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Greece, Spannaus: “Why does the EU insist on a policy that doesn’t work?”

Europe/Miscellaneous di

Greece’s debt crisis is one of the hottest geopolitical issues at the moment. Germany imposed a rescue package last week. The United States played a role of political deterrence towards the EU, to avoid the possibility that Athens could go into Moscow’s sphere of influence. To talk about these issues, European Affairs interviewed Andrew Spannaus, journalist and Director of Transatlantico.info.

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With Tsipras’s full-scale surrender, has Greece essentially become a protectorate of Brussels, or better, of Berlin?

“Europe wasted a great opportunity. After talking about the need to shift from austerity to growth, in essence nothing has changed. The European establishment – led by Germany, but don’t let the others off the hook – doubled down, using every weapon possible rather than admit to the failure of its economic policy over the last twenty years.
This is a defeat not only for Greece, but for Europe itself, which has shown 1. that it is unwilling to recognize its own mistakes, and refuses to question the fanatical adherence to budget parameters; and 2. that in this form Europe is not compatible with democracy.
The biggest question is: who’s giving the orders in Brussels and Berlin? Why does the EU insist on a policy that doesn’t work? It’s one thing to have to clean up problems and inefficiencies from the past, but the decision to make the situation worse through a policy of budget cuts and new taxes shows that something else is afoot. Europe has abandoned the best parts of its own history and now answers to other interests.”

 

“Despite the mistakes made in the past five months, I am proud that I have defended our people.” This is what Tsipras said to the Greek Parliament, at the time of the vote on the measures imposed by Europe. In your view, Did Syriza betray its electoral mandate and the result of the referendum?

“Over the past few months the Greek government alternated between a hardline position and a softer one. The goal was always to influence the negotiations and obtain some concessions. At a certain point it looked like Tsipras had decided to get serious: first with the opening towards Russia, and then the referendum. In the end though, he gave in to the blackmail and demonstrated that he wasn’t willing to risk the consequences of a full break-up.
The Greek people clearly rejected austerity; the problem is that in theory they wanted to remain in Europe as well. So while Tsipras certainly deserves some criticism, the fact remains that the two goals were incompatible: Europe = austerity, so there was no solution.
It’s not over yet. If the plan that Greece has accepted is actually implemented then the situation will get even worse; things could flair up again soon. Moreover, the political debate has changed: it’s impossible now to hide the contradictions and weaknesses of the current economic policy. Sooner or later there will be political leaders, and maybe entire countries, who will refuse to continue in this direction.”

 

The International Monetary Fund has said that Greece’s debt is unsustainable. Will the EU plan go forward anyway?

“The plan will go forward, but it won’t work. The first “rescue” packages for Greece – in which public money was used to save the private banks, in particular those in Germany and France – were supposed to create the conditions for economic recovery. The same was said for Italy. In reality the result was a drop in GDP, at catastrophic levels in Greece (-30%).
The notion that this type of debt can be repaid through spending cuts is simply absurd. The solution is to restructure and cancel part of the debt, and above all to implement a policy of investment to spur growth. This means ignoring certain dogmas, for example by increasing productive public spending. The part of the debt which is real, and not just due to speculative maneuvers, can be repaid only if the economy is actually growing; the current policy prohibits this, and thus can only fail.”

 

How big a role did the United States play in facilitating the negotiations between the EU and Greece? Was there, and is there, a real possibility that Athens could get closer to Moscow?

“A myth exists in Europe, about how the United States is against the Euro and afraid of the European Union. However, even if we were to grant the premise that the U.S. sees Europe only as a competitor, there is nothing to be afraid of as long as the current economic policy remains in place.
In the name of political union the strength and cohesion of the nations of Europe is being destroyed. The foundation of the EU was quite different, but starting in the 1990s a shift was made to the so-called “free market” policy that allowed large financial interests to dominate the economy. This is good for a few, not for the many.
Secondly, this myth has been debunked by the American position in this crisis: the U.S. didn’t want to see Europe break up, precisely due to the risk of a geopolitical shock. Tsipras showed that he understood the stakes when in St. Petersburg he said that a “new economic world is being formed,” while “the center of gravity of economic development is shifting.”
The West decided to close ranks, to avoid giving an opening to our “enemy” Putin. However the reality is that Europe’s policy of continuous austerity risks making the alternative of the BRICS even more attractive: numerous countries are already breaking away from the Western financial institutions precisely in order to avoid being controlled by a system dominated by large financial interests.”
Giacomo Pratali

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Iran nuclear deal: pros and cons

After 16 days of negotiations, yesterday the US, EU, Russia, Great Britain and China, and Iran reached historical deal on the nuclear program in Vienna. A pact that works for reduction of he production of uranium in Teheran for the next 10 years. And, at the same time, it stops sanctions and trade sanctions.

