Monday, July 6, 2015

Greece: "48 Hours Away From Unrest", Merkel And Hollande Issue Athens 24-Hour Ultimatum

Greece debt crisis: Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande issue Athens with 24-hour ultimatum to avoid crashing out of the euro - Europe - World - The Independent

The eurozone’s two most powerful politicians have brushed aside the resounding No vote in the Greek referendum and told Athens that it has one last chance on Tuesday to offer a new plan to get its economy in order – and avoid crashing out of the single currency.

The unyielding line from the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and French President, François Hollande, came as the European Central Bank tightened the noose around Greece’s tottering lenders by squeezing their liquidity lifeline, ahead of Tuesday's summit of eurozone leaders.

The Greek government upped the stakes further by revealing that the Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, had telephoned the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, to discuss the consequences of the referendum in which Greeks voted by 61 per cent to 39 per cent to reject the EU’s previous austerity demands.

During the call, the Kremlin said, Mr Putin “expressed support for the Greek people in overcoming the difficulties facing their country” and that they discussed “several questions about the further development of Russian-Greek  co-operation”.

Speaking as they began a joint summit meeting in Paris on Monday night, the German and French leaders said they respected the result of the Greek bailout referendum on Sunday, but added that it was now up to Athens to suggest a way forward.

Ms Merkel said the door to talks was still open, despite Sunday’s No vote, but Greece must put its proposals on the table urgently. “We must respect the vote of the Greek people but we must also respect the other 18 member states. That’s a matter of democracy,” she said, repeating her line that the EU bailout offer rejected on Sunday had been “a generous one”.

The Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, warned Athens that if it does not accept the creditors’ reform demands “it is over”. “Did Greeks really think that if they voted No, we would come and ask: ‘how else would you like it?’” he said, adding that his own government was currently unwilling to commit any more funds to Greece.

Eurozone officials have said that if Mr Tsipras is ready to start negotiations on a new bailout in earnest, the Brussels summit could mark a turning point. In a terse statement, the Eurogroup said: “Ministers expect new proposals from the Greek authorities.”

The European Commission’s vice-president, Valdis Dombrovskis, poured cold water on prospects of a deal, insisting that debt relief was not on the table, and questioned the legitimacy of the referendum. He said the No vote would “dramatically weaken the negotiating stance of the Greek government and make things more complicated”, adding: “This is an outcome that very possibly may have no winners whatsoever.”

But Mr Tsipras appeared to remain defiant and officials in Brussels cautioned that, given the deadlocks that have arisen at almost every summit and ministerial meeting since Mr Tsipras came to power in January, there was only a slim hope of progress. Mr Tsipras received congratulations from other left-of-centre world leaders, including Cuban President Raul Castro, who said the Greek government’s approach had been vindicated by the referendum.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras probably has 48 hours to resolve a standoff with creditors before civil unrest breaks out and ATMs run out of cash, hedge fund Balyasny Asset Management said.
Fund managers are questioning how the International Monetary Fund and Europe’s leaders can seal a deal with Athens following the “no” vote in a Greek referendum on Sunday. Sixty-one percent of voters rejected austerity, increasing the likelihood of an exit from the euro area.

“I don’t see a good resolution any time soon,” Colin Lancaster, senior managing director with Balyasny, a $9 billion fund based in Chicago, said in an e-mailed response to questions. “The big question is whether the EU adopts a strategy of waiting them out. The hope would be that the unrest leads to a unity government or change in government.”

Fund managers are questioning how the International Monetary Fund and Europe’s leaders can seal a deal with Athens following the “no” vote in a Greek referendum on Sunday. Sixty-one percent of voters rejected austerity, increasing the likelihood of an exit from the euro area.

With Greece’s debt situation spiraling downwards, the European project is showing some cracks. The July 5 referendum could amount to a vote on whether or not Greece stays in the euro.

In the meantime, the turmoil offers an opportunity for Russia to advance its interests. 

Of course, the EU is an absolutely critical trading partner for Russia, so if the bloc starts to fray at the seams, that presents financial risks to an already struggling Russian economy. 

With the economic fallout in mind, Russia does see strategic opportunities in growing discord within Europe. 

First, Russia is pushing its Turkish Stream Pipeline, a natural gas pipeline that it has proposed that would run from Russia through Turkey and link up in Greece. From there, Russian gas would travel on to the rest of Europe. Russia is vying against a separate pipeline project that would send natural gas from the Caspian Sea through Turkey and on to Europe.

