Дебатът за гръцкия дълг- Четвърта част: Идва ли краят на остеритета?

Темата "Гърция и Сириза" продължава да е в центъра на вниманието на авторитетни политици, коментатори, медии. Тематичният обхват на дебата се разширява. Спорният въпрос за съдбата на астрономическия външен дълг, натрупан от Гърция до и след подписаното споразумение с т.нар. Тройка сякаш минава на заден план.

Расте броят на публикациите, които са посветени на фоновите фактори и страничните ефекти, свързани с гръцката дългова катастрофа. Рано или късно спорещите ще се върнат към същинския проблем за разрушителната роля на остеритета, наложен в южната ни съседка по изключително брутален начин. Но в тази, четвърта част на тематичната поредица, която помествам в блога, давам предимство на:

- моралните /и морализаторските/ аспекти на дебата;
- историческите сравнения със страни, изпаднали в миналото в подобни ситуации;
- възраждането на т.нар. Германски въпрос;
- реакцията на държави извън ЕС към дипломатическата совалка на тандема "Ципрас-Варуфакис" в ЕС .

Авторите на включените в поредицата коментари са световно известни имена/ Пол Кругман, Джордж Фридман, Марио Варгас Льоса/.
Не се съмнявам, че техните позиции, различаващи се съществено в аргументацията и изводите, ще предизвикат интерес сред просветената читателска аудитория!

