Preston Clive
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Greece: When Salvation Is Called Ruination

"It's not personal Mr. Tsipiras--it's strictly business." (Image copyright Paramount Pictures)

Once again in our ever more-connected financial universe, the big news is Greece. Greece, Greece, Greece.  .  . lately it's nothing but Greece. Greece is the word.

The news flowing out of Europe right now and especially Brussels is not good. Nobody is budging on the road forward; tensions are running quite high. What was supposed to be an emergency meeting about loan terms and repayments and cash infusions to keep Greek banks afloat, has turned into a tense, blank silence. Crickets chirping. Talks that began with a goal of emerging with a unified front of nervous smiling faces covering their bad case of the jitters proclaiming that all is well in the world have tanked. What was supposed to produce a joint statement of harmony proclaiming the way forward, has stalled.

No instant solution was expected by the level headed and the pragmatic among global observers, but it was hoped or suggested that at least a framework or a layout mapping out the road forward would be had by today, providing clarity and direction for subsequent talks over the coming days and a meeting on Monday.

We do not seem to have reached this very--seemingly--simple point in negotiations yet. The talks have not been able to resolve discussions about discussions. Talks about How To Talk.

The problem is this: the Greek government is trying to operate as though the political climate of frustration and anxiousness extend to the rest of the planet. That their standpoint should be adopted by the rest of the world. They want their frustration over their business obligations to be converted into personal sympathies around the globe in the hearts of their creditors.

This is where we need Michael Corleone to step in front of Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis... to lean in and say in his calm, even voice,

"It's not personal, Yanis," and give him a light affectionate palming of-- and shake of-- the shoulder. "It's strictly business."

The Greeks are very much alone, it seems, in these talks. Nobody in the room with them is biting on the concept of renegotiating better terms of the existing bailout plan which would offer the Greeks the breathing room they so fervently desire. Varoufakis was apparently ordered by his boss Alexis Tsipras, the new Greek prime minister, to stand firm and unwavering in his demand for a renegotiation of the plan terms. 

Thus, the present isolation of the Greek finance minister versus the rest of the eurozone finance heads in the conference room. 

If this total stalemate keeps up, and the confounding distance between the two parties doesn't narrow, Greece would be in danger of running out of money next month and completely defaulting on the euro printing press program-- I mean bailout program.

*       *       *

It's rare that you see a country as down in the financial weeds as Greece is right now--in any lifetime. This is pretty incredible stuff on the altar of financial history. Even rarer is the leveling of threats by such a completely prostrate nation against countries that have been desperately trying to save its financial life.

If an individual consumer is in a difficult payment plan with his creditors--this goes quadruple if those creditors are government entities--he doesn't get to walk completely away from his obligations because they are just too rough. A US taxpayer doesn't renege on his IRS payment plan by switching governments to China or Russia while remaining in his US home. It's this sort of a bizarre threat from Greece to pull away and do biz with the Russians and Chinese that has the eurozone creditor-ministers scratching their heads, confounded, with cartoon stars and tweety-birds circling their heads.

At the present moment, green Greek Prime Minister Tsipiras is embarking on his first European Union summit, and is in Brussels making statements (while gladhanding his Belgian counterpart Charles Michel) which treat the revision of bailout terms as a fait accompli. Tsipiras told reporters:

 "I'm very confident that together we can find a mutually viable solution in order to heal the wounds of austerity, to tackle the humanitarian crisis across the EU and bring Europe back to the road of growth and social cohesion."

Heal the wounds of austerity, eh? Heal the wounds which saved the very life of your country. Heal the wounds of life-saving surgery? You do that by embarking on a painful, rigorous regimen of disciplined recovery. Therapy every day. Agonized pushing of the limits to regain health-- not by trying to make like none of it ever happened and pick up business as usual.

Greece wants to have a recovery plan to save them from their recovery plan. The response from their eurozone counterparts, who have the ability to sink or float their banks, thus far is .  .  .  crickets. Like a joke falling flat in Carolines Comedy Club.

Chirp chirp.

Preston Clive