The Clinton Crisis: Contradictions and Confusion

capture-20161030-154317Never let it be said the 2016 election cycle was anemic, weak, boring or uneventful. We’re down to 9 days and I’ve said no fewer than 5 times a day how glad I’ll be when this election is put to rest in the history books that are bound memorialize anything but the truth.

Each new story raises the insanity monitor a notch or two. Take a look at a few of these tweets. Are we seeing the same irony?

In July, the FBI announced it would not seek charges against Secretary Clinton. A few days later, Clinton said in an interview with Fox News, “Comey said my answers were truthful, and what I’ve said is consistent with what I have told the American people.” Ah, he was a good buddy of hers, no doubt. I’m sure it was a delightful and whimsical friendship.

Now, though, Clinton is on the defense in the worst kind of way. Here are a few of the many tweets sent after the announcement was made late Friday afternoon regarding the lost emails and server and how it involves her bestie, Huma Abedin and her husband, Anthony Weiner. Pre-emptive scramble to save her cookies, yes?

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How’s that for loyalty, Director Comey? Did he really think that woman has an ounce of loyalty, a dish of ethics or an ability to even remotely empathize with others?

And then there’s this. Always the hopeful one, Clinton is. What if this week brings daily WikiLeaks drops of HER emails? That could distract her, right?

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The best way John Podesta can be of service to Clinton at this point is by giving her pointers on how to handle the world reading her emails over a Yoo Hoo and a Little Debbie cake. Remember, WikiLeaks hasn’t released a cache of Clinton emails. Yet. A girl can hope, though. Unlike all the other men in her life: her husband, Comey, Kaine and God knows who else…Podesta just hasn’t felt the Queen Clinton sting. I hear it’s pretty horrendous. Still, is this the best use of his time:

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Finally, take a look at this little gem. She is going to do to us what she can’t force Trump to do: make us pay for the college education of anyone who wants to attend. Sound familiar? Does the word “Obamacare” come to mind?

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When it falls apart, as it will if she is elected, maybe she can take a cue from the last time a “sure thing” was passed into law. Maybe Obama can give her a few pointers? Turns out it’s a colossal failure, but what does Obama care? He’s phoning it in at this point.

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RIP, Gas and Oil Industry

It’s been a brutal year for the energy sector, specifically those who make their money in the gas and oil industries. With a couple of weeks left in this year, it could get much worse. In fact, it likely will.

The Paris Climate Agreement will no doubt be one of the most earth-shattering events, if not the most earth-shattering event, in our lifetime. No pun intended. It’s not for the reasons most think though. It’s about so much more than a hashtag and world governments tweeting how they’ve saved the earth. In fact, it has very little to do with those grand gestures, much as they are, but rather, it comes down to what’s going on already, the timing and the folks most affected by the agreement.  In fact, for most of us, it won’t mean much of a difference at all. Seriously, I can’t think of a single way that the climate (in the context it’s used today) affects everyday life. Besides, even if I could, there are many who’d argue my way of thinking was wrong. That’s what it is for most of us. Few even bother because everyone is just so sure of what they believe. You can’t change the mind of one who insists the earth is warming no more than you can change the mind of someone who thinks it’s ridiculous silliness. Count me among the latter.

But…ask someone whose bank account is affected. Now that’s an interesting debate!

Just to get an idea of what lies ahead, here are some of the quotes from the past hour or so since the agreement was announced:

Bill McKibben, Co-founder 350.org:

“Every government seems now to recognize that the fossil fuel era must end and soon…Since pace is the crucial question now, activists must redouble our efforts to weaken that industry.”

May Boeve, Executive Director 350.org:

“This marks the end of the era of fossil fuels. There is no way to meet the targets laid out in this agreement without keeping coal, oil and gas in the ground. The text should send a clear signal to fossil fuel investors: divest now.

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Believe me when I say it – there’s not a single oil executive who’s not ready to come unglued.