In mid-June, Alexis Tsipras met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Russia and Greece signed a memorandum following the meeting to push the project forward. Russia’s energy minister Alexander Novak emphasized that Gazprom would not own the section of the pipeline on Greek territory, a crucial fact that avoids heavy antitrust scrutiny from EU regulators.

With an eye on the looming default, Russia agreed to finance the project, and Greek officials portrayed the project as economic assistance amidst its ongoing debt crisis.

The pipeline remains in limbo. Despite Russian insistence that construction could begin in 2016 and be completed by 2019, the 2 billion euro project does not have firm commitments from Turkey, and it also still faces opposition within Europe, which is trying to wean itself off of Russian gas.
But with Greece’s debt crisis hitting new lows, there remains the possibility that Russia could come to Greece’s aid if the latter starts to pull away from Europe. And Greece has tried to use a potential turn towards Russia as leverage in talks with Europe.
Another way that Russia may be benefitting from the unravelling of Greece is the fact that the attention of European officials and the media have been diverted away from Gazprom’s latest maneuver in Ukraine. The Russian company cut off gas supplies to Ukraine, citing a pricing dispute. Gazprom slashed the discount that it provided to Ukraine for importing its gas, and without prepayment upfront from Ukraine, the Russian company has stated it will not supply gas.

There are huge financial risks to Russia from chaos in the Eurozone, and the longer the crisis drags out the more likely there could be economic fallout for Russia. But Putin no doubt sees a silver lining in collapsing European unity.

The United States and Germany are prepared to engineer a coup in Greece to keep the country operating as a strategic asset on NATO’s vulnerable southeast European flank.

“A putsch in Athens to save allied Greece from enemy Russia is in preparation by the US and Germany, with backing from the non-taxpayers of Greece – the Greek oligarchs, Anglo-Greek shipowners, and the Greek Church,” writes John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia not connected to the corporate media.

The primary tip-off something is brewing can be detected by the presence of Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, in Athens in March.
Nuland, The Guardian reported on March 17, “flew into the capital amid mounting US concerns that the great euro debt crisis has begun to pose a geopolitical threat. 

Allowed to veer out of control, Greece could end up in the ambit of Russia, financially bereft and without the EU links that keep it bounded to the west. Nato’s south-eastern flank would be immeasurably weakened at a time of mounting global security worries over Islamic fundamentalists in the Middle East.”

Nuland and the United States may be working closely with Greek military to foment a coup following the historic “No” vote in a referendum of the demands of the banksters.

She is notorious for her role in the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Ukraine and it now appears she has been assigned for a repeat in Greece. Helmer writes that when Nuland
visited Athens to issue an ultimatum against breaking the anti-Russian sanctions regime, and the Anglo-American think-tanks followed with warnings the Russian Navy is about to sail into Piraeus, the object of the game [became] clear. 

The line for Operation Nemesis has been that Greece must be saved, not from itself or from its creditors, but from the enemy in Moscow.

Russia is reportedly prepared to help Greece as it battles the banksters on Wall Street and Brussels. It is believed a Greek exit from the eurozone will move the country closer to Russia and deepen divisions within NATO.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of the socialist Syriza party said in mid-June an alignment with Russia is possible and hinted Greece was “ready to go to new seas to reach new safe ports.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov and Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum Russia would consider providing loans to Greece if requested.

On Friday a number of Greek military officers publicly called for a “yes” vote.
“Retired General Fragkoulis Fragkos, a former defense minister and one-time head of the Greek army general staff, called for a ‘loud yes on Sunday.’ In 2011, Fragkos was cashiered by then-Prime Minister George Papandreou amid rumors of a coup,” writes Alex Lantier.

Clearly referring to Tsipras, Fragkos said that “the moral values and principles that have always defined us Greeks are not under negotiation with any clueless and historically ignorant politician who is advancing his own party interest.”

A group of 65 retired high-ranking officers issued a statement citing their “oath to the Fatherland and the Flag” and warning, “By choosing isolation, we place the Fatherland and its future in danger.”

US intervention in Greece is nothing new. Between 1987 and 1989 the US made a concerted effort to overthrow the elected Greek government of Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou.
Prior to this in 1967 the Greek military installed the Regime of the Colonels following a coup d’état .
The Greek military was under the control of the CIA following Greece’s entrance into NATO in 1952. Elements of the Greek military were part of the CIA’s “stay behind” network under Operation Gladio and these elements (specifically LOK, or Lochoi Oreinōn Katadromōn, i.e. “Mountain Raiding Companies”) were directly involved in the 1967 coup.

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