Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 24/12/15

Von: Udo von Massenbach [mailto:UdovonMassenbach@t-online.de]
Gesendet: Mittwoch, 23. Dezember 2015 14:31
An: Udo von Massenbach,Publizist-Massenbach-Letter.NEWS <udovonmassenbach@t-online.de>
Betreff: Massenbach-Letter: NEWS 24/12/15

Massenbach-Letter. News. Merry Christmas – Season’s Greetings – Happy New Year 2016

· RAND: A Peace Plan for Syria

· U.S. Army War College: The New Arab Regional Order: Opportunities and Challenges for U.S. Policy

· Wladimir Grinin: Russland: EU vor neuer Entwicklungsphase – «Либо – либо» или..?

· Brookings: The great game that never ends: China and Russia fight over Kazakhstan

· Kurd Press:Barzani will lead a new Sunni state in the region: media

· Cicero:Flüchtlingsgipfel in Brüssel- Die Seele an die Türkei verkauft * STRATFOR: Italy’s Shaky Financial Future * Financial Time: Interview with Matteo Renzi.

· Meditarrenian Sea: Gas Fields Israel – Turkey – Egypt

FAZ: Ukraine bedient russische Kredite nicht mehr* Die Ukraine steuert auf einen Zahlungsausfall zu. Kiew setzt Milliardenzahlungen an Moskau aus.

Massenbach* Russland: EU vor neuer Entwicklungsphase.

Gastbeitrag von Wladimir Grinin.

Russland sieht in der Europäischen Union weiterhin einen Partner, sagt Botschafter Wladimir Grinin. Doch die Form der Zusammenarbeit müsse sich ändern. In der Vergangenheit habe die EU zu oft führen wollen.

Die aktuelle Situation macht es für die EU unvermeidbar, der Wahrheit ins Auge zu schauen und jeweilige Konsequenzen zu ziehen. Sowohl die augenblickliche Entwicklung der Lage als auch Aussagen der EU-Führung legen das nahe. Hingewiesen wird vor allem auf ein präzedenzloses Ausmaß terroristischer Aktivitäten, die unmittelbar und schmerzhaft die Mitgliedstaaten treffen.

Situation innerhalb der EU ist Russland wichtig.

Es wird aber auch von innenpolitischen Problemen gesprochen, die mit der Position und dem Zustand einzelner Mitglieder der Europäischen Union verbunden sind, die dazu noch möglicherweise erweitert wird. In diesem Zusammenhang wird die Frage über die Erarbeitung einer neuen globalen Strategie der EU gestellt sowie über die Umwandlung des Euro-Projekts selbst in ein auf verschiedenen Geschwindigkeiten basiertes. Mit anderen Worten: die EU tritt in eine neue Entwicklungsphase.

Die Situation innerhalb der EU, ganz zu schweigen von deren Absichten und Handlungen nach außen, ließ uns, die Russen, nie gleichgültig. Anders konnte das auch nicht sein. Wir bleiben nach wie vor Mitbewohner in Europa, obwohl Europa häufig ausschließlich mit der EU identifiziert wird. Wir bekennen uns zu denselben europäischen Werten, obwohl für deren Träger wiederum ausschließlich die EU-Staaten erklärt werden. Wir nehmen diese Werte manchmal schlichtweg unterschiedlich wahr und interpretieren, beziehungsweise verstehen sie bis jetzt noch unterschiedlich. Wenn man sich das genauer anschaut, dann merkt man, dass auch die EU-Mitglieder Meinungsunterschiede in dieser Hinsicht haben. In der letzten Zeit braucht man dafür nicht einmal eine Lupe.

Russland und Europa als Partner

Ehrlich gesagt möchten wir gar nicht, dass die Aufrüttelung, der die EU nun von innen wie von außen ausgesetzt wird, sich auch weiterhin verstärkt. Was wir überhaupt nicht wollen, ist, dass es Risse, geschweige denn etwas Schlimmeres hervorruft. Russland ist nach wie vor daran interessiert, in der EU einen Partner für die Zusammenarbeit zu sehen und für die EU ein Partner zu sein.

Im Grunde genommen fand eine derartige Form der Zusammenarbeit einen verbalen Ausdruck in einer Reihe von Dokumenten, die zwischen der EU und Russland seit Mitte der 90er Jahre des vergangenen Jahrhunderts unterzeichnet wurden. Ich denke insbesondere an das Abkommen über Partnerschaft und Zusammenarbeit vom Jahr 1994, die nachfolgend unterzeichneten branchenspezifischen Abkommen sowie die auf dem Gipfel in Moskau im Jahr 2005 abgestimmten Roadmaps über die Errichtung vierer gemeinsamer Räume zwischen Russland und der EU.

Russische Interessen ignoriert

Mit der Zeit stellte es sich immerhin heraus, dass eine solche Partnerschaft in der EU keineswegs als gleichberechtigt betrachtet wurde. Uns wurde die Rolle des Geführten zugewiesen, der die Chance hatte (wenn die Lust vorhanden ist), Normen und Standards des Führenden zu erreichen. Zugleich wurden unsere Interessen nicht selten ignoriert, unter anderem im postsowjetischen Raum.

Im Kontext der Ukraine-Krise wurde es deutlich, dass man Russland überhaupt hinter einem Zaun sehen wollte. Anders lässt sich das Entweder-oder-Konzept ("entweder mit Brüssel oder Moskau") nicht interpretieren, das der Östlichen Partnerschaft zugrunde lag, die eigentlich diese Krise auslöste sowie Dominierungsansprüche und -pläne an den Tag brachte.

Diplomatische und wirtschaftliche Schäden

Infolge dessen wurden unsere Beziehungen ernsthaft beschädigt und gingen weit zurück. Auf Eis gelegt wurden politische Kontakte, verschiedenartige Gesprächskanäle, unter anderem die Verhandlungen über die Ausarbeitung eines neuen EU-Russland-Grundlagenvertrags, bei denen es allerdings auch davor kaum Bewegung gab. Einen immensen Schaden brachte der wirtschaftliche Druck mit sich, einschließlich der Sanktionen. Allein der Warenumsatz sank vom Rekordniveau von 338,5 Milliarden Euro im Jahr 2012 auf 285,5 Milliarden Euro im Jahr 2014. Zum Ende des Jahres 2015 wird er voraussichtlich um weitere 30 Prozent schrumpfen.