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I’ve said all year that the fourth quarter was going to be brutal. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that much. Even if the oil industry wasn’t limping along, there was one dynamic that many denied, but was as obvious as a pimple on a 16 year old homecoming queen’s nose: Obama was hellbent on ensuring climate change comes full circle while he’s still in office. And why not? He’s annihilated everything else he’s touched. It makes sense that he’d bet his Nobel Peace Prize on forcing climate change. He’s even taking complete credit for it:

Today, the American people can be proud — because this historic agreement is a tribute to American leadership.

You can read his statement in its entirety here.

So where does that leave gas and oil? Well, considering the losses in recent weeks, especially after the recent OPEC meeting, things are looking as dark as the oil out of the ground. But let’s start with the MLPs. Specifically, let’s start with the MLP that is no longer an MLP. Kinder Morgan was the master limited partnership darling. Up until hours before the giant announced it was cutting its dividends by a whopping 75%, there were folks still singing its praises, certain the moon would fall from the sky before the dividends would be cut. Y’all watch out for that falling moon.

It’s now obvious that the MLPs are indeed exposed to the same threats as any other company in the sector. The threats just appear differently. It’s because everything is so intertwined. But a -42% YTD? That’s worrisome.

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Then, we had the humongous and inexplicable 2 million units of Energy Transfer Equity, valued at more than $34 million, that was bought by the four head honchoes this week. The company’s CEO, Kelcy Warren, bought the vast majority – $32 million. It helped nothing. We’re talking double digit losses in a single day:

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This article from Brian over at Valuentum Securities hits on Friday. There are more than a few unhappy folks. Someone’s lying. If nothing else, download the 10Q and run your own math. If you have money in ETE, you have an obligation to know what’s going on with it.

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Also last week, we learned there’s a good chance (so we’ve been told) that despite what was said weeks ago – export bans were in place for the long haul – there’s now a possibility that those bans might be lifted. Wonderful news, right? Except for the fact that the Paris Climate Deal pretty much makes it moot.

Well, at least we still have big oil, right? Maybe not. They’re all cutting their 2016 budgets – layoffs and CAPEX. The cuts are big. Chevron especially is taking a hard hit.

Think shale’s the answer? Nah. Not even close. We’re not the only ones fracking. It’s still expensive, despite the advances and while all of this drilling’s been done, with plenty of oil waiting to be pulled from Mother Earth, the race is on to see what happens first: the companies go bankrupt (several have already filed) or the need for the oil materializes. We have a huge glut with barges filling up by the hour.

It’s doubtful the Saudis planned it this way, but the reality is if companies begin fracking again, and considering they’ve found faster ways of accomplishing it, it’s going to run the supply right back up, which starts the cycle again: too much supply, not enough demand.

And finally – let’s not forget the politics. Obama now has to return to the good ol’ United States of America and face the politicians who rely on the oil and gas industries to pad their pockets with dirty money.

Let’s be clear: it’s a slow dance and we are most certainly not leading it.

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Think the Fed Financial Crisis Doesn’t Affect You?

It’s easy to get lost in all of the rhetoric coming out of Congress and the White House these days. For years, we’ve Wrong Way Signseen nothing but a series of lies, mistruths, selfish mindsets and ulterior motives. All the while, we’ve been forced to sit back and watch it unfold. Amidst all of this, there are the debt ceiling crises that have taken over mainstream media from time to time, only to fade into the darkness when a new and better “breaking news” story hits. Now, as yet another deadline looms, which really is just proof that the elected folks have drastically failed yet again, the repercussions are many. Don’t allow yourself to become indifferent because it seems so familiar. There’s a lot at stake.

Medicare and Social Security

This is a double whammy for seniors and the elderly. For around 70% of Medicare recipients, they’re protected from an increase in their Part B premiums. Part B is the portion of Medicare that oversees doctors and hospital payments. They’re protected because they are not receiving a cost of living adjustment – also known as COLA – from Social Security. Since there’s been no inflation, there are no increases for recipients. The law doesn’t allow Medicare premium increases if there are no COLA increases.

