When the game be­comes dan­ger­ous

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY ALEXIS PA­PACHELAS

Cau­tion is al­ways needed in the game of geopol­i­tics. Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras tried to play in the first seven months that he was in gov­ern­ment, and he failed. Now he is try­ing his hand again. There are cer­tainly new fac­tors on the ta­ble, chief among which is the un­con­trol­lable in­flow of refugees and mi­grants into Europe. This cri­sis will dom­i­nate Euro­pean de­vel­op­ments for months, if not years, to come and will test the met­tle of the en­tire bloc, and An­gela Merkel in par­tic­u­lar. Opin­ions on how it will af­fect Greece vary. The op­ti­mists be­lieve the Ger­man chan­cel­lor will want to make sure Greece does not be­come a prob­lem spot again in 2016, over fears that the com­bi­na­tion of the mi­grant cri­sis and a ref­er­en­dum in the UK on its EU mem­ber­ship could cre­ate the per­fect storm. The idea is that Ber­lin will cut Greece some slack when it comes to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the third bailout to help keep the wa­ters calm. The pes­simists, on the other hand, be­lieve Merkel is los­ing her grip and will not waste any­more po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal on Greece. They think she’ll fo­cus her en­er­gies on the refugee cri­sis and leave Greece to its fate. Right now Tsipras’s big­gest ally in Europe is French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande. Paris has been in­stru­men­tal in shap­ing a nar­ra­tive in which the Greek prime min­is­ter is de­ter­mined to be­come a mod­er­ate so­cial demo­crat who will stick to his com­mit­ments and im­ple­ment the terms of the bailout. His affin­ity with Tsipras, to­gether with his con­trolled con­fronta­tion with Ber­lin, has boosted Hol­lande po­lit­i­cally and within his party. How­ever, his aides who talk to Athens al­ways say that nei­ther France nor Brus­sels will be able to save Greece if Tsipras starts talk­ing about rene­go­ti­a­tions or re­form de­lays. Ger­man Fi­nance Min­is­ter Wolf­gang Schaeu­ble and other hawks are wait­ing for such a fail­ure. The sec­ond ob­ser­va­tion they make has to do with the way Tsipras is play­ing his cards in Washington, which is deeply an­noy­ing to both Ber­lin and Paris. He will have to be ex­tremely care­ful that it doesn’t blow up in his face if things go sour with the debt ne­go­ti­a­tions and the bailout re­view in the months to come. The Amer­i­can card is all well and good, but it will pro­vide no tan­gi­ble re­sults. In short, Amer­ica has not made any loans to Greece, nor will it, and it has no say in the re­duc­tion of Greece’s sov­er­eign debt. It may nudge the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund or ad­vise the Ger­mans, but that’s about it. There is also no but­ton in the Oval Of­fice that can get in­vest­ments flow­ing into Greece with one push. On the other hand, Washington’s sup­port is cru­cial on the geopo­lit­i­cal front and Athens will have to go along with US strate­gic and op­er­a­tional de­mands, which will just keep grow­ing. The first months of Tsipras’s first gov­ern­ment proved that cau­tion is needed. It is easy to try to frighten the Euro­peans or Amer­i­cans by threat­en­ing to play the Rus­sia card or to be­lieve that you can ally your­self with Washington against Ber­lin, but when it comes down to brass tacks, such facile ma­neu­ver­ing can easily col­lapse.

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