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Will Russo-Greek relations bear fruit, or is it all theatre to scare EU oligarchs into finding a solution to Greece’s debt problem

When Alexis Tsipras visits the Kremlin on Wednesday there is a chance the Greek Prime Minister’s eastern pivot will immediately bear fruit…hoping that Moscow will lift a retaliatory ban on Greek fruits and show the EU the strength of Russo-Greek relations.

Alex Christoforou

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Post originally appeared on Zerohedge.

While Greece spent Easter weekend (not Orthodox Easter that is) assuring the IMF (the “institution”, not the critical third member of the Troika that shall not be named) that the €450 million payment due to Christine Lagarde’s “institution” will be made despite Greece officially (rather than just unofficially) running out of money and being forced to prioritize repaying its creditors over paying wages and pensions, its Prime Minister is currently evaluating what the Plan B will be when he visits Vladimir Putin tomorrow, one day ahead of the double Greek deadlines of IMF payment and cash running out.

As FT reports, “when Alexis Tsipras visits Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin on Wednesday there is a chance the Greek premier’s eastern manoeuvre will immediately bear fruit: kiwis, peaches and strawberries to be precise. Athens is hopeful that Moscow will lift a retaliatory ban on Greek soft fruits to demonstrate the abiding strength of Russo-Greek relations, just as both leaders feel a diplomatic chill with Europe over the Ukraine crisis and Athens’ bailout saga respectively.

Of course, every Greek request for a concession “quid” will be met with a proportional Russian quo, and it is this that worries European diplomats – namely will the Putin-Tsipras gladhanding amount to something more significant than fruit trade. “The big fear, in the words of one suspicious senior official, is a “Trojan horse” plot, where Russia extends billions in rescue loans in exchange for a Greek veto on sanctions — a move that would kill western unity over Ukraine.”

No such shock is expected this week. But as Athens nears the brink of insolvency there is growing alarm that Mr Tsipras’s radical left government might turn to Moscow in desperation. It would set off the biggest panic over Greece’s strategic alignment since the 1947 US Marshall Plan, initiated to save the country from communist fighters that Mr Tsipras’ Syriza party lionise to this day.

Others are hoping that Tsipras visit is merely a, well, Trojan horse strawman, meant to instill fear in Europe that Russia can spread its tentacles to a country which is still a member of the Eurozone, and is merely a “ploy in bailout talks with Germany and the eurozone. In spite of historic cultural ties and Syriza’s Soviet romanticism, analysts think Greece is too tied to the west – through EU and Nato membership – and too deep in debt for sanctions-damaged Russia to buy it off as a reliable ally.”

“The Greeks are using Russia as a way to piss off Berlin, to frighten them. Tsipras wants to show he has other options,” said Theocharis Grigoriadis, a Greece-Russia relations expert at the Free University of Berlin.

“But he has no intention of making Greece a Russian satellite. The Russians know that. The Germans know that. It is pure theatre, a Greek game, and I’m afraid it looks like a poodle trying to scare a lion.”

And that is 100% wrong, because every decision has a bid and an ask. And all it would take for Russia to expand its “satellite” nations by one more is to offer enough promises and gifts to a nation that has been on the verge of social and economic collapse of the past 5 years.

Such as a discount to all important energy prices and, even better, a replacement loan – one which comes with less “austere” conditions than anything Greece could get out of Europe. Which, according to Russian Kommersant as reported by Reuters, is precisely the carrot that Russia will dangle before the Greek PM.

From Reuters:

Russia may offer Greece a discount on gas deliveries and new loans when Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras visits Moscow this week, the Kommersant business daily reported on Tuesday, citing one source in the Russian government.

A Kremlin spokesman said last week that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Tsipras planned to discuss economic ties and EU sanctions on Moscow when they meet for talks, which Kommersant said would take place on Thursday.

“We are ready to consider the issue of a gas price discount for Greece,” the newspaper said quoting an unnamed Russian government source.

Russia’s state-controlled producer Gazprom declined to comment. The Energy Ministry also declined to comment.

The source said that in exchange for the discount and some unspecified loans, Russia would want access to Greek assets. The source did not name any specific assets.

In recent weeks, the gas price charged by Gazprom has fallen, tracking lower oil prices. Gazprom said it wanted to acquire DEPA in 2013 but dropped its bid after failing to receive enough guarantees over DEPA’s financial position.

So that is the Russian offer. The all important question remains: what will Russia request in return for these key concessions and will Greece be willing to accept it. Then again, running out of cash may just be impetus Greece needs to open up negotiating avenues which until recently it had said it would never cross as long as it is part of the Eurozone.

References:

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-04-07/russia-offer-greece-new-loans-gas-price-discount

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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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