Italian President Sergio Mattarella just blew up the European Union. His refusal of the coalition agreement between The League and Five Star Movement threw the best chance for the EU to face its burgeoning political crisis before it became a full-blown sovereign debt crisis.
With U.S. and U.K. markets closed today the full force of the damage done by the EU’s Hail Mary to prevent the Italians forming a government to their specification is actually muted. Things like this always happen on a weekend where the powers that be have enough time to figure out a messaging game plan and reassure markets they’ve got everything under control.
But, let’s round up a bit shall we?
Italian bonds off 25 basis points (!). The euro flirting with $1.16. Spanish and Portuguese debt sold hard, off 5 to 12 basis points. Gold is off a few dollars.
Mattarella, nominally, did this because he didn’t like the choice of Finance Minister, a man who was in favor of Italy leaving the euro. Whatever, he found an excuse. And someone in one of Berlin, Brussels or Washington told him to give a non-hacker the reins to try to form a government.
As Zerohedge reports this morning, that’s simply a non-starter. There is no way that the Italian parliament will approve another technocratic Vishy government on Italy, circa 2011 and Berlusconi’s ouster during the last flare up of Europe’s intractable debt problem.
No, this has to be about something else. This is simply yet another instance of Europe kicking the can down the road.
Sanctions Uber Alles
Look, at the risk of sounding like a guy with a hammer looking to pound in some nails, I have to think that the re-authorization of the EU sanctions on Russia in July is what prompted this desperation move.
But, if a re-vote in Italy can be put off until August (convenient that) then that gives the Trump Administration another six months to exert maximum pressure on our “allies” on trade and tariffs.
It makes sense that Washington is mostly behind this, but don’t underestimate the stupidity of people like Donald Tusk and Jan-Claude Juncker who will literally burn the continent to the ground before giving up their dream of an Europe united in their Orwellian Nightmare.
It is the U.S., however, that stands to gain the most from this move. As I’ve said in previous blog posts, Italy gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel a way to leave the sanctions regime, move closer to Russia and end the sanctions without having to do anything which looked disobedient to the U.S. empire.
The ECB wants debt consolidation and greater control. For the EU to survive this is necessary. Germans and the rest of the northern countries don’t want to be seen bailing out the “Club Med” countries. That would be interpreted as yet another submission to Washington and New York. Merkel cannot go through horrific debt relief talks like she did with Greece in 2015. It would destroy what’s left of her political capital. If she stands tall against Trump over Iran, however, she gains a lot. The uncertainty over how Trump will react sends the euro down, pressuring the ECB to finally move on dealing with the debt.
Europeans want normalized relations with Russia and open trade, especially German industry. There are tens of billions in investments in Russia and Crimea waiting for the sanctions to end to travel to Russia, especially with such a weak Ruble, thanks to Trump’s moronic sanctions.
Only Poland and the Baltics don’t. But, they don’t matter. It only takes one finance minister to vote against extending Russian sanctions to end them. If Merkel stands up to the U.S. on Iran, it makes it easier for Italy to force Germany to stop bullying everyone into maintaining them.
It looks like Merkel and company want to stand up to Trump over trade sanctions and tariffs. Public opinion turns in her favor strongly if she does.
So, to me, the big loser in the long run would be the U.S. because Italy will force the EU’s hand to finally come to grips with its internal contradictions or break apart. And when that happens, any benefit the U.S. gains from cleaving off countries like Spain and Italy from the EU it loses due to a loss of leverage over them vis a vis Russia, China and Iran.
Trump wants solidarity in pressuring Iran and North Korea to give up its nukes and submit totally to U.S. primacy. Without it he can’t get what he wants. Holding onto sanctions against Russia and invoking a debt crisis in Europe again will unleash chaos that cannot be controlled.
No longer could we use quislings and satraps in the EU bureaucracy to scuttle big projects like Nordstream 2 and force 27 nations to act in our favor. And with Trump going full scorched earth to define who is and who isn’t with him, an EU break up over political divisions works against his stated goals.
But, then again, the Italians may already be a lost cause from that perspective and any move to keep them where they are for the time being could be seen as a win.