That still leaves 30% of Medicare beneficiaries who will shoulder 100% of the Part B premium increases. That equates to about 7 million seniors and elders. Now, we all know Congress can halt this, but we also know their track record. Couple this with everything else that’s going on: 2016 race to the White House, the absence of a speaker of the house and the general bickering they’re known for, and it becomes worrisome. Oh, and did I mention the deadline is November 2nd?

Remember: they could have prevented this – in fact, they PROMISED we’d not run up to another deadline the last time they run us up to a deadline. This could have been avoided. If you’re wondering what the Obama Administration is saying, you’ll appreciate this: “We share the goal of keeping Medicare’s premiums affordable, are exploring all options, and appreciate the interest and ideas of members of Congress,” said White House spokeswoman Katie Hill.

Shared goals and appreciated ideas. Great.

For those who are facing this 52% premium hike, it equates to around $60 each month. Currently the premiums are around $104.50. They will increase to 159.00 each month.

Who’s at risk?

  • New Medicare applicants in 2016
  • Medicare recipients with incomes over $85,000 or if they’re married, $170,000
  • Low-income income people whose Medicare premiums are paid by state Medicaid programs
  • Medicare recipients who don’t receive Social Security

Even if you’re still working – even if you’re in your 20s, these are the types of problems where Band Aids are applied and by the time you prepare for retirement, you’ll remember decades earlier when no one was willing to do the right thing. Odds are, all of us – no matter our age – have loved ones who will be affected today and tomorrow and next week. This matters to all of us.

Keep in mind a few more things that should provide a bit of perspective as well:

New numbers suggest a full 2/3 of Americans have absolutely no retirement savings. That’s huge…mostly because it’s a far bigger problem than anyone anticipated. Remember the MyRA retirement program Obama introduced last year? Not a single state has implemented it. Not one.

We’re working in the belief that employment is sound. The numbers have been so twisted for so long that it’s actually laughable. More companies are talking (and in fact are already in the process) of layoffs. These higher numbers aren’t all being reported as they should because they’re being referred to as furloughs and not layoffs, so the government isn’t taking them into consideration.

Our stock market is just as laughable. This has become nothing but a heavily modified “ideal” that has no degree of truth at all. Do you realize our financial sector is being determined by a Fed that can’t figure out how it backed itself into a corner, a global economy that’s worse than our own, but doesn’t realize it and backdoor deals and dynamics created to save taxes, keep more dividends and shift and change with very little regulation? Folks are getting rich. I’d say there are about 100 people benefitting from the shady practices built on non-existent foundations. When these strange business structures finally crash and burn – and they will, the taxpayer will be the one to cover those costs. And we will. But right now, we have a bigger crisis on our hands. Our senior citizens need to eat and have access to their medications.

It’s Time for Geopolitical Crises to Become U.S. Priority

Never before have there been so many simultaneous problems around the world that the U.S. is either indifferent to or clueless that it’s even happening.

Going back just three weeks, take a look at what’s been unfolding right under our noses.

August 23– Iran unveiled a new surface-to-surface missile that can hit its targets with “pin-point accuracy” within a range of 310 miles. Its name is Fateh 313. Iranian President Rouhani had a message for the west, too, “We will buy, sell and develop any weapons we need and we will not ask for permission or abide by any resolution for that.” This comment was made during the unveiling ceremony on live TV. Rouhani then said not only had the missile been successfully and extensively tested, but that it’s headed into mass production.

Remember, the nuclear deal hasn’t been finalized, which, to Iran, means it’s under no obligation until capture-20150906-170659everyone’s signed off on it (and maybe not even then). While the politicians continue with their ongoing temper tantrums, this is what Iran’s been up to.

The same day Iran made its announcement, China conducted its fourth, and possibly final test of what some say is the most dangerous nuclear weapon developed to date. The DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, can easily hit the U.S. China is secretive; so much so that a year ago, the U.S. believed this phase of the development was only in the planning stages.

Also in late August, Russia and China conducted many military drills in the Sea of Japan. While it doesn’t take much to figure out the common denominator between these two countries, this bilateral naval exercise had one purpose: to warn the U.S. This isn’t the first time the two countries have come together; in fact, they’ve been performing these military exercises for years. The difference this time is they’ve ramped it up significantly. It’s been called an “unprecedented show of military cooperation”.

