CYPRUS: Shock for Brussels & Troika as Putin bids to create another Cuba

Cypriots close to sealing €5bn loan from Moscow

One of the problems of having your head up your backside, examining the  internal view of your navel, is that the field of vision is extremely restricted. Frau Merkel having done it again yesterday afternoon (“I never agreed to that, it’s just a theory”), things go from bad to worse as ClubMed picks up the tab for multivariate greed, and the blindness of the eurozone’s founders.

In Greece now, you could grownold waiting for an ambulance, while the nation’s pharmacies have recieved zero government income for three months, and stand close to collapse. The Medical Association of Athens has appealed to the UN, emphasizing – and I quote directly – ‘thousand of Greek patients are in a dramatic situation, and hospitals are unable to meet pharamaceutical care needs because of a default by one of the biggest insurers”. Each morning, an ever-growing crowd of people stand around at Pedion Areos Park, where a makeshift free distribution of agricultural products has taken off. Afterwards they beg for the smallest change from passers-by. This is a society being brought it its knees, and it simply is untrue to suggest that anything like this amount of blame should be attached to the ordinary citizen.

The idea that the new Coalition will start work immediately to rectify this situation is laughable to the point of obscenity. What they’ll do is rob any fund (the latest was part of the State Pension pot) to keep the Troika happy, get the next tranche of funding – none of which will go to the Greeks – and then reveal their urgent need for Bailout3.  Merkel will then appear to shift her ample left buttock, and the next day say no, actually, you got that wrong – I was only farting. Entschuldigen-Sie mir bitte.
But while all this circular egoistic national interest bollocks is continuing, so too does the world of geopolitics. I posted yesterday about some of the realities at the far eastern end of the Mediterranean. Today I bring you news of other Big Players apart from the US trying to muscle in.
Caviar and pelmeni line the supermarket shelves in the seaside Cypriot city of Limassol – so pervasively Russian these days, it’s been dubbed “Limassolgrad” by the locals. As a backlash against austerity spreads across Europe, Cypriot officials say they are determined to avoid the kind of severe budget cuts that sank the Greek economy, and guess what? Smiling Uncle Vlad in the Kremlin has been willing to lend bigtime to help them evade capture by the Terrible Troika of Tosh.
The Russian government last year gave Cyprus a three-year loan of 2.5 billion euros at a below-market rate of 4.5 percent to help it service its debt. Cyprus now needs another 1.8 billion euros by the end of this month to buttress its ailing banking sector. Brussels has said this will be forthcoming, but there is now a question-mark over whether the Cypriots want it. The key, unique element in this situation is that President Demetris Christofias is a communist, and a keen ally of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. As the only communist leader in the union, there should be some fun and games when Cyprus takes over stewardship of the EU bloc next month. The humour will be soured for the Eurocrats, however, by the reality that a new loan from Moscow should be agreed within the next few days. Analysts say it could be as high as 5 billion euros. And  Moscow is the favoured option even for non-communuist cypriots, because it would come with fewer conditions than a European Union bailout – and help ensure that Cyprus’s 10% corporate tax rate carries on attracting the estimated 50,000 Russian-speakers in Cyprus.

Three individuals will be wrestling with the consequences of that anomoly this morning: the head of the CIA, the head of Mossad, and Recep Erdogan. Once again, it’s mainly about energy….but for the Russians, it’s about power-politics as well.

The last thing the Americans want is a Cuba slap bang in the middle of the Mediterranean theatre. And the Israelis feel similarly: they have a pipeline project due to begin with both Greece and Cyprus – plus of course, the Kremlin is very pro-Syria, and happy to stir up as much instability in the Middle East as possible. Interrupted supplies of oil and gas (and gas is rapidly becoming the main game in town) are exactly what Putin needs to keep his prices high, and his bargaining power with the West at full weight.

Turkey’s resident madman Recep Erdogan has been rattling his somewhat rusty sabres at Cyprus for over a year now, and would dearly love the opportunity created by euromeltdown to invent some spurious reason to annex Cyprus. He never had much chance of doing that at the best of times. With a growing Russian influence on the island, he has none whatsoever.

