Friday, June 12, 2015

Rocket Fire Continues From Gaza, Russian Bombers Skirt U.S. Airspace, Europe Gives Greece 24 Hours

Rocket shot from Gaza toward Ashkelon region in fresh attack | The Times of Israel

A rocket was shot from Gaza toward southern Israel Thursday night, the latest apparent attack amid an uptick in missile fire.
Sirens were heard in the Ashkelon region just north of the strip just after 10 p.m., sending residents scurrying for shelter.
The Israel Defense Forces said one rocket was shot from Gaza at southern Israel. Sirens were heard in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council and the city of Ashkelon, the army said.

The IDF later said it was unable to locate an impact site and concluded the rocket had fallen short inside Gaza without reaching Israel.
Sirens were also heard in the Lachish region, about 40 kilometers inland from Gaza, and officials were searching there for a rocket as well, Army Radio reported.

The last several weeks have seen a marked increase in rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, all from small Palestinian factions that rival the enclave’s Hamas rulers.
The attacks have each meet met with Israeli airstrikes on Hamas facilities, ramping up tensions between the sides.
Israel says it holds Hamas responsible for all Gaza rocket fire and officials have vowed to respond forcefully to any attacks.
Earlier this week, Hamas officials warned that there could be a serious conflagration if Israel continued to strike Hamas facilities in response to the rocket fire.

A pair of B-2 Spirit stealth bombers have been dispatched by the Air Force to join three B-52s at the Royal Air Force Base Fairford, in the wake of Russia doubling its number of long range strategic bomber flights along the U.S. coastline and cruising over NATO ally airspace.
Russian bombers crossed into the U.S. Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) — a transition area around U.S. airspace where America does not have sovereignty but keeps closely monitors — at least 10 times in 2014, twice the average of five incursions a year since 2006, according to NORAD. They have also intruded the airspace buffer zones of NATO allies overseas including Ireland, Sweden and the Netherlands.
U.S. defense and congressional officials attribute the increase in flights to rising tensions between Washington and Moscow since the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.
Defense news reports indicate the U.S. is preparing to also fly B-52s to Sweden for an aerial exercise, and another two pair of B-52 Stratofortress bombers over the far reaches of the Arctic North Sea high above the polar ice cap where the Kremlin is increasing Russian naval presence and dispatching 6,000 military personnel.

According to online military newsletter Foxtrot Alpha, the Arctic affair now dubbed “Polar Growl” had three objectives: to test and how U.S. Strategic Command would approach two separate missions in two different areas at the same time, to inter-operate with allied air forces dealing with foreign intercepts, and to give B-52 crews experience flying over extreme northern areas.

The aerial war exercises near American and Russian airspace have developed into a type of Cold War chess game. Since 2012, there have been at least two dozen incidents where a Russian bomber skirted U.S. or NATO airspace.

The aerial chess game has continued amidst the recent G-7 summit in Germany, which excluded Russian President Vladimir Putin as a sign of protest over Moscow’s annexation of the Crimea.

“The G-7 is making it clear that is necessary we stand ready to impose additional significant sanctions against Russia,” President Obama said at the summit. Mr. Obama added that the Kremlin was facing a crossroads in which it must decide whether or not it wants to destroy the Federation’s economy just to fulfill Mr. Putin’s dreams of “recreating the glories of the Soviet empire.”

Two Russian military aircraft flying over the Baltic Sea without sharing a flight plan have been intercepted and shadowed by RAF Tycoons.

The Typhoons were scrambled yesterday from the Amari Air base in Estonia after the Russian aircraft approached Baltic airspace.

One of the Russian planes was identified as an Il-20M “Coot,” a surveillance aircraft, while the other was described as an An-26 “Curl” transport plane flying north from Kaliningrad.

Flight Lieutenant Paul Griffin said the Typhoons had been given the “nod” and “the Estonian controllers hit the scramble button”.
“The Estonian controllers picked up the aircraft on their radar picture and evaluated whether it had a flight plan and its heading, height and speed. Once it was clear it was an unknown they gave it an appropriate identification colour which made it stand out on our radar scopes,” he said.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the interception of the Russian military aircraft by the UK’s RAF jets “underlines out commitment to Nato and the security of the Baltic region”.

“RAF air and ground grew are doing vital work to defend the skies above and around the Baltic States and I look forward to seeing that work first hand in the near future,” he said.
Four Typhoons were deployed to Amari last month to work with Norwegian aircraft, to patrol Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Fallon will be visiting the Baltic Air Policing detachment later this month.

EU officials turned up the heat on Athens Thursday after the IMF withdrew its team and sent its lead negotiators back to Washington. 
In what can only be described as a half-hearted effort, Greek PM Alexis Tsipras submitted two three-page proposals earlier this week that were dismissed by creditors as “not serious.” We suggested that perhaps that was intentional as Tsipras, having bought Greece some time by opting for the “Zambian” IMF payment bundle, is simply keeping up appearances while the real negotiating is going on behind the scenes with Syriza party hardliners who Tsipras desperately needs to support any proposal before it goes to parliament in order to avoid what could quickly deteriorate into a political and social crisis. 
One has to believe that Brussels understands this, but it could very well be that between Tsipras’ scathing op-ed (published two Sundays ago) and the PM’s fiery speech to parliament last Friday, creditors are becoming concerned that Tsipras might actually be starting to believe that he can effectively blackmail the EMU by threatening to prove, once and for all, that the currency bloc is in fact dissoluble no matter what manner of protestations one might hear in polite company. 
So, with the IMF having thrown in the towel, and with German lawmakers set to rally behind the incorrigible FinMin Wolfgang Schaeuble in what amounts to a mutiny on the SS Merkel, Europe appears to have finally had enough because by Thursday evening, reports indicated that EU officials have given Greece 24 hours to come back with a proposal that includes pension reform and VAT increases. 

Via Bloomberg:

Greece was warned by a group of European Union officials in Brussels it had less than 24 hours to come up with a serious counter-proposal, according to a person familiar with the discussion.

Greek delegate told by EU officials that a list must includes reform on pension and VAT.

Greece told by the officials that they are taking seriously all scenarios.

EU official didn’t specifically say what would happen to Greece if there was no plan presented tomorrow.

The German government is holding "concrete consultations" on what to do in the case of a bankruptcy of the Greek state, German newspaper Bild said, citing several people familiar with the matter.

This includes discussions about introducing capital controls in Greece if the crisis-stricken country goes bankrupt, Bild said in an advance copy of an article due to be published on Friday.

It said a debt haircut for Greece was also being discussed, adding that government officials were in close contact with the European Central Bank on that.

The German government did not, however, have a concrete plan of how it would react if Greece goes bankrupt and much would have to be decided on an ad-hoc basis, Bild cited the sources as saying.

The takeaway here is that come hell, high water, or "Grimbo," the EU is going to extract its pension cuts and VAT hikes from Tsipras, and not because anyone seriously thinks it will make a difference in terms of putting the country on a 'sustainable' path, but because the EU simply cannot afford for Syriza sympathizers in more economically consequential countries like Spain to get any ideas about rolling back austerity (of 'fauxsterity' as it were) and using EMU membership as a bargaining chip. 
The only question now is whether Tsipras has been successful at convincing party hardliners to support further concessions, because if this turns into a protracted political battle, it's entirely possible that the country will descend into chaos, if only for a few weeks. 
Stay tuned, and as a reminder, here's a flowchart that outlines various political and economic ramifications as well as a guide to what's being negotiated:

Also see:

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