Category Archives: Greece

Fight over the Mediterranean: France’s Proxy War and the Budding Turkish-Russian Alliance

Overwhelmed by uncontrollable circumstances, the Greek government is bracing for another financial crisis that promises to be as terrible as the last one in 2015.

Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, announced on September 12 that Athens has made a “robust” arms deal that will “reinforce the armed forces” and create a “national shield”.

However, beyond Mitsotakis’ mask of confidence, there is a nightmare brewing that is likely to haunt Greece for years to come. Five years ago, when Athens defaulted on its debt,  largely to European countries and institutions, France and Germany rushed to further strangle the humbled country by selling it yet more military hardware.

History is repeating itself; this time, the crisis involves the country’s enduring dispute with Turkey over territorial waters. Invoking European solidarity, the French are, once again, pushing their military hardware on embattled and economically weak Greece. Consequently, the latter is set to purchase 18 French-made Rafale warplanes, four navy helicopters, new anti-tank weapons, navy torpedoes and air force missiles.

While the Greek government is presenting the move as a show of force in case of a future military conflict with neighboring Turkey, the French arms will intensify Greece’s vulnerability to French political diktats, now and in the future.

This is part of a larger pattern for France. French President, Emmanuel Macron, is, again, assuming the role of savior. Lately, he has taken on the role of rebuilding devastated Beirut following the massive explosion in August. In return, he expects — in fact, demands — political acquiescence from all of Lebanon’s political forces.

The crisis in Greece, however, is different. The Turkish-Greek East Mediterranean conflict is multifaceted as it involves many regional players, all vying for the same prize: some dividends in the massive deposits of newly discovered natural gas. While the conflict is presented as a continuation of the protracted hostilities between Turkey and Greece, in actuality the latter is but a small facet of a new great game, the outcome of which could change the dynamics in the Mediterranean altogether.

While NATO is falling apart at the seams, due partly to the current US administration’s isolationist policies, European countries, like France and Italy, are acting independently from the once-unified Western military alliance.

Europe is losing its once strategically dominant position in the Mediterranean region. After years of investing in the decade-long Libyan conflict, European countries are likely to go home empty-handed.

For years, France has backed the Eastern-based forces of Libyan General, Khalifa Haftar, while Italy supported the Government of National Accord (GNA) in the West. The two NATO members, openly clashing politically, had hoped that the outcome of the Libyan war would provide them with much military, political and economic leverage.

Nevertheless, the news emerging from the region is clearly contrary, in that Turkey and Russia, which staked their claims over Libya only recently, are the ones who are now controlling the fate of this country. Not only are Ankara and Moscow the main power brokers in Libya – Russia supporting Haftar, while Istanbul backing the GNA – it is likely that they will shape Libya’s future, as well.  In their second rounds of negotiations in Ankara on September 16, the two countries have endorsed a ceasefire in Libya as part of a political process that should eventually stabilize the warring country.

The irony is that, until fairly recent, there was discord between Turkey and Russia. The conflict in Syria had reached a point where war in 2015 seemed imminent. This has changed as both countries saw an unprecedented opportunity arising from the relative absence of Washington as a direct player in the region’s conflicts, coupled with European/NATO disunity and internal conflict.

With time, more opportunities arose in Libya and, eventually, in the Eastern Mediterranean. When France and Italy showed enthusiasm in an emerging alliance between Israel, Greece and Cyprus around the EastMed gas pipeline project, Turkey swooped in to counter-balance this with an alliance of its own. In November 2019, Turkey and Libya’s GNA signed a Memorandum of Understanding that expanded Turkey’s areas of influence in the Mediterranean and forced France to contend with yet another challenge to its leadership in the region.

Moreover, emboldened Turkey widened its search for natural gas in the Mediterranean to cover a massive area that extends from the Turkish southern coast to Libya’s north-east coast. With NATO being unable to present a unified front, France advanced alone, hoping to sustain a geopolitical status quo that has governed the Mediterranean for decades.

That status quo is no longer sustainable as a new political contract is sure to be written, especially as the nature of the Turkish-Russian alliance is becoming clearer and promises to be a lasting one.

The mutual interests between Turkey and Russia are likely to culminate into an actual alliance should their ongoing negotiations pay lasting dividends. On the other side of that possible coalition, there are reluctant and fractious European powers, led by self-serving France, whose strategic vision has suffered a major blow in Libya as it did in Syria, years earlier.

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, is now leading Russian diplomacy to find a non-military resolution to the Turkish-Greek conflict. This, in itself, is an indication of Russia’s growing prowess in a region that, until very recently, was dominated solely by NATO.

The post Fight over the Mediterranean: France’s Proxy War and the Budding Turkish-Russian Alliance first appeared on Dissident Voice.

As Washington Retreats, Eastern Mediterranean Conflict Further Marginalizes NATO

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an alliance in name alone. Recent events notwithstanding, the brewing conflict over territorial waters in the Eastern Mediterranean indicates that the military union between mostly Western countries is faltering.

The current Turkish-Greek tension is only one facet of a much larger conflict involving, aside from the two Mediterranean countries, Israel, Egypt, Cyprus, France, Libya and other Mediterranean and European countries. Notably absent from the list are the United States and Russia; the latter, in particular, stands to gain or lose much economic leverage, depending on the outcome of the conflict.

Conflicts of this nature tend to have historic roots – Turkey and Greece fought a brief but consequential war in 1974. Of relevance to the current conflagration is an agreement signed by Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and his Greek and Cypriot counterparts, Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Nicos Anastasiades, respectively, on January 2. The agreement envisages the establishment of the EastMed pipeline which, once finalized, is projected to flood Europe with Israeli natural gas, pumped mostly from the Leviathan Basin.

Several European countries are keen on being part of, and profiting from, the project. But Europe’s gain is not just economic but also geostrategic. Cheap Israeli gas will lessen Europe’s reliance on Russia’s natural gas which arrives in Europe through two pipelines, Nord Stream and Gazprom, the latter extending through Turkey.

Gazprom alone supplies Europe with an estimated 40% of its natural gas needs, thus giving Russia significant economic and political leverage. Some European countries, especially France, have labored to liberate themselves from what they see as a Russian economic chokehold on their economies.

Indeed, the French and Italian rivalry currently under way in Libya is tantamount to colonial expeditions aimed at balancing out the over-reliance on Russian and Turkish supplies of gas and other sources of energy.

Fully aware of France’s and Italy’s intentions in Libya, the Russians and Turks are wholly involved in Libya’s military showdown between the Government of National Accord (GNA) and forces in the East, loyal to General Khalifa Haftar.

While the conflict in Libya has been under way for years, the Israel-et al EastMed pipeline has added fuel to the fire: infuriating Turkey, which is excluded from the agreement; worrying Russia, whose gas arrives in Europe partially via Turkey, and empowering Israel, which may now cement its economic integration with the European continent.

Anticipating the Israel-led alliance, on November 28, 2019, Turkey and Libya signed a Maritime Boundary Treaty, an agreement that gave Ankara access to Libya’s territorial waters. The bold maneuver allows Turkey to claim territorial rights for gas exploration in a massive region that extends from the Turkish southern coast to Libya’s north-east coast.

The ‘Exclusive Economic Zone’ (EEZ) is unacceptable in Europe because, if it remains in effect, it will cancel out the ambitious EastMed project and fundamentally alter the geopolitics – largely dictated by Europe and guaranteed by NATO – of this region.

However, NATO is no longer the once formidable and unified power. Since its inception in 1949, NATO has been on the rise. NATO members have fought major wars in the name of defending one another and also to protect ‘the West’ from the ‘Soviet menace’.

NATO remained strong and relatively unified even after the dismantlement of the Soviet Union and the abrupt collapse, in 1991, of its Warsaw Pact. NATO managed to sustain a degree of unity, despite its raison d’être – defeating the Soviets – being no longer a factor, because Washington wished to maintain its military hegemony, especially in the Middle East.

While the Iraq war of 1991 was the first powerful expression of NATO’s new mission, the Iraq war of 2003 was NATO’s undoing. After failing to achieve any of its goals in Iraq, the US adopted an ‘exit strategy’ that foresaw a gradual American retreat from Iraq while, simultaneously, ‘pivoting to Asia’ in the desperate hope of slowing down China’s military encroachment in the Pacific.

The best expression of the American decision to divest militarily from the Middle East was NATO’s war on Libya in March 2011. Military strategists had to devise a bewildering term, ‘leading from behind’, to describe the role of the US in the Libya conflict. For the first time since the establishment of NATO, the US was part of a conflict that was largely controlled by comparatively smaller and weaker NATO members – Italy, France, Britain and others.

While former US President, Barack Obama, insisted on the centrality of NATO in US military strategies, it was evident that the once-powerful alliance had outweighed its usefulness for Washington.

France, in particular, continues to fight for NATO with the same ferocity it fought to keep the European Union intact. It is this French faith in European and Western ideals that has compelled Paris to fill the gap left by the gradual American withdrawal. France is currently playing the role of the military hegemon and political leader in many of the Middle East’s ongoing crises, including the flaring East Mediterranean conflict.

On December 3, 2019, France’s Emmanuel Macron stood up to US President Donald Trump, at the NATO summit in London. Here, Trump chastised NATO for its reliance on American defense and threatened to pull out of the alliance altogether if NATO members did not compensate Washington for its protection.

It’s a strange and unprecedented spectacle when countries like Israel, Greece, Egypt, Libya, Turkey and others lay claims over the Mediterranean, while NATO scrambles to stave off an outright war, among its own members. Even stranger, to see France and Germany taking over the leadership of NATO while the US remains, thus far, almost completely absent.

It is hard to imagine the reinvention of NATO, at least a NATO that caters to Washington’s interests and diktats. Judging by France’s recent behavior, the future may hold irreversible paradigm shifts. In November 2018, Macron made what then seemed as a baffling suggestion, a ‘true, European army’. Considering the rapid regional developments and the incremental collapse of NATO, Macron may one day get his army, after all.

The post As Washington Retreats, Eastern Mediterranean Conflict Further Marginalizes NATO first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Death at the Greek Border

In a surprising move, Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, announced on February 29 that he will be re-opening his country’s border to Europe, thus allowing tens of thousands of mostly Syrian refugees into Greece and other European countries.

Expectedly, over 100,000 people rushed to the Ipsala border point in the Edirne province separating Turkey from Greece, hoping to make it through the once-porous border.

Even though, initially, the sea route was not opened for the refugees, many attempted to brave the sea, anyway, using small fishing boats and dinghies. A few have reportedly reached the Greek Islands.