In short, while the EU’s circular standstill continues even far away in Mexico, the Mediterranean east and south from Cyprus is turning into a Major Powers’ playground. But some of these diplomatic ploys are playing with fire, on the electric railway lines, with a train coming, in the dark. Somebody needs to get a handle on this and soon – otherwise we’ll be dealing with a military mess that could make the demise of the eurozone look like a Sunday afternoon stroll.





72 thoughts on “CYPRUS: Shock for Brussels & Troika as Putin bids to create another Cuba

  1. What is Russia’s relationship with Turkey? Are they trying to create an access to the med as they could, theoretically take over Syria and annex land but they are already spread too thin to be a powerful force, lack of population, and Mafia.Yes they do have a large military but could they actually colonise anywhere efficiently, the cold war always seemed a joke as they seem unable to run their own country effectively.
    Also if they distract themselves by trying to gain access to the West they may leave themselves open to the East: China, Korea have vast populations that would love the opportunity to expand, and whilst China is slowly acquiring Africa, their next door neighbour must be a more logical choice, but bloody, but it maybecome bloody anyway when the economy implodes.

  2. Twenty years ago we were on holiday at New Year in Cyprus. A large group of Russian air force pilots was staying in our hotel. They were there to train the (Greek) Cypriot air force. I have never seen such heroic drinking as on New Year’s Eve. The president of their mess would announce “Now is new year in Vladivostok” and a large tumbler of vodka would go down, interspersed with beer until it was New Year in Tomsk (or wherever) and the process was repeated across the time zones. Nobody was badly behaved and they all got up to dance later on.

    At six o’clock in the morning they were jumping stark naked into the extremely cold pool. By the time we got down to breakfast at around eight o’clock, they were eating breakfast – steak and a pint of beer. Then they were away to their duties -presumably to fly their planes.

    I am rather glad that Russia is returning to its role as protector of the Orthodox communities and countries of the Levant. We need a counterbalance to German Europe. It was rather a pity that they were not strong enough at the time to stop the unprovoked “humanitarian” Western assault on Yugoslavia.

    Knowing the Greeks a little, I doubt whether anything like Cuba will emerge and Russia today is an Orthodox rather than a communist country.
    In short it is Russia, not the USSR.

  3. You hit the nail right on the head in the last paragraph. When the major powers enter the playground they play for keeps. As a little Kiwi I’m watching from a distance, but what I see coming is starting to make my sphincter contract, it ain’t a pretty site.

  4. I’m sorry John, that is extremely far-fetched. Mutti Merkel would never say, “Excuse me”.

    “sprechen, süßen Lippen, die lügen nie”, perhaps …

  5. I am pretty sure this is the sort of left field play which will herald the real endgame. Might not be this but we need to look behind the main headlines………..

  6. I agree with you. Cyprus (and Greece) is no Cuba regarding mentality.
    Even geopolitically, the American tactics with Cuba (isolate the island, embargo etc). Cuba was a thorn at the side of US prestige, but geopolitically the area was of little importance. Cyprus/Greece have a strategic position. This is our advantage and our curse at the same time…
    We won’t be left alone – no chance for some quiet times, so that we solve our problems and set our own way.

  7. Correction – i meant to write:
    “Even geopolitically, the American tactics with Cuba (isolate the island, embargo etc) cannot be applied successfully to Cyprus.

  8. If “gas supply” is the name of the game then why when UK PLc are known to be suseptable to shortages are we doing nothing tomitigate this. There is around£32 Billion burning a whole in the DfT’s pocket that could be used by both Dpt for Energy and DEFRA to transform MSW into Bio Gas using Aneorobic Digestion and to solve some of the land fill space issue the country is increasingly facing

  9. I don’t doubt that there are very serious problems in Greece with the supply of pharmaceuticals. But you need to see these things in context. Spain has a very serious problem with unpaid bills to drug companies, in some cases stretching into 2 years or more. The numbers are enormous. But wait, why is this? Well it’s partly lack of money, of course. But it’s also because all prescriptions are free. There is widespread over prescription and the bill is enormous. Only now are the Catalans thinking of charging €1 per prescription, with all the usual exemptions. I suspect something similar was happening in Greece. That is what I mean by context.

