Our first post is going to look newly appointed Prime Minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras. It’s important to look at Tsipras for several reasons:
· Greece has not ever recovered from the 2007 financial crisis
· Greece is part of the EU and Euro financial system
· Greece has never elected such a leftist party before except maybe in 1985
· Greece has strong trade ties with Russia
· Greece is part of NATO
· Greece is a strong maritime nation (16.2% of worlds merchant fleet)
What happens in Greece has strong influences on Finance, Politics, Security and Trade.
The format of these analyses will be some quick-fire facts about the country and then I will look at the person that now leads it.
Background of Greece
The Leader Profile
Born: July 1974
Languages, English, Greek, other
Ampelokipoi Multi-disciplinary High School
Civil Engineering at National technical University of Athens
Urban and Regional Planning at National technical University of Athens
(1999-2003) Synaspismós (political secretary of the youth-wing)
(2004) member of the municipal council of Athens
(2008) Synaspismós (Leader)
(2009) Hellenistic Parliament and SYRIZA
(2012) Leader of the Opposition
(2015) Elected Prime Minister
Student protests in High School
Students union (executive board)
Central Council of the National Students Union of Greece (member)
Opponents are: Neoliberals, Tax cheats, German Hegemony, Golden dawn.
Allies: Sinn Fein, left, plural left, podemos, left bloc, the other europe, the left, left front, left alliance, communist party of bohemia and Moravia, Peoples movement against the EU,
Tsipras is described as charismatic and “far left”. He has a casual style of communication and does not wear a tie. Young Greeks like him because he is young, radical and leftist. He speaks in populist overtones. His critics call him a professional protestor. Born in the 70’s Tsipras has spent a lot of his political life addressing young people and reflecting youthful themes of rebellion, hope and the unfairness of the previous generations. He is influenced by Che Guavera and has even named his youngest son Ernesto in reference to the Argentine rebel.
Tsipras likes to meet big names, even if he has nothing in common with them. Despite Tsipras being an unmarried father, Atheist from a country of 98% Orthodox Christians he went to see Catholic Pope Francis. Despite his animosity with the EU Central Bank he made a big show of visiting Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank. He has toured America, Russia and Europe giving popular and populist speeches. He also giving interviews to sympathetic media houses and regularly wrote columns for European newspapers. This was deliberate to raise his profile and gain international funding for the party. He can tone up or down his rhetoric for his audience with goal being to secure relationships. Another notable sympathetic celebrity is Serbian philosopher Slavoj Zizek.
Despite Tsipras’ strong socialist beliefs and speeches he shows a lot of pragmatism and goal oriented behavior. He is genuinely passionate about his country as interviewers have been observed to easily stoke him into an edge of seat and arm gesticulating manner. His rhetoric is strongly tempered by his actions and official policy statement that he has no desire to leave the EU monetary union nor the NATO Alliance. His speeches are designed to appeal to his parties bases of support and his statements are meant to reassure his opponents that he is still reasonable.
When not activated, Alexis Tsipas adopts open handed expressions or steepled fingers which collapse into closed and laced fingers.
The open hands indicate media training, but also genuine expressiveness and the steepled fingers indicate thought. Interestingly his thoughts often turn negative which make sense since he is facing what he calls a ‘humanitarian disaster’ in his country. He feels shame of Greece turning to the World Bank late in 2014 and this actively bothers him. While Tsipras often adopts a very confident stance, he sometimes tucks his feet under the chair suggesting levels of insecurity and tension. The lacing of his fingers also indicate levels of frustration.
Alexis Tsipras presents as an Extraverted, Imaginative, Thinker with Judging tendencies which, if correctly assessed, makes him ENTJ in the Myers Briggs Thematic Personality test.
As an ENTJ, his primary mode of leadership will be focused externally, handling his country rationally and logically.
He lives in a world of possibilities where he sees all sorts challenges to be surmounted, he is motivated to be the one responsible for surmounting them. He has a drive for leadership, which is well-served by his quickness for grasping complexities, his ability to absorb a large amount of impersonal information, and his quick and decisive judgments. His biography indicates that he is a “take charge” person.
ENTJs are very forceful, decisive individuals. They make decisions quickly, and are quick to verbalize their opinions and decisions to the rest of the world. This will make interactions with the rest of the EU continuously fraught with tension.
As an ENTJ Alexis Tsipras risks clashing with internal stakeholders in Greece especially the ones that he may see as acting for their own self interest.
He will be prone to quick decisions and he will most likely have to follow up with clarification or adjustments to his initial stance.
