A Russian Counterthrust?

It seems Channel 4 are going to broadcast a drama-documentary about UKIP winning a General Election.

‘It’s liberal-left poppycock!’ Ukip fury as C4 predicts race riots if Farage wins election
Row over Channel 4’s drama-documentary, ‘Ukip: The First Hundred Days’
Show airs tomorrow and portrays British life if party wins general election
Film shows society on the brink of collapse, three months after their win
Aide close to Ukip leader Nigel Farage said idea is ‘simply preposterous

‘Bring it on, we say, because this sort of thing simply serves to boost our ratings.’

The most interesting feature:

The provocative scenes play out against the backdrop of smoky pubs because Farage has lifted the smoking ban.

It could backfire. Those smokers who don’t know that UKIP would relax the ban might think of voting for them.


A crucial meeting of eurozone finance ministers over the future of Greece’s bailout broke down in acrimony after Athens angrily rejected the bloc’s insistence that it agree to complete its current €172bn rescue as “absurd” and “unacceptable”.

It is the second time in five days that negotiations between the new anti-austerity Greek government and its eurozone creditors have collapsed and it means Athens, whose public finances are deteriorating fast, could soon be left with no European financial backstop.

The eurozone gave Athens until Wednesday night to reverse course and seek an extension of the current programme, which is due to expire at the end of next week.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, chairman of the eurogroup of finance ministers, said the time available for a Greek request was almost up: “We can use this week, but that’s about it,” he said.

As I understand it, there are three ways all this can pan out.

1) The EU blinks. Greece is offered debt relief and a relaxation of austerity, just to keep them in the EU. However, if Greece gets this, Italy and Spain and Portugal will immediately demand the same deal, and the crisis will deepen.

2) Greece blinks. Tsipras’ and Varoufakis’ bluff gets called. Greece returns to mounting debts and unemployment, just like before. The Syriza government falls.

3) Neither side blinks. Greece runs out of money, reneges on its debts, and exits the EU in a disorderly manner.

I expect Greece will blink. But former Chancellor Ken Clarke reckons Greece will leave the EU.

A Greek euro exit is inevitable and Britain must insulate itself from the economic shocks it would cause, Ken Clarke has said.

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme Mr Clarke said that there would be “knock-on effects” from a Greek euro exit.

“Just judging from the public statements of these latter-day Trotskyites who appear to have won the election in Greece, I can’t see how that can be reconciled,” he argued.

“I hope a very great deal of work is going on to minimise the impact on financial markets, on the United Kingdom – because it affects us just as much anybody else in the western world – to make sure that any knock-on effects of from their exit are minimised, and knock-on effects on the Greek people, who are going to suffer more … are also minimised as well.”

But there’s another possibility: the Russians and/or Chinese intervene. The new leftwing Greek government has been holding talks with both, and has said that there are “offers on the table.”

There is a very strong incentive for Putin to intervene. The expansion of the EU has destabilised Ukraine, and brought the EU almost into open conflict with Russia, and Putin would dearly like to inflict some damage on the EU. What better way to do that than to arrange for Greece to switch its loyalty from the EU to Russia? It would be a big reversal for the EU ‘project’ to lose a member state, and an even worse blow for that member to switch loyalties. It would mean that just as the EU had gained a foothold in Ukraine, Russia could gain a counter-foothold in Europe, to use as a powerful bargaining chip.

And it would fit in with other recent Russian moves in the Eastern Mediterranean. For example, Egypt:


And Cyprus:

The president of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, has said he is in talks with the Russian government to let its military use the island nation’s sea and airports. He made the announcement in an interview with Russia’s state owned news agency Itar-Tass today, having previously denied earlier reports that Cyprus had agreed a deal to lease its facilities with the Russian armed forces.

easterneurope3If EU expansion eastwards (dark blue area) has led to the Ukrainian conflict, a Russian counterthrust into Greece (as well as Cyprus and Egypt) would turn the flank of the EU.

And if Tsipras and Varoufakis are playing their cards very boldly, it may be because they actually do have some good cards.

And it may not really be Tsipras and Varoufakis who are holding the cards, but Vladimir Putin.

If, as lot of people expect, Greece leaves the Euro, expect to see Putin in Athens the next day, and the Russian Black Sea fleet in Piraeus (owned by China, I believe) the day after.


About Frank Davis

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27 Responses to A Russian Counterthrust?