  10. Relations between Russia and Turkey: sham/predended friendship.
    Very close to relationship between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s USSR (-:

    Russia is Heartland and US/Atlantic alliance (UK included) is Rimland.
    They can have WW3, but they can also as well come to a balanced aggreement, sharing the world between their two spheres of influence.
    (culturally, Rusia is closer to US/West, than to China).
    Germany is right in the middle of the above global game, as is Turkey and the Balkans.

  11. There are many Greek voices, already expressing loudly the view:
    To the hell with EU, NATO, etc. Let’s get close with Russia (and maybe China) – they never screwed us in the back. (Same religion with Russia is also a factor).
    Those voices are already an official 1/3, in the latest elections.
    About 1/3 of the people is silently wishing that this was possible, but they are very afraid of US reaction. What most of the people are afraid here is that the minute Greece/Cyprus make an official alliance with Russia, US will let their Turkish pitbul loose….
    If, if i say, Russia comes tomorrow and declares official protection of Greece/Cyprus against Turkey: Goooodbuuuyyy USA, EU, UK, Germany et al :-)

  12. Isn’t there a quality issue with Greek pharma anyway? As I recall euro drugs have two prices lists, one for Europe and one for Greece. The Greek one is much less. So guess where all the out of date/rejects go?

  13. This issue has gone unnoticed here, covered by the politics and EZ fuss..
    Could you please provide more info? Where can i find the two different pricelists?

  14. TPTB would not be so keen on crushing Greece into compliance if there was nothing to get out of it…

  15. Are any of you aware of the British SBA (Sovereign Base Areas) in Cyprus? Akrotiri, Dhekelia, Episkopi and so on?

    Back in 1974 the Turks got as far as the gate at RAF Akrotiri. They pulled back pretty sharply when the guards on the gate opened fire on them. Given that as well as being an important NATO airbase there is state of the art snooping equipment on top of the Troodos mountains which listens in to the entire middle east, I would say the chances of Russia creating a new Cuba are somewhat slim.

  16. I have it on the very highest authority from unnamed sources inside the Kremlin that when the Russians take over Cyprus, the EU Commissars Commission will move the EU HQ there. EC job titles will be changed to (eg) Comrade Barreloso and Comrade Garden Gnome etc. The old HQ in Brussels will be sold to Disney for conversion into a European Theme Park.

  17. With a little more work, they could use it thrice, actually. If you feed the stuff to the correct mixture of bacteria and algae and power it with some sunshine, they’ll extract all the oily sh*t (which can be processed into biodiesel) leaving a residue sans most of the oil (which anaerobic digesters don’t require to work, anyway) – digest it to extract the biogas – then use the very nearly sterile residue as fertiliser, again lowering the oil / gas bill; most chemical fertilisers are (or can be when necessary) derived from one or the other.

    The problems of energy supply and food production are solvable, and indeed have largely BEEN solved. What’s lacking is the desire to do things better (and more ecologically and sustainably, purely as a side effect – win-win, eh!) and the willingness to spend any money on it now, while we still can. As always, it’ll be left until millions have frozen, starved or been killed in wars over resources before an alternative is tried.

    I’m not saying alternative technology can sustain our current lifestyle, because it can’t, but it can support a pretty decent one – especially when compared to the alternatives. What’s lacking is the bravery amongst the ‘elite’ to come clean and tell the plebs this (See note). They prefer to extend and pretend, which will very likely ensure that in the near future we endure a catastrophically worse decline in food and energy supply (and population, as a result) that is totally unnecessary.

    And that’s before I start describing large scale aquaponic farming, vertical gardening systems ( ) and a host of other technologies that we already know how to do but mostly don’t.