Themes and Quotes:
This is a common theme on Alexis Tsipras’ mind. Tsipras’ solution for Greece is to adopt a similar stance to the 1953 Germany agreement where 60% of Debt was written off. The specifics of that agreement suggested that if Germany economy recovers better than expected, additional interest would be paid. Tsipras wants to nationalise the Greek banks and halt privatisation of the public sector. He admits and even laments the corruption within the private sector but insists that it can only be reformed from a centralised and bureaucratic position. He has repeatedly stated that Greece will not default on its obligations even as he continues to negotiate a new arrangement.
It will most certainly be the end of austerity and privatisation for a the near future. Tsipras and Syriza are ideologically opposed to these approaches. Much of Tsipras’ term in office will be spent reversing the policies of his predecessors for the economy. Tsipras’ ideological stance is typical left: centralised, big public sector, big benefits and secured pensions. He will go after tax avoiders and big businesses who he thinks are not “carrying their share”. Equally hard will be the reforms and “political patronage” that will exist in the public sector.
“We will not allow a criminal policy”(in reference to austerity)
“We will cancel austerity, because it is criminal”
“Greece has a dysfunctional public sector”
“The rich don’t pay taxes in Greece.”
“I’m talking about people who have sent their money to Switzerland and have evaded taxes”
“We want to nationalize these bank”
“those who ruled the country [before] and threw the country to the rocks, were experienced. But their policies were destructive”
“We have a worldwide financial war and the front is in Greece. Usually the outcome of the battle at the front is determining the outcome of the war”.
“End Austerity and regain democracy”
“If any of the 17 Eurozone members were to exit, the next day the euro would be unsustainable”
“Do what it takes to save our common home”.
Tsipras grew up in Generation X (between 1965 and 1980) and is more used to instability and uncertainty than previous generations. Divorced parents, single mothers and working mothers was commonplace and though this detail of Alexis Tsipras remains hidden it is possible that this is the case for him as well. Economic turbulence was especially evident in Greece for Generation X which experienced the violent end of a monarchy, 3 years of civil war, British and American involvement in that war, a Military Junta and war with Turkey. He will have similar traits to the rest of the generation making him very independent and resourceful. He has the ability to adapt to a wide range of circumstances and actually feels more at ease in uncertainty.
He appeals to a generation highly disenfranchised from politics and with youth unemployment in Greece at 60% he has an easy task to convince young voters to try a change. Being a politician now in power, he faces the challenge of maintaining the hope of his supporters. Thinking of the disappointment of voters towards Obama and Hollande, Tsipras could easily find himself discarded by his electorate should he waver from his promises or be unable to achieve them quickly enough.
“Being young in Greece feels like a negative, doesn’t it?”
“They didn’t allow 100,000 18-year-olds to vote this time, because they are afraid of you,”
“Old Establish is withering away”
“Solidarity of young women and men”
“It is true that we are not experienced, we don’t want to hide that”
Tsipras plans to stay in Europe. The Greek exit of the Union is his “trump card” and “nuclear option”, but he presents as far too pragmatic to actually use it for anything more than a threat or a last resort. That being said, Greece has experienced wars, invasions in his lifetime and he is aware of all of the defaults in modern Greek history under the drachma. He also has spent time studying Argentine defaults. His end game in this regard is to create a situation where Greece remains a part of the union but at the same time unloads the debt via some default-like mechanism but without actually defaulting. Tsipras feels strongly about his country’s reputation and sees himself and Greece as part of a larger ideological and economic struggle. He will also be wary of a possible European countermeasure to push Greece out of the Eurozone using mechanisms that could leave Greece still in debt but without the trading privileges. He will push the possibility of default and exit so long as it remains a credible threat.
“If one country leaves the whole puzzle will collapse”
“Greece is not a third world country”
“…and suddenly a global experiment took place in Greece. The experiment failed we cannot keep on trying it”
“We feel a great deal of responsibility, historic responsibility, not just for the Greek people.”
“Mrs Merkel ultimately just want to promote a strategy for a German Europe, and this is not compatible with the European idea.”
“Europe in the service of human needs”
“Either be democratic or will not exist”
“greatest threat to democracy in Europe is the rise of fascism of neo-nazis”
“The [Greeks] were a people who were at the core of resistance in Europe”
“Eurozone should be saved.”
Alexis Tsipras is a leftist and bombastically so. He is socialist minded and likes to imagine big structures. His civil engineering education suggests that he sees the world as big systems at work rather than individuals. He is strongly Anti neo-liberal, and vocally blames conservatives, neo-nazi and fascists for what has happened to Europe and Greece. He feels a responsibility to act for the future of Greece and the leftist movement in Europe. He believes that Europe’s original ideals have been hijacked from its original purpose by a German conservative ideology.
“we are not asking for elections because we are rushing to govern; we ask for elections because the country cannot wait anymore and the people cannot endure anymore”
“It unacceptable and dangerous that the EU political establishment tolerates the Neo-nazi right sector in positions of power in Ukraine.”
