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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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Tape recorded evidence of Clinton-Ukraine meddling in US election surfaces (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a look at new evidence to surface from Ukraine that exposes a plot by the US Embassy in Kiev and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) to leak Paul Manafort’s corrupt dealings in the country, all for the benefit of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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Follow The Duran Audio Podcast on Soundcloud.

Via Zerohedge


Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko has launched an investigation into the head of the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau for allegedly attempting to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump during the 2016 US election by releasing damaging information about a “black ledger” of illegal business dealings by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The Hill’s John Solomon, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko

“Today we will launch a criminal investigation about this and we will give legal assessment of this information,” Lutsenko said last week, according to The Hill

Lutsenko is probing a claim from a member of the Ukrainian parliament that the director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), Artem Sytnyk, attempted to the benefit of the 2016 U.S. presidential election on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

A State Department spokesman told Hill.TV that officials aware of news reports regarding Sytnyk. –The Hill

“According to the member of parliament of Ukraine, he got the court decision that the NABU official conducted an illegal intrusion into the American election campaign,” said Lutsenko, speaking with The Hill’s John Solomon about the anti-corruption bureau chief, Artem Sytnyk.

“It means that we think Mr. Sytnyk, the NABU director, officially talked about criminal investigation with Mr. [Paul] Manafort, and at the same time, Mr. Sytnyk stressed that in such a way, he wanted to assist the campaign of Ms. Clinton,” Lutsenko continued.

Solomon asked Lutsenko about reports that a member of Ukraine’s parliament obtained a tape of the current head of the NABU saying that he was attempting to help Clinton win the 2016 presidential election, as well as connections that helped release the black-ledger files that exposed Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort‘s wrongdoing in Ukraine.

“This member of parliament even attached the audio tape where several men, one of which had a voice similar to the voice of Mr. Sytnyk, discussed the matter.” –The Hill

What The Hill doesn’t mention is that Sytnyk released Manafort’s Black Book with Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko – discussed in great length by former Breitbart investigator Lee Stranahan, who has been closely monitoring this case.

Serhiy Leshchenko

T]he main spokesman for these accusations was Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian politician and journalist who works closely with both top Hillary Clinton donors George Soros and Victor Pinchuk, as well as to the US Embassy in Kyiv.

James Comey should be asked about this source that Leshchenko would not identify. Was the source someone connected to US government, either the State Department or the Department of Justice?

The New York Times should also explain why they didn’t mention that Leshchenko had direct connections to two of Hillary Clinton biggest financial backers. Victor Pinchuk, the largest donor to the Clinton Foundation at a staggering $8.6 million also happened to have paid for Leshchenko’s expenses to go to international conferences. George Soros, whose also founded the International Renaissance Foundationthat worked closely with Hillary Clinton’s State Department in Ukraine, also contributed at least $8 million to Hillary affiliated super PACs in the 2016 campaign cycle. –Lee Stranahan via Medium

Meanwhile, according to former Fusion GPS contractor Nellie Ohr, Leshchenko was a source for opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which commissioned the infamous Trump-Russia dossier.

Nellie Ohr, a former contractor for the Washington, D.C.-based Fusion GPS, testified on Oct. 19 that Serhiy Leshchenko, a former investigative journalist turned Ukrainian lawmaker, was a source for Fusion GPS during the 2016 campaign.

“I recall … they were mentioning someone named Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian,” Ohr said when asked who Fusion GPS’s sources were, according to portions of Ohr’s testimony confirmed by The Daily Caller News Foundation. –Daily Caller

Also absent from The Hill report is the fact that Leshchenko was convicted in December by a Kiev court of interfering in the 2016 US election.

A Kyiv court said that a Ukrainian lawmaker and a top anticorruption official’s decision in 2016 to publish documents linked to President Donald Trump’s then-campaign chairman amounted to interference in the U.S. presidential election.

The December 11 finding came in response to a complaint filed by another Ukrainian lawmaker, who alleged that Serhiy Leshchenko and Artem Sytnyk illegally released the documents in August 2016, showing payments by a Ukrainian political party to Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

The documents, excerpts from a secret ledger of payments by the Party of Regions, led to Manafort being fired by Trump’s election campaign.

The Kyiv court said that the documents published by Leshchenko and Sytnyk were part of an ongoing pretrial investigation in Ukraine into the operations of the pro-Russian Party of Regions. The party’s head had been President Viktor Yanukovych until he fled the country amid mass protests two years earlier.