Ungeachtet der Hintergründe und der aktuellen Tonalität unserer Beziehungen, wollen wir nicht, dass es zu deren weiterem Abbau, geschweige denn Scheitern kommt. Wir wollen keine Gräben und Wände in Europa, im euroatlantischen Raum sehen. Wir wollen, dass unsere Beziehungen wiederhergestellt und fruchtbare Fortschritte auf dem Weg hin zur wahren gegenseitigen Partnerschaft gemacht werden. Die vorherige Praxis zeigte uns, dass es ohne entsprechende Korrekturen der Denkmuster in dieser Hinsicht nicht möglich ist. Sonst, falls nicht endlich ein gegenseitig respektvoller Dialog aufgenommen wird, ist ein erneuter Verfall der Beziehungen, selbst wenn sie reanimiert werden, nicht zu vermeiden.

Der Glaube an denselben Gott

In diesem Zusammenhang erwecken die jüngsten Aussagen des Präsidenten der Europäischen Kommission, Jean-Claude Juncker, Hoffnung, laut denen "die Sicherheitsarchitektur in Europa ohne aktive Beteiligung Russlands nicht lebensfähig ist". Oder die Überlegungen der Hohen Vertreterin der EU für Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik, Federica Mogherini, die, soweit man das verstehen kann, ein Umdenken der Rolle und Vorgehensweise der EU für notwendig hält, worauf eben die neue zukünftige globale Strategie der EU basieren muss. Nachhaltigkeit und verantwortungsbewusstes Engagement, Bescheidenheit und Stolz, partnerschaftliche Verbindungen und multilaterales Zusammenwirken sind es, was, nach ihrer Auffassung, dieser neuen Strategie zugrunde liegen soll.

Das entspricht in vielerlei Hinsicht unseren Vorstellungen über die Gestaltung unseres Zusammenlebens in Europa und auf der Welt, sowie den bekannten konkreten Vorschlägen dazu. Zum Beispiel über die Errichtung eines einheitlichen wirtschaftlichen und humanitären Raumes von Lissabon bis Wladiwostok oder des Systems der gleichen und unteilbaren Sicherheit im euroatlantischen Raum. Gott gebe es, dass alle diese Ideen in der EU Unterstützung finden. Übrigens glauben wir an denselben Gott.

Der Gastbeitrag wurde auf Russisch geschrieben und anschließend von der russischen Botschaft übersetzt. Hier können Sie den Text im russischen Original lesen.

http://www.heute.de/ZDF/zdfportal/blob/41502798/2/data.pdf

Wladimir M. Grinin ist …

… seit 2010 russischer Botschafter in Berlin. Er wurde 1947 in Moskau geboren und studierte an der Diplomatischen Akademie des Ministeriums für Auswärtige Angelegenheiten der UdSSR. Seit 1971 ist er im diplomatischen Dienst tätig. Vor seinem Dienstantritt in Berlin leitete er die russischen Botschaften in Österreich, Finnland und Polen.

http://www.heute.de/serie-zu-europas-zukunft-der-europaeische-krisenmodus-41355460.html

**********************************************************************************************************************

From our Russian news desk:

* Is the US afraid… * Russia and Turkey * Nobel as Barometer * International Law-Case of Turkey.

Ukraine bedient russische Kredite nicht mehr * Die Ukraine steuert auf einen Zahlungsausfall zu. Kiew setzt Milliardenzahlungen an Moskau aus. Der Konflikt könnte nun vor einem Gericht in Europa landen. 18.12.2015.

Die krisengeschüttelte Ukraine hat die Rückzahlung von Krediten an Russland gestoppt und damit faktisch ihren Staatsbankrott erklärt. „Vom heutigen Tage an werden die Rückzahlungen dieser Schulden in einer Gesamthöhe von 3,582 Milliarden Dollar (3,31 Milliarden Euro) eingestellt“, verkündete Regierungschef Arseni Jazenjuk am Freitag bei einer Parlamentssitzung in Kiew.

Der Großteil von 3,075 Milliarden Dollar bezieht sich auf Euro-Anleihen, die Moskau im Dezember 2013 erworben hatte. Die neue ukrainische Regierung erkennt diese Schulden nicht an. Sie deutet den Kredit als Gefälligkeit Russlands für den damaligen Präsidenten Viktor Janukowitsch. Der Rest sind Schulden des Raketenbauers Piwdenne und des staatlichen Straßenbauunternehmens Ukrawtodor in Höhe von 507 Millionen Dollar. Auch diese sollen nicht zurückgezahlt werden…..

Moskau hatte den Kredit vor zwei Jahren der damaligen Regierung des prorussischen Präsidenten Viktor Janukowitsch gewährt. Die derzeitige prowestliche Regierung in Kiew verlangt von Russland einen Abschlag von 20 Prozent, wie es auch andere private Gläubiger taten. Moskau besteht jedoch darauf, dass die Schulden in vollem Umfang und fristgerecht bis zum 20. Dezember getilgt werden. Sollte Kiew dem nicht nachkommen, werde Russland vor internationale Gerichte ziehen.