“A prime minister in Ukaine giving Nazi style salute”
“Conservative is Neo-Liberal”
“Never before since the end of the cold war has been Europeans been so euroscheptic”
“Alliance for hope and for the people”
“When the left unite it does not simply add, it multiplies forces”
“Comrades and friends”
“Hope and change”
“Reject the liberal recipe”
“eurocrisis is crisis of neo-liberal paradigm”
“In politics and the economy we are often forced not to be polite…how can we polite to the ones who have caused this crisis”
“return to old ideas (away from neoliberal capitalism)”
Syriza is a leftist party with genetics, mentors and leaders who are unapologetically Marxism. Greece has had Communist parties were in power the 80’s and the civil war was fought by Communists. While the Soviet Union is now in the past, the people who ran and supported it are still very much alive. These ideological alliances mean that Russian, South American and European communists still band together whenever possible, lending financial, logistical and moral support whenever possible.
As indicated in Greece’s economic profile, it owes a significant amount of its income to Russian money. Tsipras will bear this in mind far more than his ideology when addressing this issue. Sanctions against Russia will inevitably make life more difficult for Greeks. No Greek leader will deliberately ostracise the Russian expatriates who use Greek banks as a safe haven from their own troubled politics and economy. The question of how much Russian security service money is involved in the Syriza victory will never be quantified unless another Vasili Mitrokin emerges. (Mitrokin revealed how Moscow propped up and supported left leaning regimes during the Cold War) Tsipras and Syriza undoubtedly accepted donations from a variety of sources but this is nothing extraordinary in politics. Being iconoclastic and different in his politics helps to attract donations from many sources but Tsipras does not have the personality of a puppet. Tsipras strongly identifies himself as European and sees himself as one to reform than to destroy or change alliances. He will accept the money, however.
What is telling, is Tsipras’ and Syriza’s interpretation of the Ukrainian/Crimean situation. Ukraine is fighting Russian-backed separatists in the east after Putin annexed Crimea when the Kremlin-allied Viktor Yanukovich was ousted as president during protests in Kiev. While touring Moscow, Tsipras was critical of the Ukrainian government because of fascist elements within it. He repeats this allegation in other speeches, going as far as suggesting that Poroshenko gives Nazi style salutes. In it’s press releases, Syriza blames Western European governments and special interests for Ukraine and has not voiced concern over Russia’s role.
Similarly of interest, Tsipras and Syriza’s use of the Russian word “Troika” (тройка) seems indicative of them playing to Russian audiences. This word has become popular among the radical politicians of Britain, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain. Only a few of these politicians have been suggested as being backed by Moscow and at least one source claims to have proof of this. Ideologically the parties have little in common apart from use of the word and their anti-neo-liberal position.
The use of the word “Nazi” is the final bit of evidence gathered to suggest more than a hint of Russian influence. The Kremlin and its overt puppets have ramped up the use of this word over the past few years. Standard propaganda tactics suggest that the Kremlin would actively encourage all recipients of funds to lace their language with this evocative word. On the other hand, the financial crisis has in fact exposed more extreme fascists and extreme right wing movements. Islamophobia, antisemitism and other forms of racism and national socialism are genuinely on the rise and are a significant security concern. Golden dawn, a genuinely fascist Greek political party earned 6% of votes, by comparison the liberal democrats (still considered a significant party) in Britain now pick up 7% of votes. Syriza itself went from a single digit to ruling party in less than a decade.
Cyrillic is a form of Greek lettering and Greek tribes around the Black Sea form a part of Ukrainian and Russian history.
Headline Actions for President Alexis Tsipras
· addressing the humanitarian crisis,
· restarting the economy,
· encouraging employment
· carrying out institutional reforms in the State
Long term goals for Alexis Tsipras
· Change ideas
· Change policies
· Change institutions
Alexis Tsipras’ term in office will be turbulent. He will be vocal at every stage, delighting leftists and frustrating opposition. He faces a conservative and neoliberal Europe abroad a struggling economy at home, continued capital flight and very high expectations from his supporters. He is comfortable with looking into the abyss of the “Grexit” from the Euro but his pragmatism will win over so long as the central European government is willing to continue negotiating. He is turning to everyone he can for help but he is proud of Greece’s prestige and independence and dedicated to remaining European. Lack of strong and genuine ideological allies within the Eurozone will be a limiting factor and Tsipras could end up a blip in the overall European political trend.
He will remind many pundits of deceased Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez (who also was influenced by Guavera). It will be key to see if Tsipras follows a similar trajectory which involved a lot of consolidation of power.
CIA World Fact Book
Fitch Ratings Agency
Foreign Policy of think tank
European Left Speech
Al Jazeera Interview
The Guardian interview
Channel 4 (UK) interview
US Speech: Can the Eurozone be saved?(2013)