What transpired was one of the most tragic, heart-rendering episodes of the Syrian war and the subsequent refugee crisis saga.

This time around, Greece, with tacit political support from the rest of the European Union, was determined not to allow any of the refugees into its territories.

The prevailing understanding in Europe is that the Turkish government was purposely engineering a refugee crisis to press the EU into supporting Turkish military operations in Idlib in northern Syria.

“They didn’t come here on their own,” the Greek Public Order Minister, Michalis Chrysohoidis, told reporters on February 29, with reference to the flood of refugees at his country’s border. “They are being sent away and being used by (our) neighbor, Turkey,” he added.

While the media focused mostly on Erdogan’s decision within the context of the Idlib conflict, little mention was made of the fact that Syrian and other refugees in Turkey have been the focal point of an internal crisis within the country itself.

The Istanbul mayoral election (held on March 31 and, again, on June 23) underscored the anti-refugee sentiment among ordinary Turks, one that is compounded by the fact that Turkey itself has been subjected to a protracted economic recession.

Unsurprisingly, the over 3.5 million Syrian refugees who had fled the war in their country over the last decade are being scapegoated by opportunistic politicians, the likes of Istanbul’s new Mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu.

“Imamoglu was … able to tap into simmering discontent with the large number of Syrian refugees in Istanbul in the context of his general complaints about the high level of unemployment in the city,” wrote Bulent Aliriza and Zeynep Ekeler on the Center for Strategic and International Studies website.

The Turkish government is now fully aware of the obvious correlation in the minds of many Turkish voters between the oppressive economic crisis and the Syrian refugee population in Turkey.

In fact, a recurring argument made by the Turkish government is that its military campaign in northern Syria is ultimately motivated by its desire to create a safe zone that would allow for the resettlement of many Syrian refugees.

With its NATO alliance faltering, and with growing difficulties at the northern Syrian front, Turkey’s strategy quickly fell apart. However, the scenes of naked, shivering refugees running back to the Turkish side, after being pushed away by Greek military and police was not only indicative of Turkey’s growing political dilemma, but of Europe’s betrayal of Syrian refugees and its utter incompetence in fashioning long-term solutions to a crisis that has been brewing for years.

On March 18, 2016, Turkey and EU countries signed the statement of cooperation, which resulted in a short-lived barter. According to the deal, Turkey agreed to stem the flow of refugees into Europe in exchange for economic incentives to help Ankara cope with the economic burden, partly resulting from the refugee crisis.

Aside from the fact that Turkey has claimed that the EU failed to fulfill its part of the deal, the agreement did not offer a long-term solution, let alone a political vision that would ultimately end the suffering of millions of Syrians.

What makes the Syrian refugee crisis within the Turkish-EU context particularly complex is the fact that the refugees are finding themselves hostage to selfish, political calculations that view them as a burden or a pawn.

This unfortunate reality has left Syrian refugees in Turkey with three options, all of which are dismal: returning to a war zone in Syria, coping with unemployment and an increasingly hostile political environment in Turkey or making a run for the Greek border.

When Ahmed Abu Emad, a young Syrian refugee from Aleppo, opted for the third and final option on March 2, he was shot in the throat by Greek border police. His fellow refugees rushed his gaunt body back to Turkey, where he was laid to rest.

Considering their limited options, however, neither death, injury nor torture will end the quest of Syrian refugees, who are desperately trying, as they have for years, to find a safe space and badly needed respite.

Perhaps only Palestinian refugees can relate to the dilemma of their Syrian brethren. It is one thing to be pushed out of your homeland, but it is a whole different thing to be refused, dehumanized and subjugated everywhere else.

The Syrian refugee crisis is a political, not a humanitarian crisis – despite the palpable humanitarian component of it. Therefore, it can only be resolved based on a comprehensive political solution that keeps the interest of millions of Syrian refugees — in fact, the Syrian people as a whole — as a top priority.

Several ‘solutions’ have been devised in the past but they have all failed, simply because various governments in the Middle East and Europe have tried to exploit the refugees for their own political, economic, and ‘security’ interests.

The time has come for a more considerate and thoughtful political strategy that is predicated on respect for international and humanitarian laws, one that adheres to the Geneva Conventions regarding the rights of war refugees.

Syrian refugees do not deserve such inhumane treatment. They have a country, a glorious history and a deeply-rooted culture that has profoundly influenced ancient and modern civilizations. They deserve respect, rights and safety. Equally important, they should not be used as pawns in a costly and dirty political game in which they have no interest or choice.

SYRIZA’s Betrayal of Greece is a Spectre haunting the Left

‘Super Tuesday’ in the 2020 presidential election season is over and Senator Bernie Sanders’s time as the unlikely frontrunner for the Democratic nomination may have stopped just as quick as it began. Despite an unprecedented smear campaign coordinated by the party leadership and corporate media against him, the self-described “democratic socialist” not only managed to single-handedly de-stigmatize the latter as a dirty word in U.S. politics but at one point seemed like he had improbably overtaken former Vice President Joe Biden as the favorite to be the party nominee. Suddenly, the scenario of a brokered convention with a repeat of the ‘superdelegate’ scheme determining the outcome seems more likely. Regardless of whether he beats the odds, no one can deny the significance of Sanders’s movement in taking the relatively progressive first step of returning “socialism” from exile to everyday U.S. politics which was once an inconceivable prospect. Unfortunately, a consequence is that now his idea of an ‘alternative’ to capitalism has been made synonymous with the word in the minds of Americans, regardless of its qualifications.

So far, Bernie has purposefully avoided discussing socialism in broader conceptual terms or as a social philosophy while persistently narrowing the discussion to issues of economic disparity, free higher education or a national healthcare system. In fact, Sanders’s own supporters are the ones who often push the acceptable parameters of the dialogue to bigger questions and take his movement to places he is unwilling, likely because his candidacy filled the void of the political space left vacant following the suppression of the Occupy Wall Street phenomena. For example, some of his devotees may define socialism as the ‘equal distribution of wealth’ or even the ‘collective ownership of the means of production.’ However, Bernie and his followers both equally avoid providing any philosophical basis to their ideas and usually reduce it to abstractions of moral principles or human rights.

The most vigorous elucidation of socialism and its historical development from material conditions rather than ideals can be found in Karl Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program, a letter written in 1875 by the German philosopher to the early incarnation of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in which he scathingly attacked the SPD for drafting a more moderate platform at its congress. Just four years earlier, the short-lived Paris Commune in France had been brutally repressed and the German counterparts of the Communards appeared to be making concessions in the wake of its failure. In the address, Marx contends that socialism is an  atransitional phase between capitalism and communism where vestigial elements of the free market are mixed with state ownership of the productive forces. According to Marx, socialism does not develop on its own but “emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges.”

While socialism might be an improvement, it still bears the stigma of capitalism because it is based on the idea that people will receive equal compensation determined by their individual contribution to the economy. Marx argues that even though profiting from the exploitation of the labor of others through private ownership of the means of production may decline, the exchange of labor itself as a commodity replicates the logic of the free market in that it still leaves workers under the dominion of what they produce if their earnings are equivalent to their labor. Since workers inherently have varying degrees of mental and physical ability, the primary source of economic inequality is left in place. Hence, Marx’s conclusion that human liberation can only be achieved once labor is transformed from a means of subsistence to freedom from necessity in a communist society, or “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.” In the same document, it is made clear what role the state must play in this post-revolutionary but intermediary stage:

Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. There corresponds to this also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.

Many on the left today, particularly social democrats, try to separate Marx’s words about the role of the state from the Bolsheviks who later expanded upon the working class seizure of power by revolutionary means and put it into practice in the Russian Revolution of 1917. However, Marx did consider the United States one of a handful of countries where a peaceful transition to socialism was a remote possibility, at least during his own lifetime.

The same SPD that Marx convinced to abandon its reformist platform for a more radical line would turn their backs on the working class decades later when it endorsed the imperialist carnage of World War I and collaborated with proto-fascists. In 1912, the SPD rose to prominence after it was elected to the majority of seats in the Reichstag, but once in power its duplicitous leadership voted to support the war effort despite the Second International’s vehement opposition to militarism and imperialism. Those within the SPD who protested the party’s pro-war stance were expelled which brought an end to the Second International, most notably Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemberg who would go on to found the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). After the war’s conclusion which resulted in a German defeat and the abolition of its imperial monarchy, mass social unrest and general strikes led to the Spartacist Uprising in the unsuccessful German Revolution of 1918–1919 which was violently crushed by the right-wing Freikorps paramilitary units under orders from SPD leader and German President, Friedrich Ebert. Liebknecht and Luxemburg were summarily executed in the crackdown and became forever revered martyrs in the international socialist movement.

The SPD would once again betray the German people during the Weimar Republic in the lead-up to the Second World War, rebuffing the KPD’s efforts to organize a coalition against fascism which sealed Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, as Michael Parenti described in Blackshirts and Reds:

True to form, the Social Democrat leaders refused the Communist party’s proposal to form an eleventh-hour coalition against Nazism. As in many other countries past and present, so in Germany, the Social Democrats would sooner ally themselves with the reactionary Right than make common cause with the Reds. Meanwhile, a number of right-wing parties coalesced behind the Nazis and in January 1933, just weeks after the election, Hindenburg invited Hitler to become chancellor.

Social democracy’s consistent impediment of the seizure of power by the working class led to its branding as the “moderate wing of fascism” by the Comintern. By the time the Third International and the social democratic Labor and Socialist International (LSI) finally cooperated to form a Popular Front in the Spanish Civil War, it was undermined by the disruptions of Trotskyists and anarchists which cleared the way for Franco’s victory. Today, social democrats who are embarrassed by these unpleasant facts try to sweep their own tainted history under the rug, ironically the same ideologues who are always eager to cite the ‘purges’ of the Stalin era to discredit communism. A 2017 article exonerating the SPD in Jacobin Magazine, the flagship publication of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), is a perfect example of such lies by omission.

Bernie Sanders is the longest-serving independent in U.S. congressional history, but a significant amount of the grassroots basis for his recent success has come from his backing by the DSA whose own rank-and-file increased by the tens of thousands during his 2016 candidacy and continued following Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton. This culminated in the election of two DSA members to Congress, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Rashida Tlaib (MI), in the 2018 mid-terms. The DSA has historical roots in the Socialist Party of America (SPA), having been established by former chairman Michael Harrington, best known as the author of the classic 1962 study, The Other America: Poverty in the United States, which is widely credited as an inspiration for the welfare state legislation of the Great Society under the Lyndon B. Johnson administrationHowever, in stark contrast with the SPA and its founder, Eugene V. Debswhom Sanders idolizes and even once made a film aboutHarrington advocated for reforming the Democratic Party from within over building a third party.

