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Financial Times releases letter from Alexis Tsipras to Merkel. No EU cash for Greece, then no debt payments can be made

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras warned German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday of the country’s inability to repay its debt in the coming weeks without financial help from the European Union. One way or another, an endgame is about to arrive.

Alex Christoforou

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The Financial Times has acquired a letter sent from Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, addressed to Angela Merkel, saying that if the EU does not pony up some cash, fast, then Greece will be unable to meet its debt payments…i.e. bankruptcy, default, caput, stick a fork in it.

To read the full letter, Click here.

From Naked Capitalism…

If the plan of the Troika was to starve the Tsipras government and produce either capitulation or a loss of domestic credibility, their effort appears to be on track.

FAZ reported that the Greek government is set to run out of funds by April 8. Tonight, the Financial Times reports that Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras sent a desperate-sounding letter to Angela Merkel on March 15. That appears to have led Merkel to meet with him at an EU conference last week and arrange for a one-on-one session tomorrow.

From the Financial Times account:

Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, has warned Angela Merkel that it will be “impossible” for Athens to service debt obligations due in the coming weeks if the EU fails to distribute any short-term financial assistance to the country…

In the letter, Mr Tsipras warns that his government will be forced to choose between paying off loans, owed primarily to the International Monetary Fund, or continue social spending. He blames European Central Bank limits on Greece’s ability to issue short-term debt as well as eurozone bailout authorities’ refusal to disburse any aid before Athens adopts a new round of economic reforms.

Curiously, the Financial Times story fails to mention that European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker offered €2 billion for humanitarian relief. However, there may be less here than meets the eye. If you read the text carefully, the €2 billion is the maximum Greece could get. And Juncker stressed, “That’s not meant to go into the coffers of the Greek state but to support efforts to create growth and social cohesion in Greece.” That would seem to imply that strings are attached or that there will be strict oversight of how the funds are used. And it was not clear how quickly the funds would be released.

But if we are to accept Juncker at face value, the €2 billion is for new spending for specific programs. And since the Syriza election budget proposed €1.8 billion for humanitarian programs, the intent of the Juncker offer might be to fund that part of the Greek reforms so as to eliminate that as a bone of contention and a potential PR disaster. Moreover, it could still be that the release of these funds is contingent on Greece getting its reform list negotiated and approved.

But even if you factor in this omitted bit of good news, the picture is still grim. From the pink paper:

Mr Tsipras was rebuffed in efforts to secure quick financing from either the ECB or eurozone lenders at Thursday’s Brussels meeting with Ms Merkel and a small group of other EU leaders — including French president François Hollande and ECB chief Mario Draghi.

In an interview, Luis de Guindos, Spanish finance minister, said his eurozone counterparts would not sign off on any new bailout funding until a full set of approved reforms was passed and implemented by Greek authorities, a process that could take months.

This comment by de Guindos is more deadly than it seems. He has emerged as the hardest hardliner in the Eurogroup, the committee of finance ministers. Recall that for Greece to get the near-term bailout funds it needs, it not only has to get the blessing of the Troika, but then the Eurogroup. And that vote has to be unanimous. A single dissent can block Greece. So de Guindos refusing to sign off on a change in procedures means Greece is still obligated to submit a detailed reform list and work with the Troika to get to a mutually acceptable version.

But keep in mind that de Guindos is not alone in that view. Merkel last week also stated, in effect, that Greece has to adhere to the process set forth in the February memo it signed with the Eurogroup. From Reuters:

“The agreement of Feb. 20 is still valid in its entirety. Every paragraph of the agreement counts,” Merkel told German journalists who questioned whether she was now offering cash for promises that many of her supporters have stopped believing in….

Merkel insisted only the completion of approved measures — in a final review by creditor institutions — would satisfy lenders including the Euro Group of euro zone finance ministers.

“The Greek government has the possibility of replacing individual reforms outstanding from Dec. 10 with other reforms, if these … have the same effect. The institutions and then the Euro Group must decide whether they do have the same effect,” she said, noting Ireland had made such changes with EU backing.