    Note: The two simple reasons being; when biofuel production can only supply Joe Public with 3 or 4 gallons of diesel per week, even if pursued on an epic scale – which is 300 miles or more in a modern compact diesel car, so hardly trivial – they’ll have a hard time justifying pumping 1200 gallons into their private jets for a round trip to the Monaco Grand Prix . And, TPTB are making too damn much money out of the current system to advocate a change, even when that could change the world infinitely for the better.

    /rant ;-}

  18. I find it hard to believe that Brussels HQ is not already a European Disney Theme Park… with all the fairy tales coming out of it.

  19. … and of course the CO2 from both the AD and the gas fired power station next door could be used to increase the photosynthesis in poly tunnels (warmed from the boilers as well) adjacent to increase the UK food security as well

    I didn’t know about the use for bio diesel and we’ve forgotten that sewage and animal slurry can be included in the mix

  20. I am aware of the British SBA. Something unique, as far as i know there is no other foreign base in the world with sovereign status. Gives UK the right to defend these areas against any foreign threat. That’s why i wrote above that the geostrategic importance of Cyprus (and Greece) is a blessing and a curse at the same time….
    Historic time counts in centuries. Cyprus was part of the Ottoman Empire, then British Commonwealth…who knows what happens in 21st century…
    IMHO, Cyprus and Greece’s fate is totally connected with the fate of Israel.
    The Greece-Cyprus-Israel axis is vital for Israel (for many reasons).

  21. Niko… I have not heard of any official lists of different prices but I do know that Greece is already a clearinghouse for second rate pharma (out of date, older drugs with heavier side effects, etc.)… my father received a liver transplant and was given “1st” generation anti-rejection meds… within a month he was deaf… when we went back, we were told that it was the 1st gen pharma… that was one of its possible side effects… also the doctor told us that with a lot of expensive or rare drugs… sometimes it is the older version or something

  22. So that explains the lack of Russian oligarch pleasure palaces in Monaco!Quite a number are moored in Mallorca and whilst madam and sir are ashore the boats are cleaned and tidied by dedicated crew watched as ever by security.After restocking they head off into the med,with sir and madam onboard,The next port of call for cleaning and restocking is Cyprus.A lot of oligarch meetings occur on these yatchs and when northern Euruope breaks for the summer,many of our elite will be wined and dined onboard a number of these boats off the coast of Splitz in the Adriatic Sea.We shall see.

  23. At least the Scrooge character saw the light and changed his wicked ways.
    Do you think Merkel will reform, even if she is visited by three ghosts.

  24. My impression from pharmaceutical friends is the opposite – one price list for Europe and another (more expensive) for Greece. Part & parcel of the same cartels which keep greek supermarket prices at double the cost of English prices, even before the 24% VAT.

    Please note that real drug prices are not reflected at point of sale anywhere in the EU, due to duties and subsidies from various government & private health plans.

    Most of the EU countries provide drugs “free” to pensioners and patients in the state health plans – and if not free, heavily subsidised. A bit silly in the case of aspirin, but (until now) an agreed part of the social contract in the case of expensive cancer & thrombosis drugs.

    Point: these are not social practises unique to Club Med.

    Dumping is not going on in Greece. Not only was there no need, but as part of the EU, it would be a dangerous, unneccessary risk for the pharma industry. The greek government was the main client, and Greece’s medical system is rated 5th best in the world by the OECD and WHO, (of which both ratings included cost effectiveness.) Even now, the hospitals are sources of inspiration for the care they are providing in difficult circumstances.

    But dumping IS going on in Albania, Serbia etc, yes. In those countries they have 2 types of pharmacies, 1) ordinary and 2) so-called Greek Pharmacies. The Greek Pharmacies are twice as expensive because they sell stable, correctly dated, EU drugs – exported from Greece.

  25. Have you ever stopped to imagine just how vulnerable a Russian naval base on Cyprus would be? One good sized nuclear missile and the whole island would dissappear under the waves. I can’t imagine that Russia has any interest in putting a base of any kind on Cyprus – which is good for Cyprus.

