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Yanis Varoufakis proposes sending the Greek debt to “the distant future”

Repayment of what Greece owes to the European Central Bank should be pushed into the future, but it is not an option because it fills ECB chief Mario Draghi’s “soul with fear”, Greece’s finance minister said on Thursday.

Alex Christoforou

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Post originally appeared on Zerohedge.

In “Germany Gives Greece Grexit Referendum Greenlight,” we pointed to comments by German FinMin Wolfgang Schaeuble which seemed to indicate that the EU paymaster would like to see PM Tsipras put euro membership to a popular vote. Such a move could accelerate negotiations with creditors by effectively allowing Syriza to claim it hasn’t betrayed its support base, but a vote also risks plunging the country into turmoil should the gambit backfire (i.e. if Greeks unexpectedly vote to leave the currency bloc). Either way is probably fine with German officials who, at this juncture, have run almost completely out of patience with members of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic bloc pressing the Chancellor to cut the Greeks loose. Now that Athens has resorted to tapping its IMF SDR account to pay the bills, German calls for a euro referendum are getting louder. Here’ Bloomberg with more:

The German Finance Ministry is supporting the idea of a vote by Greek citizens to either accept the economic reforms being sought by creditors to receive a payout from the country’s bailout program or ultimately opt to leave the euro.

A referendum could bring the conflict to a head after months of inconclusive talks between Greece and its creditors that have exasperated Germany and other euro-area countries. Public support for economic reforms might lead Greece toward a deal, while rejection could set the country on a path to leaving the euro.

“If the Greek government thinks it should hold a referendum, it should hold a referendum,” Schaeuble told reporters in Brussels on Monday.

“Maybe it would even be the right measure to let the Greek people decide whether they’re ready to accept what needs to be done”…

Schaeuble’s stance on a Greek plebiscite is a departure from Germany’s position in 2011. Back then, Prime Minister George Papandreou dropped his plan for a referendum after Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged him not to hold the vote. A financial backstop for the euro region and policy changes in former crisis countries since then have made contagion risks “marginal,” Schaeuble has said.

“The Greek government is increasingly facing the dilemma that it can’t deliver on its own election promises and this is something the German government of course is also aware of,” Tanja Boerzel, a political scientist at Berlin’s Free University, said by phone. “Then it’s easier to let the Greek people decide in the hope that they vote to stay in the euro.”

A pro-reform vote would take away Tsipras’s “argument that they’ve promised something else” and that he has an anti-austerity mandate from his voters, Boerzel said by phone.

Meanwhile, a familiar face is once again proving to be quite adept at using the stalemate between Athens and Brussels as an opportunity to play geopolitical chess, even as the latest example of Russian meddling comes across as rather absurd on its face.

Again, via Bloomberg:

Having scratched together the 750 million euros ($845 million) it owes the International Monetary Fund and with a few weeks of cash left in its accounts, Greece is now being invited to join a club with a membership fee running into the billions.
The disclosure this week from Athens that Russia wants to make Greece the sixth member of the BRICS bank sounded like nothing more than a late April Fool’s joke to Jim O’Neill. He’s the former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. economist who in 2001 coined the term BRIC — Brazil, Russia, India and China. South Africa was subsequently invited to join by the others.

Last year they set up a development bank to rival the IMF. It will have authorized capital of $100 billion with each founding member contributing $10 billion.

So what gives? Certainly Greece, whose economy has shrunk by about a quarter as it became of ward of the euro zone, doesn’t exactly meet the vision laid out by O’Neill to highlight the growing economic weight of developing nations…

The invitation is therefore almost certainly geopolitical. Firming up eastern ties is one of Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras’s few points of leverage with his creditors. Panagiotis Roumeliotis, Greece’s former representative to IMF, has been appointed to explore the possibility of joining the BRICS bank.

Through it all, you can rest assured that Athens isn’t about to sit idly by and default on its obligations — at least not according to government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis:

  • GREECE DOES WHAT IT HAS TO, EACH TIME A PAYMENT IS DUE: GOVT

It sure does, and that includes borrowing from the IMF to pay the IMF, raiding pension funds to pay pensioners, pillaging schools and hospitals, and shaking down local governments for cash.

Of course no update on Hellenic hell would be complete without a bit of fire and brimstone from an increasingly unhinged Yanis Varoufakis who still believes the best solution when it comes to Greek debt is to package it all up and overnight it into the “distant future.”

Via Reuters:

Varoufakis first raised the idea of swapping Greek debt for growth-linked or perpetual bonds when his leftist government came to power earlier this year, But Athens has since dropped the proposal after it got a cool reception from euro zone partners.

The outspoken minister, who has been sidelined in talks with European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders, brought it up again on Thursday, saying 27 billion euros of bonds owed to the ECB after 6.7 billion euros worth are repaid in July and August should be pushed back.

“What must be done (is that) these 27 billion of bonds that are still held by the ECB should be taken from there and sent overnight to the distant future,” he told parliament.

“How could this be done? Through a swap.”

There you go — simple. The only thing standing in the way (besides creditors not wanting to hold bonds where the long end of the curve is labeled “distant future”) is Jens Wiedmann, because were Mario Draghi to agree to a debt swap, he would risk infuriating the Bundesbank chief who already harbors ill-will towards the ECB for launching QE. Or at least that’s how Varoufakis imagines it.

And because when it comes to insane rhetoric, nobody does it like Yanis, we’ll leave you with the following excerpt from the FinMin’s latest speech to parliament:

“The idea of a swap between the Greek government and the ECB fills Mr. Draghi’s soul with fear.”
References:

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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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