Wegen des Schuldenstreits mit Russland hatte der Internationale Währungsfonds (IWF) Anfang des Monats eine Änderung seiner Kreditregeln beschlossen, um Kiew weiter finanziell unterstützen zu können. Bislang durfte der Währungsfonds einem Land kein Geld leihen, das Kredite einer anderen Regierung nicht zurückzahlt. Wenn die Ukraine ihre russischen Schulden nicht fristgerecht begleicht, hätte der IWF also einen im März vereinbarten Kredit an Kiew im Umfang von 17,5 Milliarden Dollar aussetzen müssen. Dies ist nun nicht nötig.

http://www.faz.net/aktuell/wirtschaft/wirtschaftspolitik/ukraine-bedient-russische-kredite-nicht-mehr-13973325.html?GETS=pt;7;pcp;newsletter;pcc;newsletter.redaktionell.Wirtschaft&utm_source=FAZnewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Newsletter_FAZ_Wirtschaft

************************************************************************************************************************

Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Cicero:Flüchtlingsgipfel in Brüssel- Die Seele an die Türkei verkauft

18. Dezember 2015. Auch das letzte Gipfeltreffen des Jahres hat in der Europäischen Union keine gemeinsame Antwort auf die Flüchtlingskrise ergeben. Statt einen Fortschritt bei den Kontingenten zu erzielen, macht sich die EU immer mehr abhängig von der Türkei. Dabei können die Europäer selbst nicht liefern – Merkels Strategie wirft immer neue Fragen auf.

Für die Europäische Union wird 2015 als rabenschwarzes Jahr in die Geschichte eingehen. In der Schuldenkrise um Griechenland ist die EU haarscharf am Abgrund vorbeigeschrammt. In letzter Sekunde wurde im Juli das Auseinanderbrechen der Eurozone verhindert. Doch in der Flüchtlingskrise ist Europa krachend gescheitert.

Die Europäer haben die größte humanitäre Krise seit dem Zweiten Weltkrieg nicht kommen sehen, sie haben viel zu spät darauf reagiert, und sie haben keine gemeinsame Antwort gefunden. Der deutsche Alleingang bei den syrischen Flüchtlingen hat die Dinge nicht besser, sondern wesentlich schwieriger gemacht – auch wenn Kanzlerin Angela Merkel wohl die besten Motive hatte.

Beim letzten EU-Gipfel dieses Jahres in Brüssel sollte es darum gehen, die Scherben zusammenzukehren und das Scheitern produktiv zu verarbeiten. Kanzlerin Angela Merkel gab sich wie gewohnt optimistisch: Sie setze auf die Lernfähigkeit aller 28 EU-Länder und hoffe, dass die Lernkurve im neuen Jahr „exponentiell“ nach oben gehe.

Gespalten und erpressbar

Das Problem ist, dass Merkel selbst eine Getriebene ist. Im Streit um Griechenland konnte sie sich noch ruhig zurücklehnen und die Bedingungen diktieren. Nun muss sie um Hilfe der anderen EU-Mitglieder betteln, um die vielen Flüchtlinge in Europa zu verteilen. Die Lage ist so ernst, dass Merkel sogar einen bisher verfemten Drittstaat – die Türkei – ins Boot holen musste. Ihr Wunsch: Die Türkei soll die Grenzen sichern, die Bedingungen in den Lagern verbessern und so Flüchtlinge von Europa abhalten. Damit hat sie sich erpressbar gemacht und die EU gespalten.

Plötzlich gibt es nicht mehr einen, sondern gleich zwei EU-Gipfel: Auf Drängen Merkels versammelte sich eine „Koalition der Willigen“ in der österreichischen EU-Vertretung, die Kanzler Werner Faymann in aller Freundschaft zur Verfügung gestellt hatte. Stargast des Minigipfels war der türkische Ministerpräsident Ahmet Davutoglu, von dem Merkel eine Lösung erhofft.

Doch die lässt auf sich warten. Zwar sicherte Davutoglu zu, die „illegale“ Zuwanderung aus Syrien zu stoppen; für Syrer aus Jordanien oder Ägypten soll ab Januar eine Visumpflicht gelten. Doch der Andrang von Bootsflüchtlingen aus der Türkei in der Ägäis hat bisher kaum nachgelassen; der leichte Rückgang ist wohl vor allem auf das schlechte Wetter zurückzuführen.

Immer weniger Verbündete

Zudem besteht Davutoglu darauf, dass die „Willigen“ nun auch die Zusagen umsetzen, die die EU Ende November and die Türkei gegeben hatte: Mindestens drei Milliarden Euro Finanzhilfen sowie die Umsiedlung einiger Hunderttausender Kontingent-Flüchtlinge aus der Türkei nach Europa. In beiden Fragen kommen Merkel und ihre Freunde nicht voran. Es fehlen immer noch zwei Milliarden, und bei den EU-Kontingenten zeichnet sich keinerlei Fortschritt ab.

Im Gegenteil: Der bisher wichtigste Verbündete Deutschlands in der Flüchtlingskrise, Schweden, hat kapituliert; das Land möchte nun selbst Asylbewerber an andere EU-Staaten abgeben. Auch Belgien und die Niederlande wollen keine weiteren Flüchtlinge aufnehmen. Frankreich dürfte nach den Terroranschlägen von Paris höchstens zu symbolischen Gesten bereit sein.

Merkel hat sich und ganz Europa von der Türkei abhängig gemacht, kann bisher aber nicht liefern. Es wird daher zu einer weiteren, dritten Runde der „Willigen“ kommen – im Februar dürfte sich zeigen, ob die deutsche Strategie doch noch verfängt. Weitere vier Monate später – im Juni – sollen dann auch die EU-Beschlüsse umgesetzt sein, die der Gipfel in Brüssel lustlos bekräftigt hat.

Vorbereitung für den Ernstfall

Europa hat wieder einmal Zeit gekauft – und seine Seele an die Türkei verkauft. Also an ein Land, das selbst in den Krieg in Syrien verwickelt ist, das Pressefreiheit und Menschenrecht mit Füßen tritt, und das den gesamten Westen in einen Krieg mit Russland ziehen könnte. Die EU dürfe die Lösung der Flüchtlingskrise nicht „outsourcen“, warnt der Chef der Liberalen im Europaparlament, Guy Verhofstadt. Doch genau das geschieht gerade.

Und was passiert, wenn der Merkel-Plan nicht aufgeht? Dann dürfte sich die Spaltung der EU weiter vertiefen. Faymann drohte nach seinem Treffen mit Merkel schon, dass nun auch die „Unwilligen“ aus Osteuropa mitziehen müssten, sonst könnte Österreich seinen EU-Beitrag senken. Im nächsten Jahr wird das EU-Budget überarbeitet, die Drohung mit Geldentzug ist also durchaus real.

