As anyone who followed Greece’s protracted bailout negotiations with creditors is no doubt aware, Athens had very little in the way of leverage when it came to countering German FinMin Wolfgang Schaeuble at the bargaining table. Try as they might, Alexis Tsipras and Yanis Varoufakis were ultimately unable to use the threat of Grexit to extract concessions from Brussels and the IMF.
In hindsight, what’s interesting about the incessant back and forth between Athens, Brussels, and Berlin is that both sides were attempting to use a euro exit to bolster their positions. That is, Germany was attempting to scare Greece with the prospect of a depression in the event the country reverted to the drachma and Greece was attempting to scare Germany by throwing the entire idea of the euro’s indissolubility into question. In the end, Berlin prevailed as the purse string proved mightier than Syriza ideology.
But while tacitly threatening to disprove the notion of the euro’s indissolubility proved insufficient as a bargaining chip, one thing that Alexis Tsipras and, before he was banished from the party, Panagiotis Lafazanis, were able to employ somewhat effectively was the idea of a Russian pivot. On a number of occasions, it appeared as though Moscow was ready to come to the aid of the Greeks in defiance of the EU and predictably, the proposed partnership centered around an energy deal. In effect, there were rumors that Gazprom would advance Athens some $5 billion against future revenues from the Greek section of the Turkish Stream pipeline and although that deal never panned out, it was enough to worry Angela Merkel, as the last thing the EU wanted in the midst of the Ukraine crisis was to see Russia effectively annex Greece.
Fast forward four months and Greece is on the front lines of Europe’s migrant crisis and while Alexis Tsipras may not be the man he once was thanks to the troika’s deplorable campaign to strip Syriza of everything it stood for in January just to send a message to Spain and Portugal, sometimes the old Tsipras shows up out of the blue to remind the world that the fire hasn’t been completely extinguished. Case in point: on Friday, Tsipras lashed out at Brussels for the bloc’s handling of the migrant crisis but more notably, he also suggested that the West’s military meddling is the root cause of Syria’s prolonged civil war. Here’s AP:
Greece's prime minister lashed out Friday at European "ineptness" in handling the continent's massive immigration crisis after 31 more people — mostly children — drowned in shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea.
"I want to express ... my endless grief at the dozens of deaths and the human tragedy playing out in our seas," he told parliament. "The waves of the Aegean are not just washing up dead refugees, dead children, but (also) the very civilization of Europe."
"What about the tens of thousands of living children, who are cramming the roads of migration?" he said.
Tsipras blamed the migrant flows on western military interventions in the Middle East, which he said furthered geopolitical interests rather than democracy.
"And now, those who sowed winds are reaping whirlwinds, but these mainly afflict reception countries," he added.
"I feel ashamed of Europe's inability to effectively address this human drama, and of the level of debate ... where everyone tries to shift responsibility to someone else," Tsipras said.
So apparently, there's at least one European leader who "gets it" when it comes to explaining why hundreds of thousands of people who were living with a repressive regime for decades suddenly decided it was time to flee to Europe.
That is, it's not like Syrians didn't know their government had autocratic tendencies - a couple of hundred thousand people didn't just wake up one day and say "hey, this guy might be a dictator, let's leave and settle in Germany." Rather, the West and its regional allies armed multiple Sunni extremist groups on the way to starting a civil war and now, Europe is discovering what happens when you foment sectarian violence in the Mid-East.
Of course it won't matter. No one listens to Tsipras anymore thanks to the troika's efforts to subvert democracy in Greece and discredit someone who might otherwise have become an important figure in the world of geopolitics. And so, the charade will continue: first blame the "brutal dictatorship," then claim the Russians are making it worse.