/Проф. Кръстьо Петков/


Germany Emerges

February 10, 2015

By George Friedman

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, accompanied by French President Francois Hollande, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 6. Then she met with U.S. President Barack Obama on Feb. 9. The primary subject was Ukraine, but the first issue discussed at the news conference following the meeting with Obama was Greece. Greece and Ukraine are not linked in the American mind. They are linked in the German mind, because both are indicators of Germany's new role in the world and of Germany's discomfort with it.
It is interesting to consider how far Germany has come in a rather short time. When Merkel took office in 2005, she became chancellor of a Germany that was at peace, in a European Union that was united. Germany had put its demands behind it, embedding itself in a Europe where it could be both prosperous and free of the geopolitical burdens that had led it into such dark places. If not the memory, then the fear of Germany had subsided in Europe. The Soviet Union was gone, and Russia was in the process of trying to recover from the worst consequences of that collapse. The primary issue in the European Union was what hurdles nations, clamoring to enter the union, would have to overcome in order to become members. Germany was in a rare position, given its history. It was in a place of comfort, safety and international collegiality.
The world that Merkel faces today is startlingly different. The European Union is in a deep crisis. Many blame Germany for that crisis, arguing that its aggressive export policies and demands for austerity were self-serving and planted the seeds of the crisis. It is charged with having used the euro to serve its interests and with shaping EU policy to protect its own corporations. The vision of a benign Germany has evaporated in much of Europe, fairly or unfairly. In many places, old images of Germany have re-emerged, if not in the center of many countries then certainly on the growing margins. In a real if limited way, Germany has become the country that other Europeans fear. Few countries are clamoring for membership in the European Union, and current members have little appetite for expanding the bloc's boundaries.
At the same time, the peace that Germany had craved is in jeopardy. Events in Ukraine have aroused Russian fears of the West, and Russia has annexed Crimea and supported an insurgency in eastern Ukraine. Russia's actions have sparked the United States' fears of the re-emergence of a Russian hegemon, and the United States is discussing arming the Ukrainians and pre-positioning weapons for American troops in the Baltics, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. The Russians are predicting dire consequences, and some U.S. senators are wanting to arm the Ukrainians.
If it is too much to say that Merkel's world is collapsing, it is not too much to say that her world and Germany's have been reshaped in ways that would have been inconceivable in 2005. The confluence of a financial crisis in Europe that has led to dramatic increases in nationalism — both in the way nations act and in the way citizens think — with the threat of war in Ukraine has transformed Germany's world. Germany's goal has been to avoid taking a leading political or military role in Europe. The current situation has made this impossible. The European financial crisis, now seven years old, has long ceased being primarily an economic problem and is now a political one. The Ukrainian crisis places Germany in the extraordinarily uncomfortable position of playing a leading role in keeping a political problem from turning into a military one.
The German Conundrum
It is important to understand the twin problems confronting Germany. On the one hand, Germany is trying to hold the European Union together. On the other, it wants to make certain that Germany will not bear the burden of maintaining that unity. In Ukraine, Germany was an early supporter of the demonstrations that gave rise to the current government. I don't think the Germans expected the Russian or U.S. responses, and they do not want to partake in any military reaction to Russia. At the same time, Germany does not want to back away from support for the government in Ukraine.
There is a common contradiction inherent in German strategy. The Germans do not want to come across as assertive or threatening, yet they are taking positions that are both. In the European crisis, it is Germany that is most rigid not only on the Greek question but also on the general question of Southern Europe and its catastrophic unemployment situation. In Ukraine, Berlin supports Kiev and thus opposes the Russians but does not want to draw any obvious conclusions. The European crisis and the Ukrainian crisis are mirror images. In Europe, Germany is playing a leading but aggressive role. In Ukraine, it is playing a leading but conciliatory role. What is most important is that in both cases, Germany has been forced — more by circumstance than by policy — to play leading roles. This is not comfortable for Germany and certainly not for the rest of Europe.
Germany's Role in Ukraine
The Germans did play a significant part in the fall of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich's government. Germany had been instrumental in trying to negotiate an agreement between Ukraine and the European Union, but Yanukovich rejected it. The Germans supported anti-Yanukovich demonstrators and had very close ties to one of the demonstration leaders, current Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko, who received training in a program for rising leaders sponsored by the Christian Democratic Union — Merkel's party. The Germans condemned the Russian annexation of Crimea and Moscow's support for the Ukrainian secessionists in the east. Germany was not, perhaps, instrumental in these events, but it was a significant player.
As the Germans came to realize that this affair would not simply be political but would take on a military flavor, they began to back away from a major role. But disengagement was difficult. The Germans adopted a complex stance. They opposed the Russians but also did not want to provide direct military support to the Ukrainians. Instead, they participated in the sanctions against Russia while trying to play a conciliatory role. It was difficult for Merkel to play this deeply contradictory role, but given Germany's history the role was not unreasonable. Germany's status as a liberal democracy is central to its post-war self-conception. That is what it must be. Therefore, supporting the demonstrators in Kiev was an obligation. At the same time, Germany — particularly since the end of the Cold War — has been uneasy about playing a direct military role. It did that in Afghanistan but not Iraq. And participating in or supporting a military engagement in Ukraine resurrects memories of events involving Russia that Berlin does not want to confront.
Therefore, Germany adopted a contradictory policy. Although it supported a movement that was ultimately anti-Russian and supported sanctions against the Russians, more than any other power involved it does not want the political situation to evolve into a military one. It will not get involved in any military action in Ukraine, and the last thing Germany needs now is a war to its east. Having been involved in the beginnings of the crisis, and being unable to step away from it, Germany also wants to defuse it.
The Greek Issue
Germany repeated this complex approach with Greece for different reasons. The Germans are trying to find some sort of cover for the role they are playing with the Greeks. Germany exported more than 50 percent of its gross domestic product, and more than half of that went to the European free trade zone that was the heart of the EU project. Germany had developed production that far exceeded its domestic capacity for consumption. It had to have access to markets or face a severe economic crisis of its own.
But barriers are rising in Europe. The attacks in Paris raised demands for the resurrection of border guards and inspections. Alongside threats of militant Islamist attacks, the free flow of labor from country to country threatened to take jobs from natives and give them to outsiders. If borders became barriers to labor, and capital markets were already distorted by the ongoing crisis, then how long would it be before weaker economies used protectionist measures to keep out German goods?
The economic crisis had unleashed nationalism as each country tried to follow policies that would benefit it and in which many citizens — not in power, but powerful nonetheless — saw EU regulations as threats to their well-being. And behind these regulations and the pricing of the euro, they saw Germany's hand.
This was dangerous for Germany in many ways. Germany had struggled to shed its image as an aggressor; here it was re-emerging. Nationalism not only threatened to draw Germany back to its despised past, but it also threatened the free trade essential to Germany's well-being. Germany didn't want anyone to leave the free trade zone. The eurozone was less important, but once they left the currency bloc, the path to protectionism was short. Greece was of little consequence itself, but if it demonstrated that it would be better off defaulting than paying its debt, other countries could follow. And if they demonstrated that leaving the free trade zone was beneficial, then the entire structure might unravel.
Germany needed to make an example of Greece, and it tried very hard last week to be unbending, appearing to be a bit like the old Germany. The problem Germany had was that if the new Greek government wanted to survive, it couldn't capitulate. It had been elected to resist Germany. And whatever the unknowns, it was not clear that default, in whole or part, wasn't beneficial. And in the end, Greece could set its own rules. If the Greeks offered a fraction of repayment, would anyone refuse when the alternative was nothing?
Therefore, Germany was facing one of the other realities of its position — one that goes back to its unification in 1871. Although economically powerful, Germany was also extremely insecure. Its power rested on the ability and willingness of other countries to give Germany access to their markets. Without that access, German power could fall apart. With Greece, the Germans wanted to show the rest of Europe the consequences of default, but if Greece defaulted anyway, the only lesson might be that default works. Just as it had been in the past, Germany was simultaneously overbearing and insecure. In dealing with Greece, the Germans could not risk bringing down the European Union and could not be sure which thread, if pulled on, would unravel it.
Merkel's Case in Washington
It was with this on her mind that Merkel came to Washington. Facing an overwhelming crisis within the European Union, Germany could not afford a war in Ukraine. U.S. threats to arm the Ukrainians were exactly what she did not need. It wasn't just that Germany had a minimal army and couldn't participate or, in extremis, defend itself. It was also that in being tough with Greece, Germany could not go much further before being seen as the strongman of Europe, a role it could not bear.
Thus, she came to Washington looking to soften the American position. But the American position came from deep wells as well. Part of it had to do with human rights, which should not be dismissed as one source of decision-making in this and other administrations. But the deeper well was the fact that for a hundred years, since World War I, through World War II and the Cold War, the United States had a single rigid imperative: No European hegemon could be allowed to dominate the Continent, as a united Europe was the only thing that might threaten national security. Therefore, regardless of any debate on the issue, the U.S. concern about a Russian-dominated Ukraine triggered the primordial fear of a Russian try at hegemony.
It was ironic that Germany, which the United States blocked twice as a hegemon, tried to persuade the United States that increased military action in Ukraine would not solve the problem. The Americans knew that, but they also knew that if they backed off now, the Russians would read it as an opportunity to press forward. Germany, which had helped set in motion both this crisis and the European crisis, was now asking the United States to back off. The request was understandable, but simply backing off was not possible. She needed to deliver something from Putin, such as a pledge to withdraw support to Ukrainian secessionists. But Putin needed something, too: a promise for an autonomous province. By now Merkel could live with that, but the Americans would find it undesirable. An autonomous Ukrainian province would inevitably become a base for undermining the rest of the country.
This is the classic German problem told two ways. Both derive from disproportionate strength overlying genuine weakness. The Germans are trying to reshape Europe, but their threats are of decreasing value. The Germans tried to reshape Ukraine but got trapped in the Russian reaction. In both cases, the problem was that they did not have sufficient power, instead requiring the acquiescence of others. And that is difficult to get. This is the old German problem: The Germans are too strong to be ignored and too weak to impose their will. Historically, the Germans tried to increase their strength so they could impose their will. In this case, they have no intention of doing so. It will be interesting to see whether their will can hold when their strength is insufficient.