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Although this is the formal end to decades of conflict with the West, especially during the Presidency of George W. Bush, the Israel’s contrary reaction and the contemporart and inconsistent alliance between Washington and Sunni’s countries, like Saudi Arabia, could be a warning for the International Community.

Inspired by the cartel the previous April 3, the agreement includes four key points. The cut of 98% of the stocks of enriched uranium. The use of centrifuges reduced to two-thirds. The possibility, not automatic,of Alea inspections on Iran’s nuclear facilities, after approval of the court arbitrary composed by the same countries that have signed the agreement. The gradual reduction of the arms embargo within the next five years. The UN resolution is expected next week, when it meets the Security Council.

The heart of the matter between the US and Iran is mainly the use of enriched uranium for civilian and not military. But also there’s the will to create a diplomat axiswith the biggest Shiite state in the Middle East, able to support the Assad regime in Syria or Hezbollah in Lebanon and decisive in the reconquest of the north-western territories in Iraq, now under the Caliphate.

Additionally, beyond this agreement, there’s the oil question. Iran is the fourth largest producer in the world and, with the end of the embargo, will increase its production. The effect could be the oil drum’s fall in price on the International Markets. Moreover, until the seventies, Europe was the first foreign market for Teheran.

US President Obama said: “No deal means a greater chance of more war in the Middle East. America negotiated from a position of strength and principle and stopped the spread of nuclear weapons. The comprehensive, long-term deal, demonstrated that American diplomacy can bring meaningful change”. And warned Congress he would veto any legislation that prevented its successful implementation.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani talks about “historic deal which opened a new chapter in Iran’s relations with the world”. Eu High Representative Mogherini thinks that the deal is ‘a sign of hope for the entire world’. While is a “sigh of relief for the entire world” in Russian President Putin’s opinion.
The chorus, however, was not unanimous at all the International Community. Predictably, Israel’s response was not long in coming: “The agreement is a historical mistake. “The world is a much more dangerous place today than it was yesterday. The leading international powers have bet our collective future on a deal with the foremost sponsor of international terrorism. “In the coming decade, the deal will reward Iran, the terrorist regime in Tehran, with hundreds of billions of dollars. This cash bonanza will fuel Iran’s terrorism worldwide, its aggression in the region and its efforts to destroy Israel, which are ongoing”. Whereas an official of the government of Saudi Arabia denounced the possibility that Iran could “devastate the Middle East”.

The contradictions within the deal, as the contemporary US alliance with Saudi coalition in Yemen against Houtii (Shiite’s faction supported by Tehran), could bring a long-term strategy. The chance given by the United States and its allies to Iran is directed to the Iranian civil society. The opening to the outside could bring the Shiites and the Sunnis to talks again. This could be an effective weapon against the expansionism of the Islamic State.

Not only abroad. Much of the criticism have come from the United States’s press. Bret Stephen (Wall Street Journal) said that “the agreement will be disastrous” and “unlikely Iran’s foreign policy will change”. Indeed, the deal could backfire on Washington.

 

Giacomo Pratali

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US-Russia: Obama runs the show

Europe di

Relationship between Us and Russia are becoming always colder. The G7 without Putin and the degeneration of war in Ukraine are the effects of this context.

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In the last year Washington’s strategy in the Middle East was to not bring out a State predominant in terms of economic strength and leadership in the Arab world. Meanwhile in Europe there’s a different strategy. Putin’s exclusion from the G7 and the threat of new sanctions arise from a precise intention.

Ukraine, Iran, West: the Us strategy is only one. Moscow must deal directly with Washington. And, then, go back to that bilateralism concise in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. With Europe forced even more to a marginal role. With states such as Poland and the Baltics defended by the United States. The White House which uses the Russian ruble crisis and high inflation as charges against the Kremlin

And Europe? If China is a corridor to not completely block trade relations with Russia damaged by the penalties, on the other hand it’s becoming more and more a partner of choice with regard to energy issues. Recently, in fact, the second agreement, called “Western Route”, consisting of the construction of a gas pipeline linking the Western Siberia to Beijing.

If Europe is politically supporting the United States, is even more evident that the damage to bilateral trade relations but, above all, the gas matter, could do to change course policy leader of the Old Continent.