Sanders might style himself as a “socialist”, but many have noted his actual campaign policies are closer to the New Deal reforms of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration during the Great Depression. A more accurate comparison than Eugene Debs would be with the appointed Vice President during Roosevelt’s third term, Henry A. Wallace, who has been written out of history ever since the Southern reactionary wing of the Democratic Party convinced FDR to replace him on the 1944 ticket with Harry S. Truman. The progressive Wallace had been Secretary of Agriculture during Roosevelt’s first two terms and was a big supporter of his domestic program. After his one-term removal, Wallace served as commerce secretary until Truman succeeded Roosevelt and fired him in 1946 for giving a speech advocating peace and cooperation with the Soviet Union which contradicted Truman’s foreign policy that kick-started the Cold War. Wallace ran for president on the Progressive Party ticket in 1948 but his campaign was sunk by red-baiting, reminiscent of the recent bogus claims of “Russian meddling” to assist Sanders’s presidential bid. Yet even Wallace was much further to the left than Bernie is today, particularly on foreign policy. As Congressman of Vermont in 1999, Sanders notably voted to authorize the use of military force against Serbia, resulting in one of his campaign staffers quitting in protest and an end to his friendship with the previously cited Parenti.

As for his socialist credentials, all one has to do is look at the model Bernie consistently invokes as an example whenever pressed to define “democratic socialism” in the Nordic model which today scarcely resembles what it once was prior to the mysterious assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986. Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Denmark may have high taxes on the wealthy and a strong social safety net while a large percentage of the workforce is unionized and employed in the public sector — a more “humane” form of capitalism — but these gains came from class struggle, not from the top down. Similarly in the U.S., the financial regulations and public programs during the Roosevelt administration were not enacted out of the goodness of FDR’s heart but because he was a pragmatic politician and member of the ruling class who understood that it was the only way to save American capitalism from itself and prevent workers, then well organized in a strong coalition of labor unions with socialists and communists, from becoming militant. Reforms such as those under the New Deal were enacted so they could be repealed later, as we see now with Social Security and Medicare increasingly under threat. If Sanders were to be elected but his policies obstructed, it would be because no such alliance behind him yet exists.

On the other hand, recent history shows that not even a united front and mass organization can ensure the democratic wishes of workers as Greece learned in 2015 after the electoral victory of the inappropriately named ‘Coalition of the Radical Left ’ — abbreviated SYRIZA — which completely double-crossed its constituency and the Greek working class once in power. When the Great Recession hit in 2008, Greece was impacted more than any other country in the Eurozone during the economic downturn and underwent a decline which exceeded that of the Great Depression in the United States as the longest of any modern capitalist country. However, like all debt run up by capitalist governments, Greece’s bankruptcy was created by the irreconcilable contradiction of the state being torn between its constituents in the masses of people and the rich and corporations who both want to pay as low in taxes as possible, an incompatibility which forces elected political leaders to borrow excessively instead of taxing the former which give them votes or the latter which gives them money.

Like the United States, many European countries saw their productive power slowly outsourced to the developing world in recent decades where bigger profits could be made and labor was cheaper while wages and living standards in the imperial core stagnated, though the process was slower in Europe because of social democracy. For the financial sector and predatory creditors, this made for a whole new market of consumer debt to invest in and a bonanza of speculative trading. That is, until 2008 when the speculations finally crashed after consumer credit reached its limit. On the brink of failure, the so-called leaders of industry and champions of private enterprise in the banking sector begged European governments to save them from collapse. Unfortunately for Greece, its small, poor economy was already heavily in debt and unattractive to lenders, therefore unable to borrow without paying high interest rates.

At the time of Greece’s debt crisis, European governments were already besieged by their respective banks in the form of bailouts. When the German and French banks turned out to be the biggest creditors of the Greek government, the prospect of Greece defaulting meant that the German and French governments could not provide financial assistance to their corresponding banks a second time without then-President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, committing political suicide. Therefore, the European Union’s political “solution” was to make Greece the whipping boy for the financial crisis by using the pooled collective money of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund— widely referred to as the ‘troika’ — to make a series of bailout loans to Greece so it could pay off the French and German banks, but which imposed draconian austerity measures and neoliberal ‘shock therapy’ onto its economy.

The troika’s ‘structural adjustment programs’ resulted in hundreds of thousands of state sector jobs lost and the minimum wage reduced by more than 20% while much of the energy, utilities and transit sectors underwent mass privatization. Greek workers saw their taxes raised just as pensions and benefits were cut, bonuses capped, and salaries frozen at the same time government spending on health and education was slashed. As many economists predicted, the spending reductions during the downturn only worsened the crisis. However, just as we have seen throughout the EU and the U.S. since the global financial meltdown, a silver lining to the crisis in Greece was an expansion of the political spectrum and Overton Window. By 2014, the far right Golden Dawn party suddenly became the third largest group from Greece in the European Parliament, but still far behind the first-place SYRIZA, founded in 2004 as a broad alliance of the country’s left-wing parties, sans the Greek Communist Party (KKE).

In the beginning of 2015, SYRIZA rode into office in a snap election, picking up half of the Hellenic Parliament seats on its campaign promise of rejecting austerity. After failing to reach an agreement with the troika, a referendum was held to decide on whether the country should accept the bailout terms and the result was a solid 61% pulling the lever against the country’s colonization by the EU and ‘reforms’ of the international creditors, a vote which also effectively signaled that the Greek people were willing to exit the Eurozone. Despite pledging to let the electorate decide the country’s future, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and SYRIZA stabbed the Greek working class in the back and ignored the outcome of the referendum, totally capitulating to the demands of the private banking corporatocracy. Much of the pseudo-left had pinned their naive hopes on SYRIZA, but the truth is that the warning signs were there from the very beginning, starting with Tsipras’s questionable decision to appoint economist Yanis Varoufakis as Finance Minister, a figure who had several conflicts of interest with the institutions he was assigned to stand up to.

Varoufakis was tapped to negotiate with the troika in spite of his open ties to the neoliberal Brookings Institute, a D.C. establishment think tank funded by a cabal of billionaires and the Qatari government, as well as his previous work as an advisor to the centre-left PASOK government of George Papandreou which preceded SYRIZA and initially ushered in the austerity. The “rock star economist” jumped ship after less than six months from his ministerial post on the stated reason it was evident the SYRIZA-led government was caving in to the troika, yet Varoufakis himself had already sold Greece down the river when he led the negotiations to extend its loan agreement with the IMF that was due to expire in his first month in office. Varoufakis could have used the prospect of a potential Grexit from the Eurozone as leverage and refused to negotiate, but instead fully surrendered to the troika’s bribery. When SYRIZA later fully embraced austerity, it was only a continuation of the process he set in motion while his resignation was motivated by self-interest in maintaining his radical facade.

Allowing the IMF to make a killing off Greece’s debt was just the first breach of faith. By the time Tsipras was voted out four years later, the SYRIZA-led government had made military deals with Israel, sold arms to Saudi Arabia during its genocidal war on Yemen, provided NATO with its territory for the use of military bases and naval presence, and paved the way for the latter to accede the renamed North Macedonia as a member state. Meanwhile, Varoufakis has since been busy lending his ‘expertise’ to left candidates in other countries. After the UK Labour Party’s resounding defeat in the 2019 general elections, many rightly faulted Jeremy Corbyn’s reversal of his decision to support the result of the 2016 Brexit referendum after he was convinced by the party establishment to change his longtime Euroskepticism. Unsurprisingly, another figure who had advised him to do the same was none other than the former Greek finance minister, who has also since partnered with Bernie Sanders to launch a “Progressive International.”

The 2019 UK general election was really a second Brexit referendum, where the electorate justifiably expressed their disgust at the Labour Party’s contempt for democracy and neutering of Corbyn. Once upon a time it was Labour who stood against the de-industrialization foisted onto Britain by the neoliberal imperialist EU and the offshoring of its manufacturing jobs to Germany and the global south. Corbyn should have listened to the words of past Labour leaders like Tony Benn, who opposed the European project and its unelected bureaucracy as a violation of British sovereignty and democracy, not charlatans like Mr. Varoufakis. Worst of all is that the “left” is now disparaging the entirety of the working class as bigots and reducing the Leave vote to a reaction against the migrant crisis, as if Greece’s bailout referendum never occurred. Like the Yellow Vest protests in France, Corbyn’s loss was a sign that the opposition to globalization by the working class is still in good condition but has no authentic left to represent it. If Bernie meets the same fate, a real vanguard should be prepared to take the reins.

Pipeline or a Pipedream: Israel, Turkey Hydrocarbon Conflict is Brewing in the Mediterranean

Massive natural gas discoveries off the eastern coast of Israel and Palestine is slated to make Tel Aviv a regional energy hub. Whether Israel will be able to translate positive indicators of the largely untapped gas reserves into actual economic and strategic wealth is yet to be seen.

What is certain, however, is that the Middle East is already in the throes of a major geostrategic war, which has the potential of becoming an actual military confrontation.

Unsurprisingly, Israel is at the heart of this growing conflict.

“Last week, we started to stream gas to Egypt. We turned Israel into an energy superpower,” Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, bragged during a cabinet meeting on January 19.

Netanyahu’s self-congratulating remarks came on the heels of some exciting financial news for the embattled Prime Minister, as both Jordan and Egypt are now Tel Aviv’s clients, receiving billions of cubic meters of Israeli gas.

For Netanyahu, pumping Israeli gas to two neighboring Arab countries constitutes more than just economic and political advantages – it is a huge personal boost. The Israeli leader is trying to convince the public to vote for him in yet another general election in March, while pleading to Israel’s political elite to give him immunity so that he can stay out of prison for various corruption charges.

For years, Israel has been exploiting the discovery of massive deposits of natural gas from the Leviathan and Tamar fields – located nearly 125 km and 80 km west of Haifa respectively – to reconstruct regional alliances and to redefine its geopolitical centrality to Europe.

The Israeli strategy, however, has already created potentials for conflict in an already unstable region, expanding the power play to include Cyprus, Greece, France, Italy, and Libya, as well as Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, and Russia.

On January 2, Netanyahu was in Athens signing a gas pipeline deal, alongside Greek Prime Minister, Kyriako Mitotakis, and Cyprus President, Nicos Anastasiades.

