How Vladimir Putin is building alliances around the world

As the Russian president visits his EU ally Viktor Orban, prime minister of Hungary, we look at other leaders around the world who have embraced the divisive Vladimir Putin

Venezuela

Caracas is a major buyer of Russian weapons and has recognised breakaway pro-Russian territories such as Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia.

Moscow reciprocates by investing billions of dollars in Venezuelan oil projects.

Vladimir Putin once even gave Hugo Chavez a puppy. Continue reading

Could Greece and Russia Crush the European Union?

Athens and Moscow teaming up could spell geopolitical disaster for Europe.

The ushering of Alexis Tsipras into the office of Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic in late January 2015 represents a major change in Europe’s geopolitics. Tsipras and his left-wing Syriza party rode to power on a wave of acute voter dissatisfaction caused by the country’s severe economic downturn starting in 2009. Many Greeks believe this situation was rooted in austerity and reforms imposed by Brussels’ unelected bureaucrats taking orders from Berlin. There is now a new geopolitics of debt that encompasses relations within the European Union (EU), Europe’s relations with Russia and to a lesser extent, China. For the United States, the new geopolitical terrain only complicates an already complicated Eurasian political arena.

The bailout was engineered under the auspices of the Troika, which is the EU, European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund. The massive injection of loans kept Greece from defaulting on its debt and helped Greece remain in the Eurozone. It also helped stabilize acute financial-market turmoil that threatened to spread to Spain, Italy and France. Continue reading

The Islamic State Takes on Egypt, Threatens Rome

 

Sunday’s video included a boast by the terrorists to “conquer Rome.” Libya is less than 500 miles away from Italy’s southern tip. And it is now home to the Islamic State’s strongest presence outside of its core territory in Syria and Iraq. Continue reading

Italy Fears ISIS Invasion From Libya

As ISIS makes inroads into Libya, officials in Rome are panicking about an Islamic State just across the sea—but have no idea how to combat the crisis.

ROME — Last weekend in Italy, as the threat of ISIS in Libya hit home with a new video addressed to “the nation signed with the blood of the cross” and the warning, “we are south of Rome,” Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi shuttered up the Italian embassy in Tripoli and raised his fist with the threat of impending military action.  Never mind that Italy has only 5,000 troops available that are even close to deployable, according to the defense ministry. Or that the military budget was cut by 40 percent two years ago, which has kept the acquisition of 90 F-35 fighter jets hanging in the balance and left the country combat-challenged to lead any mission—especially one against an enemy like the Islamic State.

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Italy Lenders Seen Cleansing Books Amid Bad-Bank Plans

(Bloomberg) — Italian banks, under pressure to bring their balance sheets in line with the European Central Bank’s health check, will probably set aside billions more for loan losses in the fourth quarter as the government considers a national plan for offloading their troubled assets. Continue reading

Italy is a dying country as babies no longer replace people who die, says health minister

Italy’s birth rate has fallen to its lowest level since the foundation of the modern state in 1861, prompting fresh alarm in a society that has been steadily ageing for decades.

The number of births per 1,000 people has fallen to just 8.4 per cent, down from 38.3 per cent when Italy’s territories and kingdoms were unified a century and a half ago.

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Greece: The Big Picture Update, And Why Deutsche Bank Thinks Europe Will Fold

Russian Jets Face Off With Italian Eurofighters Over Baltic — Two Showdowns Last Week

Russian jets started 2015 the same way they started and finished 2014 — with a relentless campaign of harassment against NATO forces stationed in the Baltic region. On two separate occasions in just the past week, Italian Eurofighter Typhoon jets have been forced into the skies to confront the Russians as they threatened to penetrate NATO air over the Baltics.

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How the European dream is dying, state by state

As Greece prepares for an election which could decide the fate of Europe, find out how the EU project is slowly falling apart in the ten major member states and two cities which form its heart

In Greece, a far-Left Socialist party, Syriza, is poised to win elections with a political programme that would overturn eurozone policies. Many believe the Greek revolt against the loss of their economic sovereignty by eurozone diktat from Brussels or Frankfurt is only the beginning.

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What Happens When You Take the UK out of the EU?

If the European Union wants to make British people angry, it’s doing a stellar job. In October, after revising how they calculate gross domestic product, EU officials determined that Britain was wealthier than they thought. They abruptly handed Britain an unexpected bill for $2.7 billion, including back payment, for the EU budget. Then other EU leaders publicly castigated London for noncompliance with the EU’s liberal immigration policies. And in November, Jean-Claude Juncker—a man who openly spurns democratic norms, saying, for example, in 2011, “I am for secret, dark debates”—was appointed president of the European Commission.

Britain’s simmering resentment of the EU boiled over.

Ever since Britain joined up with Europe in 1973, it has experienced rhetorical fights, political impasses and financial catastrophes. Rather than cohering and melding into Europe, its closeness with the Continent has only caused friction. Yet it has remained steadfastly part of the EU.

