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Varoufakis meets Obama. Creditors press Greece to submit to more austerity. Greece remains defiant

Greece, once again, said it would not “renege on election pledges to end austerity measures as creditors pressed for a compromise.” The EU was not happy and immediately began to threaten Greece, once again, of a swift exit from the EZ.

Alex Christoforou

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Post originally appeared on Zerohedge.

Hopes ran high among Europe’s unelected bureaucratic oligarchy and the Troika of official creditors that the Greek government, after the ECB openly dropped hints of a Greek IOU currency in the immediate future, would finally relent over the weekend and admit that all of its promises to its voters were a lie and that the Tsipras government would finally pick up where the Samaras government left (and was booted) off. There was even a perfect venue: Washington D.C., where Varoufakis and Obama met for the first time just hours before.

The hopes were promptly dashed after Greece, once again, said it would not “renege on election pledges to end austerity measures as creditors pressed for a compromise.”

The full court assault against Greece from all sides came fast and furious.

As Bloomberg notes, both president Obama and ECB president Mario Draghi called on the Greek government to do more to resolve the standoff amid depleting cash reserves.

And for the first time, a voice formerly quite sympathetic to the Greek cause, that of France, expressed increasing frustration with the pace of negotiations and openly chided Greece.

This happened when French Finance Minister Michel Sapin spoke after the IMF meeting in Brussels yesterday saying he “doesn’t expect a resolution of Greece’s financing issues to be achieved in coming days, including at a meeting of European finance ministers in Riga April 24 and 25.”

“We’re in the same situation at the end of these meetings as at the beginning. That’s in part because Greece wasn’t on the menu,” Sapin said. “A lot of time has been lost and it won’t be recovered” he added.

Ironically, the French government is now openly criticizing the Greeks, saying the “need to work work work and work seriously” on their economic plans “out of respect for the Greek people.” Ironic,because it is “out of respect” for the people’s choice to end the Troika’s meddling in Greece that Europe is in the current dead-end.

Let’s not forget that this is the same French government that itself missed its budget deficit target two months ago and avoided a EU deficit penalty just because in Europe some are more equal than others.

The irony continued: “Greece needs to respect the rules that apply to all countries in the euro”…. except France? “Greece hasn’t only signed memorandums, but has signed treaties.” 

The criticisms escalated into threats when ECB Governing Council member Vitas Vasiliauskas said that “the situation in Greece means that we should have a limit until summer” for providing Emergency Liquidity Assistance for Greece. He added that “everyone understands what ELA means, it’s a temporary measure to give the banks liquidity. We will have to have discussions about the issue liquidity provision versus monetary financing. We will certainly have these discussions before summer.”

Once again a case of some being more equal than others, because all the ECB’s QE really is, is monetary financing of insolvent peripheral nations courtesy of an ECB backstop which makes rates so low Spain and Italy can both go on a borrowing spree, and even issue 100 year paper, and everyone will line up simply because the ECB has blessed said paper. For now.

However, when it comes to Greece and suddenly the ECB is very concerned about “monetary financing.”

Finally, the big guns came out when Mario Draghi himself said the euro area was better equipped than it had been in the past to deal with a new Greek crisis but warned of “uncharted waters” if the situation were to deteriorate badly. As the FT reported, Draghi “called for the resumption of detailed discussions aimed at resolving the country’s debt woes and urged the Greek authorities to bring forward proposals that ensured fairness, growth, fiscal stability, financial stability.

Said otherwise, to do precisely as the Troika demands.

Greek officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis, stood their ground.

“We want a viable solution within the euro,” Dragasakis said in an interview published Sunday in Athens-based To Vima newspaper. Still, “we don’t budge from our red lines.”

The Greek “red lines” are refusing to cut wages and pensions, introduce new taxes or sell state assets, Alternate Health and Social Security Minister Dimitris Stratoulis said in an interview Saturday with Athens-based Skai TV. “The Syriza-led government will carry out the reforms the Greek people need, not ones requested by our creditors,” he said. The country won’t be pressured “by euro-exit threats,” he added.

And then Greece brought out the tactical weapons: “Snap elections or a referendum are possible options should negotiations with creditors stall, Dragasakis said.

Which goes to the heart of the problem, because while the Greek population wants an end to austerity (hence the election of Syriza), it also wants to remain in the Eurozone and keep the Euro. As such a referendum and snap elections would finally push the decision away from the government and give it to the general population, something the eurocrats, who pride themselves in their “technocracy” are terrified of, and would never forgive.

Meanwhile, Greece may have no money left but it still has pride: “Greece won’t agree to any privatization, Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis said in an interview published Sunday in Athens-based Real News newspaper. While “so-called” partners, including unidentified International Monetary Fund officials, want to “blackmail” the Greek government into adopting measures that would hurt the working class, “we won’t betray the people’s mandate,” he said.

While on the surface Greek defiance is inexplicable having run out of all negotiating chips, the news yesterday that none other than Vladimir Putin may be coming to the Greek rescue with a €5 billion advance gas pipeline payment may have given the Greeks a sense of leverage.

That, however, was promptly dashed subsequently when Russia denied the Spiegel report. Reuters cited Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who in comments made to Business FM radio and quoted by RIA news agency, said “No, there wasn’t (any agreement).”

Peskov reiterated that the Greeks had not requested financial assistance during talks in the Kremlin earlier this month between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Naturally the question of energy cooperation was raised. Naturally … it was agreed that at the expert level there would be a working-out of all issues connected with cooperation in the energy sphere, but Russia did not promise financial help because no one asked for it,” Peskov was quoted as saying.

Of course, this is merely diplomatic double talk, and all it suggests is that Russia is awaiting the official admission from Greece that it will pivot to Russia. For that to happen, Greece will have to formally state that in addition to creditor negotiations it is now openly looking to Moscow (and Beijing) for additional aid. The problem is that such a statement would promptly end any hopes of a Greek deal with its Troika creditors.

As such Greece is simply trying to delay making the choice of picking its future path, be it west or east, until the very last moment. However, since Greek liquidity is now non-existent and the government has almost run out of public funds to pillage, Tsipras will have no choice but to make that choice in the coming days.

References:

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-04-19/despite-urges-and-threats-greece-remains-defiant-wont-budge-red-lines-even-russia-de

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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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