Recall that about a month ago we reported that shortly after France was stunned to see its largest bank slammed by its bestest buddy, the US, with a record $9 billion fine, "France responded to the fine by announcing it will train hundreds of Russian seamen to operate the French-Made Warship", the Mistral. In other words, for all the angry rhetoric of sanctions against Russia, France was merely the latest country to admit that it too can't exist without Russian business (not to mention natural gas) even if, or especially if, it means incurring US wrath which is taken out on its banking institutions. After all, if the US is engaging in scorched earth tactics France needs a stable trade partner, especially if it is one who turns on the gas, so to speak.
As a reminder, this is what all the commotion is about:
However, it turns out that was only a small part of the story.
Earlier today, when speaking to Russian diplomats in Moscow, Vladimir Putin accused the U.S. of blackmailing France to scrap a contract to sell Russia Mistral warships by offering to cut a record $8.97 billion fine against BNP Paribas. From Bloomberg:
France’s largest bank agreed to plead guilty in court documents yesterday to processing almost $9 billion in banned transactions involving Sudan, Iran and Cuba from 2004 to 2012. The company will be temporarily barred from handling some U.S. dollar transactions.
French President Francois Hollande has refused to cancel a contract to sell two Mistral-class helicopter carriers to Russia in the face of criticism from the U.S.
“We know about the pressure which our U.S. partners are applying on France not to supply the Mistrals to Russia,” Putin told Russian diplomats in Moscow today. “And we even know that they hinted that if the French don’t deliver the Mistrals, they would quietly get rid of the sanctions against the bank, or at least minimize them,” he said without naming BNP Paribas.
“What is that if not blackmail?” Putin said.
Well it is blackmail, but what's worse it shows to what depths the US will fall when it fails to get its way in the international arena even with its so-called allies, which under Obama, is essentially always.
But one wonders: since the biggest opponent of Russian sanctions in Europe is, by and far, Germany - despite what Merkel spouts any given day - and since Russia is sure to antagonize the US in the coming months, one wonders: just what legal and criminal action will the US reveal against Deutsche Bank in the coming months as first blackmail, then "punishment" for daring to engage America's suddenly most hated superpower adversary?
And perhaps a better question: with US foreign policy set to continue its disastrous ways, does this mean that the best way to profit from the incompetence of John Kerry et al is merely to short a basket of European banks? After all, if it happened with BNP it is sure to happen elsewhere in Europe - a continent which, for better or worse, is now wrapped around Putin's gas finger.