Late last week, we learned the final signatures are in place for that massive $400 billion gas and oil deal between Russia and China.

We all know about the Russian bombers coming within 45 miles of the west coast on the 4th of July. But two days ago, one of Russia’s vessels was seen off the coast of Georgia, right where our nuclear submarines are stationed. While Russia’s trolling the east coast, China has at least 5 ships off the Alaskan coast. Think about that for a second. Both our east and west coasts are being compromised by Russian and Chinese military.

Late Friday, there was talk of possible U.S. sanctions for China as early as this month. It’s no secret that China and Russia have hackers who quickly obtained the kind of information that could be catastrophic to Americans. The Los Angeles Times says the two are “aggressively aggregating and cross-indexing hacked U.S. computer databases—including security clearance applications, airline records and medical insurance forms—to identify U.S. intelligence officers and agents.”

Let’s not forget Syria. From Natasha Bertrand:

While the US has been selling the Iran deal to Congress, Iranian military mastermind Qassem Suleimani violated a UN travel ban by visiting Moscow to speak with officials.

Russia appears to be taking advantage of the fact that, while US officials condemn Assad’s barrel bombs, chlorine bombs, and strategy of acting as an air force for the Islamic State, the Obama Administration does not seem to be concerning itself with the Syrian regime.

The reality is these countries have already compromised us as a nation. China’s manipulating its own currency to the point that it affects our markets. Autopilot with wild fluctuations is one way to describe it. OPEC has accomplished its objectives to a large degree, as evidenced by tanking prices in the energy sector and both Russia and China are so close to our shores that it’s scary. As far as OPEC pulling back, don’t count on it. There is no way the cartel would have set this up only to bail at this late stage and when the grand plan is beginning to pay off. Saudi has something the U.S. doesn’t: cash. It can hold out far longer than they’d have us believe.

Conglomerates, MLPs, Chevron – Reality Check

oildownRemember back in the 70s and early 80s, everything was all about the conglomerates? Companies gobbled up smaller companies, with everyone – except those in the larger companies who knew better – believing all was safe and good in Corporate America. Only problem was, the smaller companies were not only gobbled, but spit out, part by part until there was nothing left but a sad memory, a warm beer and some country music song to send it out. Eventually, this seemingly “strengthening” effort of the larger companies became their downfall. By picking and choosing through the process of piecing different parts, these conglomerates themselves became weakened and were quickly deemed relics of days gone by. This corporate strategy was all fine and good for a little while, but it simply wasn’t financially feasible. It was a failure, but it took more than a decade for it to come full circle. Sometimes, bigger is not better.

Now, though, we have the master limited partnerships. These trusts are designed with more than a few benefits in mind, most importantly, their tax advantages. Few things in the American economy are taxed just once. Take estate planning, for instance, people with considerable wealth set up trusts for their assets so that those who receive their inheritances don’t have to worry about estate taxes eating up what their loved ones worked their lives to provide. MLPs work in a similar way. They’re designed to bypass some of the taxes, at least temporarily. It gets complicated because of the absence of the familiar 1099s in lieu of the sometimes complicated S K-1 forms.

At any rate, MLPs are found in the energy sector – oil companies, upstream, midstream and downstream companies, etc. and are traded on the securities markets. They contain several different entities from seemingly unlikely acquisitions, such as retail stores. They’re supposed to be the cure-all, except oil and gas is struggling…as in struuuugggggling.

The big players, of course – Chevron, Exxon and the like are holding on by a thread. The question is: why? These companies have been through it all. Nothing’s working. Their earnings – are they even still an option at this point? Cash flow? That’s a joke. And despite talk of the future, with big promises, it’s simply too far out. Not only that, but the money to secure this future is borrowed. Just like the conglomerates of yesteryear, these companies are just too bulky, are laying off left and right and frankly, are threatening the entire sector. The reality is this sector is fragile. There are too many things unfolding that ensure it doesn’t regain quickly and depending on the damage Obama can do in his final days in office, it could be permanent. The one thing anyone who relies on this industry wants to see is the big daddies sitting pretty. They’re not.

