Reprinted from RT
Angela Merkel et Francois Hollande
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Germany holds the key to where Europe goes next. A fragile deal may have been reached on Ukraine, but there's still no deal with Greece. In both cases, there's much more than meets the eye.
Let's start with the grueling Eurogroup negotiation in Brussels over the Greek debt.
Greek officials swear they never received a draft of a possible agreement leaked by Eurogroup bureaucrats to the Financial Times. This draft, crucially, referred to an agreement "amending and extending and successfully concluding," the current austerity-heavy bailout.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble cut off "amending." This is the draft that was leaked. But then Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis called Prime Minister Tsipras -- and the statement, still not signed, was rejected. So this was a top Tsipras decision.
Tsipras could not possibly balk -- not after previously raising the stakes -- as in promising to boost the Greek minimum wage and halt privatizations. He's still betting the house that the Troika won't allow a "Grexit." Yet he may be wrong; the possibility of "Grexit" is hovering around 35 percent to 40 percent, and it will be much higher if no deal is reached on the next crunch meeting, Monday.
Tsipras and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem at least agreed that Greek officials and the Troika (EC, ECB, IMF) should start talking "at a technical level." Translation: they will be comparing the current austerity nightmare with new Greek proposals.
Athens essentially has only two choices. Either the Troika accedes to some form of debt repudiation -- real or as a sleight of hand (that's Syriza's proposal -- an arrangement that fosters growth); or "Grexit" ensues, with Athens creating its own central bank and currency as an independent nation. There's no third choice; a debt of 175 percent of Greece's GDP is totally unpayable.
As much as the Troika and its institutional derivatives spin "Grexit" won't be a big deal, the fact is a Greek debt default could have a more devastating effect than the Lehman Brothers case. It was not the fundamentals at Lehman that caused widespread panic when it went down; but the fear that their derivative exposures would bring down the system.
And cutting through all the spin, what remains, essentially, is what European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told Le Figaro a few days ago; it's out of the question to suppress the Greek debt and, most of all, "there can be no democratic option against European treaties." There it is, crystal clear: EU institutions work against democracy.
Plan B remains a distinct possibility. Moscow has already invited Tsipras to meet with Putin. And Beijing has invited Tsipras to meet with Prime Minister Li Keqiang. These are the "R" and the "C" in BRICS in action.
It's worth remembering Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos when he articulated if not a majority view, at least a substantial perception among Greek public opinion; "We want a deal. But if there is no deal, and if we see that Germany remains rigid and wants to blow Europe apart, then we will have to go to Plan B... We have other ways of finding money. It could be the United States at best, it could be Russia, it could be China or other countries."
Alea jacta est. Troika or RC?
And it's all about NATO
Greek PM Alexis Tsipras
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Then there's Minsk. What was achieved after nearly 17 hours of a grueling marathon is not exactly, in French President Francois Hollande's words, a "global" agreement and a "global ceasefire" in Ukraine.