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The Clash of the Titans — How Greece became the target of an epic struggle

The key to understanding Greece’s role in the Eurozone crisis, and to Greece’s eventual liberation from that crisis, is its pivotal role in the competing gas pipeline projects that are being planned by Moscow and Brussels in southern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean.

Haneul Na'avi

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Greek-EU relations parallel the epic battle of Hesiod’s Theogony, in which Kronos (Saturn/ restriction) overthrows his father Uranus (innovation) to become ruler of the Cosmos, and then devours his five children save for Zeus (Jupiter/ expansion) to prevent their future uprising.

Similarly, the trade bloc has done the same by devouring Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Portugal, and Greece in order to cement dominion over Europe, using the global financial crisis as an impetus.

1. “[…] the son from his ambush stretched forth his left hand and […] and swiftly lopped off his own father’s members…”

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ struggle with the bureaucratic Cerberus known as the European Troika—the European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—failed after he betrayed former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who sought radical fiscal options to rescue Greece’s economy.

Tsipras later signed the 2015 Supplemental Memorandum of Understanding, which claimed to “tackle tax evasion, fraud and strategic defaulters”, but in reality, shackles the country to another immovable €85 billion bailout and imposes a neoliberal, graduated privatisation scheme.

Unsurprisingly, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein was the architect of Greece’s calamity, where in 2001 he feloniously hid Greece’s debts using complex credit default swaps in order to meet Eurozone requirements set by the Maastricht Treaty, but the spell did not last long.

Salon reports:

“After the 9/11 attacks, bond yields plunged, resulting in a big loss for Greece because of the formula Goldman had used to compute the country’s debt repayments under the swap. By 2005, Greece owed almost double what it had put into the deal, pushing its off-the-books debt from 2.8 billion euros to 5.1 billion.

“[…] as interest rates plunged and the swaps turned out to cost far more, Goldman and the other banks refused to let the municipalities refinance without paying hefty fees to terminate the deals.”

Since then, Hellenic ministers have desperately sought options to revitalise its economy whilst battling austerity, but even rational measures to save it have come under fire from Brussels.

In 2008, Greek ministers tried to bail out its national industry Hellenic Shipyards before selling it to a German enterprise, which was later declared an “illegal move under Brussels law”.

EU technocrats imposed “a six million euro upfront penalty on Greece’s cash-strapped government, to be followed by a daily levy of 34,974 euros,” the Express highlighted.

“[…] Greece will be required to pay 34,974 euros to Brussels every day until it has recouped all of the 250 million euros it used to bail out Hellenic Shipyards”.

The country continues to battles a Hydra of problems, and despite slow gains, very few options remain within the EU framework. Fortunately, it is not alone and there is still hope.

2. “[…] and these goddesses never cease from their dread anger until they punish the sinner with a sore penalty…

The Eurozone debacle raises eyebrows regarding the Troika’s real intentions, as scapegoating continues to pervade mainstream media headlines without explaining the attacks and bailouts.

Paradoxically, underneath the miasma of lies and finger-pointing, a truth emerges: The Eurozone’s power rests in keeping Greece within its geopolitical orbit at all costs, and does so by exploiting Greek debt and “corruption”, which it consciously ignored in 2001.

Greece is one of the most geopolitically strategic energy transit hubs in Europe, which two multinational energy corporations—The European Commission Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) and Gazprom’s TurkStream Pipeline, fully understand.

BP expressed it in this way

“[The SGC] is arguably the global oil and gas industry’s most significant and ambitious undertaking yet […] – [involving] seven governments and 11 companies”.

Investors plan to construct the 550 km-long Trans Adriatic Pipeline through Greece, starting at Kipoi to connect to the Turkish Trans Anatolian Route (TANAP), and proceed to Albania and Italy.

World Policy echoed in 2014.

“Athens is vital to the success of the project, since the largest part of the pipeline crosses through Greece.”

Azerbaijan has been exploiting its Shah Deniz gas reserves in the Caspian Sea since 2006 and serves as the SGC’s main oil rig, and along with Western vassal state Georgia, and earns significant transit revenues via the South Caucasus Pipeline (SCPX).