Greece: The Tie That Doesn’t Bind

Paul Krugman* - The New York Times

Relations between Greece and its creditors are not improving. Was this bad diplomacy on the part of Tsipras/Varoufakis? Maybe, but my guess is that there was nothing they could do to avoid a bitter confrontation short of immediate betrayal of the voters who put them in office. And creditor-country officials are acting as if they still expect that to happen, just as it has repeatedly over the past five years.

But they’re almost surely wrong. The dynamics are very different this time, and failing to understand them could all too easily lead to unnecessary disaster.

Actually, let me stress the “unnecessary” aspect. What Greece is asking for — although German voters probably don’t know this — is not a fresh infusion of money. All that’s on the table is a reduction in the primary surplus — that is, a reduction in Greek payments on existing debt. And we have often been told that everyone understands that the official target surplus, 4.5 percent of GDP, is unreasonable and unattainable. So Greece is, in effect, only asking that it get to recognize the reality everyone supposedly already understands.

Why, then, are things boiling over? Partly because what “everyone knows” has never been explained to northern European electorates, so that the time to recognize reality is always at some future date. Partly also, I suspect, because creditors have come to expect the symbolism of debtor governments abjectly abandoning their campaign promises in the name of responsibility, and are waiting for the new Greek government to pay the usual tribute of humiliation.

But as I said, the dynamic is very different this time.

I’ve long believed that Matthew Yglesias hit on something really important when he noted that small-country politicians generally have personal incentives to go along with troika demands even if they are against their nation’s interests:

Тук е заровано кучето!!!

