Greece: Superpowers (and Others) Observing from a Distance

As the Greek “no-win game plan” plays out on the world stage, many are wondering why both the United States and Russia are, for the most part, watching quietly from the sidelines. The argument could be made (and has) that Greece is miniscule in both size and its ability to wreak havoc on a global level. That’s terribly shortsighted and frankly, when has the U.S. ever stood by and simply watched from a distance? For that matter, when has Russia?

With so many events playing out simultaneously, attention gets focused and refocused. It’s easy to feel as though nothing is ever resolved as we constantly turn our attention to the latest breaking news.

The question is: who will really benefit, no matter the outcome? Who knows – but there are a few facts that could be playing a big role in how these decisions are made.

Russia

We know that Russia is looking for better solutions now that the U.S. has tried to sanction it off the map. You’d think Putin would be working magic to take advantage of the weakness Greece now is showing – and you’d be right.

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Greece and Russia have teamed up for the latest pipeline project going through Turkey. Honestly, I couldn’t figure out why Greece didn’t simply bail on the negotiations and leave the Eurozone for Russia’s open arms. Putin’s already said he’s willing to write a check, and let’s face it, Greece gets no respect from its European partners. Proof of that is found in the almost-sad way it’s being treated in these negotiations.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ is now facing a reality that includes his own people feeling as though he sold them out. Even his wife threatened to leave him if he caved. Less than one week later – he caved.

Why would he risk losing everything for a deal that serves no good purpose for his country? The truth is, Germany, France and the others have a lot at stake, too, yet they’re playing hardball on a deal that is pretty much a list of “granted wishes” by Greece. So why is Tsipras being treated like a red-headed stepchild when he’s caved to all of their demands? Maybe this will help:

Greece has the power to veto any Russian sanctions the EU wishes to dole out.

Maybe Tsipras loses more than his country’s faith and his marriage if he doesn’t try to remain where he is, even if it does mean a worse deal in the short term.

Germany

Angela Merkel has her hands full. She and her country’s leaders want Greece ejected. But why? They say Greece is lazy and untrustworthy, but is that really enough for Germany to take such a tough stance?  Russia and Germany have always had a love/hate relationship. Just last month, Germany accused Russia of stockpiling nukes near Russia’s borders. The fact that any one partner can veto anything the EU proposes is probably a bit uncomfortable for Germany, especially considering this slow dance with Russia and knowing Greece and Russia are partners in oil.

Former (as of last week) Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, wrote on Friday:

Based on months of negotiation, my conviction is that the German finance minister wants Greece to be pushed out of the single currency to put the fear of God into the French and have them accept his model of a disciplinarian eurozone.

It’s walking a fine line laid out by Putin, but it also knows that a partner with the power to veto sanctions against Russia is not something any of the countries wish to tackle.

Makes sense. France has the same veto power as Greece. And speaking of France:

France

This is a country with leaders who’ve been busy. President Hollande took the position of bucking Germany and Angela Merkel in order to take Greece’s side. French leaders have spent a significant amount of time in the past 24 hours “oohing and ahhhing” over the latest proposal set forth by Tsipras and encouraging other countries – and most certainly Germany – to follow. France as a cheerleader – who’d have thought?

Adding to this: France is pressuring the United States to close a deal with Iran. French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, said just today, “Now that everything is on the table, the moment has come to decide.”

I don’t reckon that serenade with James Taylor earlier this year had the effect Kerry was hoping for.

Maybe France is still angry at the U.S. for forcing it to cancel its contract with Russia regarding its Mistral program this past November. It was a big contract for France, but it did not bode well with us and a few other countries.

Russia, surprisingly enough, negotiated with the country and ended up with a deal that simply allowed for a refund to Russia. That’s generous, considering the massive contractual dynamics that France annihilated and the realization that Russia could have made things extraordinarily hard for France. But maybe there were a few promises made that could place Russia in a strategic position in the very near future, especially if Grexit comes full circle.