The EastMed pipeline is projected to travel from Israel to Cyprus, to Greece and, ultimately, to Italy, thus transporting eastern Mediterranean gas directly to the heart of Europe.

A few years ago, this scenario seemed unthinkable, as Israel has, in fact, imported much of its natural gas from neighboring Egypt.

Israel’s Tamar field partly rectified Israel’s reliance on imported gas when it began production in 2003. Shortly after, Israel struck gas again, this time with far greater potential, in the massive Leviathan field. On December 31, 2019, Leviathan began pumping gas for the first time.

Leviathan is located in the Mediterranean Sea’s Levantine Basin, a region that is rich with hydrocarbons.

“Leviathan is estimated to hold over 21 trillion cubic feet of natural gas—enough to fill Israeli power-generation needs for the next 40 years, while still leaving an ample supply for export,” wrote Frank Musmar in the BESA Center for Strategic Studies.

Egypt’s share of Israeli gas – 85 billion cubic meters (bcm), with an estimated cost of $19.5 billion – is acquired through the private Egyptian entity Dolphinus Holdings. The Jordanian deal was signed between the country’s national electricity company NEPCO, and American firm, Noble Energy, which owns a 45% stake in the Israeli project.

Jordanians have been protesting Israel’s gas deal en-masse, as they view economic cooperation between their country and Israel as an act of normalization, especially as Tel Aviv continues to occupy and oppress Palestinians.

The echoes of the popular protests have reached the Jordanian parliament which, on January 19, unanimously voted in favor of a law to ban gas imports from Israel.

Israel is diversifying beyond exerting regional economic dominance to becoming a big player on the international geopolitical stage as well. The EastMed pipeline project, estimated at €6bn, is expected to cover 10% of Europe’s overall need for natural gas. This is where things get even more interesting.

Turkey believes that the deal, which involves its own regional rivals, Cyprus and Greece, is designed specifically to marginalize it economically by excluding it from the Mediterranean’s hydrocarbon boom.

Ankara is already a massive energy hub, being the host of TurkStream, which feeds Europe, with approximately 40% of its needs of natural gas coming from Russia. This fact has provided both Moscow and Ankara not only with more than economic advantages but geostrategic leverage as well. If the EastMed pipeline becomes a reality, Turkey and Russia will stand to lose the most.

In a series of successive, and surprising moves, Turkey retaliated by signing a maritime border deal with Libya’s internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), and by committing to send military support to help Tripoli in its fight against forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar.

“Turkey will not permit any activity that is against its own interests in the region,” Fuat Oktay, Turkey’s Vice-President, told Anadolu News Agency, adding that “any plan that disregards Turkey has absolutely no chance of success.”

Although European countries were quick to condemn Ankara, the latter has succeeded in changing the rules of the game by staking a claim to vast areas that are also claimed by Greece and Cyprus as part of their so-called exclusive economic zones (EEZ).

Not only will Turkey be drilling in Libya’s territorial waters for natural gas, but in disputed water near Cyprus as well. Ankara is accusing Cyprus of violating “the equal claim to discoveries”, an arrangement that followed the military conflict between both countries in 1974.

If the issue is not resolved, the EastMed pipeline project could potentially turn into a pipedream. What seemed like a lucrative deal, with immense geopolitical significance from an Israeli point of view, now appears to be another extension of the wider Middle Eastern conflict.

While the EU is eager to loosen Russia’s strategic control over the natural gas market, the EastMed pipeline increasingly appears unfeasible from every possible angle.

However, considering the massive deposits of natural gas that are ready to fuel struggling European markets, it is almost certain that the Mediterranean natural gas will eventually become a major source of political disputes, if not a war.

BREXIT:  Yes or No? 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson came back from Brussels with a deal better than any Theresa May ever achieved, so he says. His talks with the departing European Commissioner, Jean-Claude Juncker, were very fruitful. But precise details are never known. Juncker, emotional about his leaving and handing over the office of EU Commissioner on 1 November to Madame Ursula von der Leyen, from Germany, may have made some special concessions to Johnson some rumors go. But unlikely. He is not the only one to decide. Besides, deal or no deal, or BREXIT or no BREXIT, had already been decided shortly after the surprise pro-BREXIT public vote on 23 June 2016. And it is clear not the EU and not the British elite want BREXIT.

In any case, in a first vote on Mr. Johnson’s new and ‘better’ deal, the British Parliament voted 322 to 306 to postpone the vote on whether or not to accept the “new deal”, until the new “ratification law” is voted on.  What ratification law?  A precise date for the vote is not known. All that would point to the need to ask again Brussels for a postponement of the British decision, “deal or no deal”, beyond the current target of 31 October 2019. But, THE Boris says, he will do everything to avoid such a step. How?

The mess and confusion are overwhelming. People go crazy, especially in Britain. They don’t know what will happen when; whether their jobs are at stake, their pensions in question, in case some of them at one point in the past, or now, have been or are working in another EU country. Will ”The Market” ruin their savings? Will sudden border closings – pure speculation – cause enormous shortages of necessary goods, food, medicine and cause hyper-inflation?

Depression rates run high in Britain, as well as among those Brits who have made themselves a living in an associated EU country. Will they have to leave? Granted, it is not easy to live peacefully and without stress and anxiety under these circumstances.

Why is it so difficult to accept and respect the democratic vote to exit the European Union, never mind the narrow result of a 51.89% ‘yes’ ballot for leaving the EU?  Because this vote, of which we now know was helped by Cambridge Analytica came a as total surprise to the British elite, who never thought that a majority, even a small one, would be so sick and tired of being managed and told what to do by a cumbersome, bureaucratic EU Commission in Brussels.

Now, these behind-the-curtain elites are doing everything to appear keeping ‘democracy’ alive, respecting the vote, but finding any means to circumvent the action linked to the vote, namely, BREXIT. The circus has lasted for over three years and still no definitive decision is made. My hunch is – and I am not alone – that this has all been plotted shortly after the surprise ballot by a small elite that keeps a firm handle on the British Parliament and, of course, on the PM.

Besides, Washington is not keen on seeing the UK leave the EU. In more cases than one, the UK has acted as a US mole in the EU. For example, on the decision to accept 13 Eastern European countries in the EU, countries that were economically and socially far from at par with the 15 EU members in 2004 when they were integrated into the EU between 2004 and 2013. No questions asked, no member country’s population was asked for their opinion. It was done like by dictatorship. Most of the population of the 15 members would have said NO.

It was clear that these new, economically weak countries would also weaken the whole of the EU, as they would require special financial aid in the billions of euros, funds that the EU would miss to solidify for eventually forming a solid federal European Union. That’s exactly what Washington wanted, preventing a federal European Union with a common Constitution – an equal or superior to the federal United States of America.

A federal United States of Europe was, of course, squarely against the idea of the US which was the mastermind behind the European Union in the first place; an idea that was borne during or right after WWII, and then implanted by the CIA in willing European politicians, those heading the Club of Rome, for instance.

What if the succession Cameron, May, Johnson was also planned? It helps confusing the public. What if the assertiveness of Johnson to pull BREXIT through come hell or high water is mere make-believe? – He knows it will not happen, not on 31 October, and most likely not in January 2020. Then he “failed” and will resign? The new PM, whoever he / she may be, will call for a new referendum – as the public outcry in this direction becomes ever louder – democracy will finally be reinstated to bring order to the mess. Or, will a new referendum do that, reinstate “democracy” in the minds of those who have voted for BREXIT in June 2016? – Maybe not. Probably not. The possible consequences are unimaginable at this point.

The new referendum would be very carefully “accompanied” and supervised, so as not to allow any mishaps, or missteps by the voters. This time the votes must be SOLID pro-EU, if possible, by a landslide, so as not to evoke questions and recounts, and foremost to avoid protests in the streets of London, the financial capital, the city of money, the home turf of capitalism. “Remain” must be achieved with a very comfortable margin. And bingo, democracy has been preserved. And nothing changes. By then, some 4 years will be down the drain, four years of anger, frustration, insecurity, fear, depression, anxiety – and who knows how many suicides?

What would really happen if BREXIT were to take place as the voters decided?  Doomsday-sayers are, of course, paid to spread fear, fear of uncertainty, fear of no-longer belonging, fear of being evicted from wherever in Europe one might live. And we know, fear is the best means to keep people in check, while none of the nefarious Armageddon predictions would occur.

The UK, after the obligatory, speculative, profit-taking fall and rise of the stock and currency markets, would fully recover and within a couple of years would very likely be far better off than under the watchful eye of Brussels. The EU bureaucracy of Brussels is worse than useless, especially the EU Parliament which is completely toothless, and the European Commission that decides over all major issues without consultation of the member countries’ people. It brings only frustration and hardship to most members, as in having to adapt their laws to EU standards, losing their sovereignty. Germany, the tacit EU leader, may be an exception, though a majority of Germans would also like to turn their back to the EU.

So, what good is it to stay in this useless non-Union, that has no sense of solidarity, that allows weak members, like Greece, to be literally slaughtered by their own brothers, the IMF, the EC and the European Central Bank? Spain, Ireland and Portugal are not much better off and Italy’s EU fate hovers dreadfully over the Italian public, so much so, that the Italian Government decided on its own on a Plan B, namely association with the east, signing up to the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

What is doomed after BREXIT, is most probably not the UK, but the European (non-) Union itself. This construct, with a fiat currency like the dollar, is not sustainable. A single currency for a group of countries that have no declared common goals, like a Constitution, is not sustainable. It is just a question, what will fall first, the EU or the Euro; but fall they will. It’s a matter of time.

BREXIT or no-BREXIT is actually anecdotal. But, hey, let’s not jump the gun. It’s pure speculation. After all chaos is dynamic and unpredictable. Anything can happen.

• First published by the New Eastern Outlook – NEO

Ecuador and the IMF’s Killing Spree

For close to 40 years the IMF has weaponized its handle on the western economy through the dollar-based western monetary system, and brutally destroyed nation after nation, thereby killed hundreds of thousands of people. Indirectly, of course, as the IMF would not use traditional guns and bombs, but financial instruments that kill. They kill by famine, by economic strangulation, preventing indispensable medical equipment and medication entering a country, even preventing food from being imported, or being imported at horrendous prices only the rich can pay.

The latest victim of this horrifying IMF scheme is Ecuador. For starters, you should know that since January 2000, Ecuador’s economy is 100% dollarized, compliments of the IMF (entirely controlled by the US Treasury, by force of an absolute veto). The other two fully dollarized Latin American countries are El Salvador and Panama.