Merkel und ihre Freunde haben noch einen zweiten Knüppel in der Hinterhand: Sie spielen mit dem Gedanken, unkooperative Länder aus dem Schengen-System der Reisefreiheit auszuschließen und ein „Mini-Schengen“ zu gründen. Es könnte ungefähr die Konturen haben, die die „Koalition der Willigen“ angenommen hat, also im Wesentlichen das alte, westeuropäische Europa der Zwölf.

Die Kanzlerin vermeidet es zwar noch, diese Drohkulisse auszumalen. Man spreche lieber über Anreize als über Sanktionen, heißt es in Berlin. Doch am Ende dieses Jahres bereitet sich Brüssel gedanklich bereits auf den Ernstfall vor – schon wieder.

http://www.cicero.de/weltbuehne/eu-gipfel-bruessel-wieder-nur-zeit-gekauft/60268

****************************************************************************************************************** Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* Netanyahu signs agreement for developing Israel’s offshore gas.

December 17, 2015, 2:50 PM (IDT)

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Thursday signed a landmark agreement opening the way for the development of Israeli’s offshore gas fields by a consortium led by Noble Energy and the Delek Group. As minister of the economy, the prime minister officially invoked Antitrust law’s Clause 52 which allows him to approve a monopoly if it serves a national foreign or security interest. The consortium is already developing the Tamar offshore reserve, which is in production, but has held off proceeding with the much larger Leviathan site in the eastern Mediterranean Sea until the regulatory uncertainty regarding the project was clarified. Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said Israel will receive 60-70 percent of the gas produced by its offshore gas fields

Opponents of the deal say they will challenge the move before Israel’s Supreme Court.

http://www.debka.com/newsupdate/14171/Netanyahu-signs-agreement-for-developing-Israel%E2%80%99s-offshore-gas .

Breakthrough to normal Turkish-Israeli relations

December 17, 2015, 11:38 PM (IDT)

Landmark understandings reached in meetings in Switzerland Wednesday between designated Israeli Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen and Turkey’s Deputy Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglui have resulted in Israel’s consent to set up a $20m fund for the victims of the Turkish ship boarded by Israeli soldiers three years ago. No more claims against Israel over the episode will be outstanding and the two ambassadors will return to their posts in Tel Aviv and Ankara. This package is subject to signing by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and president Tayyip Erdogan.
Ankara agreed to ban Palestinian Hamas terror master Salah Arouri’s reentry to his base in Istanbul when he tries to return from a visit to Qatar – a goodwill gesture to Israel. The two parties agreed to launch negotiations without delay on the sale of Israeli offshore gas to Turkey. Ankara also offered to start talking about a pipeline to Europe via Turkey from the largest Israeli gas well, Leviathan, when it goes into production.

On Dec. 14, DEBKAfile reported that this breakthrough was in the works, propelled by Turkey’s pressing bid for Israeli gas.

http://www.debka.com/newsupdate/14179/Breakthrough-to-normal-Turkish-Israeli-relations

—-à ‘Supergiant‘ gas field discovered off coast of Egypt –

"Largest ever" offshore natural gas field in Mediterranean discovered in Egypt’s territorial waters, Italy’s Eni says.

30 Aug 2015 20:31 GMT

The "largest ever" offshore natural gas field in the Mediterranean has been discovered inside Egypt’s territorial waters, according to the Italian energy giant Eni.

The discovery, announced by the company on Sunday and confirmed by Egypt’s oil ministry, could hold a potential 850 billion cubic metres of lean gas in an area of about 100 square kilometres.

The so-called Zohr project is "the largest gas discovery ever made in Egypt and in the Mediterranean Sea," Eni said, adding the find would meet Egypt’s own natural gas demands for decades.

The "supergiant" field – potentially one of the world’s largest natural gas finds – is located at a depth of 1,450 metres in the Shorouk Block, the company said.

Eni said Claudio Descalzi, the company’s chief executive, had visited Cairo to discuss the discovery with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab.

"This historic discovery will be able to transform the energy scenario of Egypt," Descalzi said in the statement.

Eni said it will "immediately appraise the field with the aim of accelerating a fast-track development of the discovery," giving a timeframe of four years.

Israel ’sleep walking‘

Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Sunday that the discovery could have implications for Israel, which has been looking to export its own deposits.

Partners Noble Energy and Delek Group, who in recent years discovered two sizeable fields in Israeli waters, have been negotiating long-term contracts to sell gas to customers in Egypt, but the deals have been held up by regulatory uncertainty in Israel.

Steinitz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been struggling to get approval of an agreement they reached with Noble and Delek that would help speed up development of most of the country’s offshore reserves.

"The giant gas field discovery in Egypt is a painful reminder that while Israel has been ’sleep walking‘ and delaying the final approval of the gas outline and holding up further exploration, the world is changing in front of our eyes, including the implications on export possibilities," Steinitz said in a statement.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/08/gas-field-discovered-coast-egypt-150830172919161.html

******************************************************************************************************************

DEBKA News, December 18, 2015

Putin hails importance of cooperation with Israeli air force HQ

Russian President underscored the importance of the cooperation developed “with all states who have a real interest in destroying the terrorists” in a Russian television broadcast Friday. He cited in particular the “contacts to ensure flight safety with the Israeli air force HQ and the US-led coalition forces.” DEBKAfile: Tuesday, Russian forces gave Israel and the US advance warning before shooting cruise missiles from a submarine in the eastern Mediterranean against the Islamic State’s main Syrian center at Raqqa.

Germany refuses US request for more military aid against ISIS

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday brushed off a US request for a bigger German military contribution to the war on the Islamic State. "I believe Germany is fulfilling its part and we don’t need to talk about new issues related to this question at the moment," she said. DEBKAfile: A substantial German team is in the Iraqi Kurdish regional capital of Irbil training Kurdish peshmerga battling the Islamic State.