So understand what this means: Merkel knew last week that the Greek government was threatening default in order to get funds some funds released without having completed the process it had agreed to less than a month ago. She refused to budge.

The Financial Times provides more detail about the missive to Merkel:

Mr Tsipras’s five-page letter is particularly critical of the ECB, which he said had forbidden Greek banks from holding more short-term government debt than they did when they requested an extension of the current bailout last month — a cap that has prevented Athens from relying on Treasury bills to fill its urgent cash needs because Greek banks have become nearly the only buyer of such debt.

The Greek prime minister insisted the ECB should have returned to “the terms of finance of the Greek banks” that existed immediately following his government’s election — when ECB rules were more lenient — once the deal to extend Athens’ €172bn bailout through June was agreed last month.

Far from going easier on Athens, the ECB is considering whether to give its guidance to Greek banks more authority by making it a legally binding requirement not to add to their T-bill holdings. A decision is expected this week.

He also criticised the ECB for only increasing the amount of emergency central bank loans to Greek lenders “at shorter intervals than normal and at rather small increments”, arguing such drip-feeding continued to “incite speculation and spread uncertainty vis-à-vis Greece’s banking system”.

As we noted in our post last Friday, after Tsipras had met with Merkel, Draghi, French President Francois Hollande, Juncker, Eurogroup leader Jeroen Dijsselbloem, and EC council head Donald Tusk, the Financial Times described Draghi as “incensed” over the way Greece was making it difficult for inspectors from the ECB, European Commission and International Monetary Fund to do their job. One wonders if he was shown the Tsipras letter and that added to Draghi’s choler.

The Reuters report on the meeting last week stated that officials told Tsipras that if he presented a plan, the Eurogroup could meet on short order. But the message seems clear: the Greek government needs to flesh out its reform plans, and the starting point is the old, hated structural reforms, let the Troika inspectors do their work, and only then might it get some money.

We were worried from the outset that the Syriza slogan, “Hope is coming” was a bad omen. It looks as if the Greek government pinned far too much hope on the idea that it could play them off against each other (which we thought was remarkably naive) or that its creditors were so reluctant to avoid a Greek default that they’ve go into “extend and pretend” mode and throw Greece a financial lifeline. We’ll see what steps the Tsipras administration takes now that it sees that the Troika has closed the exits and does not seem inhibited about turning up the heat.

References:

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2015/03/leaked-tsipras-letter-merkel-shows-increased-desperation-warns-imminent-default.html

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Peace on Korean Peninsula within reach, if only Trump can remove Pompeo & Bolton (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 152.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou discuss the results of the Putin-Kim summit in Vladivostok, Russia, aimed at boosting bilateral ties between the two neighboring countries, as well as working to contribute to a final peace settlement on the Korean peninsula.

Putin’s meeting with Kim may prove to be a pivotal diplomatic moment, as North Korea continues to work towards normalizing ties with the U.S. amidst ongoing denuclearization talks with the Trump White House.

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Via the BBC…

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un needs international security guarantees if he is to end his nuclear programme.

Such guarantees would need to be offered within a multinational framework, he added, following talks near Vladivostok in Russia’s far east.

Mr Kim praised the summit as a “very meaningful one-on-one exchange”.

Mr Putin said North Korea’s leader was “fairly open” and had “talked freely on all issues that were on the agenda”.

The meeting followed the breakdown of talks between the US and North Korea in February, when Mr Kim met US President Donald Trump in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.

Those talks reportedly stalled over North Korea’s demand for full economic sanctions relief in return for some denuclearisation commitments – a deal the US was not willing to make.

Speaking after the talks on Thursday, Mr Putin said he wanted to see full denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula.

But he said this could only be achieved through respect for international law.

“We need to restore the power of international law, to return to a state where international law, not the law of the strongest, determines the situation in the world,” he said.

Mr Kim greeted Russian officials warmly when he arrived in Russia on Wednesday.

The North Korean leader was entertained by a brass band in Vladivostok before he got inside a car flanked by bodyguards, who – in now familiar scenes – jogged alongside the vehicle as it departed.