    No, I have seen the kind of Russian that likes to make Cyprus their second home – exactly the kind of Russian that made their money stealing it from the Russian people, usually at gunpoint. I avoid being anywhere near them. They seem to have a liking for Malta and some other small sunny islands that like their money enough not to ask too many questions. Putin has friends in very low places and I’m guessing these friends leant on Putin to cough up this loose change to bail out Cyprus’ banks already full of Russian stolen money.

  26. Bullshit. Gas comes up from the ground, you set light to it and you get warm. It’s that simple and therefore that cheap. Make it complicated and expensive and everything else gets complicated and expensive too.

  27. We aren’t susceptible to shortages. We get our gas from our own reserves and from Norway. Norway has a plentiful supply. The problems come when we suddenly increase our demands for gas due to an unusually long hard winter. No matter what energy source you use, if the capacity has to be there to supply the worst the winter can throw at you, then you are going to find it’s rather expensive. Better to aim at a more moderate level and pay for extra gas only when you actually need it – just expect that the spot price will have gone up.

  28. More obvious than that – the soldiers are still getting paid but the drug companies aren’t. Somebody, somewhere is getting blackmailed by the Greek government which has decided to screw the sick and the old to make a point.

  29. Sebastian Weetabix

    I had the good fortune to be part of the team administering the runway at Dhekelia when all the non-nationals were ferried out.
    We had no less than the Gurkhas looking after us

  30. [OT]
    Moodys ratings agency are expected to downgrade some British banks after Wall Street closes this evening. Banks in the frame: Barclays, HSBC & RBS, perhaps others…

    Should customers be rejecting the interest they offer and demanding a premium for depositing (ie loaning) money with any of these banks? After all, the higher the risk, the higher interest a bank will charge you for a loan.

  31. The drug companies together with the corrupt officials and staff at hospitals and pharmacies have robbed the state of billions and billions over the years , the party in the health system was bigger than the defence party .Believe it or not is still going on in a smaller scale of course but nothing stops these people .Of course they screw the sick now because the money is limited .No matter which party is in charge in greece the whole country needs a leap of consciousness and change in culture .I feel sorry for the poor because the money for their health has been spent in advance many years now .No prosecution of the corrupt officials and doctors and pharmaceutical companies that increased the cost of the health services , suplies and prescriptions to 3-4 times of the actual cost without any book keeping what so ever and stretched the health system finance to where is today .They only feed the greek people with scandals here and there which are forgotten very soon .They go ahead with cuts and austerity only without implementing them with some sense of justice and reform .Grafts , bribes and lack of consciousness and professionalism everywhere , i can go on for ever. If things dont change from the ground up no matter what loans we get and what intrest rates the country will not be saved .Will continue spiraling down for ever .

  32. Nothing about this in MSM as usual. However a search on “Russia” returned this from the Telegraph …. “Putin holds a black belt in the sport [judo] and has in the past described its philosophy of “treating an opponent with respect” as one of his guiding principles.”

  33. The soldiers are the last ones you want to muck around with (in any country) they have the weapons and organisation to take over so you have to keep them on your side.

  34. Mainly it’s an issue of the private banking sector. Exposure to Greece and to other PIIGS. Also risky investments, golden boy errors.
    Secondly they have a state deficit problem. Mismanagement…worker unions demanding higher salaries and more and more benefits…
    The Communist Party the JW mentions in the article above….(not that the other parties are totally innocent).
    Cyprus has very few natural resources (this is changing now with the natural gas exploration). Tourism, Commerce, Taxheaven Finance, those are the only sources of income.
    The situation is manageable though…The numbers are small and Cyprus is not a failed state (like Greece). They can put their house in order.

  35. @Woodgnome. There’s no incentive for big orgs to invest in leading edge technology when trailing edge technology is a cash cow. It wasn’t always so; short-term thinking (aka myopia) rules the day.
    However, if enough people take an active interest, the 100th monkey syndrome may just pull us out and – who knows – if the economy does implode, individual householders may need to get clever.

