Tsipras: Great expectations from America

Tsipras: Great expectations from America

With a fresh mandate from his people after last week’s Sunday snap elections, Alexis Tsipras left for the United States on Saturday for a trip that may prove to be very useful for his second time in office. 

The election campaign this time was too short for the candidates to develop any comprehensive political narrative. The announcement of the election date came just after the approval by the Greek Parliament of yet another painful austerity package agreed by the Tsipras government. His political enemies consider the new package he agreed in Brussels as the starkest proof of the betrayal of his ideas and party for which he was first elected in January. Yet, throughout last month’s campaign, Tsipras insisted that he fought long and hard to get the best possible deal for his country and that the final deal is not as bad as it seems.

During the 20 or so days of the September campaign, Tsipras never missed the chance to indicate that he has pinned a lot of hope on a future comprehensive discussion on the restructuring of the huge Greek debt and he never hid the fact that he had hopes that help would come also from beyond the Atlantic. He was much criticized about the vagueness of his statements considering the toughness of the new package from Brussels, which will go into effect in October. Some of his more vocal critics believe that he actually called the last elections in order to get rid of the staunchly leftist anti-austerity group in his party.

There is no doubt that Tsipras, in his new term, counts a lot in the U.S. That means everything will not be put in the basket of the EU and the eurozone. 

For his re-election to office, he received the customary telephone calls from many world leaders, including President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama. 

But the content of the telephone conversation with President Obama needs to be looked at more carefully. According the statement issued by Obama’s office late last Thursday, the American president pointed out that the U.S. is looking forward to cooperating with the new Greek government so that Greece proceeds with the implementation of the required reforms to return to growth and achieve the sustainability of the country’s public debt within the eurozone.

From the Greek side, the reference by the White House to the “sustainability of the debt” is a strong indication that the Americans are sending a signal to the Europeans that this issue should be brought openly to discussion as part of the solution to the “Greek problem.” A generous restructuring of the Greek debt would loosen the hands of the Greek government and would give it options for countermeasures to alleviate the harshness of the package. 

Alexis Tsipras is already in New York to attend the 70th anniversary of the United Nations and to have a series of meetings on the sidelines of the summit. So far there is no word on a face-to-face meeting with President Obama, although he is expected to meet with Secretary of State John Kerry. 

But with Tsipras in New York and with his team doing its best to provide reassurances that this time the Americans are determined to give a helping hand to Greece, a scoop by the Greek daily Kathimerini sheds useful light on the background of the negotiations between the Greek team and the eurozone leaders back in July. It also explains the present optimism of Tsipras in spite of his capitulation in Brussels. 

According to an exclusive document published by the newspaper, Washington and Athens were in close cooperation during the months preceding the final meeting in Brussels on the agreement with Greece. It appears that the American government was giving advice to the Tsipras team not to confront Berlin, but to try and create a wider alliance with other European countries such as Britain, France, Italy and Austria, who had to be convinced – about the determination of Greece to abiding by the terms of the agreement – in order to offer their support to Greece.  This was what eventually happened. The document, according to the newspaper, indicates that “the Americans had a different economic and geopolitical doctrine than Germany and worried that … the full dominance of Berlin would intentionally or unintentionally lead to a collapse of the eurozone, something which is against American interests.”

According to the information revealed by the article, the discussion on the restructuring of the Greek debt and the role of the IMF in the discussion were also part of the American policy toward supporting the Greek case.