Tsipras heads to Moscow hoping to get money from Putin?
A major deadline looms for Greece. It has to repay the International Monetary Fund part of its first bailout by Thursday. The country has several options: to ask EU lenders for a new loan, to announce bankruptcy and leave eurozone, or to ask Russia or another country for money. On the eve of the deadline, Prime Minster Alexis Tsipras is going visit Moscow.
RT:The deadline is looming for Athens once again. What options does Greece really have to pay back the money to the Troika this Thursday?
Patrick Young: The problem for Greece is – we’ve now entered the end game. Ultimately they can repay this money but it ends up being rather a beggaring issue. They are robbing Peter to pay Paul. In one way shape or form they can come up with the money, but it is going to be very difficult to pay other bills as the weeks go on. It may even be that they are going to be running short when it comes to paying the salaries for government workers.
RT:Tsipras is traveling to Russia right on the eve of the deadline, officially to talk about the embargo on Greek fruit. Are peaches really the only thing they're going to chat about? Rumors say he might ask the Kremlin for a financial lifeline. How likely is it?
PY: I don’t think that peaches are the only fruit we are looking at here. Quite clearly Mr. Tsipras is doing a couple of things. First of all he has his begging bowl out. Absolutely anybody who comes up with cash he will be glad to welcome them as a blood brother. Where we are looking at the moment of course is ahead of the Orthodox Easter, Mr. Tsipras sees this as an opportunity to do a couple of things - he is possibly playing politics with the EU.
We’ve seen a very, very aggressive reaction from a number of the leading socialists within the EU and also the German finance and foreign ministers are getting very upset about the idea that possibly sanctions might be broken because this is some sort of the great EU feat at the moment. Therefore we have a problem because ultimately, Mr. Tsipras is desperate – he is looking to see who blinks first; he’s hoping that the EU is going to default. He is also going to explore any possible options and see if perhaps he can get a little bit of money out of Mr. Putin by being friendly to him. Don’t forget, just last month he managed to get a hundred million out of the Chinese because they were willing to pay up, and buy some of this treasury bills just when his back was up against the wall.
RT:How likely is Moscow will start throwing money at Athens, and what would it gain from that?
PY: Given the current situation where obviously Moscow is under sanctions pressure, and so on, I think it is highly unlikely that Moscow is going to want to wade into this whole issue because quite simply the Greeks owe so much money. No one can afford to bail them out. The IMF, the Troika, the EU, the US - they are all struggling to manage to cope with Greece’s debt at the moment. Therefore, we can’t expect Russia to come in singlehandedly.
However, what Mr. Tsipras is going to be looking at is any possible way he can find some allies, a group of allies. Perhaps, we’re going to see Mr. Putin looking at doing some sort of the deal where he gives a small amount of money as some sort of a dime payment towards future political cooperation. But certainly while this week perhaps at the outside we might see this $450 million IMF payment being covered by Russia. It’s very unlikely that Moscow is going to come up with that in one fell swoop, simply because it leaves them open to paying off so many more debts on Greece’s behalf in the near future.
Plus we also have to remember a tiny little footnote - you remember that wonderful thing called SWIFT. It is the steam-powered system that operates the world’s global payments. The irony is- if Moscow said tomorrow they were going to pay the money to SWIFT, it wouldn’t reach the IMF in time anyway given the deadlines. So it’s quite ironic whereas Russia can manage to operate real time payments within its borders unfortunately the Western world can’t. So there is hint of irony there in terms of modernity and just who is modern in East and West.
RT:Russia is not exactly viewed on the friendliest of terms by the EU at present, so if Greece starts sniffing around the Kremlin's coffers, how are its Europeans partners going to react?
PY: We can already see it. The psychotically deranged of the Europhile cast, people like Mr. [Martin] Schulz, the speaker of the European Parliament, who will do anything in the name of Europe quite simply before any possible economic logic breaks out. He has already said quite simply that he believes that Greece would be betraying the European family or words to that affect. We’ve got similar messages coming out of German politicians, as well. Everybody is extremely concerned about the fact that Greece is going to rush into somebody else’s arms.
But at the same time this is precisely the sort of problem that arises when the EU don’t think through their policies in the first place. Indeed we have also say: “Why, oh why is the EU so convinced about the idea that debt subjugation keeping the Greeks pure is such a great idea?” The answer is only because they believe it’s the only way to save their euro. When it comes to saving a simple political project you have to question the logic of everybody else’s judgment. In this case the politicians are going to go down fighting- they want to save the euro, they want to save the EU whatever that’s worth these days. Therefore, they are incredibly worried about the idea that Mr. Tsipras may do a deal with Russia or indeed may continue to do a deal with China or even that he may go and do a deal with Iran which is one of the other rumors. Of course this is a problem you have when there are 190-plus nations at the UN alone, and over 200 countries in the world. Actually Greece has got options in who it wants to talk to – and the EU is not the only fruit, not the only peach in time when it comes to doing a debt deal.
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