But signs are increasing that this relationship is at an impasse. These days, major problems with Europe seem to come every few months, each sparking a reaction more impassioned than the last. And in 2014, the British electorate sent a strong message that it is ready to end the status quo. Continue reading

Opinion: Paris attackers bring Mideast urban warfare to Europe

The common thread running through these incidents is that they were all haphazardly planned and executed by ‘lone-wolf’ attackers, who were markedly limited in both resources and skill. But the men implicated in Wednesday’s attack on Charlie Hebdo, which left 12 people dead, were different. The two brothers, Cherif and Said Kouachi, who are said to be the main perpetrators of the assault, are believed to have “returned to France from Syria in the last year”, according to MSNBC. Undoubtedly, the two siblings saw action in the Syrian armed conflict, which is primarily fought in urban settings, and were systematically trained in urban warfare by men with considerable experience in it. Continue reading

Why Did Pope Francis Push for a U.S.-Cuba Thaw?

The surprise restoration of relations between the United States and Cuba represents a major victory for the pope. Is it cause for celebration?

“How many divisions does the pope of Rome have?” That was Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s reply after British Prime Minister Winston Churchill advised him, in the aftermath of World War ii, to consider the Vatican’s perspective while laying out a plan for the future of Eastern Europe.

Stalin respected only brute force. The Vatican had none, so he dismissed it as irrelevant.

But today Stalin and the Soviet behemoth he led are long gone, while the papal system remains. And it was actually a pope—blending politics with religion—who sparked the revolution that eventually toppled the Berlin Wall, and brought down that Soviet system.

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Europe’s Precisely Engineered Disaster

It looks like chaos, but actually, everything is unfolding according to plan.

Are you watching Europe? Imploding national economies seem to be threatening the entire project of European Union and sending shock waves through financial markets around the globe. This is a moment of extreme significance—for the future of not only Europe but all of us. What is happening? Where is it leading? Such questions are on the lips of observers everywhere.

To the layman, Europe is in the midst of cataclysmic change. Yet the longtime student of European affairs understands that this crisis was both premeditated and planned.

Two principal actors are behind it, and these two will shape the Continent’s future. The first is Germany. This is already patently obvious to anyone watching events there.

The second, believe it or not, is the Vatican.

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The EU’s Day of Reckoning: Italy Is Too Big to Bail Out

In the end the central theme of most articles reporting on EU events, is that all roads end up leading back to Berlin, the powerhouse of Europe.

And who knows, perhaps Mario Draghi’s upcoming resignation and a possible wish to be the next Italian president is a sign that he wants to go back and save Italy from the wrath that Greece has suffered: Complete capitulation to Germany in exchange to economically stay afloat and keep from descending into social chaos as a result.

Lest we forget what the European Union founders had in mind for the world’s next superpower (See also HERE and HERE), the United States of Europe led by modern day Assyria’s Fourth Reich.

 

Italy is one of the world’s leading tourist destinations. The ruins of the Roman Empire, in particular, the Coliseum, Palatine Hill, the Pantheon and the Forum, are major attractions. New ruins are now being created to mark the political decay at work at the heart of Italy’s democracy and economic policymaking. These new ruins could well include the country’s central bank and parliament as well as the Eurozone as the stage is set for Europe’s next big economic debt crisis.

At the center of the brewing storm is the issue of confidence. When investors trust sovereign debtors, governments have access to credit markets. When investors lose confidence in a country’s ability to pay, they head for the door. The cost of borrowing goes up and at some point it hits a level where it becomes unaffordable to raise money.

Such a loss of confidence afflicted Cyprus, Ireland, Greece and Portugal between 2010 and 2012, shutting them out of public borrowing, creating the European debt crisis and forcing them to seek financial assistance from the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund. Italy barely avoided that embarrassment. Continue reading

Mario Draghi: Goodbye ECB, Hello Italian Presidency?

While the entire financial world is hanging on to every Mario Draghi word in hope Europe finally improves the market’s (if not the economy’s) “fundamentals” to new record highs, and joins the rest of the “developed” world’s central banks in injecting trillions of liquidity into the Div/0 P/E stocks “whatever it takes” (because in a world where only multiple expansion is left, the ECB is the last wildcard at least until the US is dragged right back into the global recession and the Fed admits any pipe dreams of a rate hike in 2015 were just that), something far more different may be taking place behind the scenes. According to at least one journalist, the Fiscal Times’ Patrick Smith, “Draghi appears set to leave Frankfurt and return to his native Italy the first chance he gets.”

Has the former Bank of Italy exec and Goldman employee had enough of fighting Germany tooth and nail over every proposal, if mostly for dramatic media consumption? “Impossible” most would say, and yet…

[Draghi’s departure] could be as soon as January, depending on a variety of circumstances in Frankfurt and Rome, according to well-placed sources who include a prominent private investor and a senior journalist in Rome. “Draghi wants out, fed up and stymied by Berlin,” one of these sources wrote in a note just before the weekend. In a subsequent message: “I am hearing from several [official] sources that he is entirely fed up with the monetary politics he confronts.” Continue reading