Normally you would think that a national prime minister’s best option is to try to do the stuff that’s likely to get him re-elected. No matter how bleak the outlook, this is your dominant strategy. But in the era of globalization and EU-ification, I think the leaders of small countries are actually in a somewhat different situation. If you leave office held in high esteem by the Davos set, there are any number of European Commission or IMF or whatnot gigs that you might be eligible for even if you’re absolutely despised by your fellow countrymen. Indeed, in some ways being absolutely despised would be a plus. The ultimate demonstration of solidarity to the “international community” would be to do what the international community wants even in the face of massive resistance from your domestic political constituency.

But a genuine government of the left, as opposed to the center-left, is very different — not because its policy ideas are wild and crazy, which they aren’t, but because its officials are never going to be held in high esteem by the Davos set. Alexis Tsipras is not going to be on bank boards of directors, president of the BIS, or, probably, an EU commissioner. Varoufakis doesn’t even like wearing ties — which, consciously or not, is a way of declaring visually that he is not going to play the usual game. The new Greek leaders will succeed or fail, personally, based on what happens to Greece; there will be no consolation prizes for failing conventionally.

Do Berlin and Brussels understand this? If not, they are operating under a dangerous misconception.

Марио Варгас Льоса: Гръцко харакири

БГНЕС, 2015-02-10

Харакирито е благородна японска традиция, в съответствие с която военните, политиците, бизнесмените, а понякога дори и писателите, изпитващи срама от неуспеха или своите действия, които според тях са ги опозорили, се самоубиват, разпаряйки корема си.

В наши дни, когато понятието чест е стигнало почти дъното, японците не слагат край на живота си. Но самият ритуал се е запазил и е придобил колективен характер: сега харакири си правят цели страни, изпаднали в дълбока или кратковременна загуба на разсъдъка. Те решават да станат бедни, корумпирани, да стигнат скотско състояние или да съберат накуп всички тези характеристики.

Трагичните примери в Латинска Америка са предостатъчно. Най-показателният пример е Аржентина, която преди 75 години беше развита държава, процъфтяваща, открита към света, притежаваща образцова образователна система. Но веднъж заразила се с перонистката треска, реши да тръгне назад и да се разори. Изпадайки в състояние на продължителна агония, влошена заради цялата серия преврати и избиратели, правещи грешки, тя не може да излезе от това тежко състояние до ден-днешен. Остава само да се надяваме, че боговете или щастливият случай ще върне здравия ум и прозрението на тази страна, която е дала на света Борхес.

Друг характерен пример за политическо харакири е Венецуела. Наистина, демокрацията там не беше съвършена, но все пак съществуваше, със свободна преса, истински избори, разнообразни политически партии и добре или зле тази страна се развиваше. За съжаление там процъфтяваше корупцията и нецелевото използване на държавни пари. Това накара мнозинството венецуелци да обърнат гръб на демокрацията и да поверят своята съдба на Уго Чавес - новия коменданте, който се взе за месия. 8 пъти те имаха възможността да поправят своята грешка, но не го направиха и отново и отново гласуваха за режима, който ги водеше към пропастта. Днес те трябва да плащат на своята недалновидност. Диктатурата удушава всичко. Тя затваря телевизии, радиостанции и вестници, пълни затворите с дисиденти, корупцията достига небесни висини. Един от най-високопоставените военни контролира цялата търговия с наркотици, единственият процъфтяващ отрасъл в страната, където няма вече производство, а бедността е нараснала три пъти, където всички органи на държавната власт, започвайки от съдиите и завършвайки с Националната избирателна комисия, обслужват интересите на властта. И макар че голямото мнозинство от венецуелци биха искали да живеят свободно, това много трудно ще се постигне: правителството на Николас Мадуро показа, че при цялата си некомпетентност то без да му мигне окото фалшифицира изборните резултати, вкарва опозиционерите в затвора, изтезава и убива.

Харакирито е характерно не само за страните от Третия свят, в цивилизована Европа то също се практикува от време на време. Хитлер и Мусолини са дошли на власт по законен път, много страни от Централна Европа без да му мислят много се хвърлиха в обятията на Сталин. Най-пресният пример е Гърция, където в резултат от свободните избори на власт дойде лявата радикална популистка партия СИРИЗА, прочута със своите демагогски изказвания, сключила съюз с десните ултранационалисти, борещи се за излизането на страната от ЕС. СИРИЗА обеща на гърците революция и райски живот. Имайки предвид ужасното положение на страната, която някога е била люлка на демокрацията и западната култура, можем да разберем този мрачен катарзис на гръцките избиратели. Но ако новото правителство упорито се стреми към изпълнението на своите предизборни обещания, не само че няма да преодолее, а ще задълбочи проблемите, които стоят пред страната.

