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.
A week after Obama held his first crisis photo op holding a phone while supposedly talking to Putin, he has followed up with another, hour-long conversation. Below is the official White House statement on what was said.
"Hello there citizen! I hope you are enjoying your day. I also hope you are enjoying your freedom from oppression that our kind, benevolent government provides. As a former lead bureaucrat in the Obama Administration, let me assure you, Washington is working around the clock to protect you and add fulfillment to your life..."
While the mainstream media in the US are painting a picture of a tyrannical Putin invading and then folding, the Chinese and Russians have a different perspective. On one hand, the Chinese are essentially making the West out to be the belligerents, the Russians to be defending their interests, and the Chinese as the strong diplomats who are pushing for peace. And on the other hand, the Russian papers are highlighting the utter hypocrisy of US foreign policy – it’s OK for America to invade whatever country it likes, but not for Russia to defend its own interests.
The Fed’s serial bubble machine has not only bestowed massive speculative windfalls on the 1%, but it has also fostered a noxious culture of plunder and entitlement in the gambling casinos of Wall Street. After each thundering sell-off during the bust phase, crony capitalist gamblers have been gifted with ill-gotten windfalls during the Fed’s subsequent maniacal money printing spree. In this context comes Bruce Berkowitz “scolding” and firing “salvos” at Washington from the front page of the Wall Street Journal.
CIA Spies On Senate Intelligence Committee In Effort to Block Senate Report On Disastrous CIA Torture ProgramSubmitted by George Washington on 03/05/2014 12:09 -0500
CIA Goes to EXTREME Lengths to Cover Up Its Illegal and Counter-Productive Acts
With the world distracted by Putin and ICBM launches, The White House, according to the WSJ, is about to extend Obamacare deadlines by another year:
*U.S. MAY GRANT 1-YR EXTENSION ON HEALTH LAW REQUIREMENTS: WSJ
*WSJ CITES INDUSTRY OFFICIAL ON INSURANCE COS., HEALTH CARE LAW
Allowing insurers to keep selling policies that do not meet standards for another year. It seems, if you like your healthcare policy, you can keep it for one more year... (most importantly past the Midterms)
The magical thinking highlighted in two charts, as WaPo reports; in his budget request, Obama projects public debt as a percentage of gross domestic project falling to 69% by 2024, while the CBO has it rising to 79% - a difference of 10 percentage points, or roughly $2.7 trillion. As WaPo notes, the likelihood of this scenario unfolding... zero.
- No need to use military force in Ukraine for now: Putin (Reuters)
- Russia Orders Drill Troops Back to Bases (WSJ)
- Ukraine premier agrees to reforms for aid package (FT)
- Japan Base Wages Rise for First Time in Nearly Two Years (WSJ)
- Only the algos are trading: Citigroup Joins JPMorgan in Seeing Trading-Revenue Drop (BBG)
- Vietnam sends blogger to prison for critical posts (AP)
- At White House, Israel's Netanyahu pushes back against Obama diplomacy (Reuters)
- Obama to offer new tax breaks for workers in election year budget pitch (Reuters)
- China Banks Show Too-Connected-to-Fail Link to Shadow Loans (BBG)
- Ex-BOK Deputy Lee Named to Head South Korea Central Bank (BBG)
- No mortgage origination problem in the UK: Mortgage approvals climb to six year high (Telegraph)
Since Ukraine is the only wildcard variable in the news these past few days, it was to be expected that following i) the end of the large Russian military drill begun two weeks ago and ii) a press conference by Putin in which he toned down the war rhetoric, even if he did not actually say anything indicating Russia will difuse the tension, futures have soared and have retraced all their losses from yesterday. And not only in the US - European equity indices gapped higher at the open this morning in reaction to reports that Russian President Putin has ordered troops engaged in military exercises to return to their bases. Consequent broad based reduction in risk premia built up over the past few sessions meant that in spite of looming risk events (ECB, BoE policy meetings and NFP release this Friday), Bund also failed to close the opening gap lower. At the same time, USD/JPY and EUR/CHF benefited as the recent flight to quality sentiment was reversed, with energy and precious metal prices also coming off overnight highs.
Welcome to the era of failed states. We’ve already seen plenty of action around the world and we’re going to see more as resource and capital scarcities drive down standards of living and lower the trust horizon. The world is not going in the direction that Tom Friedman and the globalists thought. Anything organized at the giant scale is now in trouble, nation-states in particular. The USA is not immune to this trend, whatever we imagine about ourselves for now.
Our public finances are a mess, notwithstanding the misinformation you’ll hear tomorrow. When President Obama rolls out his proposed budget, you’ll hear boasts about improvements in the deficit since the depths of the Great Recession. You’ll also hear claims that those improvements are easily sustained; that a much talked about “grand bargain” on long-term debt reduction can wait. But once you see through the phony numbers in government projections, it’s clear that we’re on a path from a stupidly high debt burden to a much higher burden. Washington would need to find some leadership and foresight to change that path, and there’s no sign of that happening anytime soon.
U.K. natural gas jumped the most in more than 16 months and was 2.3% higher to $4.72 on supply concerns. Wheat and corn surged 4.3% and 3.3% respectively, also on supply concerns. Should relations between Russia and Western nations deteriorate further, it will have consequences for already vulnerable economies and lead to increased safe haven demand.
Just in case Obama's Friday message of "costs" should Russia invade Ukraine, which it did, was lost in translation, here is NATO with the clarification, and more harsh language: Russia "threatens peace and security in Europe. Russia must stop its military activities and its threats." And just in case both Obama and NATO were misunderstood, here is Kerry appearing on CBS' Face the Nation laying down the law, and even more harsh language: John Kerry on Sunday condemned Russia's "incredible act of aggression" in Ukraine and threatened "very serious repercussions." "It's an incredible act of aggression. It is really a stunning, willful choice by President (Vladimir) Putin to invade another country. Russia is in violation of the sovereignty of Ukraine. Russia is in violation of its international obligations." Russia's response? "No comment at the moment," Peskov said.