  1. waltc says:

    Farage is scheduled to speak here –in Virginia– at the CPAC ( a conservative bloc) conference at an as yet unknown date and time but the conference runs from Feb. 25-28. I’d guess — it’s just a guess– that he’d get prime time. Since the conference is televised, Americans can likely watch it on CSPAN and/or, it might be on the CSPAN website which, I’d also guess, is CSPAN.org.

    As for Putin stepping in where Angela fears to tread, it seems to me I’ve heard that song before. Cuba. Post-WW2 Vietnam. The West says nyet and Russia says da and it doesn’t end pretty. And, off on a tangent, ISIS, from Libya, vows to take Rome (which is not too likely) but the US refuses to further arm Jordan or back Egypt while both join the fight. Churchill once summed up the Nazi appeasers: ” They had to choose between war and dishonor. They chose dishonor; they shall have war.”

    • Frank Davis says:

      You’re an old Cold Warrior, aren’t you, Walt. I don’t think the situation today is a continuation of the Cold War. I don’t think Putin’s Russia is USSR mark 2.

      • waltc says:

        Lol. Yes and no. While I do think Putin — an old cold warrior –is out to expand his sphere of influence and poke the west, esp. The US, in the eye, I don’t think he can turn Greece into a satellite but I do think he may be interested in using it in a chess game. How far he’ll try to go after Ukraine, in terms of actual take-over is still anyone’s guess. Do I think we should intervene militarily? No. My Churchill quote was aimed at Isis, and I don’t yet know what we should do about that either except at least for X’s sake ( in deference to Stewart) help arm and give intelligence to the Arab states who seem finally awakened to the fight. I’d expound further but have to leave for a session w a dentist.

  2. junican says:

    It seems to me that everything depends upon the strength of the Greek people. Whether the people who are in government there are ‘far left’ or ‘far right’ is not relevant. The question is: “Are the Greek people prepared to put up with their own version of ‘austerity’ as compared with the EU version?” They would have to accept something like the austerity which Britons had to accept in WW2. They would have to accept that their means are limited and that some rationing would have to be in place. They might voluntarily accept that they need to leave their private cars at home to cut down on imports of fuel. But they would wish to protect their tourist trade at all costs (end of smoking bans?).
    The probability is that they would not need to leave the EU officially at all. Just stop obeying and paying money. Let Germany chuck them out. The same applies to the UK. Just stop paying and obeying.
    What are the critical things for Greeks?
    They live in a country which is almost always warm. It is mountainous and has a plentiful water supply. It can feed itself if necessary. The worst that can happen is that no one starves, no one dies of thirst and no one dies from hypothermia. When you think about it, that is what happened during WW2 in Britain.

    Tourism is a bit difficult since tourists need confidence. But that problem is artificial. There is no reason that the Euro should not be a common currency for tourism purposes. For example, there are shops in Mallorca which declaim that they accept British pounds Stirling, and give a better rate of exchange than do the banks. You can see why that happens – the shops gain far more profit from a sale than they lose on the exchange rate.

    The Greece situation is all about COURAGE. Do they have it?

    • Frank Davis says:

      One might say that the EU is built upon a lack of courage. It’s a bunch of countries holding together for fear of what might happen if they split apart. The fear is that there would be war between the separate nation states. But is it a reasonable fear?

      • alliances was always Europes worst fear………….to big and to strong breeds war. Independent nations living within theyre own culture and laws is whats needed. Keeping the bigger ones weak from being able to create war is the answer.

  3. John Watson says:

    I think the Greeks are a unpredictable people, in their time they have beaten off two attempts by the Persian empire, and neither did they roll over to the German occupation during WWII, I think they have a belief that they can and will win against the odds, it is after all what they apparently do best.

  4. mikef317 says:

    Frank, re you sub-menu, Active Smoking # 31, Robert Levy and Rosalind Marimont article, dated 1998, debunks the figure of 400.000 smoking related deaths per year in the USA.

    Unlike Tobacco Control, we must try to evaluate all arguments. Below is a critique of Levy / Marimont and the author’s response. All three articles should be read.


  5. If greece drops the domino effect should hit the rest of southern Europe and maybe including france.

  6. States Smoking the Most Smuggled Cigarettes
    Tobacco consumption in America has declined consistently since the surgeon general’s office published its first report in 1965. However, more than 18% of adults still identified as smokers in 2013, and in many states, demand for tobacco is high enough to justify large-scale smuggling operations. In New York, a nation-leading 58% of the cigarette market was smuggled in 2013. The share is so high that it hardly fits the description of an underground market.

