July 7, 2015

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OPINION: Why the West badly needs a one-eyed negotiator with the Greeks - Geopolitics getting very messy

Greece is isolated and chock full of Fifth Columnists, and the creditors are multiply divided. In the article below, the Slog -which has always supported SYRIZA- discusses the options and argues that, without a bold step from the EU now, everyone involved in this mess will have only tears for souvenirs at the end of it. 

(The Slog) - I’m thrilled that the Greek people stepped up to the Referendum plate. But in the cold light of a Monday dawn, all of us who want a free, varietal and democratic Europe must ask ourselves, “Has anything changed?”

I doubt very much if it has.

The likes of Draghi, Schauble, Dijesslbleom and Juncker have shown over and over again the disdain they have for Citizen Democracy. At every point in the last twenty years when member States have rejected neoliberal proposals, the European Commission has simply parked them, and put the result down to ‘a mistake’ by the People. It’s the way of the world today: when the UK Parliament threw out David Cameron’s proposal to bomb the crap out of hugely dispersed Islamist radicals, his reaction was not to reconsider: he hauled the Party Whips into his office and demanded to know why they had failed to deliver the vote he wanted.

What the elites lack today is the ability to reflect. They see only a risibly chosen goal, and a self-inflicted deadline before which they must reach it. Concern about whether the destination is Los Angeles or Auschwitz remains absent.

Juncker, Dijesslbleom and Draghi in particular are too far beyond accountability.

Merkel may hold an elective position, but she is firmly established as the Mutti in the Vaterland. Similarly, while thinking Germans regard Schauble as something of a neolithic liability, the Bild-reading knuckle-draggers hail Wolfie as a hero.

The only thing any of them fear is what the US State Department, Pentagon and Wall Street think. And at the moment, those American elites are nervous bordering on very unhappy. Fears of Greece mixing with "the wrong sort of people" are strong enough to override any half-baked claptrap about neoliberal eonomics: the dwindling contacts I still enjoy in the Land of the Free tell me consistently that Russian trade deals, and Chinese investments in – or bailout funds for – Greece represent major nightmares among Washington’s wonks.

The Americans are already dismayed and angry about the AIIB’s rapid success in recruiting developed World exchequers. The Ukraine adventure has been a disaster.

The growing idea of a PetroRouble fills Wall Street with horror. And perhaps above all, the thought of losing Mediterranean Europe to Russian ports and non-euro currencies is abhorrent to those three generations of US diplomats who, since 1945, have endeavoured consistently to ensure that Europe is their creature… with a Dolleuro to seal the deal if necessary.

My hunch is that the eurogroupe clowns will continue to stonewall, apply illegal pressure to the ordinary Greek populace, and perhaps even pose in public media as a reasonable bunch of chaps waiting for a "reasonable" Greek proposal. But left to themselves, when something is proposed, they will give out with the usual “interesting but it doesn’t go far enough” crap designed to load yet more homework onto the Greek government.

Given that this is what they’ve done since February 2Oth, what is there in this democratic mandate for SYRIZA that might make Troika2 change tack? Resistance contagion remains the key thing the EU want to stop. They will not be able to do so, but they don’t accept that.

On Sunday night the rumours did not augur well: BoG Governor Stournaras seems to be the favourite PM candidate for those who wish to effect regime change in favour of technocratic government. Some were saying earlier in the day that if there was a YES majority, SYRIZA would resign and then Stournaras would be helicoptered in without an election. Others felt this was more likely in the event of a NO victory.

Dutch hairdresser and failed Gouda transplant Jerry Drivelbloke said, “I take note of the outcome of the Greek referendum. This result is very regrettable for the future of Greece.” So no glimmer of light there. The so-called professional analysts are still saying that Grexit is inevitable, and prior to resigning, Varoufakis continued to assert that it is impossible. But Frances Coppola explained, in a masterly piece last Saturday, how de jure Grexit could be forced upon the Greeks by more ECB financial bullying.

Draghi’s the name, and breaking the law’s his game. In fact, this may be the point at which we finally discover which side Dragula is on…. if any. I have an instinct that, mad though the State Department is these days, the US elites will have an attack of the vapours if the eurogroupies start metaphorically bombing the Greek banks. Not only will Wall Street be near-catatonic with fear about that option, State will see it as an invitation for Putin to step in… and Fifi Lagarde will rightly point out that, while the ECB can take any hit with impunity, the IMF can’t.

This is where the geopolitics get very messy indeed.