Don’t forget the U.K. in all of this, either. London is now looking at this situation and wondering just why it is they are playing footsie with the EU over Brexit. If anything this is a further wake-up call to the people of the U.K. that their government doesn’t work for them and heeds to be overhauled, held to account and do their bidding.
EU Only Die Once
The bottom line is that regardless of who instigated this move it will be a terminal one for the EU. Italians are not going to go back to the polls and weaken the mandate for The League/Five Star. The latest polls have them up near 56% total.
By the time an August re-vote rolls around that number could easily be 60% and at that point, any obstruction by Brussels or Washington will need to take the form on military occupation to install a government to their liking.
And at that point, however, the whole EU charade is history.
I don’t give that high odds, but the stakes are high enough that anything is possible. If they weren’t Mattarella wouldn’t have done what he did yesterday.
Those who wield the real power in the world will not go gently into that good night. 2018 was always the focal year from a cycles perspective according to Martin Armstrong. And here we are.
The U.S. is literally lashing out like an abusive drunken father at anyone who dares to look sideways at him, reflecting his own sense of inadequacy. The EU is holding onto dreams of power it never earned and behind them the banks are scared to death that the central banks won’t be able to paper over the cracks and keep them from collapsing.
Things will spiral out of control from here. The EU is headed for a debt crisis the likes of which the world has never seen. The dollar will rise from here, gutting emerging markets creating a gyre of widening defaults.
All in all not bad for a Monday morning. Meanwhile in Moscow after a very successful St. Petersburg International Economic Forum where more than $38 billion in deals were agreed to …
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A young computer hacker who prosecutors say unwittingly worked with a Russian spy agency was sentenced to five years in prison Tuesday for using data stolen in a massive Yahoo data breach to gain access to private emails.
U.S. Judge Vince Chhabria also fined Karim Baratov $250,000 during a sentencing hearing in San Francisco.
Baratov was named in a federal indictment last year that charged two Russian spies with orchestrating the 2014 Yahoo breach involving 500 million users. Baratov was charged with using that stolen data passed to him by Russia’s Federal Security Service to hack dozens of email accounts of journalists, business leaders and others.
Prosecutors said Baratov, 23, was an “international hacker for hire” who did little or no research of his customers.
He pleaded guilty in November to nine felony hacking charges. He acknowledged that he began hacking as a teen seven years ago and charged customers $100 a hack to access web-based emails.
Baratov, who was born in Kazakhstan but lived in Toronto, Canada, where he was arrested last year, charged customers to obtain another person’s webmail passwords by tricking them to enter their credentials into a fake password reset page.
Prosecutors said in court papers that Baratov’s Russian-language web site named “webhacker” advertised services for “hacking of email accounts without prepayment.”
Prosecutors said Russian security service paid Baratov to target dozens of email accounts using information obtained from the Yahoo hack. Prosecutors argued that Russia’s Federal Security Service targeted Russian journalists, U.S. and Russian government officials and employees of financial services and other private businesses.
Baratov and his attorneys also said his work with the Russia spy agency was unwitting.
In court documents Baratov claimed he could access webmail accounts maintained by Google and Russian providers such as Mail.Ru and Yandex. He would provide customers with a screenshot of the hacked account and promised he could change security questions so they could maintain control of the account.
The U.S. Justice Department charged two Russian spies with orchestrating the 2014 security breach at Yahoo to steal data from 500 million users. Dmitry Aleksandrovich Dokuchaev and Igor Anatolyevich remain at large and prosecutors believe they are living in Russia, which doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the United States.
Baratov is believed to have collected more than $1.1 million in fees, which he used to buy a house and expensive cars.
“Deterrence is particularly important in a case like this,” the judge said during the hearing. He rejected prosecutors call for a prison sentence of nearly 10 years, noting Baratov’s age and clean criminal record prior to his arrest.
Baratov, who has been in custody since his arrest, told the judge that his time behind bars has been “a very humbling and eye-opening experience.”
He apologized and promised “to be a better man” and obey the law upon his release. The judge said it is likely Baratov will be deported once he is released from prison.