  36. Bring it on! I have no doubt Uncle Vlad is a nasty devious authoritarian bastard in charge of a has been country with a declining population. But I’m glad he’s there to provide competition to the other nasty, devious, undemocratic, authoritarian bastards around. The world worked better during the cold war when there was competition for allegiances rather than the unipolar era that replaced it and has now run its course. If the Cold War had been around since 990 we would not have had the economic madness of the nineties and naughties.

  37. pedantic point: one lends – not loans – the bank money. I make you a loan when I lend you money. Sorry, absolute top pet peeve of mine. Another American obscenity that has crept into the lingo.

  38. I understand 10 per cent of Cypriot workforce are engaged in online forex dealing i.e., spread betting or gambling. That’s obscene too! Our company has a subsidiary that went online from there yesterday aimed at the Middle East.

  39. OAH: Huh! ;-)

    Equally important is that banks will resist you describing the money that you lend to them as a loan which requires a ‘coupon’ (aka interest) that justifies the risks involved (especially nowadays). But with banks collapsing and ratings downgrades, methinks it’s coming to that.

    Savers and the general public need to adopt a new mindset.

  40. @OAH: I agree with you on the model we had during the Cold War.
    Since the Soviet empire collapsed, France went on record as saying it wanted to see a new bi-polar world, rather than a US uni-polar one. The EU has been the unspoken vehicle for doing that.

  41. I not at all cash heavy at the moment, but I’ve decided my portfolio needs a bit more fiat. So I’ll be staking some over the next year. However, 2 questions arise:

    1: do I leave it in sterling, or do I convert it to a better currency?
    2: where do I put it?

    I’m starting to think everyone should have a couple of grand in physical cash somewhere at home in case of a mega deflationary bank holiday type event

  42. Your description of the Russian pilots partying could also describe some airline overnights I have been on.

  43. @Just Sayin……. Good point I am waiting to read if the Greek government has sold off any surplus property. This whole “Greek Crisis” is phony from several directions.

  44. @MMP: I think keeping a few bits of fiat paper handy these days is a very good idea. On currencies…I’m led to believe that the Swissy and Singapore dollar are good places to look, although it’s not clear to me how to open an account in Singapore without actually getting on a plane…if anybody knows, please let us know :-)

  45. @BT: a portion of the big Greek deposit exit has fled to Singapore (Switserland being the oblvious hideout that the tax authorities search), as well as Norway, UK, Canada, Australia, even Lebanon :-). I think there is a way to do it without travelling there. Maybe another slogger (oldasiahand?) has more info on thatt one…

  46. I have a goldmoney account which allows you to hold different currencies – although I’m not actually sure who the custodian is. I wouldn’t mind earning some interest though…

    I’m coming back to the UK from france and wouldn’t mind closing my lloyds account for anyone not involved in sovereign debt (ideological reasons rather than safety). But for sure, when I get back I’ll withdraw a few g’s and just shove it under the mattress

  47. “No, I have seen the kind of Russian that likes to make Cyprus their second home – exactly the kind of Russian that made their money stealing it from the Russian people”

    Absolutely true! Perhaps if Putin is arrested for his crimes the communist leader of Cyprus will have no issue at all in sending those Russians back to their homeland and into the northern Siberian gulag where they belong.

  48. BT is quite complicated for non residents to open an account here .You will need a local friend as a guarantor and an address here , of course you will be more welcomed if you have couple of millions and go straight to the private banking .If you have an account there with an international bank like HSBC then is much easier , thought i would recommend a good local bank like DBS , local banks are very strong and as things here are quite state controlled the banks manage risks far better than in other countries thats why there were practically untouched by the 2008-9 crisis , intrest rates though are very low , next to nothing .

  49. @yana: Thanks for that. I take it that when you say “here”, you are referring to Singapore? Right?
    It doesn’t surprise me that one needs to have an address there to open an account, that’s pretty much standard procedure in many places. I’m also sure there are ways around this requirment for those interested…

  50. BT yes ‘here’ was singapore thats where i live , though right now i am on my way back home to greece for summer so please all of you make sure you don’t stir up any trouble in greece as i am planning to enjoy my holiday :)

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