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.
So what part of "All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions," did the US not understand when they decided that deploying troops to Poland was in keeping with the four-party deal? As WaPo reports, Poland and the United States will announce next week the deployment of U.S. ground forces to Poland as part of an expansion of NATO presence in Central and Eastern Europe in response to events in Ukraine. As a reminder, we noted in December, Russia's placement of tactical nuclear-capable weapons near the Polish border which at the time sent a very clear message of escalation (despite the, at the time, lack of New Cold War headlines).
A mix of military reluctance and willingness to use financial weapons was evident before the First World War, as it is now in Ukraine. Countries' efforts to protect their financial systems often centred on increased banking supervision and, in many cases, enlarging the central bank's authority to include the provision of emergency liquidity to domestic institutions. But this belief fuelled excessive confidence among those responsible for the reforms, preventing them from anticipating that military measures would soon be needed to protect the economy. Instead of being an alternative to war, the financial arms race made war more likely – as it may well be doing with Russia today.
Public Service Annoucement: The Most Likely Armageddon Threat … Preventable for a Small Amount of Money
With all eyes focused on Eastern Europe, tensions appear to be quickly mounting between the erstwhile allies North Korea and China.
There is no reason for Russia to worry about the western sanctions it is facing now over the Ukrainian issue since "Moscow has too many other trade partners to work with," Jim Rogers explains in this interview, adding that "America is shooting itself in a foot getting the most of our world to pushing China and Russia closer together." Simply put, he warns, "I don’t see any sanctions strategy that they can use that will hurt Russia worse than it will hurt the people imposing those sanctions... I think Mr. Obama is making the fool of himself yet again."
It has happened over and over again throughout history. Nations, empires, and dynasties have made bad economic decisions which lead to their own destruction. The scenario usually goes something like this--one generation sacrifices and works hard to overcome global challenges and creates an economic powerhouse, which in turn allows it to project military power. Follow on generations take their elders work for granted and ignore and even denigrate the fruits of hard labor, they just want the benefits and start giving away the spoils for free. The next generation indulges itself in sloth and corruption and is overrun by the barbarians.
For more than two decades China has abided by former leader Deng Xiaoping’s “keep a low profile” strategy in foreign affairs. But things are changing — China is ready to take on a leadership role in international affairs, and the world may benefit from it. Does the goal of a more stable and prosperous world necessitate a China that’s more active and assertive in global affairs.
One would think that for all its demonization in the Western press, not to mention the countless comparisons to Hitler and/or the Antichrist, that Putin's Russia would be viewed relatively negatively especially in that bastion of western thought: Britain. Yes, perhaps: it certainly doesn't have a sterling image. However what is remarkableis that depite recent events in the Crimea, Britons still see Russia in a more positive light than the European Union, despite recent tensions with Moscow over Ukraine, according to a poll published on Saturday. Perhaps this is not surprising, because as AFP reports, voters in Britain are also equally divided about whether to remain in the 28-member bloc, a subject on which Prime Minister David Cameron has promised a referendum in 2017 and which is the reason for the blistering ascent in popularity of such political parties as the UKIP. The league table of 27 "liked" countries and institutions put the European Parliament -- for which elections are being held in May -- sixth from bottom, and the EU fourth from bottom.
It took only a 60 USDJPY pip overnight ramp to send US equity futures 20 points off the overnight lows in the immediate aftermath of the Crimean referendum, which from a massive risk off event has somehow metamorphosed into a "priced in", even welcome catalyst to buy stocks. The supposed reasoning, and in a world in which Virtu algos determine the price action of the USDJPY from which all else flows based solely on momentum we use the word reasoning "loosely", is that there was little to indicate that the escalation between Russia and Ukraine was set to accelerate further. As we said: an annexation is now seen as risk off, something even Goldman appears unable to comprehend (more on that shortly). In macroeconomic news, European inflation - at least for the Keynesians - turned from bad to worse after the final February inflation print dropped from the flash, and expected, reading of 0.8% to just 0.7% Y/Y, a sequential increase of 0.3% and below the 0.4% expected, confirming that deflationary forces continue to ravage the continent. The only question is how soon until Europe comes up with some brilliant scheme that will help it join Japan in exporting its deflation.
At the onset of the derivatives collapse in 2007/2008 it would have been easy to assume that most of America was receiving a valuable education in normalcy bias. As much as we are for people waking up to the nature of the crisis, there comes a point when those who are going to figure it out will figure it out, and the rest are essentially hopeless. The cultism surrounding the U.S. economy and the U.S. dollar is truly mind boggling, and by “cultism” we mean a blind faith in the fiat currency mechanism that goes beyond all logic, reason and evidence.
Two months ago we noted the clashes between the Libyan government and the rebels over selling oil. It appears the rising threats are reaching a crescendo as AABAA reports the Libyan Navy has impounded a North Korean oil tanker trying to export oil from a rebel-held port of Es-Sider, and is on its way to Western Libya. Interestingly this comes just a day after the US issued a statement strongly condemning "illicitly obtained oil from Libya." We suspect Kim will not be a happy tyrant this evening and also note that the rebels deny the vessel is under government control.
There probably isn’t a more over-used phrase thrown across the media landscape than, “It’s different this time.” One can’t look at the financial markets, the political stage, and more without shaking ones head. Nothing seems to make sense. Yet if one wants to lazily answer, “It’s different this time.” Things become crystal clear. Water now seems to run uphill. The definition of words no longer mean what they once did. (we’re still marveling on what is – is) Free society means the loss of only a few freedoms per year, as opposed to everything at once. Work is a bad thing however, if someone else goes to work and pay for your things – then that’s good. You can keep your plan if you like your plan – but if we don’t like it – well – you can’t. The Federal Reserve would never monetize the debt – however if you’re a preferred dealer in the QE (quantitative easing) program – they’ll do it for you. These precarious times leave many scratching their heads. Expressed another way, When everyone is on the band wagon – except the band. You had better take notice.
South Korea stands out as a buying opportunity amid the indiscriminate emerging markets sell-off.
As the big questions surrounding the future of the Ukraine crisis persist, the countries neighboring the former communist nation, and especially the Baltic states which are members of NATO, are asking for safeguards should Russian ambitions end up just a little too big to be contained solely by the Ukraine. As a result, the WSJ reports, they are considering calling for a greater North Atlantic Treaty Organization presence in their countries “if the situation gets worse” in the Ukraine, Ojars Kalnins, the chairman of the foreign-affairs committee of the Latvian parliament, said Monday. Mr. Kalnins said that a worsening of the Ukraine crisis “such as an outright invasion” of areas outside Crimea would present a threat to all of Russia’s neighbors, including the Baltic states–which are members of NATO. Such an expanded conflict should be reason for NATO to “bring extra military support to the Baltic region as a safeguard.”