Without going too much into the outside factors, including Iran, Russia and China and other dynamics – most of which I’ve written about extensively in the past, it’s time to shoot the ailing dog. The days of $100 per barrel are gone. Even with a comeback, those who are underestimating Obama’s goals are fools. There’s a reason he’s been quiet the past few weeks and if you’re wondering what he’s been up to, look no further than here and here – you probably haven’t seen either of these stories in the 5 o’clock news, what with the Trump/Kelly war and of course, the U.S./Cuba new best friend status. Don’t underestimate him; the fact that the Iran sanctions are now moot is proof that he does hold power, God help us all. I’ve said for more than a year that shale’s too expensive and with the state of the entire sector, those who insist on pushing it might as well line their horizontal drills with their dollars.

While we’ve yet to see the “too big to fail” banks really pay their dues for the havoc they wreaked in 2008 and earlier, the energy sector, even with the protective mama bear MLPs, won’t enjoy the same fate, but will likely go down in a flaming ball of good intentions, just as the conglomerates did years ago. There is no Reagan or Bush White House. And, if you’re keeping up: Rick Perry, despite Kelcy Warren’s millions, is sinking fast.

Here We Go – #JadeHelm Insanity

For months, we’ve been hearing about the world coming to an end, courtesy of our very own military. Jade Helm training exercises have begun in several states, including Texas and yes, even right here in Mississippi. There have been more than a few times – no, actually, there have been 9,129 times – I’ve rolled my eyes at some of the ridiculous theories behind this “ultra secret” effort – despite the many public hearings the collective military has offered. And let’s not forget the pictures and videos these goobers are using as their proof. People act as though these are all signs of war – by our own country against our own country! Now, though, things have reached an entirely new level.

My fellow Americans – we’ve nothing to worry about. No, really…the Counter Jade Helm Company has arrived. This group of folks is taking a stand, or rather, a place. They’re taking a place right behind all of the various tankers and other vehicles. They’re following them. My God. They are actually following them. They say they’re simply being vigilant. Great.

Here’s why this bothers me to my core:

Every time one of these crackpots opens his mouth, he’s basically disrespecting the best military in the world. That could include one of his own family members. Every single time he tweets that he’s in “hot pursuit”, he’s saying, “I don’t trust our military”. It’s a kick in the teeth for every man and woman who ever stepped up to the plate to do what most of us could never succeed in accomplishing. It’s a kick in the teeth to my best friend, who by the way, is also moving his wife and son back to Mississippi, even as he’s preparing for these exercises. He’s not worried about his fellow troops. It’s called common sense.

Worse (and this is what’s really infuriating) it’s a kick in the teeth to my dad, who fought in Vietnam and then returned home, fell in love with and married a woman who happened to have a bit of baggage. I am that baggage.

And for all of those who say it’s all on Obama and he’s the one directing these “exercises”, let me tell you a quick story:

My dad and I have this ongoing joke between us. I walk into their house and all bets are off – we instantly turn into these crazy people talking politics. I tease him about our current president and how I know he’s really a Democrat. That usually turns the attention to my mom and I say, “Bet you didn’t know you married a Democrat.” And without fail…EVERY SINGLE TIME….Daddy says, “I got something for Barack and Michelle” (that’s what he calls them) and he reaches into his pocket. On cue and like clockwork, Mom follows suit and reaches into her purse. I swear, I fall for it every time. I know exactly what’s about to happen, but yet, I’m waiting. Both of them pull their hands out and with their middle fingers, and only their middle fingers, showing. Better than a George Burns and Gracie Allen skit, those two. They just laugh and laugh and if you’re in the same room, you laugh and laugh too.

Even Einstein sees the humor.

Even Einstein seems the humor.

My point is: don’t underestimate any member of our military. I have great confidence that it would take far more than the word from a president even our military does not trust to cause our brothers, best friends, fathers, sisters and mothers to turn against their own. No one – and I mean no one – could possibly love this country more than those who are willing to die for it.