Unfortunately, Azerbaijan depends on disputed reserves, and other stakeholders—neighbouring Russia, Kazakhstan, and Armenia—are members of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and expect the largest share, which further complicates matters.

Stratfor mentioned in a report.

“[…] there are disputes between the five bordering states over where to demarcate the maritime borders and how to split up the energy resources.  This has created a tense geopolitical environment in the region, with the Caspian Sea serving as an important area of competition between Russia and the West.”

Furthermore, Iran has also expressed interest in joining the EEU, compounding the EU’s troubles. 

The Tehran Times highlighted.

“President Vladimir Putin […] has expressed hope that a free trade zone can soon be established between Iran and the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union.”

To date, Russia has had difficulty incorporating Greece into the TurkStream project after Western sanctions followed the Kiev coup and MH17 sabotage, forcing EU member states into a common position policy, which has severely limited Greece’s political decision-making.

After Kyiv received a $17.5 billion IMF stabilisation package, it officially became a vassal state of the Eurozone, and unfortunately, the Soviet-era Druzhba pipeline, the world’s largest pipeline network, lost its southernmost flank.  Additionally, Kiev refuses to pay back its $3 billion debt to Russia.

Sanctions also forced Gazprom to divert its attention from the defunct South Stream pipeline to the TurkStream, bypassing Bulgaria and Ukraine after they rejected the project due to EU pressure.

RT commented.

“Last year, Russia scrapped South Stream because of objections from the EU over its construction. It was to supply gas to Southern Europe via Bulgaria, avoiding Ukraine.”

3. “Therefore he kept no blind outlook, but watched and swallowed down his children…”

Greece shares its concerns with other Southern European countries seeking to diversify their energy security, but have found it painstakingly difficult to accomplish. Christopher Coats of the London School of Economics goes into explicit detail:

“The EU’s current approach to energy policy limits itself to issues of connectivity, energy security and the harmonisation of member states’ fragmented markets, and it is unlikely that the EU will seek to incentivise new hydrocarbons exploration and production.’ […] However, [its] weakened financial standing has made funds increasingly elusive.”

He continues:

“Governments found quick targets for spending cuts in the state subsidy systems for renewable energy as the 2008 crisis took hold. Such cuts slowed interest in the sector, making it a far less attractive investment and hindering future planning […] Spain went from being a global leader of solar development and installation to a pariah of foreign investors in a matter of months.”

Rather than compensating countries for lost green initiatives, the Commission simply demanded austerity. Despite this, EU parliamentarians continue to enjoy generous salaries and benefits.

Furthermore, the implementation of the COP21 Paris Agreement, which targets anthropogenic climate change, adds further bureaucratic obstacles to hydrocarbons exploration.  The Institution of Civil Engineers implied that according to it

“governments and investors will need to manage an orderly transition away from a fossil fuel dominated economy.”

A 2009 European Commission document states

“Second Strategic Energy Review” (COM/2008/781), reiterates this strategy, demanding to “identify and remove barriers to investment, including by means of streamlining of planning and consultation procedures or by appointing European coordinators, in particular for projects which improve interconnection.”

Greece, therefore, cannot exist independently, as the EU desperately seeks to prevent Athens from pivoting eastward, which challenges the Commission’s objectives.  World Policy continued.

“[It] relies on the stability that Greece can offer as a mediator country […] thus bypassing Russian gas supplies.”

Together, these legislative barriers favour EU agendas at the expense of state rights. Greek Energy Minister Panos Skourletis remarked about his interest in the Turk Stream.

“Greece is interested in building a gas pipeline, we are ready to take part in it, but everything depends on Europe.”

EU pundits have also voiced concerns over Greece’s pivot to Russia, insinuating that it could form an interregional coalition to strengthen non-EU energy partnerships. Professor Konstantinos Filis replied during an interview.

“It will try to form a common EU bloc with other member states that share the same position […] such as Italy, Austria, Slovakia, Cyprus and Hungary.”

4. “Him did vast Earth receive from Rhea in wide Crete to nourish and to bring up.”