Това преди всичко е огромният дълг – 317 милиарда долара – пред ЕС и международната финансова система, които спасиха Гърция от банкрут. Сумата на дълга представлява 175% от БВП на страната. От самото начало на кризата БВП на Гърция се сви с 25%, а нивото на безработица достигна почти 26%. Това означава крах на бюджетните предприятия, катастрофален спад на жизнения стандарт и стремителен ръст на бедността. Ако се вслушаме в думите на ръководството на СИРИЗА и преди всичко на техния вдъхновен лидер – новия премиер Алексис Ципрас – ще се получи, че сегашната ситуация не е резултат от некомпетентността и ширещата се корупция сред гръцките официални лица в продължение на няколко десетилетия, които с чудовищна безотговорност представяха пред ЕС фалшифицирани отчети и данни, за да скрият бедственото състояние на националната икономика, а е резултат от мерките за строги икономии, въведени от международните финансови организации и ЕС. Те бяха наложени, за да се изведе страната от това безпомощно състояние, в което я вкараха нейните собствени управници.

СИРИЗА предлага да се сложи край на строгите икономии и приватизацията, да се преразгледат условията за плащания по дълга и да се опрости по-голямата част от него, а след това да се даде нов тласък на икономическо развитие, да се създадат нови работни места и да се осигури работа за бюджетните организации с помощта на редовни инвестиции. Това е равносилно на опита да се излекува тежко болен човек с бягане на дълги разстояние. СИРИЗА иска да върне суверенитета на гръцкия народ, "отнет" му от ЕС, ЕЦБ, МВФ и ЕК, а също така от германското правителство начело с Ангела Меркел.

Сега, когато СИРИЗА вече е поела отговорността за съдбата на страната, тя е най-добре да признае, подобно на френския президент Франсоа Оланд, че е поела неизпълними ангажименти и да внесе прагматични промени в своята програма. Но това ще предизвика страшно разочарование сред наивните й избиратели. Ако тя не направи това, Гърция я чака банкрут, излизане от еврозоната и ЕС и бедствено положение. Налице са противоречиви признаци и до момента не е ясно какво ще направи гръцкото правителство. Вместо опрощаване на дълговете то току-що предложи доста хитра комбинация състояща се в това да се превърне дълга в две категории дългови инструменти: едните реални, които ще се погасяват постепенно с укрепването на гръцката икономика, а другите фиктивни, които ще се обновяват до безкрай. Франция и Италия, които също изпитват сериозни икономически трудности, заявиха, че положително се отнасят към тази инициатива. Но тя едва ли ще бъде приета, защото все още не всички европейски страни са загубили чувството си за реалност.

Много членове на ЕС, освен Германия, с пълно право напомниха на Гърция, че не ги устройва никакво опрощаване на дълговете в каквато и да била форма, а също така подчертаха необходимостта да се изпълнят поетите ангажименти. Най-твърда позиция заеха Португалия, Испания и Ирландия, които с цената на неимоверни усилия излязоха от кризата, добросъвестно изпълниха при това всички свои ангажименти. Гърция дължи на Испания 26 милиарда евро. Испания трябваше да напрегне всичките си сили, за да преодолее кризата. Защо испанците трябва да плащат за неразумната политика не само на собственото си, но и на гръцкото правителство?

Германия не е виновна, че голям брой от страните в ЕС се намират в затруднение. В Германия имаше благоразумни, честни, компетентни и неразточителни правителства и затова тя се развиваше и укрепваше, докато другите не живееха със сметка. И не трябва да се забравя, че Германия трябваше да приеме в състава си и да възроди ГДР, което също струваше доста скъпо. И тя направи това с упорития труд на своите граждани, без да се оплаква и да се обръща за помощ. От друга страна, германското правителство начело с Меркел е убеден привърженик на единна Европа, за което говори подкрепата за европейската интеграция. Само с идеологически митове и стереотипи може да се обясни стремежа на Гърция /и не само на нея/ да се обвини най-голямата и успешна държава в ЕС за бедите, донесени от политиците, които нейният народ сам е избирал. /БГНЕС


Марио Варгас Льоса, писател. Статията му е публикувана в "La Nacion Argentina"

Буенос Айрес / Аржентина