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from MacroScope:

Will French numbers add up?

French President Francois Hollande’s cabinet meets to adopt a new debt reduction plan.

After outlining 50 billion euros of savings for 2015-2017 to help pay for consumer and business tax cuts, the government is due to sign off on already delayed deficit reductions to bring it, eventually, to three percent of output as demanded by Brussels.

The European Commission has taken a dim view of any further relaxation, having previously granted Paris two years extra leeway. The French government insists it will meet its targets but appears to be trying to deliver one message to Brussels and another to its electorate, with domestic politics likely to hold sway.

French media are reporting the government will raise the official deficit forecast for this year and next to 3.8 percent and 3.0 percent of GDP respectively, which leaves no room for manoeuvre. 

from Photographers' Blog:

A different kind of field trip

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Stavropol, Russia

By Eduard Korniyenko

Students at the General Yermolov Cadet School take all the same classes as their contemporaries would in any other Russian middle school. But there is a difference – pupils here are also given a military education.  

The state-run school is based in the southern Russian city of Stavropol, some 150 miles from the Olympic resort of Sochi. It is named in honour of Alexei Yermolov, the famous Russian imperial general, and the institution itself is as military-influenced as its name.

from The Great Debate:

No drama in Obama’s Ukraine policy

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Many are asking: How can we stop Russian President Vladimir Putin from moving into Ukraine and seizing a large chunk of its territory in the east? The actions of forces that resemble the Russian special operations troops who created the conditions for annexation of Crimea suggest that other parts of Ukraine may also be in the Russian strongman's sights.

The fact is, however, we cannot stop Putin. Or, to be more precise, we should not try to stop him physically. Doing so would require military threats or troop deployments to Ukraine. The stakes do not warrant such a step. It is not worth risking World War Three over this.

from MacroScope:

Five days on, Ukraine accord at risk of unravelling

An international agreement to avert wider conflict in Ukraine, brokered only five days ago, is teetering with pro-Moscow separatist gunmen showing no sign of surrendering government buildings and Kiev and Moscow trading accusations over who was responsible for killings over the weekend.

Washington, which signed last week's accord in Geneva along with Moscow, Kiev and the European Union, said it would decide "in days" on additional sanctions if Russia does not take steps to implement the agreement. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is in Kiev where he is expected to announce a package of technical assistance.

from Breakingviews:

Sanctions on Russia will cost less than inaction

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By Pierre Briançon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Vladimir Putin has set the stage well for the first international talks on Ukraine. Armed pro-Russian separatists have seized buildings in several eastern Ukrainian cities. Their uniforms and weapons suggest they are equipped by the Russian army, if not part of it. The rebels’ success has shown that the government in Kiev is not in control of the country – not even of its own security forces.

from John Lloyd:

The coalition of the reluctant

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Russia is currently winning the Game of Empire. It has taken Crimea and it is closing in on Eastern Ukraine. Whether or not more will be invaded, no one can tell.

We are not accustomed to leaders of great states who go for broke. Meet a leader of a great state who is going for broke. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, a man of history.

from The Great Debate:

Odessa: Ukrainian port that inspired big dreams

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Tensions have been rising in many corners of Ukraine as the threat of a Russian intervention looms. Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odessa is one such corner of dispute between Moscow and Kiev, where macro-battles have been transformed into a seemingly endless chain of micro-conflicts.

Supporters of both countries have taken to marching through the streets, ominously threatening each other. The Ukrainian government is trying to wrest control of the local oil refinery -- one of the country’s most important -- away from a Russian bank. Tension is visible in the smallest aspects of life.

from MacroScope:

Greeks bearing bonds

Greece will sell its first bond in four years.

We know it will aim to raise up to 2.5 billion euros of five-year paper via syndication and wants to pay less than 5.3 percent – remarkable since only two years ago it was tipped to crash out of the euro zone and yields on 10-year debt peaked above 40 percent on the secondary market. They dropped below six percent for the first time since 2010 on Wednesday.

Athens has no pressing funding needs but wants to test the waters as part of its strategy to cover all its financing from the market by 2016. It still has a mountain to climb and may well need more debt relief from its EU partners to corral a national debt that is not falling much from 175 percent of GDP. 

from MacroScope:

A question of gas

Vladimir Putin will meet senior Russian government officials to discuss Russia's economic ties with Ukraine, including on energy after state-controlled natural gas producer Gazprom said Kiev missed a deadline to pay a $2.2 billion bill.

In previous years, gas disputes between Moscow and Kiev have hurt supplies to Europe. The Ukraine government has said it would take Russia to an arbitration court if Moscow failed to roll back gas price hikes.

from Breakingviews:

Russia would pay steep price for Ukraine invasion

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By Pierre Briançon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Vladimir Putin wants to destabilise Ukraine, but he may balk at the economic price Russia would pay for a full-blown invasion. The seizure of government buildings in several eastern Ukrainian cities has rekindled fears of military intervention in the mostly Russian-speaking parts of the country. A major consideration before sending in troops would be the price paid by Russia’s economy. Putin can expect to be severely punished by both markets and Western governments.

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