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Greek PM Alexis Tsipras hesitated to fully pivot to the BRICS future, and now is caught in EU no man’s land

Greek PM Alexis Tsipras has been playing a dangerous game with Moscow and the EU that is now falling apart…leaving Greece with few, if any options, and at the mercy of a punishing European Union.

Alex Christoforou

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Post originally appeared on Russia Insider, “Playing Russia and Europe off Against Each Other Is Losing Greece Friends”, by Alexander Mercouris.

The great British historian AJP Taylor once said in my presence that Western politicians tend to think of Russia as a tap they can turn on and off whenever they like.

By that he meant by that Western politicians expect Russia’s help when they need it, but never feel under any obligation to give anything back in return.

Taylor was speaking about the diplomacy that led to the Second World War.  However it is starting to look as if the same is true of Greece’s Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras.

Tsipras was elected on a contradictory promise of ending austerity and keeping Greece in the eurozone.

He seems to have trusted in his own powers of persuasion – and the economic logic of his case – to achieve this remarkable feat.  I am told by people in Greece who are in a position to know that he had – and has – no Plan B.

Tsipras’s faith in his success seems to have been based on a belief that European demands for austerity were a bluff and that Greece is too important to the euro project and in geopolitical terms for its expulsion from the eurozone to be considered.

This presumably is what lies behind the extraordinary game Tsipras has been playing with Moscow.

In January, immediately following his election, in a move that caused anxious buzzing in European capitals and which must have provoked interest in Moscow, Tsipras met with the Russian ambassador before any others.

His government then made known its concerns about the way in which the extension of EU sanctions against Russian individuals and companies was railroaded through later that month.

He then announced he was going to go to Moscow to meet Putin, and he duly did so in March.

As I have discussed previously (see Grexit Looks Inevitable. But Greece Will Need Moscow’s Help, Russia Insider, 27th April 2015) this visit led to expectations of financial deals and of a major gas pipeline agreement.  Gazprom’s chief Alexei Miller went to Athens in April to negotiate it.

In the event nothing happened.  Though I am told a deal that came with a $5 billion prepayment was ready for signature on 23rd April 2015, it went unsigned and Miller left Athens empty handed.

Here I should say that the gas pipeline offer the Russians made to Tsipras in April was intended to help Greece.  It was not part of an elaborate play by the Russians in pursuit of some great gas pipeline strategy.  As this is a complex point, I will discuss it in more detail in another article.

The Russians must have been annoyed to be stood up in this way, but characteristically they said nothing.

What followed must have annoyed them even more.

At the time of his trip to Moscow in March Tsipras led everyone to think he would attend the 9th May Victory Parade in Moscow.

This would have been an important symbolic act. Tsipras would have broken with the rest of the EU, which was boycotting the event.

Such a step would have been very popular in Greece.  Attitudes to Russia in Greece are very positive.  Most Greeks think of Russia as the fellow Orthodox country that liberated Greece from the Ottomans.  Most Greeks – unlike many Europeans and Americans – are also fully aware of Russia’s immense contribution to the defeat of fascism in the Second World War.

Last but not least, many Greeks have family connections with Russia.  Many were born there or have lived there.  Those Greeks with such connections to Russia tend to view Russia very positively.

Without any clear explanation Tsipras then reversed himself and failed to go – something that provoked much more public criticism of him in Greece than it did in Russia.

Over the last 7 days the same pattern has repeated itself.

On Thursday Tsipras went to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum – making him the only Western leader to do so.

There he met Putin again.

This time a gas deal of sorts was signed.  The details however are vague and it looks less generous than the deal the Russians offered in March and April.  It did not come with the offer of a $5 billion pre-payment that came with the offer made in April.

Meanwhile, at the same time as Tsipras was flying to St. Petersburg, Tsipras’s representative in Brussels was agreeing to an extension of EU sanctions against Russia (see EU Extends Sanctions Against Russia, Russia Insider, 18th June 2015 ). Tsipras himself tamely agreed to this at the European Council meeting on Monday.

