The dangerous game of regime change

There can be little rationale behind the decision not to throw Greece a lifeline other than a clumsy bid for change of government. Tsipras is a difficult man to deal with: let’s try and get someone new. We have been here before.

Remember that irascible Italian clown Silvio Berlusoni, who “acquiesced” to step aside in favour of the dour though competent Mario Monti? He had little choice when borrowing costs shot up to dizzying levels, on the back of ebbing enthusiasm for government bonds. Even the great cavallo couldn’t survive this.

A decision by the Frankfurt-based European Central Bank (ECB) not to continue purchasing Italian government debt directly contributed to this sudden hike – and spelled the end of Berlusconi. Which may not, of course, have been a bad thing – depending on your political inclination. Some Italians I know think he did a lousy job for the country.

But allowing a supposedly independent European body to overthrow a leader of a sovereign nation simply because they might not like his economic policy – or for that matter his sexist jokes – is quite clearly undemocratic.

And now we have Greece.

With fairy shoddy conditions attached to the latest bail out aid from the EU – “blackmail”, I think was how Tsipras described it – the Greek leader chose, quite rightly, to take the latest demands from creditors to the people that he serves. After all, it was the Greeks that invented democracy.

But in response did the ECB throw the Greek banks a badly-needed lifeline. Hell no. Instead, the ECB imposed a cap on the amount of money that banks can borrow from the country’s central bank, forcing Tsipras to announce capital controls on the banks from today.

It was a poor decision from Greece’s creditors, and could well push Greece towards – and out of – the exit door.

But to my mind this move is reminiscent of the cat-and-mouse game that the EU has been playing all along. Having to impose capital controls is frustrating and worrying for the Greeks, ominous for the eurozone – and a clear affront to Tsipras’ capability of charting a passage for Greece through this crisis.

Ah! – and therein lies the rub.

Should the majority of Greeks deem Tsipras to be responsible for this mess, they may very well seize the opportunity that he has provided them with and take control for negotiations. They may side with the creditors and agree (albeit reluctantly) to the terms of the bail-out – and then boot Tsipras from office.

That may very well be the thinking behind refusing to extend credit to the banks, at least until the referendum is done away with it.

But it is a dangerous game to be playing.

True, Tsipras has certainly made some mistakes since taking office earlier this year. He was perhaps a little clumsy with his negotiations at the start, and has earned something of a reputation as a double-dealer by telling the EU one thing and then the national parliament another.

But these mistakes pale into insignificance when it comes to the litany of cock-ups that the EU / ECB mafia have made. Things needn’t have got this bad, but they have – and things are pushing perilously close to a Grexit.

Which would be a good thing for Greece. Perhaps less so for the rest of Europe. But we’ll survive.

If I was Greek, I know where I’d put that ‘X’. It might be followed by a ‘V’ sign, too.


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