Syrian war as testing ground for Russia’s latest sea and air weapons

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
Russia is testing its latest advanced weapons systems in the Syrian conflict, also demonstrating for NATO its ability to target Europe with highly advanced nuclear-capable Kalibr NK cruise missiles. This is one of the weapons which has displayed its formidable paces in the conflict after being fired from a warship in the Caspian Sea and a submarine in the eastern Mediterranean. A 2,500km long chain of Russian warships and cruise missiles now runs from Kaliningrad to the eastern Mediterranean.

*******************************************************************************************************************

Middle East

Brookings: The great game that never ends: China and Russia fight over Kazakhstan.

By Kemal Kirişci and Philippe Le Corre | December 18, 2015 1:29pm

When Chinese President Xi Jinping first proposed that China and Central Asia build a New Silk Road to boost economic cooperation—in a speech in Astana, Kazakhstan in 2013—analysts said:

China is making a pretty bold move.” Bold indeed. The project, now called the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, has gained considerable steam. Last month, Astana was host to the inaugural meeting of the Astana Club—a platform for private dialogue among policy analysts, business figures, and political leaders about issues in Central Asia. Not surprisingly, the Chinese initiative topped the agenda.

The meeting, which we attended, revealed new dynamics of great-power politics in Central Asia. On one side is a self-confident and calm China; on the other, an aggressive but weary Russia. While China is seeking to play a new role in the international order (and is marshaling extensive resources to do so), Russia appears to be at somewhat of a loss. Both countries are part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a platform for Central Asian countries, China and Russia to discuss common interests. It is also a place where Russia can enjoy Chinese company in challenging the West over constructing a new international order.

Yet Chinese overtures to thinly populated but vast Central Asian countries raise deep Russian insecurities over its traditional grip on the region. Kazakhstan, as the largest and wealthiest in per capita terms of these countries, is especially keen to benefit from the Chinese initiative. Its leaders recognize that the outcome of this new great power game is not obvious—rather, it’s fraught with geopolitical challenges.

Astana, Kazakhstan, to become a hub on its New Silk Road.

The courting phase

China is clearly on a charm offensive, insisting that the “One Belt, One Road” initiative is a benign effort to bring economic development and prosperity to Central Asia. Having signed dozens of Memoranda of Understanding with various countries along this so-called New Silk Road, the Chinese plan to use the $40-billion Silk Road Fund and the $100-billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to provide at least partial funding for building connectivity infrastructure between China and Europe. They’re hoping that cooperation with the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development can help mobilize additional funding. China, therefore, is brandishing its economic prowess.

It’s not surprising that the Kazakh government is keen to become a hub for the initiative—after all, it will come (so it hopes) with a wave of Chinese investments. The economy has suffered from a fall in oil prices and spillover damage from Western sanctions against Russia.

At the Astana Club meeting in November, Prime Minister Karim Massimov and other Kazakh speakers emphasized that their country’s location is ideal for the “connectivity” the Chinese are seeking. Despite obvious differences (including size, lack of sea access, no major harbor, and economically struggling neighbors), Kazakhstan would like to see itself as the “Singapore of Central Asia.” It aspires to become more than just a major corridor for Chinese goods to travel to Europe—rather, Kazakh leaders want Astana to become a regional financial center, based on English law, and to form new free trade zones in the region.

Not everything nice?

But the geopolitics of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative might pose challenges. Chinese participants at last month’s meeting pitched the initiative as a total win-win, and depicted their country as a well-meaning “soft giant” with no hard power agenda. But there are tougher and possibly less benign political aspects of the project related to the struggle for influence in the region.

Russian participants only thinly disguised their concerns about the project, recognizing the potential damage to Russian geopolitical and economic interests if current routes transiting Russia were replaced. They couched their concerns within the context of regional security challenges, including possible connections between Russian and Central Asian jihadists and other extremists in the Middle East. They seemed to be saying: “wait, this is our backyard and nothing happens here without our consent.”

Alongside their overall enthusiasm for the project, Kazakh leaders are a bit wary, too. It could, in the end, help extricate Kazakhstan from Russia’s grip over its economy and—in particular—politics. Yet they also seem to quietly recognize that the “One Belt, One Road” initiative could mean that one big brother replaces another. Kazakh elites are certainly debating on that.

Widening the circle

Where do the United States and European Union fit into these tricky geopolitics? Although John Kerry visited the region in November (the first trip by a U.S. secretary of state in five years), Washington has been pretty disengaged from Central Asia. The EU, meanwhile, has other priorities—namely dealing with the refugee crisis and terrorism. But there is a real question of whether Europe has an interest in supporting “One Belt, One Road” or even greater connectivity between the China and Central Asia in general. So far, only a handful of individual countries—such as the U.K, Hungary, and Polandhave been vocal on the topic, but not the European Union as a whole.

Kazakhstan is on the front lines of the ongoing struggle for a new international order. Stuck, for the moment, between Chinese and Russian jostling, it’s not clear how much political and economic maneuvering room Kazakhstan and its Central Asian neighbors will enjoy. Nor is it clear how—or whether—the United States and the EU will enter the fray. The new “great game,” unlike its 19th century predecessor, may well remain one just between China and Russia, at least for the foreseeable future. Would that serve Western and Kazakh interests?

Kemal Kirişci – Kemal Kirişci is the TÜSİAD senior fellow and director of the Center on the United States and Europe’s Turkey Project at Brookings, with an expertise in Turkish foreign policy and migration studies. Within the project, Kirişci runs the Turkey Project Policy Paper series and frequently writes on the latest developments out of Turkey.

Philippe Le Corre – Philippe Le Corre is a visiting fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings. His research focuses on Asia-Europe political and economic relations, China’s foreign policy, and France. He is also a lecturer at Johns Hopkins University’s Krieger School of Arts and Science in Washington, D.C

http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/order-from-chaos/posts/2015/12/18-china-russia-kazakhstan-fight-kirisci-lecorre?rssid=russia&utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=FeedBlitzRss&utm_content=The+great+game+that+never+ends%3a+China+and+Russia+fight+over+Kazakhstan

*********************************************************************************************************************

*Massenbach’s

Recommendation*

STRATFOR: Italy’s Shaky Financial Future

December 18, 2015 | 09:58 GMT

The headquarters of the Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena banking company in Siena, Italy.