The Wall Street Journal recently stated that Ecuador “has the misfortune to be an oil producer with a ‘dollarized’ economy that uses the U.S. currency as legal tender.” The Journal added: “The appreciation of the U.S. dollar against other currencies has decreased the net exports of non-oil commodities from Ecuador, which, coupled with the volatility of oil prices, is constraining the country’s potential for economic growth.”

Starting in the mid 1990’s, culminating around 1998, Ecuador suffered a severe economic crisis, resulting from climatic calamities, and US corporate and banking oil price manipulations (petrol is Ecuador’s main export product), resulting in massive bank failures and hyper-inflation. Ecuador’s economy at that time had been semi-dollarized, like that of most Latin American countries; i.e., Peru, Colombia, Chile, Brazil, and so on.

The ‘crisis’ was a great opportunity for the US via the IMF to take full control of the Ecuadorian (petrol) economy by 100% dollarizing it. The IMF propagated the same recipe for Ecuador as it did ten years earlier for Argentina, namely full dollarization of the economy in order to combat inflation and to bring about economic stability and growth. In January 2000, then President Jorge Jamil Mahuad Witt, from the “Popular Democracy Party”, or the Ecuadorian Christian Democratic Union (equivalent to the German CDU), declared the US dollar as the official currency of Ecuador, replacing their own currency, the Sucre.

Adopting another country’s currency is an absurdity and can only bring failure. And that it did, almost to the day, 10 years after Argentina was forced by the same US-led villains to revalue her peso to parity with the US-dollar, no fluctuations allowed. Same reason (“economic crisis”, hyper-inflation), same purpose: controlling the riches of the country.  Absolute failure was preprogrammed. Did Ecuador not learn from the Argentinian experience and convert her currency at the very moment the Argentinian economy collapsed due to dollarization, into the US dollar? That is not only a fraud, but a planned fraud.

Ecuadorian goods and services quoted in dollars, became unaffordable for locals and uncompetitive for exports. This led to social unrests, resulting in a popular ‘golpe’. President Mahuad was disposed, had to flee the country, and was replaced by Gustavo Noboa, from the same CDU party (2000 – 2003). Ever since the dollar remained controversial among the Ecuadorian population. President Rafael Correa’s quiet attempt to return to the Sucre, was answered by a CIA-inspired police coup attempt on 30 September 2010.

In 2017, the CIA / NED (National Endowment for Democracy) and the US State Department have brought about a so-called “soft” regime change. They urged (very likely coerced) Rafael Correa to abstain from running again for President, as the vast majority of Ecuadorians requested him to do. This would have required a Constitutional amendment which probably would have been easily accepted by Parliament. Instead they had Correa endorse his former Vice-President (2007-2013) Lenin Moreno, who ran on Correa’s platform, the socialist PAIS Alliance, therefore expected to continue in Correa’s line with same socioeconomic policies.

Less than a year later, Moreno turned tables, became an outright traitor to his country and the people who voted for him. He converted Ecuador’s economy to the neoliberal doctrine – privatization of everything, stealing the money from the social sectors, depriving people of work, drastically reducing social services and converting a surplus economy of tremendous social gains into one of poverty and misery.

President Correa left the country a modest debt of about 40% to GDP at the end of his Presidency in 2017. A debt-GDP ratio that would be no problem anywhere in the world. Compare this to the US debt vs. GDP – 105% in current terms and about 700% in terms of unmet obligations (net present value of total outstanding obligations). There was absolutely no reason to call the IMF for help. The IMF, the long arm of the US Treasury, ‘bought’ its way into Moreno’s neoliberal Ecuador, coinciding with Moreno evicting Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

The IMF loan of US$ 4,2 billion increases the debt / GDP ratio by 4% and brings social misery and upheaval in return, and that as usual, at an unimaginable cost, by neoliberal economists called “externalities”. It was practically a US “present” for Moreno’s treason, bringing Assange closer into US custody. What most people are unaware of is that at the same time, Moreno forgave US$ 4.5 billion in fines, interest and other dues to large corporations and oligarchs, hence decapitalizing the country’s treasury. The amount of canceled corporate fiscal obligations is about equivalent to the IMF loan, plunging large sectors of the Ecuadorian population into more misery.

Besides, under wrong pretexts it allowed Moreno to apply neoliberal policies, all those that usually come as draconian conditions with IMF loans and that eventually benefit only a small elite in the country but allows western banking and corporations to further milk the countries social system.

According to a 2017 report of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), an economic think-tank in Washington, Ecuador’s economy has done rather well under Rafael Correa’s 10-year leadership (2007 – 2017). The country has improved her key indicators significantly: Average annual GDP growth was 1.5% (0.6% past 26 years average); the poverty rate declined by 38%, extreme poverty by 47%, a multiple of poverty reduction of that in the previous ten years, thanks to a horizontally distributive growth; inequality (Gini coefficient) fell substantially, from 0.55 to 0.47; the government doubled social spending from 4.3% in 2006 to 8.6% in 2016; tripled education spending from 0.7% to 2.1% with a corresponding increase in school enrollments; increased public investments from 4% of GDP in 2006 to 10% in 2016.

Now, Moreno is in the process of reversing these gains. Only six months after contracting the IMF loans, he has already largely succeeded. The public outcry can be heard internationally. Quito is besieged by tens of thousands of demonstrators, steadily increasing as large numbers, in the tens of thousands, of indigenous people are coming from Ecuador’s Amazon region and the Andes to Quito to voice their discontent with their traitor president. Government tyranny is rampant. Moreno declared a 60-day state of emergency with curfew and a militarized country. As a consequence, Moreno moved the Government Administration to Guayaquil and ordered one of the most severe police and military repressions Ecuador has ever known, resulting within ten days to at least 7 people killed, about 600 injured and approximately 1,000 people arrested.

The protests are directed against the infamous Government Decree 883, that dictates major social reforms, including an increase in fuel prices by more than 100%, reflecting directly on public transportation, as well as on food prices; privatization of public services, bringing about untold layoffs, including some 23,000 government employees; an increase in Aggregated Value Taxes – all part of the so-called “paquetazo”, imposed by the IMF. Protesters called on Moreno, “Fuera asesino, fuera” – Get out, murderer, get out!  Will they succeed?

The IMF’s guns are needlessly imposed debt, forced privatization of social services and public assets as railways, roads, and worst of all, health, education, water supply and sewerage services. Unemployment rises, extreme poverty skyrockets, public service tariffs – water, electricity, transportation – increase, often exponentially, depriving people from moving to work or look for new employment elsewhere. Diseases that otherwise may have been curable, like cancers, under the new regime lack medication. Patients die prematurely. Depression brings about rapidly rising suicide rates, as the British medical journal Lancet has observed in many IMF oppressed countries, but especially in Greece.

Targeted are primarily those nations that do not want to bend to the dictate of Washington, and even more so those with natural resources the west covets, or countries that are in strategic geographic locations where NATO wants to establish itself or get a stronger foothold; i.e., Greece. The IMF is often helped by the World Bank. The former providing, or rather coercing, a ‘debt-strapped’ country into accepting so-called rescue packages, billions of dollars of loans, at exorbitant “high-risk” interest rates, with deadly strings attached.

The latter, the WB, would usually come in with loans – also euphemistically called “blank checks” – to be disbursed against a matrix of fulfilled conditions, of economic reforms, privatizations. Again, all usually resulting in massive government layoffs, unemployment, poverty. In fact, both the IMF and the WB approaches are similar and often overlapping – imposing “structural adjustment” (now in disguise given different names), to steal a country’s resources, and sovereignty, by making them dependent on the very financial institutions that pretend to ‘help’ them.

The three most recent and flagrant cases of IMF interference were Greece, Ukraine and Argentina. Greece was doubly destroyed, once by her brothers and sisters of the European non-Union that blackmailed them into staying with the euro, instead of exiting it and converting to their local currency and regaining financial sovereignty.

Ukraine, possibly the richest country in terms of national resources and with an enormous agricultural potential due to her fertile soil, was “regime changed” by a bloody coup, The Maidan massacre in February 2014, instigated and planned by the CIA, the EU and NATO and carried out through the very US Embassy in Kiev. This was all long-term planning. Remember Victoria Nuland boasting that the US has spent more than 5 billion dollars over the past five year to bring about regime change and to convert Ukraine into a fully democratic country and making it ready to enter the European Union?

The western allies put a Nazi Government into Kiev, created a “civil war” with the eastern Russia-aligned part of Ukraine, the Donbass. Thousands of people were killed, millions fled the country, mostly to Russia, the country’s debt went through the roof, and in comes the IMF, approving in December 2018 a 14-month Stand-By Arrangement for Ukraine, with an immediate disbursement of US$ 1.4 billion. This is totally against the IMF’s own Constitution, because it does not allow lending to a country at war or conflict. Ukraine was an “exception”, dictated by the US. Blamed for the ever-changing and escalating Ukraine fiasco was Russia.

Another IMF victim is Argentina. In December 2015 through fraudulent election, Washington put a neoliberal henchman into the Presidency, Mauricio Macri. He carried out economic and labor reforms by decree and within the first 12 months in office, increased unemployment and poverty from about 12% he inherited from his predecessor, Christine Kirchner, to over 30%.

Within 15 years of Kirchner Governments, Argentina largely recovered from the collapse of 2000 / 2001 / 2002, accumulating a healthy reserve. There was no need to call the IMF to the rescue, except if it was a pre-condition for Macri to become president. In September 2018, Argentina contracted from the IMF the largest ever IMF loan of 57.1 billion dollars, to be disbursed over a three-year period, plunging Argentina in an almost irrecoverable debt situation.

The Bretton Woods Organizations — World Bank and IMF — were created in 1944 precisely for that reason, to enslave the world, particularly the resources-rich countries. The purpose of these so-called international financial institutions, foresaw an absolute veto power of the United States, meaning they are doing the bidding of the US Treasury. They were created under the UN Charter for good disguise, and are to work hand-in-glove with the fiat monetary system created in 1913 by the Federal Reserve Act. The pretext was to monitor western “convertible” currencies that subscribed to the also newly modified gold standard (1 Troy ounce [31.1 grams] of gold = US$ 35), also established during the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944.