What do we know about the summit?

According to the Russian presidential spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin believes the six-party talks on North Korea, which are currently stalled, are the only efficient way of addressing the issue of nuclear weapons on the peninsula.

Those talks, which began in 2003, involve the two Koreas as well as China, Japan, Russia and the US.

“There are no other efficient international mechanisms at the moment,” Mr Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.

“But, on the other hand, efforts are being made by other countries. Here all efforts merit support as long as they really aim at de-nuclearisation and resolving the problem of the two Koreas.”

What do both sides want?

This visit is being widely viewed as an opportunity for North Korea to show it has powerful allies following the breakdown of the talks with the US in February.

The country has blamed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for the collapse of the Hanoi summit. Earlier this month North Korea demanded that Mr Pompeo be removed from nuclear talks, accusing him of “talking nonsense” and asking for someone “more careful” to replace him.

The summit is also an opportunity for Pyongyang to show that its economic future does not depend solely on the US. Mr Kim may try to put pressure on Moscow to ease sanctions.

Analysts say the summit is an opportunity for Russia to show that it is an important player on the Korean peninsula.

President Putin has been eager to meet the North Korean leader for quite some time. Yet amid the two Trump-Kim summits, the Kremlin has been somewhat sidelined.

Russia, like the US and China, is uncomfortable with North Korea being a nuclear state.

How close are Russia and North Korea?

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union (of which Russia is the main successor state) maintained close military and trade links with its communist ally, North Korea, for ideological and strategic reasons.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, trade links with post-communist Russia shrank and North Korea leaned towards China as its main ally.

Under President Putin, Russia recovered economically and in 2014 he wrote off most of North Korea’s Soviet-era debt in a major goodwill gesture.

While it is arguable how much leverage Russia has with the North today, the communist state still regards it as one of the least hostile foreign powers.

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Putin meets Kim for the first time (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 151.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at the historic meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the city of Vladivostok in the Russian Far East.

The meeting marks the first ever summit between the two leaders.

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Follow The Duran Audio Podcast on Soundcloud.

Via RT…

Leaders of Russia and North Korea sat down for a historic summit in Vladivostok, expressing hope it will revive the peace process in the Korean Peninsula and talks on normalizing relations with the US.

The summit on Russky Island, just off Vladivostok, started a little late because President Vladimir Putin’s flight was delayed. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had made the trip by train, arriving on Wednesday.

In brief public remarks before the talks, the two leaders expressed hope the summit will help move forward the reconciliation process in the Korean Peninsula. Putin welcomed Kim’s contributions to “normalizing relations” with the US and opening a dialogue with South Korea.

Kim said he hoped the Vladivostok summit would be a “milestone” in the talks about denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, but also build upon “traditionally friendly ties” between Russia and North Korea.

The North Korean leader also made a point of thanking Putin for flying all the way to Vladivostok for the meeting. The Far East Russian city is only 129 kilometers from the border with North Korea.

The historic summit takes place less than two months after Kim’s second summit with US President Donald Trump in Hanoi fell apart without a breakthrough on denuclearization. The US rejected North Korea’s request for partial sanctions relief in return for moves to dismantle nuclear and missile programs; Washington insists on full disarmament before any sanctions are removed.

Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the main subject of the Kim-Putin summit, but there will also be talks about bilateral relations, trade, and humanitarian aid. The first one-on-one meeting is scheduled to last about an hour, followed by further consultations involving other government officials.

Following the summit, Putin is scheduled to visit China.

 

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Kim And Putin: Changing The State Of The Board In Korea

The future of Korea could be decided by these two men today.

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Authored by Tom Luongo:


Today is a big day for Korea. The first face-to-face summit of Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un takes place.

At the same time the 2nd annual Belt and Road Forum kicks off in Beijing.

This meeting between Putin and Kim has been in the works for a while but rumors of it only surfaced last week. But don’t let the idea that this was put together at the last minute fool you.

It wasn’t.

The future of Korea could be decided by these two men today.

I know that sounds bold. But hear me out.

