Greece: the Washington v Berlin poker game returns…to Athens’ advantage.

US Treasury Secretary Geithner may yet wind up being Greece’s saviour.

A few airy vapours emerged in the way of rationales for US Federal Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s session with German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble today. The two men ‘expressed confidence in euro-area member states’ efforts to reform and move towards greater integration’, ‘welcomed the Irish example of placing successfully longer-term bonds last week and Portugal’s continued success in meeting program commitments andzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…..’

Bazooka Geithner was scheduled to travel on to Frankfurt Monday afternoon for a session with European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, and no doubt at that time they will talk about Borussia Dortmund’s women’s soccer friendly against Inter-Milan’s mixed-sex 2nd XI next Thursday. It promises to be a storming game, but most people watching ClubMed developments (especially those in Athens) could be forgiven for suggesting that Greece’s future location as a sphere of vital influence was the main reason Mr Geithner was talking to two of the most powerful financial players in Europe.

The eurozone has been a pimple on the backside of global money for two years now, but while the buttock-blemish just keeps on getting bigger, nothing seems to bring it to a head. My theory is that the problem is now so big, it has expanded far beyond the fiscal arse, and is about to launch an assault on the head: but whether I’m right or wrong, there’ve been so many jigsaw bits, clues and signs falling into place of late, you’d have to be Mr Magoo in a tank not to notice them.

What’s going on here is a high-stakes poker game between Washington and Berlin. And once again, we are talking Greek default into the welcoming arms (in every sense) of America v Merkel’s FiskalUnion vision wherein Greece stays in the eurotent…along with its strategic, mineral, and energy importance to Brussels.

Here are some examples of what I mean.

“One thing that’s started happening among eurobankers is debt syndication,” a Madrid based debt expert told me late last week. “The situation here has gone beyond critical…Spain is a cert for full-on bailout. And Greece is running to fall backwards. So senior bank executives are looking to spread risk: they’re happy to lend the same target sum, but to five clients not one. And preferably across three EU States. I asked two guys last weekend [21st/27th July] what they most feared right now, and it was Germany throwing the towel in. So in that outlook which, you know, I think is not unreasonable, you can see why the target setters have said ‘same goals but more borrowers’.”

The anti-Greek feeling among Bankfurters has been growing of late, I am certain. This tendency is also, we now see, shown to be far closer to the German public pulse than that of the Merkel inner circle. Early today Bild splashed the results of a poll by the Emnid research institute. They showed that over 70% of respondents wanted Greece to leave the eurozone if it couldn’t stick to its repayments schedule; while a technical majority of 51% (the first time I’ve seen one) felt Germany would be better off without the euro. The poll is significant, in that it shows any gentle shoving of Athens towards the Exit Lounge would give the MerkeSchäuble Coalition Government a clear electoral advantage next year. Equally important, it showed that Fritz in the street thinks doing nothing Brussels-style is not an option.

The one pair of cold eyes into which Tim Geithner hasn’t stared yet belong to Angela Merkel. Being a born geopolitician, she will still be mulling over what the greatest risk might be: Germany taking on board a Hindenburg of debt, or Berlin-am-Brussels losing the resources and power to have the deciding say in the Middle East….via Greece.

Yesterday I posted about Geithner sending special envoy Collyns to lick the Greeks all over, and reassure them of just how valued they will be as and when a return to the Drachma takes place. I’m confident that German intelligence is aware of the content of their discussion; and I’m told that this is reflected in reports coming back from Athens today about the Greek government finally resolving to draw a line in the sand about Troika demands.

What I suspect might be happening now is that the usual suspects among Greece’s elite of troughers are balancing the horrors of losing the Brussels gravy train against the potential of joining an American version with more First Class carriages.

What’s more, I’m reasonably sure that the Troika is in possession of Berlin’s knowledge about the American offer. This from Athens News yesterday (my italics):

‘…the atmosphere at the [Friday Coalition/Troika] dinner was “exceptionally good” and marked a change in the attitude so far of the representatives of Greece’s creditors….

A couple of hours ago (4pm BST Monday) Greek PM Antonis Samaras was due to hold talks with PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, and the minor Party Democratic Left’s leader Fotis Kouvelis. I’ve had wildly conflicting reports today as to who if anyone will object to what in the way of Troika demands. Kouvelis, however, is felt by many to oppose any more pension or salary cuts. And some sources think all three men will not budge on auctioning State assets. As this has been a consistent (and from their viewpoint, totally understandable) foot-dragging subject since the first Greek bailout, The Slog’s informants may well be right. However, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsismet met earlier today: Stournaras was the recipient of envoy Collyn’s alleged ‘total support’ message last week. So it’s very possible that the Greek side now feel they have more cards for when the next Troika session occurs.