On this regard, the Ukraine, where the fighting resumed at a level almost equal to the previous step to the agreements of Minsk, becomes once again decisive: “If the crisis in Ukraine is getting worse – Maros Sefcovic, European Commission Vice President and Head of Energy Union said – and if Russia closes the gas pipelines to Europe, we can hold out for six months. But I think that is fitting in Moscow, as we are their largest customer, “he added again.

September will be decisive to solve the war in Ukraine.The partial recognition of the pro-Russian regions autonomy could be the starting point for thawing between the US and Russia. For these reasons, Putin journey in Italy has an important political relevance. If with Renzi it was reiterated the importance of a return to historical trade and economic relations between Rome and Moscow, even more significant was the visit to Pope Francis. The Russian leader is hoping to find an ally in the Pontiff and his will of a detente between the Catholic and Orthodox.

The relations with the Vatican, the need to keep Europe as the first partner for the supply of gas, the penalties like an obstacle for economic recovery in Russia. While there might be an international recognition of the autonomy of the pro-Russian regions in Ukraine, the end of hostilities with Kiev and the direct relationship with Washington will be crucial if Putin wants to exit from the Western isolation.
Giacomo Pratali

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Ukraine: Russian soldiers “were armed, but had no orders to shoot”

Europe di

They caught fighting with the Donbass rebels. Despite the daily non-compliance of the ceasefire, the civil war is not going anywhere. Next winter could be crucial to Ukrainian national unity.

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“They were armed, but they had no orders to shoot. One of them said he had received orders from his military unit to go to Ukraine”. Today, th eOsce communcates it after two Russian soldiers were captured on Ukrainian soil while fighting alongside the pro-Russian militias on Monday, May18. After the arrival of military convoys last winter, intercepted by US satellites, this has definitely proved external interferences in the Donbass’ civil war. Interference which follows the video, of January 2015, whereas a US soldier was shot with Kiev’s army.

But the crisis in Ukraine still seems to be not going anywhere. Despite continuous clashes, especially near the airport of Donetsk and around the port city of Mariupol, confirm the no-compliance of the ceasefire declared by Minsk Protocol. The real showdown could take place next winter, when gas issue, supplied by Moscow, will become relevant again.

Meanwhile, the War has apparently become less Cold on the international front. The meetings in mid-May between the Secretary of State Kerry and President Putin, the first official visit on Russian soil since the crisis Ukrainian, show a willingness to dialogue between Washington and Moscow.

As well as having discussed the Syria case, the possible sale of Russian S-300 missiles to Iran and the Yemen war, Ukraine’s future was the main topic on the table. The US should want to entered in negotiating table consists of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany, which led to the Protocol of Minsk in February.

According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Lavrov, Kerry said that respect for these agreements should lead to the end of civil war in the Donbass. However Kiev’s desire to recover militarily Donetsk caused embarrassment.

The US military troops presence in the NATO base in Javorov (near the border with Poland) is a source of discord with Russia. Here, they are ongoing training of almost 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers from April.

The constant anti-Russian releases from the Ukrainian President and Prime Minister Poroshenko Yatseniuk also show how far is the solution to this crisis. On one side, Kiev accuses the Kremlin of having anti-Western aims and would economic and military aid to the United States and the European Union. On the other side, Moscow doesn’t want to give up the Russian-speaking regions (Donetsk, Lugansk and Crimea), which is the reply to Nato military forces and armaments’ developement in the former Soviet countries.

Cold war issues, Putin’s place in Syria and in other geopolitical contexts will be crucial to possible the Russian-speaking regions independence from Ukraine.
Giacomo Pratali

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Ukraine, 8 killed again: end of Minsk pact?

Europe di

One soldier and 7 civilians slayed after Donetsk airport’s fights. But Kiev denied and accused pro-Russian rebels.

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Ceasefire in Ukraine is staggering. The last dispute happened on 3rd May. Ukrainian army killed 8 people (1 soldier and 7 civilians) during bombing against Donetsk airport, how reported by separatists. It’s unofficial news, but Kiev Minister of Foreign Affairs publice notice told about “lies” because “pro-Russians rebels fired 35 times against regular soldiers in the last 24 hours”.

Meanwhile, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Paolo Gentiloni, as he said La Stampa, restated that “Italy will substain Kiev if Kiev has to do necessary financial and constitutionalreforms, including Donbass independence”. But “even if we applied economic sanctions against Russia, we know Moscow importance in International crisis areas, like Syria and Libya”, Gentiloni said before Putin visit to Expo in the next days.

Giacomo Pratali

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