Both organizations started lending money – the Marshall Fund, managed by the world Bank in the 1950s – to war devastated Europe, moving gradually into economic development of “Third World” countries, and eventually, in the 1980s, showing their evil heads by introducing the neoliberal doctrines of the Washington Consensus worldwide. It is a miracle how they get away with spewing so much misery, literally unopposed for the last 30 – 40 years, throughout the world. Why are they not stopped and dismantled?  The UN has 193 members; only a small proportion of them benefit from the IMF-WB financial crimes. Why does the vast majority, also potential victims, remain silent?

The Disaster of Negative of Interest Rates

President Trump wants negative interest rates, but they would be disastrous for the U.S. economy, and his objectives can be better achieved by other means.

The dollar strengthened against the euro in August, merely in anticipation of the European Central Bank slashing its key interest rate further into negative territory. Investors were fleeing into the dollar, prompting President Trump to tweet on August 30:

The Euro is dropping against the Dollar “like crazy,” giving them a big export and manufacturing advantage… And the Fed does NOTHING!

When the ECB cut its key rate as anticipated, from a negative 0.4% to a negative 0.5%, the president tweeted on September 11:

The Federal Reserve should get our interest rates down to ZERO, or less, and we should then start to refinance our debt. INTEREST COST COULD BE BROUGHT WAY DOWN, while at the same time substantially lengthening the term.

And on September 12 he tweeted:

European Central Bank, acting quickly, Cuts Rates 10 Basis Points. They are trying, and succeeding, in depreciating the Euro against the VERY strong Dollar, hurting U.S. exports…. And the Fed sits, and sits, and sits. They get paid to borrow money, while we are paying interest!

However, negative interest rates have not been shown to stimulate the economies that have tried them, and they would wreak havoc on the U.S. economy, for reasons unique to the U.S. dollar. The ECB has not gone to negative interest rates to gain an export advantage. It is to keep the European Union from falling apart, something that could happen if the United Kingdom does indeed pull out and Italy follows suit, as it has threatened to do. If what Trump wants is cheap borrowing rates for the U.S. federal government, there is a safer and easier way to get them.

The Real Reason the ECB Has Gone to Negative Interest Rates

Why the ECB has gone negative was nailed by Wolf Richter in a September 18 article on WolfStreet.com. After noting that negative interest rates have not proved to be beneficial for any economy in which they are currently in operation and have had seriously destructive side effects for the people and the banks, he said:

However, negative interest rates as follow-up and addition to massive QE were effective in keeping the Eurozone glued together because they allowed countries to stay afloat that cannot, but would need to, print their own money to stay afloat. They did so by making funding plentiful and nearly free, or free, or more than free.

This includes Italian government debt, which has a negative yield through three-year maturities. … The ECB’s latest rate cut, minuscule and controversial as it was, was designed to help out Italy further so it wouldn’t have to abandon the euro and break out of the Eurozone.

The U.S. doesn’t need negative interest rates to stay glued together. It can print its own money.

EU member governments have lost the sovereign power to issue their own money or borrow money issued by their own central banks. The failed EU experiment was a monetarist attempt to maintain a fixed money supply, as if the euro were a commodity in limited supply like gold. The central banks of member countries do not have the power to bail out their governments or their failing local banks as the Fed did for U.S. banks with massive quantitative easing after the 2008 financial crisis. Before the Eurozone debt crisis of 2011-12, even the European Central Bank was forbidden to buy sovereign debt.

The rules changed after Greece and other southern European countries got into serious trouble, sending bond yields (nominal interest rates) through the roof.  But default or debt restructuring was not considered an option; and in 2016, new EU rules required a “bail in” before a government could bail out its failing banks. When a bank ran into trouble, existing stakeholders–including shareholders, junior creditors and sometimes even senior creditors and depositors with deposits in excess of the guaranteed amount of €100,000–were required to take a loss before public funds could be used. The Italian government got a taste of the potential backlash when it forced losses onto the bondholders of four small banks. One victim made headlines when he hung himself and left a note blaming his bank, which had taken his entire €100,000 savings.

Meanwhile, the bail-in scheme that was supposed to shift bank losses from governments to bank creditors and depositors served instead to scare off depositors and investors, making shaky banks even shakier. Worse, heightened capital requirements made it practically impossible for Italian banks to raise capital. Rather than flirt with another bail-in disaster, Italy was ready either to flaunt EU rules or leave the Union.

The ECB finally got on the quantitative easing bandwagon and started buying government debt along with other financial assets. By buying debt at negative interest, it is not only relieving EU governments of their interest burden, it is slowly extinguishing the debt itself.

That explains the ECB, but why are investors buying these bonds? According to John Ainger in Bloomberg:

Investors are willing to pay a premium–and ultimately take a loss–because they need the reliability and liquidity that the government and high-quality corporate bonds provide. Large investors such as pension funds, insurers, and financial institutions may have few other safe places to store their wealth.

In short, they are captive buyers. Banks are required to hold government securities or other “high-quality liquid assets” under capital rules imposed by the Financial Stability Board in Switzerland. Since EU banks now must pay the ECB to hold their bank reserves, they may as well hold negative-yielding sovereign debt, which they may be able to sell at a profit if rates drop even further.

Wolf Richter comments:

Investors who buy these bonds hope that central banks will take them off their hands at even lower yields (and higher prices). No one is buying a negative yielding long-term bond to hold it to maturity.

Well, I say that, but these are professional money managers who buy such instruments, or who have to buy them due to their asset allocation and fiduciary requirements, and they don’t really care. It’s other people’s money, and they’re going to change jobs or get promoted or start a restaurant or something, and they’re out of there in a couple of years. Après moi le déluge.

Why the U.S. Can’t Go Negative, and What It Can Do Instead

The U.S. doesn’t need negative interest rates, because it doesn’t have the EU’s problems but it does have other problems unique to the U.S. dollar that could spell disaster if negative rates were enforced.

First is the massive market for money market funds, which are more important to daily market functioning in the U.S. than in Europe and Japan. If interest rates go negative, the funds could see large-scale outflows, which could disrupt short-term funding for businesses, banks and perhaps even the Treasury. Consumers could also face new charges to make up for bank losses.

Second, the U.S. dollar is inextricably tied up with the market for interest rate derivatives, which is currently valued at over $500 trillion. As proprietary analyst Rob Kirby explains, the economy would crash if interest rates went negative, because the banks holding the fixed-rate side of the swaps would have to pay the floating-rate side as well. The derivatives market would go down like a stack of dominoes and take the U.S. economy with it.

Perhaps in tacit acknowledgment of those problems, Fed Chairman Jay Powell responded to a question about negative interest rates on September 18:

Negative interest rates [are] something that we looked at during the financial crisis and chose not to do. After we got to the effective lower bound [near-zero effective federal funds rate], we chose to do a lot of aggressive forward guidance and also large-scale asset purchases. …

And if we were to find ourselves at some future date again at the effective lower bound–not something we are expecting–then I think we would look at using large-scale asset purchases and forward guidance.

I do not think we’d be looking at using negative rates.

Assuming the large-scale asset purchases made at some future date were of federal securities, the federal government would be financing its debt virtually interest-free, since the Fed returns its profits to the Treasury after deducting its costs. And if the bonds were rolled over when due and held by the Fed indefinitely, the money could be had not only interest-free but debt-free. That is not radical theory but is what is actually happening with the Fed’s bond purchases in its earlier QE. When it tried to unwind those purchases last fall, the result was a stock market crisis. The Fed is learning that QE is a one-way street.

The problem under existing law is that neither the president nor Congress has control over whether the “independent” Fed buys federal securities. But if Trump can’t get Powell to agree over lunch to these arrangements, Congress could amend the Federal Reserve Act to require the Fed to work with Congress to coordinate fiscal and monetary policy. This is what Japan’s banking law requires, and it has been very successful under Prime Minister Shinzō Abe and “Abenomics.” It is also what a team of former central bankers led by Philipp Hildebrand proposed in conjunction with last month’s Jackson Hole meeting of central bankers, after acknowledging the central bankers’ usual tools weren’t working. Under their proposal, central bank technocrats would be in charge of allocating the funds, but better would be the Japanese model, which leaves the federal government in control of allocating fiscal policy funds.

The Bank of Japan now holds nearly half of Japan’s federal debt, a radical move that has not triggered hyperinflation as monetarist economists direly predicted. In fact, the Bank of Japan can’t get the country’s inflation rate even to its modest 2 percent target. As of August, the rate was an extremely low 0.3%. If the Fed were to follow suit and buy 50% of the U.S. government’s debt, the Treasury could swell its coffers by $11 trillion in interest-free money. And if the Fed kept rolling over the debt, Congress and the president could get this $11 trillion not only interest-free but debt-free. President Trump can’t get a better deal than that.

This article was first posted on Truthdig.com.

Greece:  Suicide or Murder?

Pundits from the left, from the right and from the center cannot stop reporting about Greece’s misery. And rightly so because the vast majority of her people live in deep economic hardship. No hope. Unemployment is officially at 18%, with the real figure closer to 25% or 30%; pensions have been reduced about ten times since Syriza – the Socialist Party – took power in 2015 and loaded the country with debt and austerity. In the domain of public services, everything that has any value has been privatized and sold to foreign corporations, oligarchs, or, naturally, banks. Hospitals, schools, public transportation – even some beaches – have been privatized and made unaffordable for the common people.

While the pundits – always more or less the same – keep lamenting about the Greek conditions in one form or another, none of them dare offer the only solution that could have rescued Greece (and still could) – exiting the euro zone; return to their local currency and start rebuilding Greece with a local economy, built on local currency with local public banking and with a sovereign Greek central bank deciding the monetary policy that best suits Greece, and especially Greece’s recovery program. Why not? Why do they not talk about this obvious solution? Would they be censured in Greece, because the Greek oligarchy controls the media as oligarchs do around the (western part of the) globe?

Instead, foreign imposed (troika: IMF, European Central Bank (ECB) and European Commission (EC) — the latter mainly pushed by German and French banks and the Rothschild clan — austerity programs have literally put a halt on imports of affordable medication, such as like for cancer treatments and other potentially lethal illnesses. So, common people no longer get treatment. They die like flies; a horrible expression to be used for human beings. But that’s what it comes down to for people who simply do not get the treatment they humanely deserve and would have gotten under the rights of the Greek Constitution; however, they simply do not get treated because they can no longer afford medication and services from privatized health services. That is the sad but true story.