At the same European Council meeting Tsipras capitulated in principle to all the demands the Europeans and the IMF made of him.  Reversing what he promised at the time of his election, he agreed to an extension of austerity in return for more bailout money.

He has since found, in the classic scenario of someone being blackmailed, that his concessions were not enough, and have simply led to the blackmailer raising his demands.

The result is that not surprisingly Tsipras now looks like someone who has cut deals with the Russians he is not going to be able to honour (see A New Problem for Athens: How to ‘Unpivot’ From Russia After Capitulating to the EU, Russia Insider, 24th June 2015).

The Russians had almost certainly figured that out for themselves before Tsipras went to St. Petersburg, which is why the deal they offered Tsipras in St. Petersburg was less generous than the one they offered him in April.

This is poor diplomacy by any standard.

If Tsipras’s policy is to play the Russians and the Europeans off against each other, then it is a bad policy.

It has not panicked the Europeans into making concessions.  It has made them angry, causing them to increase their demands even more.

As for the Russians, they must be getting increasingly fed up with someone who repeatedly takes them to the Church door – and then at the last moment runs away.

If Tsipras was not prepared to see through his moves to Moscow, then he should not have made them.

He would have been better off in that case going to Washington instead of Moscow. There is also much sympathy for Greece in Washington, and the US, unlike Russia, can put actual pressure on the IMF and EU to cut Greece some slack.

Instead, by making moves to Moscow that he repeatedly fails to see through, Tsipras has lost possible friends in Europe and the US, whilst putting Greece’s traditionally friendly relations with Russia in jeopardy.

Anyone who knows Russia knows the friendly feelings Russians have for Greece.

If a Grexit happens  – which is very possible despite Tsipras’s latest concessions – Greece will need Russia’s help (see again Grexit Looks Inevitable. But Greece Will Need Moscow’s Help, Russia Insider, 27th April 2015).

Hopefully what looks like a frankly manipulative policy will not have soured Russian attitudes by then.

References:

http://russia-insider.com/en/business/tsiprass-policy-playing-russia-and-europe-against-each-other-losing-greece-friends/ri8286

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Trump Has Gifted “No More Wars” Policy Position To Bernie Sanders (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 148.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou discuss how US President Donald Tump appears to have ceded his popular 2016 ‘no more wars’ campaign message and policy position to Bernie Sanders and any other US 2020 candidate willing to grad onto a non-interventionist approach to the upcoming Democrat primaries.

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“Is Bernie Stealing Trump’s ‘No More Wars’ Issue?” by Patrick J. Buchanan…


The center of gravity of U.S. politics is shifting toward the Trump position of 2016.

“The president has said that he does not want to see this country involved in endless wars… I agree with that,” Bernie Sanders told the Fox News audience at Monday’s town hall meeting in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Then turning and staring straight into the camera, Bernie added:

“Mr. President, tonight you have the opportunity to do something extraordinary: Sign that resolution. Saudi Arabia should not be determining the military or foreign policy of this country.”

Sanders was talking about a War Powers Act resolution that would have ended U.S. involvement in the five-year civil war in Yemen that has created one of the great humanitarian crises of our time, with thousands of dead children amidst an epidemic of cholera and a famine.

Supported by a united Democratic Party on the Hill, and an anti-interventionist faction of the GOP led by Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee of Utah, the War Powers resolution had passed both houses of Congress.

But 24 hours after Sanders urged him to sign it, Trump, heeding the hawks in his Cabinet and National Security Council, vetoed S.J.Res.7, calling it a “dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities.”

With sufficient Republican votes in both houses to sustain Trump’s veto, that should be the end of the matter.

It is not: Trump may have just ceded the peace issue in 2020 to the Democrats. If Sanders emerges as the nominee, we will have an election with a Democrat running on the “no-more-wars” theme Trump touted in 2016. And Trump will be left defending the bombing of Yemeni rebels and civilians by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.