    Cigarette taxes vary greatly between states, and therefore, so do cigarette prices. According to the recent Tax Foundation report, “Cigarette Taxes and Cigarette Smuggling by State, 2013,” this creates arbitrage opportunities for smugglers — that is, the profiting from asset price differences. As a result, some states have net inflows of smuggled cigarettes, while others report net outflows. Based on smuggled cigarettes consumed as a percentage of total cigarettes consumed in 2013, these are the states with the highest cigarette smuggling rates.

    Smuggling can take a variety of forms, from casual smuggling, when individuals purchase cigarettes at a discount across state lines for personal consumption, to commercial smuggling, which could mean large-scale criminal organizations. The severity of these crimes varies considerably, and depending on state regulations, many acts of smuggling go completely unnoticed. For our purposes, cigarette smuggling is defined broadly as an avoidance of cigarette taxes.

    A state’s cigarette tax is the largest contributor to the smuggling rate. The tax rate on cigarettes in all but two of the nine states where smuggling is most common exceeded the national average rate of $1.44 per pack. In New York, the tax rate is $4.35 per pack, the highest in the nation. Neighboring Vermont, Pennsylvania, as well as nearby New Hampshire, all had much lower tax rates, as well as net outflows of contraband tobacco.

    In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Scott Drenkard, economist and manager of state projects at the Tax Foundation, as well as the author of the Tax Foundation’s report, explained that in states that have much higher taxes than other states, and not very much separation geographically, the likelihood of smuggling increases dramatically. The problem, according to Drenkard, “is that we have a price prohibition on these products because we’ve taxed them at such high rates in some states.” As in the 1920s, “when you have prohibition you’re going to have bootlegging [and] you’re going to have arbitrage,” Drenkard said. “You have the same economic engines at work that create these black markets.”

    In addition to the high tax rate variance between states, there is the added opportunity for smugglers to buy cigarettes in Indian reservations where tobacco is often far less expensive. New York, New Mexico, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Washington are all near Indian reservations that likely influence the smuggling rate considerably.

    While smuggling cigarettes was extremely lucrative for many smugglers, large-scale or small, smoking cigarettes was relatively uncommon in all of these states. The percentage of adults who identified as smokers in 2013 exceeded the national smoking rate of 18.2% in only two of the nine states reviewed. According to Drenkard, many states have increased excise taxes in order to generate revenue and bolster failing budgets. State reserves as a percent of general fund expenditures in fiscal 2014 — also known as a rainy-day fund — did not exceed the average for the nation in seven of the nine states with the highest smuggling rates.

    For Drenkard, levying such so-called “sin taxes” is extremely problematic. For one, “it makes long-term planning for your budget very difficult, [especially] if you have such a large portion of your revenue coming from an activity that you’re actively trying to discourage.” Many of these states have generated relatively large shares of revenue from a tobacco tax. In 2012, state and local tax revenues accounted for at least 2.5% of total revenue in five of the nine states. By contrast, the national average tobacco tax contribution to revenue was 2.2%.

    To identify the states smuggling the most cigarettes, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed smuggled cigarettes consumed as a percent of total cigarettes consumed in 2013 from the Tax Foundation’s February 2015 report, “Cigarette Taxes and Cigarette Smuggling by State, 2013.” Only states with smuggling rates greater than 25% were considered. For the Tax Foundation, a positive percentage is a measure of inflow, while a negative percentage indicates an outflow of smuggled cigarettes. Tax rates, smuggling rates from 2006, and percentage point change data also came from the Tax Foundation. Local tax rates, state and local tax revenue figures, and tax burdens are from the Tax Policy Center and are as of the most recent period available. The percent of adults who smoked in 2013 is from the Kaiser Foundation. Rainy-day funds, or reserves as a percentage of general fund expenditures in fiscal year 2014 were provided by Pew Charitable Trusts.

    These are the states selling the most contraband cigarettes.


  7. Smoking Scot says:

    About the Channel 4 documentary, all we’re witnessing is the establishment running scared. The latest poll in the Daily Mail claims overall support for UKIP has dropped to 9% – and they’re trailing the Lib/Dems, that are on 10%.

    These documentaries don’t get done in a couple of days. Most likely the idea floated after their success at the EU elections.