As a consequence, the suicide rate is up, due to foreign imposed (but Greek government accepted) debt and austerity, annihilating hope for terminally ill patients, as well as for pensioners whose pensions do no longer allow them to live a decent life and especially as there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

Now, these same pundits add a little air of optimism to their reporting, as the right wing New Democracy Party (ND Party) won with what they call a ‘landslide’ victory on the 7 July 2019 elections; gathering 39.6% of the votes, against only 31.53 for Syriza, the so-called socialist party, led by outgoing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who represents a tragedy that has allowed Greece to be plunged into this hopeless desolation. The ND won an absolute majority with 158 seats in the 300-member Greek parliament. Therefore, no coalition needed, no concessions required.

The new Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis (51), son of a former PM of the same party, in his victory speech on the evening of 7 July, vowed that Greece will “proudly” enter a post-bailout era of “jobs, security and growth”. He added that “a painful cycle has closed” and that Greece would “proudly raise its head again” on his watch.

We don’t know what this means for the average Greek citizen living a life of despair. What the “left” was unable to do – stopping the foreign imposed (but Greek accepted) bleeding of Greece; the strangulation of their country – will the right be able to reverse that trend? Does the right want to reverse that trend? Does the ND want to reverse privatization, buy back airports from Germany, water supply from the EU managed “Superfund”, and repurchase the roads from foreign concessionaires, or nationalize hospitals that were sold for a pittance and – especially – get out from austerity to allow importing crucial medication to salvage the sick and dying Greek, those who currently cannot afford treatment of their cancers and other potentially deadly diseases?

That would indeed be a step towards PM Mitsotakis’ promise to end the “painful cycle” of austerity, with import of crucial medication made affordable to those in dire need, with job creation and job security – and much more – with eventually a renewed Greek pride and Greek sovereignty. The latter would mean – finally – it’s never too late to exit the euro zone. But, that’s an illusion, a pipe-dream. Albeit  it could become a vision.

If the ND is the party of the oligarchs, the Greek oligarchs that is, those Greeks who have placed literally billions of euros outside their country in (still) secret bank accounts in Switzerland, France, Lichtenstein, Luxemburg and elsewhere, including the Cayman islands and other Caribbean tax havens, hidden not only from the Greek fiscal authorities, but also impeding that these funds could, crucially, be used for investments at home, for job creation, for creation of added value in Greece. If the ND is the party of the oligarchs, they are unlikely to make the dream of the vast majority of Greek people come true.

Worse even, these Greek oligarch-billionaires call the shots in Greece not the people, not those who according to Greek tradition and according to the Greek invention, called “democracy” (Delphi, some 2500 years ago) have democratically elected Syriza and have democratically voted against the austerity packages in July 2015. Now, that they are officially in power, they are unlikely to change their greed-driven behavior and act in favor of the Greek people. Or will they?

Because, if they do, it may eventually also benefit them, the ND Party and its adherents — a Greece that functions like a country, with happy, healthy and content people, is a Greece that retains the worldwide esteem and respect she deserves — and will, by association, develop an economy that can and will compete and trade around the world, a Greece that is an equal to others, as a sovereign nation. A dream can become a reality. It just takes visionaries.

Back to today’s reality. The Greek Bailout Referendum of July 5, 2015, was overwhelmingly rejected with 61% ‘no’ against 39% ‘yes’, meaning that almost two thirds of the Greek people would have preferred the consequences of rejecting the bailout, euphemistically called “rescue packages”, namely exiting the euro zone, and possibly, but not necessarily, the European Union.

Despite the overwhelming, democratic rejection by the people, the Tsipras government reached an agreement on 13 July 2015 – only 8 days after the vote against the bailout with the European authorities for a three-year bailout with even harsher austerity conditions than the ones rejected by voters. What went on is anybody’s guess. It looks pretty obvious, though, that “foul play” was the name of the game which could mean anything from outright and serious (life) threats to blackmail, if Tsipras would not play the game and this to the detriment of the people.

President Tsipras’ betrayal of the people resulted in three bailout packages since 2010 and up to the end of 2018, in the amount of about €310 billion (US$ 360 billion). Compare this to Hong Kong’s economy of US$ 340 billion in 2017. In that same period the Greek GDP has declined from about US$ 300 billion (€ 270 billion) in 2010 to US$ 218 billion (€ 196 billion), a reduction of 27%, hitting the middle- and lower-class people by far the hardest. This is called a rescue?

The democracy fiasco of July 2015 prompted Tsipras to call for snap elections in September 2015, hélas – he won, with a narrow margin and one of the lowest election turnouts ever in Greek postwar history; but, yes, he ‘won’. How much of it was manipulated – by now Cambridge Analytica has become a household word – so he could finish the job for the troika and the German and French banks, is pure speculation.

Today, the ND has an absolute majority in Parliament, plus the ND could ally with a number of smaller and conservative parties to pursue a “people’s dream” line policy. But they may do the opposite. Question: How much more juice is there to be sucked out of broken Greece? Of a Greece that cannot care for her people, for her desperate poor and sick, cannot provide her children with a decent education, of a Greece that belongs into the category of bankruptcy? Yes, bankruptcy, still today, after the IMF and the gnomes of the EU and the ECB predict a moderate growth rate of some 2%?  But 2% that go to whom?  Not to the people, to be sure, but to the creditors of the €310 billion.

Already in 2011, the British Lancet stated “the Greek Ministry of Health reported that the annual suicide rate has increased by 40%”, presumably since the (imposed) crisis that started in 2008. From this date forward the suicide rate must have skyrocketed, as the overall living conditions worsened exponentially. However, precise figures can no longer be easily found.

The question remains: Is the Greek population dying increasingly from diseases that could be cured, but aren’t due to austerity- and privatization-related lack of medication and health services and of suicide from desperation? Is Greece committing suicide by continuing to accept austerity and privatization of vital services, instead of liberating herself from the handcuffs of the euro and very likely the stranglehold of the EU?  Or is Greece the victim of sheer murder inflicted by a greed-driven construct of money institutions and oligarchs, who are beyond morals, beyond ethics and beyond any values of humanity? You be the judge.

• First published by the New Eastern Outlook – NEO

Europe on the Brink of Collapse?

The Empire’s European castle of vassals is crumbling. Right in front of our eyes. But Nobody seems to see it. The European Union (EU), the conglomerate of vassals. Trump calls them irrelevant, and he doesn’t care what they think about him, they deserve to be collapsing. They, the ‘vassalic’ EU, a group of 28 countries, some 500 million people, with a combined economy of a projected 19 trillion US-dollar equivalent, about the same as the US, have submitted themselves to the dictate of Washington in just about every important aspect of life.

The EU has accepted on orders by Washington to sanction Russia, Venezuela, Iran, and a myriad of countries that have never done any harm to any of the 28 EU member states. The EU has accepted the humiliation of military impositions by NATO – threatening Russia and China with ever more and ever more advancing military basis towards Moscow and Beijing, to the point that Brussels’ foreign policy is basically led by NATO.

It was clear from the very get-go that the US sanctions regime imposed on Russia and all the countries refusing to submit to the whims and rules of Washington, directly and via the EU, was hurting the EU economically far more than Russia. This is specifically true for some of the southern European countries, whose economy depended more on trading with Russia and Eurasia than it did for other EU countries.

The ‘sanctions’ disaster really hit the fan, when Trump unilaterally decided to abrogate the “Nuclear Deal” with Iran and reimpose heavy sanctions on Iran and on “everybody who would do business with Iran”. European hydrocarbon giants started losing business. That’s when Brussels, led by Germany, started mumbling that they would not follow the US and – even – that they would back European corporations, mainly hydrocarbon giants, sticking to their contractual arrangements they had with Iran.

Too late. European business had lost all confidence in Brussels EU Administration’s feeble and generally untrustworthy words. Many breached their longstanding and, after the Nuclear Deal, renewed contracts with Iran, out of fear of punishment by Washington and lack of trust in Brussel’s protection. Case in point is the French-British petrol giant, Total, which shifted its supply source from Iran to Russia – no, not to the US, as was, of course, Washington’s intent. The damage is done. The vassals are committing slow suicide.

The people have had it. More than half of the European population wants to get out of the fangs from Brussels. But nobody asks them, nor listens to them, and that in the so-called heartland of ‘democracy’ (sic). That’s why people are now up in arms and protesting everywhere – in one way or another in Germany, France, the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Hungary, Poland – the list is almost endless. And it can be called generically the ‘Yellow Vests”, after the new French revolution.

The latest in a series of the US attacking Germany and German business – and German integrity, for that matter – are the US Ambassador’s, Richard Grenell, recent threats to German corporations with sanctions if they work on Nord Stream 2, the 1,200 km pipeline bringing Russian gas to Europe, to be completed by the end of 2019. It will virtually double the capacity of Russian gas supply to Europe. Instead, Washington wants Europe to buy US shale gas and oil, and especially keeping Europe economically and financially in the US orbit, avoiding in any way a detachment from Washington and preventing the obvious and logical – an alliance with Russia. This attempt will fail bitterly, as various German Ministers, including Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, have loudly and with determination protested against such US hegemonic advances. Well, friends, you have bent over backwards to please your Washington Masters for too long. It’s high time to step out of this lock-step of obedience.

In France, this past weekend of 12 / 13 January, the Yellow Vests went into round 9 of protests against dictator Macron, his austerity program and not least his abject arrogance vis-à- vis the working class. A recent public statement of Macron’s is testimony of this below-the-belt arrogance: Trop de francals n’ont pas le sens de l’effort, ce qui explique en partie les ‘troubles’ que connalt le pays”. Translated: “Too many French don’t know the meaning of ‘effort’ which explains at least partially the trouble this country is in.”

The Yellow Vests and a majority of the French population want nothing less than Macron’s resignation. Protesters are consistently and largely under-reported by Christophe Castaner, the French Interior Minister. This past weekend the official figure was 50,000 demonstrators, countrywide, when in reality the figure was at least three times higher. The official French version would like the public at large, inside and outside of France, to believe that the Yellow Vest’s movement is diminishing. It is not. To the contrary, they are demonstrating all over France, and that despite the Macron regime’s increasing violent repression.

RT reports on Macron’s orders the police are becoming more violent, using military suppression to control protesting French civilians. Thousands have been arrested, and hundreds injured by police brutality. Nevertheless, the movement is gaining massive public support and the ‘Yellow Vests” idea is spreading throughout Europe. This spread is, of course, hardly reported by the mainstream media.

