GREECE, RUSSIA, INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL CLEARING, AND SOME HIGH OCTANE ...February 23, 2015
While our eyes here have been focussed on space recently, there has, of course, been the usual flurry of activity on Earth, specifically in Europe, and more specifically with respect to Greece and Russia and the ongoing controversy between Europe, the Anglosphere, and Russia regarding the Ukraine. But first, the camel's nose in the door was this story, shared by Mr. T.M.:
What's new here is that the effort now seems to indicate that Germany is leading the effort to prod Greece out of the Euro:
"But Edward Scicluna, Malta's finance minister, poured more petrol on the fire. Here he is in MaltaToday, suggesting that a Germany-led bloc could prod Greece out of the euro:
"'I think they've now reached a point where they will tell Greece 'if you really want to leave, leave,' finance minister Edward Scicluna told MaltaToday.
"'And I think they mean it because Germany, the Netherlands and others will be hard and they will insist that Greece repays back the solidarity shown by the member states by respecting the conditions," Scicluna said ...
"'Unfortunately for Greece, they do not know how the rules and the Eurogroup work. They are completely new and that's a drawback for them, Scicluna said."
Now, if you buy the notion that the Greeks are "completely new" to the Eurogame and "do not know how the rules... work." I have a bridge for sale in Brooklyn, cheap. Make your cheque payable to cash. As readers here are probbaly aware, Mr. Putin has made overtures to Greece, including offers of a loan, and various ministers of the new Greek government have already journeyed to Moscow for talks that one wishes one could have been a fly on the wall to hear.
But there's more, and this may be the biggest story:
There's much to ponder in this article, but I want to draw your attention to these paragraphs:
"They have again begun discussions about restrictions on the SWIFT payment system," Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told a government meeting Monday, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported. "If such a decision is taken our economic reaction, and reaction in other spheres, will be unlimited."
Predictions of dire consequences were also heard from Andrei Kostin, the head of VTB Bank, Russia's second largest lender, during the Davos economic forum last week.
"It will lead to a serious deterioration of the international relationship between the East and the West," Kostin told an audience of investors, officials and journalists Friday, according to the Russian economic news agency Prime.
He added that formal diplomatic relations between the United States and Russia could well be severed should Russia be disconnected from SWIFT.
SWIFT in Russia
The core of SWIFT's work is a secure financial messaging service that communicates payment orders to be settled at correspondent accounts — accounts that one financial institution holds with another financial institution.
The network has become key to the functioning of Russia's financial system since the first bank began to use the service in 1989.
About 360,000 such messages are sent daily, making Russia the second most prolific user of SWIFT in the world, the head of SWIFT in Russia, Roman Chernov, told a conference last year, according to RIA Novosti. Over 600 Russian financial institutions use SWIFT, which saw a 40 percent growth in its traffic in 2014, he said.(Emphasis added)
Already we've seen the Russians launching their own internal clearing mechanisms, and last year we also saw the Russians insist, and get, the credit card clearing operations for western credit cards to have operational clearing centers based in Russia.
So what might Mr. Medvedev's remarks portend? It is worth noting that Mr. Medvedev is perceived, at least in some circles, as more "pro-Western" than many other top Russian leaders, including Mr. Putin. Thus, having him statew that Russia's "economic reaction, and reaction in other spheres, will be unlimited," is significant. But what might unlimited in this context mean?
Here comes the high octane speculation part. The hint of what this might be is contained, I suggest, in the following statement near the end of the Moscow Times article:
"There are no other available systems, clients will have to open correspondent accounts with Chinese banks and work through them," said the Higher School of Economics' Vasily Solodkov.
In other words, the current international clearing system lacks redundancy, and thus, to create parallel international clearing systems - redundancy - a "conflict" is needed. It is the West's chokehold on these systems that give it enormous ecomonic power and leverage, and it is the challange to this monopoly - and indeed to this dangerously insecure - system that is, I think, behind the current international financial scramble. If the BRICSA nations, for example, are to cement their alliance and mutual interests, at some juncture they must have their own parallel systems of international clearing.
Enter Greece. Greece shares many things in common with Russia, including a common Orthodox culture. Could we be watching the first step toward the construction of a parallel system of international financial clearing? Perhaps, but it is too early to tell. But even if Greece eventually capitulates to the West's demands, ultimately Russia (and the rest of the BRICSA nations) will have to have redundant and parallel systems of international financial clearing, and this in turn will require heavy space assets to do so. Bringing competition to the SWIFT and CHIPS networks would not be a bad thing, obviously. But the real question is why the sudden urge to isolate Russia from the existing systems in the first place?
I can think of the obvious answers: to punish Russia for "their aggression" in the Ukraine (the "I have a bridge for sail in Brooklyn" version of the story). But the deeper reason is, I suspect, to create redundancies in the system, such that taking out SWIFT or CHIPS won't impede financial transfer. But creating such redundancies also implies an implicit threat to the system of global clearing. And that's where it gets interesting, because no power on Earth has a vested interest in wrecking the system of international clearing. So the short version is this: one creates massive communications redundancies in response to perceived or potential threats. It's when one contemplates that angle, that things get very interesting indeed. Thus, if an attempt is being made to isolate Russia from the system of international clearing, then the response will be predictable: Russia will create its own, in conjunction with other nations. And thus, the West's actions can either be conceived as counter-intuitive, and counter to its own interests, or the objective is, at a much deeper level, to create financial clearing redundancies and massively parallel architectures for international financial clearing, which would permit western economies to continue to function in the international arena even if their clearing were suddenly to be taken out. .
And that, folks, implies a military and deeply strategic agenda, done in response to a perceived or potential threat. Systems and communications redundancy and decentralization = military response.Or, as the article itself avers, the fact that so much international clearing occurs via SWIFT simply results in the following equation: SWIFT = O.B.T.(One Big Target).
The real question is, what is the perceived or potential threat?
See you on the flip side...