-RadioFreeEurope/Radio Liberty (funded by the US govt.).

So while Lutsenko – Solomon’s guest and Ukrainian Prosecutor is currently going after Artem Sytnyk, it should be noted that Leshchenko was already found to have meddled in the 2016 US election.

Watch:

Meanwhile, you can also check out Stranahan’s take on Leshchenko being left out of the loop.

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‘I will take over as Brexit Party leader’: Nigel Farage back on the frontline

Nigel Farage says that if the UK takes part in European elections, he will lead his new Brexit Party.

RT

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Via RT


Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has announced that he will lead his new Brexit Party into the European elections if UK MPs decide to delay Brexit beyond May 22.

Farage, who has ostensibly appointed himself leader, told various media, including the BBC and Sky News on Friday morning: “I will take over as leader of the Brexit Party and lead it into the European Elections.”

It comes after the Brexit Party’s leader, Catherine Blaiklock, quit over a series of alleged Islamophobic statements and retweets of far-right figures on social media.

It is not yet thought that Farage has officially been elected as leader, as the party does not, as yet, have a formal infrastructure to conduct such a vote.

The right-wing MEP vowed to put out a whole host of Brexit Party candidates if the UK participates in the upcoming EU elections in May, adding: “If we fight those elections, we will fight them on trust.”

On Thursday night, the EU agreed to PM May’s request for a delaying to Brexit beyond the March 29 deadline. Brussels announced two new exit dates depending on what happens next week in the UK parliament.

The UK will have to leave the bloc on April 12 unless British MPs agree to May’s Brexit deal. If the withdrawal agreement is passed by next week, EU leaders have agreed to grant an extension until May 22.

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Baltics cannot rely on Germany any more

The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it is supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership blunders.

The Duran

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Submitted by Adomas Abromaitis…

On March 29 Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will celebrate 15 years of becoming NATO member states. The way to the alliance membership was not simple for newly born independent countries. They have reached great success in fulfilling many of NATO demands: they have considerably increased their defence expenditures, renewed armaments and increased the number of military personnel.

In turn, they get used to rely on more powerful member states, their advice, help and even decision making. All these 15 years they felt more or less safe because of proclaimed European NATO allies’ capabilities.

Unfortunately, now it is high time to doubt. The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership’s blunders. Every member state does a bit. As for the Baltic states, they are particularly vulnerable, because they fully depend on other NATO member states in their defence. Thus, Germany, Canada and Britain are leading nations of the NATO battle group stationed in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia respectively.

But the state of national armed forces in Germany, for example, raises doubts and makes it impossible not only defend the Baltics against Russia, but Germany itself.

It turned out, that Germany itself remains dissatisfied with its combat readiness and minister of defence’s ability to perform her duties. Things are so bad, that the military’s annual readiness report would be kept classified for the first time for “security reasons.”

“Apparently the readiness of the Bundeswehr is so bad that the public should not be allowed to know about it,” said Tobias Lindner, a Greens member who serves on the budget and defense committees.

Inspector General Eberhard Zorn said (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-arms/germany-not-satisfied-with-readiness-of-submarines-some-aircraft-idUSKBN1QS1G7) the average readiness of the country’s nearly 10,000 weapons systems stood at about 70 percent in 2018, which meant Germany was able to fulfill its military obligations despite increasing responsibilities.

No overall comparison figure was available for 2017, but last year’s report revealed readiness rates of under 50 percent for specific weapons such as the aging CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters and the Tornado fighter jets.

Zorn said this year’s report was more comprehensive and included details on five main weapons systems used by the cyber command, and eight arms critical for NATO’s high readiness task force, which Germany heads this year.

“The overall view allows such concrete conclusions about the current readiness of the Bundeswehr that knowledge by unauthorized individuals would harm the security interests of the Federal Republic of Germany,” he wrote.

Critics are sure of incompetence of the Federal Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen. Though she has occupied the upper echelons of German politics for 14 years now — and shows no sign of success. This mother of seven, gynecologist by profession, by some miracle for a long time has been remaining in power, though has no trust even among German military elites. Despite numerous scandals she tries to manage the Armed Forces as a housewife does and, of course, the results are devastating for German military capabilities. The same statement could be easily apply for the Baltic States, which highly dependent on Germany in military sphere.

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