So do us all a favor – direct your attention to those things that really do matter and that truly are a threat to this country. I promise you – if all hell breaks loose in this country during these Jade Helm exercises, my happy ass is running towards them, not away from them. They’re the ones who are going to protect us – even the jackasses who are trying to catch them doing something wrong.

Greece: Superpowers (and Others) Observing from a Distance

As the Greek “no-win game plan” plays out on the world stage, many are wondering why both the United States and Russia are, for the most part, watching quietly from the sidelines. The argument could be made (and has) that Greece is miniscule in both size and its ability to wreak havoc on a global level. That’s terribly shortsighted and frankly, when has the U.S. ever stood by and simply watched from a distance? For that matter, when has Russia?

With so many events playing out simultaneously, attention gets focused and refocused. It’s easy to feel as though nothing is ever resolved as we constantly turn our attention to the latest breaking news.

The question is: who will really benefit, no matter the outcome? Who knows – but there are a few facts that could be playing a big role in how these decisions are made.

Russia

We know that Russia is looking for better solutions now that the U.S. has tried to sanction it off the map. You’d think Putin would be working magic to take advantage of the weakness Greece now is showing – and you’d be right.

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Greece and Russia have teamed up for the latest pipeline project going through Turkey. Honestly, I couldn’t figure out why Greece didn’t simply bail on the negotiations and leave the Eurozone for Russia’s open arms. Putin’s already said he’s willing to write a check, and let’s face it, Greece gets no respect from its European partners. Proof of that is found in the almost-sad way it’s being treated in these negotiations.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ is now facing a reality that includes his own people feeling as though he sold them out. Even his wife threatened to leave him if he caved. Less than one week later – he caved.

Why would he risk losing everything for a deal that serves no good purpose for his country? The truth is, Germany, France and the others have a lot at stake, too, yet they’re playing hardball on a deal that is pretty much a list of “granted wishes” by Greece. So why is Tsipras being treated like a red-headed stepchild when he’s caved to all of their demands? Maybe this will help:

Greece has the power to veto any Russian sanctions the EU wishes to dole out.

Maybe Tsipras loses more than his country’s faith and his marriage if he doesn’t try to remain where he is, even if it does mean a worse deal in the short term.

Germany

Angela Merkel has her hands full. She and her country’s leaders want Greece ejected. But why? They say Greece is lazy and untrustworthy, but is that really enough for Germany to take such a tough stance?  Russia and Germany have always had a love/hate relationship. Just last month, Germany accused Russia of stockpiling nukes near Russia’s borders. The fact that any one partner can veto anything the EU proposes is probably a bit uncomfortable for Germany, especially considering this slow dance with Russia and knowing Greece and Russia are partners in oil.

Former (as of last week) Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, wrote on Friday:

Based on months of negotiation, my conviction is that the German finance minister wants Greece to be pushed out of the single currency to put the fear of God into the French and have them accept his model of a disciplinarian eurozone.

It’s walking a fine line laid out by Putin, but it also knows that a partner with the power to veto sanctions against Russia is not something any of the countries wish to tackle.

Makes sense. France has the same veto power as Greece. And speaking of France:

France

This is a country with leaders who’ve been busy. President Hollande took the position of bucking Germany and Angela Merkel in order to take Greece’s side. French leaders have spent a significant amount of time in the past 24 hours “oohing and ahhhing” over the latest proposal set forth by Tsipras and encouraging other countries – and most certainly Germany – to follow. France as a cheerleader – who’d have thought?

Adding to this: France is pressuring the United States to close a deal with Iran. French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, said just today, “Now that everything is on the table, the moment has come to decide.”

I don’t reckon that serenade with James Taylor earlier this year had the effect Kerry was hoping for.

Maybe France is still angry at the U.S. for forcing it to cancel its contract with Russia regarding its Mistral program this past November. It was a big contract for France, but it did not bode well with us and a few other countries.

