The problem for the ECB, of course, is that Espirito Santo and Erste are not isolated incidents, any more than Laiki and Fortis and Anglo Irish and WestLB and BMPS and... should we go on? ...were isolated incidents. "...with apologies to Lewis Carroll, here’s the choice facing our modern-day Alice (Mario Draghi) – does (s)he sing a lullaby that keeps the Red King (investors) sleeping for a few more years, albeit at the cost of drinking a terrible potion that will turn her into a hideous giant... or does she let the Red King wake up, shattering the dream and risking the existence of everything, herself included, but preserving the story of her beautiful face and form?" If we were betting men (and we are), we’d wager on Draghi drinking the potion and keeping the dream alive, no matter how complicit it makes him in preserving a very ugly and very politically-driven status quo. But there’s a non-trivial chance that it’s just too much to swallow...
In a QE dominated world - in the Golden Age of the Central Banker - renminbi strengthening has been an unmitigated disaster. Chinese political stability depends on the actual production of actual things by actual people working in actual factories, and the prospects for that real economic growth are made significantly worse the longer the West persists in favoring financial asset inflation and the ossification of a low-growth status quo. While the West may be able to accept, even celebrate, unlimited private wealth – China cannot. Not if it wants to remain a politically unified Great Power. We think this is just the start of a multi-year weakening of the renminbi, a sea change in Chinese monetary policy that will inevitably create broad political tensions with the US and make Japan’s devaluation/inflation course infinitely more difficult to achieve.
American foreign policy is mindlessly driven by the machinery of our Warfare State - a vast accretion of economic, diplomatic, spying and military capabilities which are ceaselessly in search of missions and justifications for their colossal call on the nation’s resources. Absent a dismantlement of the Warfare State machinery, giant policy errors like the Bill Clinton’s double-cross on NATO and Obama’s foolish present confrontation with Putin are nearly guaranteed to recur.
As "The Russian Spring" spreads across various sub-regions of current non-Russian sovereign nations, Russian historian Sergey Lebedev warns that Transdniestria is “the first liberated part of Novorossiya,” Putin’s term for what he sees as a new state spreading across Ukraine into Moldova and perhaps beyond... here is what that region will look like... welcome to Novorossiya, or as one would translate it... New Russia.
On Friday Russia’s parliament voted to write off roughly 90 percent of North Korea’s debt as Moscow seeks to build a gas pipeline through the Hermit Kingdom. Moscow has been pushing for the Korean gas pipeline and railway for years as part of its strategy to diversify its energy markets away from Europe and toward Asia. This general goal has gained new urgency in the wake of Russia’s clash with the West over the Ukraine and Crimea.
In much of the world, small countries are hoping to retain their independence, whilst portions of larger countries are trying to establish their independence. Understandably, they're meeting with resistance, as it's usually the areas that are the net-contributors to the larger economy that seek independence, whilst the areas that are the net-recipients wish to take the conglomerate approach (and to continue to eat their neighbour's lunch). This is evident even in the US, where those states that are net-contributors are experiencing the same frustration as Venetians and are making noises about secession. And, although no major changes have taken place recently, early rumblings can be heard all over the world.
With all eyes focused on Eastern Europe, tensions appear to be quickly mounting between the erstwhile allies North Korea and China.
Among the key overnight events was the February Euro area unemployment report, which was unchanged at 11.9%, lower than the 12% median estimate; in Italy it rose to a record 13% while in Germany the locally defined jobless rate for March stayed at the lowest in at least two decades Euro zone PMI held at 53 in February, unchanged from January and matching median estimate in a Bloomberg survey HSBC/Markit’s China PMI fell to 48 in March, the lowest reading since July, from 48.5 in February; a separate PMI from the government, with a larger sample size, was at 50.3 from 50.2 the previous month NATO foreign ministers meet today to discuss their next steps after Putin began withdrawing forces stationed on Ukraine’s border Gazprom raised prices for Ukraine 44% after a discount deal expired, heaping financial pressure on the government in Kiev as it negotiates international bailouts.
South Korea stands out as a buying opportunity amid the indiscriminate emerging markets sell-off.
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.
All signs suggest that North Korea is laying the groundwork to begin a new round of provocations. Despite its deliberate (and successful, in the U.S. at least) attempts to portray itself as an irrational actor, North Korea’s provocations usually follow a well-worn playbook. North Korea has carefully put all these pieces into place over the past few weeks.
Further protests and a plethora of headlines this morning from both sides in the troubled European (for now) nation. The Ukrainian foreign minister begins by noting that "its impossible to take Ukraine away from Russia," that Ukraine was "right to take attractive Russia offer," and that protests aren't peaceful. Opposition leader Klitschko responded that "Ukrainians dream of a stable, modern country," and that a majority of Ukrainians want "European values," and asks for "international help." Romania's Basescu is concerned and urges the Ukrainian army to stay out of the conflict. But, as Martin Armstrong notes below, according to a former adviser to Vladimir Putin, the economist Andrei Illarionov, the Kremlin will take one of three possible scenarios with respect to the Ukraine problem to "assert a lot of pressure on Kiev."
Following the deaths of three protesters (two from gunshot wounds) after the government crackdown overnight instigated by the increasingly hard-line President Yanuckovich, the streets are becoming markedly more tense and violent. The uprising in Ukraine is not simply one of a youthful population dismayed at not joining Europe. Similar in vein to Thailand's protests, Ukrainians have become disgusted with the corruption in government (and increasingly enraged at Yanuckovich's repressive laws against the protesters). As Martin Armstrong warned recently, "welcome the ticking clock measuring how little time we have until this whole things just goes bust." As the following images of the war-torn-looking streets of Ukraine show, perhaps that clock is closer than many think...
A report by Bruce Bennett and the RAND Corporation has brought attention to one of the most important issues for international politics. Ironically, despite being a region of vital interest within American foreign policy, there has been very little public discussion of what to do in the event of government collapse in North Korea. Bennett’s timely report provides a series of vital contributions to the discussion and further outlines the lack of preparation in political, social, economic and military terms. Yet beyond the critical end game for the Korean peninsula are deeper questions concerning how any international force might respond. Specifically, how can the U.S. and Republic of Korea effectively mobilize regional powers with their differing security and development goals? Preparing for the unthinkable is not a simple moral imperative, but responsible leadership in the twenty-first century.
Only a week ago, the consensus among most mainstream economic analysts and even some alternative analysts was that a government shutdown was not going to happen. The Republicans would fold in the shadow of President Barack Obama’s overwhelming drive for socialization, spending would continue to grow unabated, and the debt ceiling would be vaulted yet again to feed the bureaucratic machine with more fiat. Today, there is no consensus, very few people continue to be so blithely self-assured and even the mainstream is beginning to wonder if a much bigger game is afoot here.