    It’s as Mr. Farage says, bring it on, it helps get them much needed publicity. However the smoky pub scene, if there is one, is of course outright misrepresentation. That simply will not happen; separate smoking rooms similar to what they have in say Belgium or the Netherlands are generally hidden away in basements or at the rear of the premises. The only one I’ve been in was at Amsterdam airport and resembles a conservatory. (As luck would have it, I can show you a pretty picture of it!)


    Re Greece and its troubles. This article tells us we may see Syriza back down on Wednesday. Trouble is there’s currently a run on all Greek banks and they’re only being propped up by the ECB.

    So yet again we have this running sore that is Greece and, if you’ve got a humongous appetite for risk, you can get a walloping 19% on 3 year Greek bonds right now. They’re in Euro.


    Checked on what you can get on Ukraine bonds – and they only yield 17.5% – and that’s in the local currency the Hryvnia!!

    Huge disconnect between what the market perceives and what the politicians would like them to play along with.

    • I wouldn’t buy any bonds of debt from anyone……………Even the U.S. governments credit rating has been hit. But as usual the government goes and starts investigating standard and poors who lowered their credit rating on the markets………The US GOVMNT depends on a standard rate of inflation to eat up its debt………look what happened deflation meaning they actually have to pay out dollar per dollar plus interest on that 18-19 trillion outstanding and the FED seems to be the only ones buying treasury bonds……….

  8. beobrigitte says:

    Row over Channel 4’s drama-documentary, ‘Ukip: The First Hundred Days’
    Show airs tomorrow and portrays British life if party wins general election
    Film shows society on the brink of collapse, three months after their win

    That could easily backfire – people might actually try and confirm what they saw and check out the UKIP web site to read for themselves.
    Society on the brink of collapse? That has started on 1.7.2007 when the smokers came under attack. Now it isn’t only the smokers; it’s the overweight people, the people who hate sports, people who like sugar in their tea ….. Do we still have an interacting, cohesive society? The only interaction we all have is competitive.

    The most interesting feature:

    The provocative scenes play out against the backdrop of smoky pubs because Farage has lifted the smoking ban.
    Smoky pubs? They must be packed with people again!!! The very few people visiting pubs these days could never create that smoky atmosphere, even if they chainsmoked!
    I do wonder how many smokers are unaware of UKIP planning to allow for smoking rooms – they will know it soon!

  9. BrianB says:

    Why are you all talking about the Ch4 ‘mockumentary’ as if it is in the future? It was on last night, at 9pm.

    I realised it was going to be a hatchet job as soon as Ch4 started showing trailers for it about 2 weeks ago, nonetheless, I decided to watch the beginning … just in case.

    So, in the first 2 minutes, UKIP wins the election, Nigel Farage is sworn in as PM, and the new Government announces its “radical” programme for the first 100 days (no details given).

    3 minutes in (one week post-election), TV news reports that HMG announces plans for ‘Brexit’ (all good so far).

    4 minutes in (two weeks post-election) New UKIP MP (Asian, female, naturally!) is being shadowed by a journalist, and is called to a meeting with UKIP spin doctor – in a pub, natch!

    Cut to shot of meeting participants gathering at a table by the bar. Small, barely-legible sign with black text within red circle sits atop said bar. Camera zooms in on the sign which reads “Smoking Allowed”. Oddly the pub wasn’t “smoky” – since no-one was visibly smoking (well, it was a real pub, after all, so the Landlord would probably have been banged up, even for allowing the filming of this fiction.)

    So there you have it: UKIP won the election, and within 2 weeks, UK starts to leave the EU and pubs allowed smoking again. What’s not to like?

    After that it the whole program took the expected turn, with financial meltdown, race riots, various pestilence, famine and plagues of locust etc etc – or at least that is what I read.

    Me? I stopped watching once the smoking ban had been repealed!

    Thank you Channel 4 for highlighting this most fundamental of UKIP policies – and for not showing pubgoers with purple faces, clutching their chests, as they fell into their pints – not even coughing and waving their hands about. Nothing to fear then!

  10. E Cigarettes Communications Lead, – Ref:1444058

    The plan will need to include: dealing with enquiries from the media and the public; proactively engaging with the media and social media; engaging and consulting with a wide range of stakeholders, from pressure groups to manufacturers of electronic cigarettes; developing key messages and copy for a variety of channels. The post holder will work closely with teams in the communications division and with senior personnel in other divisions to agree and deliver a communications strategy and action plan.

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