Summary

As with many aspects of modern banking, the word "bankrupt" has its roots in Renaissance Italy. The original banks were Florentine merchants who would sit in the open street behind benches (bancas in Italian) upon which their money would be stacked. If trading went against them and their capital was reduced to nothing, their bench would be said to be broken, or banca rotta. It is fitting then that, 500 years later, the European country with the most worrying debt problem is Italy.

Analysis

This may be surprising to some, since Italy does not top the tables as worst offender by any of the usual metrics. It does not have the highest levels of debt to gross domestic product in Europe: That dubious honor belongs to Greece, whose debt to GDP ratio rests more than 40 points higher than Italy’s 132 percent. Nor are Italian banks afflicted with the highest quantities of nonperforming loans as a percentage of GDP. Cyprus wins that contest easily; at a staggering 137 percent, it relegates Ireland (23 percent) to a distant second place and far exceeds Italy at 17 percent.

But though Italy is not the worst offender, its size still makes it the most potentially problematic. Italy has the third largest economy in the eurozone after Germany and France, and it is 1.5 times bigger than fourth-ranked Spain. So even without having the highest ratios, in actual numbers Italy has the biggest debt mountain: 2.3 trillion euros (roughly $2.4 trillion) of government debt compared with Greece’s 392 billion euros. Thus the three recent Greek bailouts, though giant in relation to the Greek economy, were just a sliver of the European economy as a whole, and in their wake the eurozone carried on more or less unaffected. The same would not be true of Italy. A bailout would be a massive undertaking that would greatly stretch the union’s finances.

Of course, this is not an altogether new phenomenon. Italy’s debt to GDP ratio has been over 100 percent since the early 1990s, and GDP growth since then has been fairly stagnant. But the fact that Italy’s debt has been large for a long time does not mean it is not dangerous. It was the threat of Italy defaulting that drove much of the market panic during the sovereign debt crisis in 2011 and 2012, when weakness in Europe’s banks had prompted bailouts from their national governments, calling into question the solvency of the governments themselves.

Relief Amid Global Crisis

Europe’s governments did not resolve the debt crisis by directly dealing with Italy’s debt problem. (In 2012, Italy’s debt was still only 123 percent of GDP, 9 points lower than now.) Nonetheless, the policies they put in place helped Italy stabilize its finances. Panicking markets were quieted by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s promise to do "whatever it takes" to save the euro — a promise that ultimately led to an ECB bond-buying program that drastically reduces Italy’s debt-servicing costs.

Quantitative easing, then, has temporarily put off one of Italy’s problems: growing government debt. With the ECB buying Italian bonds, interest rates on the government’s debt have fallen from 6 percent in 2012, to 4 percent in 2014 and now down to 1.5 percent as we enter 2016. It has cushioned Italy from market panics, because it now has one large guaranteed buyer of its bonds in any crisis. That, along with the low oil prices that have been largely responsible for an uptick in growth across the Continent, has allowed Italy’s government to spend more freely this year — a welcome state of affairs for Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Renzi, who originally came to power not by election but through an intra-party confrontation, has spent much of the last two years attempting to reshape the Italian electoral and governing apparatus so that he first can call an election (by May 2018, but possibly before) that will give him the legitimacy of a popular vote. He can then govern Italy without many of the obstacles and hazards that have hindered his post-war predecessors.

Having undertaken these reforms, Renzi now appears to be intent on winning votes at home. Against the European Commission’s wishes he has pushed through measures popular with middle-class voters such as property tax cuts, and used the migrant crises and Paris attacks to justify even more spending on areas such as security and culture. These policies undermine Italy’s overall fiscal position of course, but quantitative easing hides the effects, while Italy enters 2016 projecting GDP growth of 1.6 percent, which would be its highest rate since 2010.

A Teetering Financial Sector

The more acute danger, then, is to be found not in Italy’s government debt levels but in its banking system. The country’s banking sector has long been weak and, unlike its Irish and Spanish counterparts, it has never experienced the restructuring and recapitalization that would have come with an EU bailout. Thus the underlying issues have been allowed to fester, with nonperforming loans continuing to grow as Italy’s unemployment levels have remained stubbornly high.

Again unlike Spain and Ireland, Italy has not been able to create a government-backed national "bad bank" where it can funnel these bad loans (in Spain and Ireland this happened as part of an EU bailout), which would free Italian banks of their burden. The European Union resisted attempts to create one even in November because of its reluctance to countenance any kind of state financing. Italian banks instead have to try and sell the bad loans on the open market to investors in distressed debt, who buy them at a discount from their original value because of their higher likelihood for default. The problem Italian banks face is that the less healthy the loans, the bigger the discount, and the higher the loss on the banks‘ balance sheets from writing down the difference.

There is evidence that the market is interested in buying this Italian debt, but the prices offered are far below those sought by Italian sellers. Thus the process of selling off nonperforming loans has begun, but desperately slowly, with the total amount of impaired loans in the last month only dropping from 200 billion euros to 199 billion euros, having been climbing up until this year. The best hope for speeding up the process is for improving market conditions to make the loans a little safer, and thus worth more to investors. The government can help in this effort as well, since investors are partly reluctant to buy because of Italy’s convoluted insolvency legislation.

But new dangers are also arising, partly as a result of post-2012 measures enacted to break the so-called doom-loop between banks and governments. Along with quantitative easing policies, European policymakers also introduced a change to how EU members will aid their struggling banks, first seen in the restructuring of Cyprus‘ financial sector in 2013. When a bank goes bust, the initial relief capital will no longer be put up by governments (and by extension, taxpayers) but first by the banks‘ investors and depositors. The Italian parliament voted the measures through in July 2015, and as of January 2016 the first pain of a bailout will be felt by Italian banks‘ shareholders, then by holders of their junior or unprotected bonds, then by those with more than 100,000 euros in their deposit accounts and finally by senior or protected bondholders. A special bailout fund raised with contributions from other Italian banks was also created.