Even the scheduling for that keeps changing. I was told last Saturday that it would be this evening, but now I understand it has been postponed. According to Athens News the story is that the Troika is digging in ‘until a package of measures is agreed’.

This is a very finely balanced diplomatic situation, but you have to take your hat off to Geithner this time: he seems to have learned the lesson of the EU Poland summit – viz, Yankee bombast doesn’t play well in Europe. Indeed, he is displaying considerably more craft and subtlety at the moment than Hillary Clinton over at State when it comes to Obamite Arab foreign policy. As everyone in the US tells me, love or hate the guy (to quote one trusted contact) “Tim Geithner is not just another money-f**king banker…he’s a cultured man who does see the higher game.”

Make of that what you will. The point is, it’s hard to see how the Federal Treasury Secretary can lose in this situation. If Germany embraces Greece as a preferable alternative to having the Pentagon crawling all over it, then Germany picks up the tab for whatever the eurozone downside turns out to be…and reassures the markets that Berlin is, after all, the final guarantor. This can only go down well on Wall Street. On the other hand, if Merkel goes with German public feeling (or is arm-locked into doing so) then Timmy can write in his memoirs how, in one all-or-nothing hand, he secured Greece as a US base for all time from which to exploit rare-earth minerals and exert fast-response influence on the Iran-Israel-Sunni Middle East farrago.

In conclusion, let me just add one thought that continues to intrigue me. The total Greek debt as of now is roughly $390bn. The US total debt is $16 trillion. For US bank collapses to start happening on the basis of a sum owed in the region of 0.7% of America’s national debt (collapses that could balloon US debt management costs enough to sink the entire country) strikes me a risk not worth considering for longer than 0.07 of a second.

This in turn leads me to ask three further questions. One, is Israel no longer deemed to be of value to the Obama Administration as an ally? Second – even more mind-concentrating – are the derivative multiple indices potentially accruing from eurozone meltdown so terrifying, the US would be happier ‘adopting’ a Greece outside the eurozone, rather than take the risk of a Greece inside triggering the nuclear reaction? And third, if that’s the case, what on Earth is Washington going to do about Spain and Italy?

Stay tuned.

 

70 thoughts on “Greece: the Washington v Berlin poker game returns…to Athens’ advantage.

  1. ‘“Tim Geithner is not just another money-f**king banker…he’s a cultured man who does see the higher game.”’
    Oh, really, yeah dream on…TG is about TG, make no mistake, it will be at your peril.

  2. Maybe Washington/IMF will reimburse Germany for pulling Greece back from the brink… saving Merkel face for re-election, avoiding collapses, still securing Greek assets, and leaving funds in ECB and EU for Spain… they hope a strong stance at Spain will keep the wolves at bay from Italy. The American ratings companies will then magically change Spain, Italy’s ratings and the whole world will buy the whole garbage pile because the ratings companies are gospel (barf).

  3. The US cares not a jot about Italy or Spain but, Greece, well a different kettle of fish…..there’s a lot more to this than we are a party to. There are trillions of Euros of natural resources here, and we have been expertly distracted from the real motives here.

    • What I don’t get is there are all these resources sutting in (or under Greece) and its adjacent waters why have they not been expolited by now?

      Surely it is easier getting oil out of a flat calm Aegean than the North Sea or deep waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

      Greece being what it is would have gone for the easy money a long time ago or am I missing something?

      • The Americans found oil originally in the seas of Greece in the late 1970’s… technology at the time was not as good as it is now… so they could not get a reasonable idea how much was there… and the drilling tech at the time would have made extraction too expensive to make it worth their while back then… of course the drilling is much more cost effective now, the sonar and test drills far more accurately assess the amount, and they much higher cost of oil and transportation of oil make the cost/benefit ratio of Ionian Sea oil extraction FAAAR more favorable… with 350 million driving Europeans above us to sell to…

      • What’s missing is the machinations (behind closed doors of course) of the oil and gas multinationals to exploit Greece’s weak bargaining position to secure the most advantageous deal for their shareholders and CEOs at Greece’s expense – as is the case of the American-based company that bid 20% benefit for Greece, the same for Turkey and the remaining lion’s share (60%) for itself!
        Diasporasis
        (Nikos Psilinakis)

  4. “The eurozone has been a pimple on the backside of global money for two years now, but while the buttock-blemish just keeps on getting bigger, nothing seems to bring it to a head.”

    BEST – LINE – EVER!!!