Russia, surprisingly enough, negotiated with the country and ended up with a deal that simply allowed for a refund to Russia. That’s generous, considering the massive contractual dynamics that France annihilated and the realization that Russia could have made things extraordinarily hard for France. But maybe there were a few promises made that could place Russia in a strategic position in the very near future, especially if Grexit comes full circle.

Iran

Iran doesn’t have a dog in the hunt with Greece/Europe battle, but it does play a role in the very near future, especially if Greece leaves EU.

Iran is vehement in its efforts of convincing those involved in the nuclear talks to lift the UN arms embargo and end the long-standing ban against the missile program. In fact, those are likely the two biggest challenges at this point. Naturally, Russia is in agreement with Iran, which further complicates matters, especially considering the two countries have enjoyed a mutually beneficial nuke program for many years. And let’s not forget, Obama is fine and dandy with Russia holding Iran’s nuke materials as part of the deal. That’s like handing me a freezer full of shrimp and telling me not to cook it. That shrimp is going to get cooked!

But there’s another reason Russia and Iran are acting more like BFFs. In BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), U.S. sanctions play no role at all. This could mean that Iran, if the new agreement falls through (or even if they don’t), can still bypass any sanctions and keep its product in the market. Iran has already stated on more than a few occasions over the past few years that it wants to join BRICS. While Greece couldn’t become a full member at this time, it can benefit from the many advantages BRICS provides.

“Iran supports the BRICS group and is prepared for membership and presence in BRICS’ fund.”

– Iran’s Deputy Economy Minister Behrouz Alishiri

And then there’s this little gem from two years ago: BRICS leaders released a statement after one of its summits:

“We are concerned about threats of military action as well as unilateral sanctions, and hope that all outstanding issues relating to Iran’s nuclear programme will be resolved through discussions and diplomatic means. We believe there is no alternative to a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue, and recognize Iran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy consistent with its international obligations.”

Russia has at least 33 nuclear reactors and India has nearly as many while Brazil and South Africa have two or three nuclear reactors each.

Yet, Iran is the country that leaders say is the threat on the nuclear front. And God forbid Greece embarrass the EU and make a beeline for the other side that includes nuke supporters.

Finland

Finland is another country that stated it would not vote in favor of Greece’s stay in the EU. This is a small country and while it is part of the EU, really, what could taking a stand against Greece cost the country? Why remain stone silent and at the 11th hour, find your voice? Maybe Russia knows the answer.

For 40 years, the Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe has hosted a meeting with leaders from many countries, including Russia. This year, however, Russia was uninvited. Russia counted on Finland to take its side by not supporting a travel ban that prevented many of Russia’s delegates to attend. Finland chose not to.

Russia’s response? Nikolai Kovalev made it clear the damage to the relations between Finland and Russia was permanent.

Susanna Turunen, YLE editor, was a bit more definitive in her statements:

“Russia sees the situation differently and is now considering counter measures that could involve further trade sanctions specifically targeting Finland…failure is the inevitable outcome of denying entry of the Russian delegation.”

Unfortunately, Finland is the one country that is 100 percent dependent on Russia for its energy.

Maybe Finland is hedging its bets if Greece is ejected. It could be the one country Russia relies on to veto sanctions in the EU. France certainly can’t do it without massive repercussions.

By the way, the countries in the EU have their energy needs met by Russia. In fact, more than half of its energy comes from Russia. It’s like a game of chess for Putin.

Russian expert and economist Edward Lucas sums it up:

If you rely on Russia for your oil reserves, or for a big proportion of your sales, you turn yourself willy-nilly into a hostage. The demands may not be conspicuous. They may not come immediately. But just as water flows downhill, so the power of the Kremlin finds the weakest spot and exploits it.

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So now we know why Russia is, for the most part, taken a passive position. But what about the U.S? What is Obama doing?

Well, he’s freeing federal prisoners right after an NAACP luncheon focused on the disproportionate number of men and women of color who are incarcerated.

Oh, and he’s also “integrating races into wealthy communities”. Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up.

He’s creating new national monuments.

Basically, it looks as though “the leader of the free world is indulging in a week of summer vacation” but wrapping it up delightfully as a strategic move in case a deal is struck with Iran.