The new rules may ease the burden on national governments, but they also mean there is a greater risk of bank runs. Depositors with more than 100,000 euros in their accounts now have good reason to withdraw their money from weaker banks at the first sign of trouble, transferring it either to stronger Italian banks or possibly even German ones. There was similar capital flow out of Greece in the midst of the crisis this year. Under the new regulations, a faltering Italian bank may ultimately require a bigger bailout than its shareholders, bondholders and the resolution fund are equipped to provide. And if depositors do see their funds claimed — and if fears of a bank run become real — Italy would have a banking crisis on its hands.

Even if Italy avoids this doomsday scenario, the new bail-in system — the term used to describe when stakeholders‘ assets are used to shore up the banks — is already causing headaches. In November the government bailed in the shareholders and junior debt-holders in the resolution of four small banks that had been under the special administration of the Bank of Italy. It exposed another issue: Italian banks have spent much of the last five years selling their own junior bonds to their retail investors as safe products, meaning that the general Italian public is unusually over-exposed to the banks through this channel. Unsurprisingly there has been a stampede by the public to try and sell these bonds, especially following the suicide of a pensioner who had been stung by the bail-in of one of the four banks, and the lack of willing buyers has driven down the bonds‘ value.

Consequently, there will now be less appetite for their junior debt, shutting down a useful funding mechanism. For now though, the biggest losers from this situation look to be the retail investors who were persuaded to buy these products. And there will be political repercussions. Renzi has been swift to try and compensate these losers with government money. However, such support will be hard to maintain from January onward, as the new regime includes restrictions against state aid.

Underlying Problems Persist

As of Jan. 1, Italy’s banking sector will be walking a tightrope. Under the new system, the shareholders, the resolution fund and the estimated 71 billion euros in outstanding subordinated debt should be enough to absorb the fallout of a smaller bank running into trouble. But if one of its larger banks, or several of its smaller banks go under, the country may run into severe difficulty. Italian regulators, and Renzi himself, will be hoping for a year with no major scandals like the one that afflicted Italy’s third largest bank, the Banca Monte de Paschi di Siena, in 2013, nor will they want a broader economic shock.

The good news for the Italian government is that, thanks to its free spending and favorable conditions, Italy is on course for timid growth in 2016, helping its businesses, in turn helping its banks reduce their nonperforming loans. In November, Fitch Ratings raised its outlook rating for Italian banks from negative to stable, reflecting this positivity. The next positive step might be consolidation in the Italian banking sector, which has been in store since the parliament passed a new liberalizing law at the start of 2015. Once Italy’s weaker small banks are attached to safer counterparts, there may be less risk of them running into trouble.

Still, even if Italy does get through 2016 without suffering a severe banking crisis, the future is not bright. The short-term factors keeping its spiraling government debt from becoming a major issue — quantitative easing, low oil prices —must come to an end at some point, re-exposing all of these problems. And while the banking sector’s situation may improve if banks can sell off nonperforming loans, these processes are all slow and unwieldy, and it would take an extended period of favorable conditions for the sector to return to anything like good health. Thus Italy’s debt is one of the largest threats facing the eurozone in the coming years, just as it has been since the 2011-2012 crisis first brought it into focus

https://www.stratfor.com/analysis/italys-shaky-financial-future

Financial Time: Interview with Matteo Renzi.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c6ab59e2-a8c1-11e5-955c-1e1d6de94879.html#axzz3v9J0dz2O

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

RAND: A Peace Plan for Syria

The conflict in Syria is radicalizing an entire generation of young Muslims, killing or maiming hundreds of thousands of innocents, forcing millions of Syrians to flee their homes, destabilizing neighboring states, straining the bonds of European solidarity, and fostering religious intolerance in the United States and elsewhere. Almost any peace would be better than this war.

This essay presents a peace plan for Syria that is focused less on defining the nature of the Syrian state that might emerge from the conflict and more on the steps necessary to secure and sustain a ceasefire for the extended period that is likely to be needed for the Syrian parties to actually agree on new governing arrangements. The proposal calls for deferring a comprehensive political solution and resolution of the Assad question and focusing instead on a ceasefire backed by international enforcement, regional devolution of power, humanitarian assistance, and a longer-term political process.

The essay concludes that the external parties that have supported one side or another in the current conflict will need to come together to guarantee and enforce any such ceasefire, if it is to hold. The parties will need to serve as external guarantors for three safe zones that reflect both Syria’s battle lines and ethno-sectarian divisions.

http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/perspectives/PE100/PE182/RAND_PE182.pdf

**********************************************************************************************************************

Kurdistan

Barzani will lead a new Sunni state in the region: media

A news base in the Iraqi northern region of Kurdistan has reported that Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the U.S. are to establish a Sunni state in the north of Iraq and Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani is due to lead the state.

Shar Press has stated that a meeting is to be held in the next week in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region, where Barzani, Barzani-led KDP officials and representatives from Suadi Arabia, Turkey and the U.S. are to take part in the gathering.

The report added that the gathering is to discuss and prepare grounds for establishing the state.

The new Sunni state would include the provinces of Erbil, Dohuk, Mosul and al-Anbar and Barzani would lead the state.

The report comes weeks after paid two separate visits to Turkey and Saudi Arabia and met his counterparts as well as other officials in the two states and as Shar Press has stated Barzani has discussed the creation of the Sunni state in the two countries. According to the report only the KDP will take part in the meeting.

Date: 2015/12/19 | Time: 13 : 38

http://www.kurdpress.com/En/NSite/FullStory/News/?Id=12122#Title=%0A%09%09%09%09%09%09%09%09Barzani%20will%20lead%20a%20new%20Sunni%20state%20in%20the%20region:%20media%0A%09%09%09%09%09%09%09

***********************************************************************************************************************

U.S. Army War College: The New Arab Regional Order: Opportunities and Challenges for U.S. Policy.