In fact, 80% of the French back the Yellow Vests and their idea of a Citizen Initiated Referendum (RIC for “Référendum d’initiative citoyenne”), under which citizens could propose their own laws that would then be voted on by the general public. The RIC could effectively bypass the French Parliament, and would be enshrined in the French Constitution. A similar law exists since 1848 in Switzerland and is regularly applied by Swiss citizens. It is a way of Direct Democracy that any country calling itself a “democracy” should incorporate in its Constitution.

The UK is in shambles. Thousands are taking to the streets of London, organized by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity”, calling for general elections to replace the failing Tory Government. They are joined by the French Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests), out of solidarity. Many of the UK protesters are also wearing high-visibility yellow vests.

This is in direct correlation with the ever-growing louder debacle over BREXIT – yes, or no and how. At this point nobody knows what Britain’s future is going to be. Propaganda and counter-propaganda is destined to further confuse the people and confused people usually want to stick to the ‘status quo’. There is even a movement of pro “remain” propaganda, organized by some members of the European Parliament. Imagine! Talking about sovereignty, if Brussels cannot even leave the Brits alone to decide whether they want to continue under their dictate or not.

Hélas, the Brits are largely divided, but also past the stage of being swayed by foreign propaganda, especially in this delicate question of leaving the EU – which a majority of Brits clearly decided in June 2016. Prime Minister, Theresa May, has screwed-up the BREXIT process royally, to the point where many Brits feel that what she negotiated is worse than “no deal”. This has likely happened in close connivance with the unelected EU ‘leadership’ which does not want the UK to leave and under strict orders from Washington which needs the UK in its crucial role as a US mole in the European Union.

On 15 January 2019, the UK Parliament voted on whether they accept the negotiated BREXIT conditions, or whether they prefer a ‘no deal’ BREXIT, or will request an extension for further negotiations under Article 50 of the “Treaty of Lisbon” (which was imposed by the heads of state of the 28 members, without any public vote, and is a false stand-in for a EU Constitution). Ms. May’s proposal was largely rejected by the British Parliament, but her Government survived a subsequent vote of “No Confidence”.

Now, the situation for the a divided British population is chaos. So far nobody knows, probably not even Ms. May, what will follow next. There are various options, including ‘snap’ elections, and let the new PM decide, a new “remain or exit” referendum that would not go down well with probably the majority of the population – or simply a vote to in Parliament for a “no deal Brexit”, or to stay in the EU after all.

For weeks, the Yellow Vest movement has spread to Belgium and The Netherlands. For similar reasons – public discontent over austerity, EU dictatorship over Belgian and Dutch sovereignty. Last Friday, one of the Belgian Yellow Vests was overrun by a truck and killed. Authorities reported it as an accident.

Greece — The MS-media report all is ‘donkey-dory’, Greece is recovering, has for the first time in many years a positive growth rate and is able to refinance herself on the open capital market. Greece is no longer dependent on the irate and infamous troika (European Central Bank – ECB, European Commission and IMF). Reality is completely different, as about two thirds of the Greek population are still hovering around or below the survival level – no access to public health care, affordable medication, public schools – umpteen times reduced pensions, most public assets and services privatized for a pittance. Nothing has fundamentally changed in the last years, at least not for the better and for the majority of the people. The troika has allowed the Greek to go to the private capital markets – to boost falsely their, the Greek’s, image among the international public at large, basically telling the brainwashed populace, “It worked, we, the troika, did a good job”.

Nothing worked. People are unhappy; more than unhappy, they are indignant. They demonstrated against Angela Merkel’s recent visit to Athens, and their protests were violently oppressed by police forces. What do you expect? This is what has become of Europe, a highly repressive state of spineless vassals.

On Wednesday, 16 January, the Greek Parliament may hold a Vote of Confidence against or for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The official and make-believe reason is supposedly the controversy over the name of Macedonia, which, in fact, has long been settled. The real reason is the public’s discontent about the continuous and increasing blood-letting by never-ending austerity, sucking the last pennies from the poor. According to Lancet, the renowned British health journal, the Greek suicide rate is soaring. Nobody talks about it. Will Tsipras survive a possible Vote of Confidence? If not, early elections? Who will follow Tsipras? Don’t be fooled by the term ‘democracy’.  The elite from within and without Greece will not allow any policy changes. That’s when people à la Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) may come in. Civil unrest. Enough is enough.

In Italy the coalition of the 5-Star Movement and the small right-wing brother, Lega Norte, is pulled to the far right by Lega’s Matteo Salvini, Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister. Mr. Salvini is clearly calling the shots, and his alliance is firing strongly against Brussels and with good reason, as Brussels is attempting to impose rules on Italy’s budget, while the same rules do not apply equally to all EU member states. For example, Macron, France’s Rothschild implant, has special privileges, as far as budget overrun margins are concerned. Mr. Salvini’s anti-Brussels, anti-EU stance is no secret, and he has a lot of Italians behind him. An Italian Yellow Vest movement cannot be excluded.

The empire’s vassal castle is crumbling and not even silently.

Then there are the former Soviet satellites, Hungary and Poland, turned right wing – don’t appreciate Brussels meddling with Hungary’s anti-immigration policy and in Poland over a controversial overhaul of the Judiciary system. Never mind whether you agree or not with individual country actions. Both cases are clear interferences in these nations’ sovereignty. Though upon the European Court of Justice’s strong warning, Poland indeed blinked and reinstated the judges fired in the judiciary reform process. Poland’s love for NATO, and Brussels use of the NATO leverage, may have played a role in Poland’s reversal of decision. Nevertheless, discontent in Poland as in Hungary among the public at large remains strong. Migration and the Judiciary are just the visible pretexts. The legendary tip of the iceberg. Reality is on a deeper level, much deeper. These countries are both reminded of what they considered the Soviet Union’s handcuffs. “Freedom” is not being dictated by Brussels.

The triad of systematic and willful destabilization and destruction of what we know as the Greater Middle East and western world is what we have to be aware of. The east, mostly Russia and China, is a challenge being tackled simultaneously, impressively for the brainwashed westerner, but rather meekly for those who are informed about Russia’s and China’s military might and intelligence capacity.

This drive of destabilization cum destruction comes in three phases. It started with the Middle East which for the most part has become a hopeless hell-hole, a source of indiscriminate killing by the western allies, say, the emperor’s puppets and mercenaries, resulting in millions killed and in an endless flood of refugees destabilizing Europe – which is the second phase of the triad. It’s in full swing. It happens right in front of our eyes, but we don’t see it.

It’s the Yellow Vests, austerity, increasing inequality, unemployment, social sector’s being milked to zilch by the financial system, popular uprisings’ oppression by police and military forces; it’s reflected by the dismal powerlessness of the people that leads to “enough is enough” in the streets. That’s the way it’s all wanted. The more chaos the better. People in chaos are easily controlled.

Now comes phase three of the triad – Latin America. It has already started three or four years back. Countries that have struggled for decades to eventually break loose with some form of ‘democracy’ from the fangs of empire, are gradually being subdued with fake elections and ‘internal’ parliamentary coups, back into the emperor’s backyard. The Southern Cone – Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay – is ‘gone’, except for Bolivia. Peru, Colombia, Ecuador all the way to Guyana are governed by neoliberal, even neo-nazi-shaded Lords of Washington. But there is still Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and now also Mexico that have not caved in and will not cave in.

In an extraordinary analysis, Thierry Meyssan describes in “The Terrible Forthcoming Destruction of the Caribbean Basin” –  how the Pentagon is still pursuing the implementation of the Rumsfeld-Cebrowski plan, this time aiming at the destruction of the “Caribbean Basin” States. There is no consideration for friends or political enemies, Thierry Meyssan observes. He goes on predicting that after the period of economic destabilization and that of military preparation, the actual operation should begin in the years to come by an attack on Venezuela by Brazil (supported by Israel), Colombia (an ally of the United States) and Guyana (in other words, the United Kingdom). It will be followed by others, beginning with Cuba and Nicaragua, the ‘troika of tyranny’, as per John Bolton.

Only the future will say to what extent this plan will be implemented. At the outset, its ambitions exceed the crumbling empire’s actual capacity.

When it comes all down to one single denominator, it’s the current western financial system that must go. It is private banking gone berserk. We are living in a financial system that has gone wild and running havoc, uncontrolled – a train of endless greed that is loosely speeding ahead and doesn’t know when it will hit an unyielding steel-enforced brick wall – but hit it will. It is a mere question of time. People are sick and tired of being milked no end by a fraudulent pyramid system constructed by the US and her dollar hegemony and maintained by globalized private banking.

We are living in a private banking system that has nothing to do with economic development, but everything with a greed-driven domination of us, consumers, sold on debt and on money that we don’t control, despite the fact that we earned it with our hard labor; despite the fact that it is our added value to what we call the economy. No!  This system is totally disrespectful of the individual.  It is even ready to steal our money, if it needs to survive – our banking system. It takes the liberty of “administering” it and basically appropriating it. Once our money is in a private bank, we have lost control over it. And mind you and get it into your brains, private banks do not work for you and me, but for their shareholders. But through hundreds of years of indoctrination, we have become so used to it, that being charged interest for borrowing our own money, through an intermediary who does nothing, absolutely nothing but wait for profit to fall into its lap, has become the ‘normality’.

It isn’t. This system has to be abolished, the faster the better. Private banking needs to be eradicated and replaced by local public banking that works with local currencies, based on local economic output, way removed from globalized concepts that help steal resources, empty local social safety nets – all under the guise of austerity for progress. We should know better by now. There is no austerity for progress, has never been. This fraudulent IMF-World Bank concept has never worked, anywhere.

We have to de-dollarize our money, de-digitize our money and pool it through a public banking system for the purpose of people’s growth, hence a society’s or nation’s growth. There is currently one good example, the Bank of North Dakota. The BND has helped the US State of North Dakota through the 2008 and following years crisis, with economic growth instead of economic decline, with almost full employment, versus skyrocketing unemployment in the rest of the US and the western world. We need to build our common wealth with sovereign money, backed by our sovereign economies.

As the empire and its vassals are crumbling badly, they are shaking in their foundations, it is time to rethink what we have been taking for granted and for ‘normal’ – a fraudulent and deceptive monetary system, backed by nothing, no economy, not even gold – we are living on sheer fiat money, made by private banking by a mouse-click – and by letting us be enslaved by debt.

Enough is enough. The Yellow Vests have understood. They want to get rid of their “Macron” who keeps propagating the fraud. It is time to rethink and restart, as the crumbling is getting louder and louder. Empire’s European vassal state is falling apart and will pull Washington and its hegemonic war and money machine along into the abyss.

• First published by the New Eastern Outlook – NEO