property and assets of European and US companies to be confiscated in the event of sanctions being adopted. Layers are studying the costitutionality of the 'confiscation' but cite Europe's standards (i.e. Cyprus) as precedent. This is further to the threat to "dump US goverment bonds" issued earlier in the week.
Ukraine Won't Pay Russia For Gas, Has Billions In Obligations Due; Europe Promises Aid Money It Doesn't HaveSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/05/2014 08:03 -0500
About an hour ago, the head of Russia's top natural gas producer Gazprom said on Wednesday that Ukraine had informed the company it could not pay for February gas deliveries in full, further adding to tensions between Moscow and Kiev. Alexei Miller said Ukraine's total debt to Gazprom for gas deliveries was nearing $2 billion. "Our Ukrainian colleagues informed us that they would not be able to pay in full for February gas deliveries," he told Russian President Vladimir Putin.