Added November 30, 2015

Although the Arab world is in a state of great instability and flux, this monograph argues that a new Arab regional order can be discerned. It is actually

made up of two main alliances. One is an anti-Islamist grouping, which came together in the wake of the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt in

2013. The other is an anti-Shia grouping, which solidified in the wake of the Houthi takeover of much of Yemen in early-2015, but whose interests go beyond

Yemen to other Sunni-Shia conflict areas.

Saudi Arabia is a leader in both these alliances. It supported the Egyptian military’s ouster of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi because it

saw the Brotherhood as a threat not only to Egypt, but also to the stability of the Saudi kingdom. The anti-Islamist alliance includes other Gulf Arab states except

Qatar, as well as Jordan, plus many secularists in Tunisia and Libya. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Kuwait have given Egypt billions of

dollars of aid since 2013, and Egypt and the UAE have even undertaken air strikes against Islamist targets in Libya. What these countries and elements share in

common is their antipathy to the Muslim Brotherhood and like-minded Islamist groups.

The anti-Shia alliance was formed in March 2015 in the wake of the Houthi takeover of Yemen’s capital city of Sana and their move south toward the important port

city of Aden. Because the Houthis are members of the Zaidi branch of Shia Islam and because they have received military and economic assistance

from Iran, the Saudis were particularly alarmed by their advances and their ouster of the Yemeni government, whose leaders fled to Saudi Arabia. In Saudi

eyes, the Yemeni conflict was the latest in a series of proxy wars that Iran has been supporting in the region to bolster the Shias against the Sunnis and extend

Iranian influence in the Arab world. Saudi Arabia assembled a broad alliance of Arab countries, such as all of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries—

except Oman, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, and Sudan—and others to support a military campaign against the Houthis.

Countries within these alliances do not always see eye-to-eye on all regional issues, however.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia have different views on the Syrian conflict, for example.

The Egyptians believe that Islamist factions in Syria are dangerous and that the Assad government should be part of a process that leads to

a diplomatic solution to the crisis, whereas the Saudis believe that the main problem is the Assad government itself, which needs to go.

Further, the Saudis believe they can manage the Islamist rebels. As for the Yemeni conflict, while many Arab states share the Saudi view that Shia militancy

is on the rise, they are not as “paranoid” about Iran as are the Saudis. Furthermore, it appears that many of these states support the Saudi effort for hoped-for

economic rewards.

This new Arab regional order has presented the United States with opportunities as well as challenges.

On one level, a Saudi-led regional order has the benefit for the United States of working with a country with which it has had close relations since the 1940s.

On another level, being so closely associated with Saudi Arabia can be a liability, given some divergence of views on several issues. In Yemen, the Saudis seem

to want to defeat the Houthis at all costs, whereas the United States believes the greater threat in Yemen lies with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which has

taken advantage of the chaos in Yemen to make gains on the ground. Moreover, Saudi air strikes have led to many civilian casualties in Yemen; this has angered

large segments of the Yemeni population. Although the United States has supported the Saudi campaign in Yemen with intelligence and logistical support, it

has also supported mediation efforts–with the support of the Omanis and the United Nations (UN)—to bring about a solution to the crisis.

In addition, there are liabilities for the United States in being perceived as “anti-Shia.” The United States has established close ties to the Shia-dominated government

in Iraq, which is fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and, in the wake of the Iran Nuclear Deal, may want to seek a new relationship with Tehran

if the Iranian government moderates.

Moreover, there are many Shia communities in the Gulf region who suffer from discrimination by ruling Sunni elites, and to neglect their situation

simply because they are Shia would make a mockery of the U.S. human rights policy. Hence, for strategic, political, and moral reasons, the United States should

avoid becoming embroiled in Sunni-Shia disputes as much as possible, and instead use its influence to dampen such sectarian conflicts.

Similarly, there are pitfalls for the United States in siding with secularists against Islamists. Since 1992, U.S. policy has been in favor of the inclusion of

all nonviolent groups within societies, regardless of whether they are secular or religious. Despite close strategic ties with Cairo, the United States has not accepted

the Egyptian government’s designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, and does not accept lumping all Islamist groups together.

For example, the United States has supported successive coalition governments in Tunisia (which have included Islamists and secularists) and is currently

supporting UN efforts to broker a peace in Libya that would include both secularists and Islamists.

The monograph argues that the United States is on much safer ground politically in supporting the anti-Islamist alliance when the effort is directed against

extremist groups such as ISIL and al-Qaeda affiliates. All of the countries and factions in the anti-Islamist alliance are also opposed to these

extremist groups, and U.S. policymakers should continue to cooperate with the alliance countries on the extremist threat and not take sides in their

internal political conflicts.

The monograph also argues that senior U.S. Army officials and U.S. Defense Department officials should provide advice, where warranted, to the national

security leadership of these regional countries to build more effective counterterrorism strategies against extremists. It also argues that these officials offer

counterterrorism courses to their military officers at U.S. professional military educational institutions, while at the same time continuing to reassure Gulf

Arab allies, who are nervous about a resurgent Iran, that the U.S. security umbrella will remain and even be enhanced.

http://strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/files/1298-summary.pdf

http://strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/display.cfm?pubID=1298

****************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

*****************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

see our letter on:

*Herausgegeben von Udo von Massenbach, Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster, Joerg Barandat*

*****************************************************************************************************************************************

UdovonMassenbachMailJoergBarandat

12-17-15 U.S. Army War College – The New Arab Regional Order_ Opportunities and Challenges for U.S. Policy.pdf

12-17-15 RAND_PE182 A Peace Plan for syria.pdf

12-22-15 Financial Times interview_ Matteo Renzi – FT.pdf

12-1-15 Is the US Afraid of Russia.docx

12-21-15 Russia and Turkey_ a long history of turbulent relations.docx

12-21-15 Nobel as a Barometer.docx

12-21-15 International Law_ The Case of Turkey.docx

Advertisements