And while no one seems to think this meeting is important or that anything of substance will come from it I do. It is exactly the kind of surprise that Putin loves to spring on the world without notice and by doing so change the board state of geopolitics.

  • Russia’s entrance into Syria in 2015, two days after Putin’s historic speech at the U.N. General Assembly
  • 2018’s State of the Union address where he announced hypersonic missiles, embarrassing the U.S. Militiary-Industrial Complex which accelerated the Bolton Doctrine of subjugating the world
  • Flying 2 TU-160 nuclear-armed bombers to Venezuela, creating panic in D.C. leading to the ham-fisted regime change operations there.
  • Nationalization of Yukos.
  • The operation to secure Crimea from U.S. invasion by marines aboard the U.S.S Donald Cook during the Ukrainian uprising against Viktor Yanukovich.

Both Putin and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping are angry at the breakdown of the talks in Hanoi back in February. It was clear that everyone expected that meeting to be a rubber stamp on a deal already agreed to by all parties involved.

In fact the two meetings between Kim and Trump were only possible because Trump convinced them of his sincerity to resolve the ‘denuclearization’ of North Korea which would clear a path to rapid reunification.

It’s why they went along with the U.S.’s increased sanctions on North Korea as administered through the U.N. in 2017.

That John Bolton and Mike Pompeo destroyed those talks and Trump was unwilling or unable (who cares at this point, frankly, useless piece of crap that he is) to stop them embarrassed and betrayed them.

They are now done with Trump.

He’ll get nothing from either of them or Kim until Trump can prove he’s in charge of his administration, which he, clearly, is not.

And they will be moving forward with their own agenda for security and Asian economic integration. So I don’t think the timing of this meeting with that of the Belt and Road Forum is an accident.

And that means moving forward on solving the Korea problem without Trump.

It is clear from the rhetoric of Putin’s top diplomat, the irreplaceable Sergei Lavrov, that Russia’s patience is over. They are no longer interested in what Trump wants and they will now treat the U.S. as a threat, having upped their military stance towards the U.S. to that of “Threat.”

If Bolton wants anything from Russia at this point he best be prepared to start a war or piss off.

This is also why Russia took the gloves off with Ukraine in the run up to the Presidential elections, cutting off energy and machinery exports with Ukraine.

To put paid Putin’s growing impatience with U.S. policies, he just issued the order to allow residents of Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics to apply for Russian passports.

This will send Bolton into apoplexy. Angela Merkel of Germany will be none too pleased either. Putin is now playing hardball after years of unfailing politeness.

It’s also why Lavrov finalized arms and port deals all over the Middle East in recent weeks, including those with Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey and India.

Bolton, Pompeo and Pence are ideologues. Trump is a typical Baby Boomer, who lives in a bubble of his own design and believes in an America that never existed.

None of them truly understand the fires they are stoking and simply believe in the Manifest Destiny of the U.S. to rule the world over a dim and barbaric world.

Putin, Xi, Rouhani in Iran and Kim in North Korea are pragmatic men. They understand the realities they live in. This is why I see Putin willing tomorrow to sit down with Kim and flaunt the U.N. sanctions and begin the investment process into North Korea that should have begun last year.

Putin would not be making these moves if he didn’t feel that Bolton was all bark and no bite when it came to actual war with Russia. He also knows that Germany needs him more than he needs Germany so despite the feet-dragging and rhetoric Nordstream 2 will go forward.

Trade is expanding between them despite the continued sanctions.

Putin may be willing to cut a deal with President-elect Zelensky on gas transit later in the year but only if the shelling of the LPR and DPR stops and he guarantees no more incidents in the Sea of Azov. This would also mollify Merkel a bit and make it easier for her politically to get Nordstream 2 over the finish line.

There are moments in history when people go too far. Bolton and Pompeo went too far in Hanoi. He will pay the price now. Putin and Kim will likely agree to something in Vladivostok that no one is expecting and won’t look like much at first.

But the reality is this summit itself marks a turning point in this story that will end with the U.S. being, in Trump’s transactional parlance, a “price taker” since it has so thoroughly failed at being a “price maker.”

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