Does Trump really want to go into 2020 as a war party president?

Does he want to go into 2020 with Democrats denouncing “Trump’s endless wars” in the Middle East? Because that is where he is headed.

In 2008, John McCain, leading hawk in the Senate, was routed by a left-wing first-term senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, who had won his nomination by defeating the more hawkish Hillary Clinton, who had voted to authorize the war in Iraq.

In 2012, the Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who was far more hawkish than Obama on Russia, lost.

Yet, in 2016, Trump ran as a different kind of Republican, an opponent of the Iraq War and an anti-interventionist who wanted to get along with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and get out of these Middle East wars.

Looking closely at the front-running candidates for the Democratic nomination of 2020 — Joe Biden, Sanders, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker — not one appears to be as hawkish as Trump has become.

Trump pulled us out of the nuclear deal with Iran negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry and reimposed severe sanctions.

He declared Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization, to which Iran has responded by declaring U.S. Central Command a terrorist organization. Ominously, the IRGC and its trained Shiite militias in Iraq are in close proximity to U.S. troops.

Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moved the U.S. Embassy there, closed the consulate that dealt with Palestinian affairs, cut off aid to the Palestinians, recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights seized from Syria in 1967, and gone silent on Bibi Netanyahu’s threat to annex Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

Sanders, however, though he stands by Israel, is supporting a two-state solution and castigating the “right-wing” Netanyahu regime.

Trump has talked of pulling all U.S. troops out of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the troops are still there.

Though Trump came into office promising to get along with the Russians, he sent Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine and announced a pullout from Ronald Reagan’s 1987 INF treaty that outlawed all land-based intermediate-range nuclear missiles.

When Putin provocatively sent 100 Russian troops to Caracas — ostensibly to repair the S-400 anti-aircraft and anti-missile system that was damaged in recent blackouts — Trump, drawing a red line, ordered the Russians to “get out.”

Biden is expected to announce next week. If the stands he takes on Russia, China, Israel and the Middle East are more hawkish than the rest of the field, he will be challenged by the left wing of his party, and by Sanders, who voted “no” on the Iraq War that Biden supported.

The center of gravity of U.S. politics is shifting toward the Trump position of 2016. And the anti-interventionist wing of the GOP is growing.

And when added to the anti-interventionist and anti-war wing of the Democratic Party on the Hill, together, they are able, as on the Yemen War Powers resolution, to produce a new bipartisan majority.

Prediction: By the primaries of 2020, foreign policy will be front and center, and the Democratic Party will have captured the “no-more-wars” political high ground that Candidate Donald Trump occupied in 2016.

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Over 200 killed, hundreds injured in series of blasts at Sri Lankan hotels & churches

A series of bombings hit churches and hotels across Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing more than 200 people.

RT

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By

Via RT…


A series of eight explosions rocked Catholic churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka as Christians began Easter Sunday celebrations, with over 200 killed and hundreds injured, media reported, citing police.

The blasts started at around 8:45am local time at St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo and St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a Catholic-majority town outside of the capital. The Zion Church in Batticaloa on the eastern coast was also targeted. At around the same time, the Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury five-star hotels were also hit, police confirmed.

Two more explosions happened later in the day, targeting two more locations in Colombo. All attacks appear to have been coordinated.

At least 207 people were killed, Reuters reported, citing police. More than 450 were injured in the attacks.

Alleged footage of the aftermath, shared on social media, showed chaos and large-scale destruction inside at least one of the churches.

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Mike Pompeo reveals true motto of CIA: ‘We lied, we cheated, we stole’ (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 147.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at a Texas A&M University speech, and subsequent interview, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The former CIA Director admitted, ‘as an aside’ to the question asked, that the Intelligence agency he headed up before being appointed as the top US Diplomat had a motto “we lied, we cheated, we stole”…which, according to Pompeo, contained entire CIA training courses based on ‘lying, cheating and stealing.’

Pompeo finally speaks some truth.

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