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Tsipras and the White House against Berlin

27 September 2015 / 16:09:49  GRReporter
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With his visit to the US and his meetings at the highest level, Alexis Tsipras will close a political cycle. It was started by Tsipras himself and SYRIZA, with their revolutionary pronouncements, and reached a relationship of trust and cooperation with Washington during the negotiations with the creditors.

Four days after Greece's agreement with its creditors on 16 July, the Greek ambassador to the US, Christos Panagopoulos, drew up a secret telegram summarizing many months of cooperation between Washington and Athens, aimed at the latter's withstanding of the German attacks, remaining in the Eurozone and achieving a lasting settlement. The telegram mentions that the ambassador was in contact with a senior treasury official, who conveyed his impressions from the meeting between Jack Lew and Wolfgang Schaeuble. Apparently, the meeting took place in a tense atmosphere, at least as far as the Greece-related issues are concerned.

A careful reading of the text makes it clear that in fact the United States were advising Tsipras's government throughout the negotiations, and until their very end. The Americans' key advice was that the government take concrete steps in agreed areas and avoid head-to-head collisions with Berlin (both verbal attacks and social network campaigns). The aim was to create "broader alliances - with Britain or France, Italy, Austria, which had to be assured of Athens' determination to implement reforms and support it against Germany."

It seems that this strategy has been embraced by the Greek prime minister, as far as possible. At the famous summit on July 12, it is obvious that the countries mentioned in the document stuck to a positive attitude towards Greece and contributed to the achievement of the agreement. The Americans' key premise was that "Berlin should not be given a chance to impose its views", or in other words that Greece should not directly lock horns with the Germans because such a strategy could backfire.

It also becomes clear that the US really had different economic and geopolitical ideas from those of Germany and were concerned that Berlin's overbearing stance could, deliberately or not, lead to the Eurozone's disintegration – something contrary to US interests.

As far as the Greek case is concerned, "Washington's strategy is twofold: highlighting the important geopolitical role of Greece and producing consistent reports on its debt revaluation." As for the geopolitics, it is clear that the US advised Athens to put the emphasis on the geopolitical risk aspects, which might have affected the western system consequent to the eventual collapse of Greece. This was actually the kind of argument that Athens deployed until the end of negotiations. As mentioned in the document, the IMF took a supportive position in the debt discussion, apparently after appropriate exhortations from the US.

Continuous contacts

The Greek Ambassador to the US was obviously pleased to note that the rapport between Obama's and Tsipras' governments went beyond ordinary cooperation. This was evident from the fact that those involved in the Greek case included senior representatives not only of the White House itself, but also from the State Department, the National Security Council, the Ministry of Finance, etc. These representatives were consistently in contact not only with Athens but also with other European capitals, to help stave off a Greek collapse and disintegration of the Eurozone, and also avoid a crisis in the Washington-Berlin relationship.

There is a telling part of the document where the Greek ambassador mentions: "The discussion shows the conviction of the American side that it would have been the wrong move to seek at this time a change of the German mindset, namely, the "philosophical and theological" attitude of Mr. Schaeuble, who seems grounded in the argument that if the Eurozone is to remain competitive globally and the euro - a strong currency, it is requisite to apply stricter measures rather than compromise."

According to reliable information, the US were the power, which also influenced NATO by playing up Greece's geopolitical role. Thus, at a time, when the relations between Tsipras and the creditors deteriorated, on June 20, NATO's Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow addressed to Berlin a statement expressing strong concern about a possible Greek exit from the Eurozone. Vershbow emphasised that this possibility "could pose a risk to the security of the Alliance."

Tags: Greek ambassador document Athens Berlin USA White House cooperation talks
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