Fortunately, the ongoing Moscow-Ankara-Athens detente has yielded positive results.

Western attempts to court Turkey have backfired, especially after denying Ankara EU accession, Germany’s Bundestag recognised the Armenian genocide, and later, military coups occurred in Ankara and Istanbul, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames on US-asset Fethullah Güllen.

After the Turkish SU24 shoot-down in November 2015 as part of the conflict in Syria Russia froze production on the Turk Stream, but new developments now point to reconciliation; notwithstanding several demands from the Kremlin.

On August 31st Gazprom highlighted

“a working meeting between Alexey Miller, Chairman of the Gazprom Management Committee, and [Turkish Energy Minister] Berat Albayrak, took place today in Istanbul, [and that] negotiations on Russian gas supplies to Turkey will continue.”

Conversely, Greece and Russia have begun their long-awaited rapprochement in late May, when President Putin and PM Tsipras offered their groundbreaking joint statement in Athens.

Dubbed the historical Year of Russia held in Greece and the Year of Greece held in Russia, both figureheads communicated their hopes of new ambitious joint projects in agriculture, science, tourism, security and technology.

Over the years, trade between the two countries fell sharply, and measures to correct this were discussed at the 2015 Russian-Greek Intergovernmental Commission, along with the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in Sochi, Russia.

The SPIEF RosCongress Foundation explains:

“Foreign trade between Russia and Greece totalled USD 866.7 million over January–April 2015, with Russian exports amounting to USD 793.1 million (a drop of 42.3%), and imports from Greece standing at USD 73.6 million. Russia’s trade surplus with Greece stood at USD 719.5 million.”

Reflecting on this shortcoming, Greek Minister of Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping, and Tourism Giorgos Stathakis boldly stated

“As all of you are fully aware, we currently stand at the centre of a storm, but we are a seafaring people, so we are not scared of storms”.

Secretary General for International Economic Relations of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs Yiorgos Tsipras added.

“[…] we have recognized that it is easy to talk to our Russian colleagues. We are ready to move beyond the problems facing us and create new opportunities.”

5. “[…] And through your devising we are come back again from the murky gloom and from our merciless bonds…”

The most salient opportunity was, of course, revitalising cooperation in the energy sector. Tsipras addressed.

“We expressed our satisfaction with the signing of a memorandum of cooperation between the Russian Energy Institute and Greece’s Centre for Renewable Energy Sources (CRES) as well as an agreement between Hellenic Petroleum and Rosneft.”

Just before the visit, Vladimir Putin clearly stated in an Ekathimerini article that Greece was

“Russia’s important partner in Europe.  Issues relating to southern routes of energy shipment to the European Union states are still on the agenda.”

This was apparent a year ago in Moscow, where Greek Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis stated Greece would

“…..receive significant financial dividends for the pipeline’s operations [after signing a Russian-Greek MoU on the Turk Stream].”

Most importantly, it would provide Greece with a portion of 63 billion cubic metres per annum, immense compensation in transit fees, as well as creating jobs.

The Ekathimerini article continues

“[…] construction will start in 2016 and be completed by 2019”.

This is the path that Greece must pursue—an independent one with like-minded partners for growth and prosperity.

The rest of Southern Europe should follow suit to promote jobs, lower energy prices, and pay off outstanding debts to the Eurozone.

To do this, Mediterranean states (Turkey included) must create a common platform for dialogue, with clear goals and channels to mediate disputes, outside of the EU framework.

No matter what, there will be a pipeline running from Athens to Rome, constructed by either Moscow or Brussels, but only one benefits Greece long-term.

Greek ministers should prioritise the Turk Stream and reclaim its bargaining power within the “EU framework”.

Greece must be allowed into the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to finance the project and remove Western currencies from controlling its financial decisions.

Putin should facilitate their entry into the AIIB to counteract Goldman Sachs and the EU bureaucracy.

Greece, like Zeus, must face its enemy without fear to restore order. Conversely, the EU, like Kronos, has empowered its greatest fear through its authoritarian reign.

Greece and her siblings must grab the BRICS emetic and set themselves free.

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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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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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