Putin can offer some help (in return for bases) but he’s not exactly flush at the moment: Saudi-American oil price manipulation has seen to that. And Vlad the Lad may well shrink, in the post-Ukraine environment, from winding up the White House any further. We will, I’m sure, get lots of bluster from the Russian leader… but not much in the way of hard cash.

(Lest we forget, Russia’s finance minister said last week that Russia had not offered Greece the chance to become a member of the New Development Bank that is being created by the BRICS group.)

The Chinese are potentially a much bigger threat to American hegemony, but the last three weeks have shown that they’re somewhat distracted by a stock market heading for the sewer. So far, Beijing has remained politely detached about the Greek standoff, but there may be a clue in Deputy Chinese Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping’s statement to journalists, following the OXI victory, “I believe the Greek economy will turn round, and the economic crisis will be appropriately handled. Whether or not it can be appropriately handled will not only have an important impact on Greece and its people, but will have an important impact on the world too”.

So then – no hectoring or lecturing, generally positive… but a slight hint at the end that US buccaneering would have potential ramifications.

The truth is, China has a massive export demand shortfall at present, and needs an unstable EU, like Evangelos Venizelos needs to put on a few more kilos.

In short, a SYRIZA-led Greece may well find itself isolated, broke and eased out of the eurozone in fairly short order; and that prospect won’t be helped by the number of ruthlessly pro-EU corporacats plotting against the Administration… from the BoG via the media all the way through to the murkier parts of the Civil Service.

Last week, I understand there was a flurry of extended phone calls between Barack Obama and Angela Merkel. Things have moved on a long way from Geithner’s bold (and hotly denied) 2010 plan to encourage amputation of Greece by the EU… following which Israel and Greece would work for Wallington Street together on the exploitation of undersea rare metals and energy in Greek waters.

Merkel’s learning from that episode was that she’d rather chew glass than leave the Greeks free to bargain outside the EU – although her ‘finance’ minister Wolfgang Strangelove holds the opposite view.

Thus I’m led inexorably to the conclusion that the two leaders (who have worked well together before) share a desire to avoid further complications and resolve the issue in a way acceptable to both sides. Similarly, Mutti has phoned Tsipras direct when the occasion demanded it, and has of late been distancing herself from Schauble and Dijesslbleom.

Finally, like most of us, she still distrusts Mario Draghi.

I’ve been posting for two months now about the obvious fissures in Troika2’s United Front when dealing with Athens. The ECB, the EC, the Eurogroupe, the IMF, Berlin, Frankfurt, Germany and France are all, to one extent or another, at odds with each other in a bewildering 3D game of noughts and crosses. Mainly, what we’re seeing is the standard outcome in all authoritarian States from Imperial Rome and Stalin’s USSR via Nazi Germany to Maoist China: the power-mad in a frenzy of power-grabs.

Only two people in Europe are above this: Merkel and Draghi. The unaccountable Draghi has the upper hand at the moment – ultimately he alone can control how much currency all the ezone States do or don’t get – but whatever his motives are, or his ideal end game might be, one thing Supermario is not going to do is take on the US.

In the kingdom of the Blind, the one-eyed Man is king. Except in this case, it’s a woman. There’s an emergency eurozone Summit Tuesday night; before which Frau Doktor Merkel will meet with Francois Hollande to mark his card.

Yanis Varoufakis was saying he expected negotiations to resume between Athens and ‘the creditors’ immediately, but that was purely for effect: with no deal on the table from either side there’s nothing to talk about… and nobody will do any talking of substance until Wednesday at the earliest. And of course, Yanis himself has now gone: it’s hard to see that as anything other than mutual sacrifices prior to a deal… will Drivelbloke be the next for the chop?

SYRIZA must of course continue the illusion of being responsible people trying to be flexible and go through the proper channels. But there is a reality behind the facade: it being far too early yet for Greece to throw in its lot with BRICS (so far, there’s been no invite from that quarter anyway) a strapped Russia or distracted China, there is only one way for the impasse to be removed: Obama needs to kick Draghi’s arse, while Merkel needs to sit on Wolfgang and tell Drivelbloke to STF up – or else. Then Geli needs to go back to the square she was on six weeks ago, and hammer out a face-saving deal direct with Tsipras.

It wouldn’t be the first time she’d taken charge, there are political risks for her in this course of action, it would really represent more can-kicking, and none of it will make a jot of difference in the end: resistance contagion is out of the laboratory and spells the end of the euro. But Angela Merkel will always be a big-canvas thinker.

The next ‘final answer lies, primarily, with her.

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