Iran

Iran doesn’t have a dog in the hunt with Greece/Europe battle, but it does play a role in the very near future, especially if Greece leaves EU.

Iran is vehement in its efforts of convincing those involved in the nuclear talks to lift the UN arms embargo and end the long-standing ban against the missile program. In fact, those are likely the two biggest challenges at this point. Naturally, Russia is in agreement with Iran, which further complicates matters, especially considering the two countries have enjoyed a mutually beneficial nuke program for many years. And let’s not forget, Obama is fine and dandy with Russia holding Iran’s nuke materials as part of the deal. That’s like handing me a freezer full of shrimp and telling me not to cook it. That shrimp is going to get cooked!

But there’s another reason Russia and Iran are acting more like BFFs. In BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), U.S. sanctions play no role at all. This could mean that Iran, if the new agreement falls through (or even if they don’t), can still bypass any sanctions and keep its product in the market. Iran has already stated on more than a few occasions over the past few years that it wants to join BRICS. While Greece couldn’t become a full member at this time, it can benefit from the many advantages BRICS provides.

“Iran supports the BRICS group and is prepared for membership and presence in BRICS’ fund.”

– Iran’s Deputy Economy Minister Behrouz Alishiri

And then there’s this little gem from two years ago: BRICS leaders released a statement after one of its summits:

“We are concerned about threats of military action as well as unilateral sanctions, and hope that all outstanding issues relating to Iran’s nuclear programme will be resolved through discussions and diplomatic means. We believe there is no alternative to a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue, and recognize Iran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy consistent with its international obligations.”

Russia has at least 33 nuclear reactors and India has nearly as many while Brazil and South Africa have two or three nuclear reactors each.

Yet, Iran is the country that leaders say is the threat on the nuclear front. And God forbid Greece embarrass the EU and make a beeline for the other side that includes nuke supporters.

Finland

Finland is another country that stated it would not vote in favor of Greece’s stay in the EU. This is a small country and while it is part of the EU, really, what could taking a stand against Greece cost the country? Why remain stone silent and at the 11th hour, find your voice? Maybe Russia knows the answer.

For 40 years, the Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe has hosted a meeting with leaders from many countries, including Russia. This year, however, Russia was uninvited. Russia counted on Finland to take its side by not supporting a travel ban that prevented many of Russia’s delegates to attend. Finland chose not to.

Russia’s response? Nikolai Kovalev made it clear the damage to the relations between Finland and Russia was permanent.

Susanna Turunen, YLE editor, was a bit more definitive in her statements:

“Russia sees the situation differently and is now considering counter measures that could involve further trade sanctions specifically targeting Finland…failure is the inevitable outcome of denying entry of the Russian delegation.”

Unfortunately, Finland is the one country that is 100 percent dependent on Russia for its energy.

Maybe Finland is hedging its bets if Greece is ejected. It could be the one country Russia relies on to veto sanctions in the EU. France certainly can’t do it without massive repercussions.

By the way, the countries in the EU have their energy needs met by Russia. In fact, more than half of its energy comes from Russia. It’s like a game of chess for Putin.

Russian expert and economist Edward Lucas sums it up:

If you rely on Russia for your oil reserves, or for a big proportion of your sales, you turn yourself willy-nilly into a hostage. The demands may not be conspicuous. They may not come immediately. But just as water flows downhill, so the power of the Kremlin finds the weakest spot and exploits it.

United States
So now we know why Russia is, for the most part, taken a passive position. But what about the U.S? What is Obama doing?

Well, he’s freeing federal prisoners right after an NAACP luncheon focused on the disproportionate number of men and women of color who are incarcerated.

Oh, and he’s also “integrating races into wealthy communities”. Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up.

He’s creating new national monuments.

Basically, it looks as though “the leader of the free world is indulging in a week of summer vacation” but wrapping it up delightfully as a strategic move in case a deal is struck with Iran.

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One thought on “Greece: Superpowers (and Others) Observing from a Distance

  1. Pingback: We’re Broke as the Ten Commandments, but Here’s a Few Billion | It's All About the Right Writing

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