  5. So there we have it. Everything spoken of – and not a thought about the Greek citizen. Okay: they have had their airing on the Slog, but it is well to remember that the likes of the Americans will not even have those thoughts when it comes to Greece. It will be mineral rights and airbases – and then the details. Details like democracy, drachmas and … debts?

    Thankyou also, JW for bringing up the detail of Greece’s debt. It is a tiny figure when compared to what the US is racking up. Is it the equivalent of a day’s spend in the US – or a week? Frankly, I do not see the euro in the same light as you do. Pimple it may be, but pimple it is compared to the nastiness that is being nurtured in the US – anti-euro propaganda is keeping people’s attention away from the big deals. Guess what? The US can print money to pay for this propaganda to divert attention from what they are doing.

    You know the figure better than I: the size of the derivatives in the US. It is around $800 trillion. Something tells me that the US debt is around 0.7% of this figure.

    I know … I was never any good at long division.

    • Gemma… you know the deal, either way the Greek people, regular folks, were always going to end up pretty much screwed.

      • Ioannis

        just like the working folk of Britain, the Netherlands, Germany and … the US?

        Remember who is getting all that lovely dosh the Troika are chasing you for … and it isn’t the Germans. It is private banks who should have known better and should now be licking their wounds and getting back to business.

  6. The total Greek debt as of now is roughly $390bn … Once production starts this is 1 years pay for Greece….Just from the oil.
    – If Greece starts pumping out oil/gas/minerals what will this do to the “illegal” derivatives markets?
    – Could this be the reason they fear Greece and not its debt????

    You mention the US debt (people need to stop saying Greece should not have entered the Euro – rather that the states in the USA should never have formed a union – how about that for some food for thought) but what about Germany’s/Frances?

    You cant chop down trees, make paper, print pictures on it and say that Germany is bailing out the rest of Europe.

    As soon as people start looking at Germany’s books uh oh!!!

  7. ” In December 2010, Greece’s Energy Ministry formed a special group of experts to research the prospects for oil and gas in Greek waters. Greece’s Energean Oil & Gas began increased investment into drilling in the offshore waters after a successful smaller oil discovery in 2009. Major geological surveys were made. Preliminary estimates now are that total offshore oil in Greek waters exceeds 22 billion barrels in the Ionian Sea off western Greece and some 4 billion barrels in the northern Aegean Sea.

    The southern Aegean Sea and Cretan Sea are yet to be explored, so the numbers could be significantly higher. According to one Greek analyst, Aristotle Vassilakis, “surveys already done that have measured the amount of natural gas estimate it to reach some nine trillion dollars.”

    Tulane University oil expert David Hynes conservatively estimates that exploitation of the reserves already discovered could bring the country more than ¤302 billion over 25 years.

    Notably, the IMF and EU governments, among them Germany, demand instead that Greece sell off its valuable ports and public companies, among them of course, Greek state oil companies, to reduce state debt. Under the best of conditions the asset selloffs would bring the country perhaps 50 billion ”

    http://rense.com/general95/newmedd.html

    • A peek into a future Greece, ruled now by kind, gentle Americans.

      American: Hey, it’s great to be here in the home of democracy! Just imagine. Anyway, let’s get down to business. We gotta deal for $10bn then for these here tanks?
      Greek: Sure, Mike. Ten billion sounds great to me. What are the tanks going to cost my government then?
      American: Stavros! That is the cost to your government.
      Greek: Eh? I don’t understand. How much do I get?

      • We will drain them dry as well… reminds me of the time I went into a Hassidic Jewish electronics store in NY with some friends, speaking in Greek. The owner started to yell about how he didn’t want our business because Greeks are too much trouble negotiating for lower prices and he would rather wait for the Arabs (who I guess just pay full price) when I asked him what his problem was he said ” No, I don’t want your business! The only people that can out Jew a Jew is a Greek!!!”… needless to say we stayed for about an hour laughing it up with the old man… and then haggled his ass down to nothing on the camera’s we wanted!!!! All good fun… ahhhh, the States… I miss Jews, Black people, live jazz, and Mexican food!!!

      • Gemma, thats a defeatest attitude. We are fed up with this attitude, the negativity, that we are weak, hence are looking to fight back and rebuild.

        Is its going to be easy? Absolutely NOT… are we going to have more problems? YES but that is life.

        Our history is littered with being “against all odds”… we know this and we will fight to live, or die trying.

      • James

        some call it defeatist, some realist. There is another side to this which is worth noting here: the character of the Greeks (and indeed the individuals in Greece) won’t change if they leave the EU and the Yanks come in.

        Your good points will remain, just as your bad ones.

        So let us get something straightened out here. Your bad points. Look at them carefully and you will see a trait that is really something quite positive – only misused. Un-misuse it, turn it around so to speak, and you have something that whilst still Greek to its core, is now positive.

        Remember this: the Chinese for “Crisis” is formed from two words:

        危机

        The first means danger, the second means opportunity.

  8. So the bankrupt cavalry is coming in the shape of
    Turbo Tax Timmy..Only Obummer has less credibility.
    This is political ,not economic.The US cannot save itself,let alone
    anyone else.This is a stall action to stop a meltdown before
    Obummer is re-elected..This is for the benefit of the banks and
    Obummer only.. Do not fall for it.

    • Winston

      like the last election in the UK, it would seem to me to be a fight as to which presidential candidate loses. Sure, they both need to look good – but each will want to hand the nastiness to the other.

    • Minston… the oil and natural gas are there… doesn’t matter who wins the election… they’re interest goes beyond politics… if it was just politics, Timmy would not have come himself.

  9. Hmm, Geithner’ may be “…a cultured man who does see the higher game” but he’s still low enough to try avoiding his taxes. I wouldn’t have him as a friend.

    DavidC

  10. Come on, Ioannis ….. don’t lose your sense of humour
    I live in Greece and you guys are serious players in the everlasting battle with the criminals who have their mucky hands on the levers.
    I enjoy your posts …. don’t always agree with them but they make me think!

  11. Forget Xanax …..stay with the raki.
    Seriously though, it seems to me that Greece is just the frontrunner in all this stuff – we’ll see many others following in your footsteps in the months to come
    I keep thinking that the ‘eye of the storm’ may be the safest in the long run !

    • AHHHHH!!! No Raki!, makes me do silly and horrific things… now Tsipouro on the other hand! better yet Tsipouro AND Xanax!!! Fun fact… an American pharma sales rep here in Greece told me that since 2009 when the crisis started the biggest selling drug in Greece is Xanax.

      • Ioannis
        Xanax is the business. I took out once thirty years ago very briefly. It was like being back in 1967.

  12. @JW: “…is Israel no longer deemed to be of value to the Obama Administration as an ally?”

    I think you’re getting ahead of things. Whatever he says domestically about Israel or to AIPAC, Obamarama is a tad cool towards Israel (not at all surprising to me), but I don’t see a possible new relationship with Greece changing anything much. Jewish lobby is very influential over there as you know…

  13. I’m sorry but I just can’t get into the whole US is after bases and minerals argument.

    If there is oil in Greece it will be sold to whoever wants it. US company’s sell Alaska crude to Asia. Oil exploration is going on in all parts of the earth. The more oil extracted the cheaper the price. Canada has lots of oil probably more than Saudis do. The are still finding lots of oil in the US. Most corporations that I am aware of don’t tap their feet to any national anthem.

    We have three carrier groups in the middle east, the B2 bomber only has one base and that one is in the US. We don’t need a base in the area and if we did I’m sure Israel would gladly supply one.

    • @Bill;
      Tend to agree with you. At a stretch, I guess people mean it might be US oilcos who get the contracts to extract the Greek oil, which is usually quite lucrative.

      • Agreed.
        It might sound like a lot to a desperate Greek slogger.
        But in terms of the real prizes Iran ,Syria etc.its nothing.
        As I posted earlier,its a political move.The US will get the
        Greek(or is it Cypriot or Turkish) oil for pennies on the
        dollar in the Greek fire sale.All that’s required is patience,
        and bribes to all the willing politicians there.
        The worry is a derivatives/banking meltdown before November.
        Cannot imagine why Obummer wants a second term except
        of course his narcissistic egomania.
        A true believer,the most dangerous type of all.Better a
        corrupt leader,than that.

    • You three are pathetic… the world is moving around you and you guys are obsessed with Obama’s re-election… easily drilled oil and natural gas in a country you don’t have to go to war with, sitting in the back yard of the richest market in the world will always be of more interest to SMART oil developers (us or not) because digging up millions of tons of sand to extract a few gallons of low grade crap will never be as profitable… and if you didn’t need and Air Base in the area… than why was there ever one there? You think Israel would let you build a dedicated bomber base? yer crazy! They would never want to add that target to their backs on top of the one they already have… besides if done properly Greek bases would come with their own cheap oil supply, I have explained all this to you before and even tough it all makes sense and seems to be what is happening… I am sure that JW, and the Oil co.’s and Timothy Geithner, Russia, China, and Israel… I am sure they are all wrong… and you three are right. Yeah… that seems right.

      • The four folks above.
        I’m more with Ioannis on this one. It’s not just oil/minerals or just a base of just Islamism: it’s the confluence of all that plus Russian, Chinese, German and Turkish influence in the area.
        The US is a fading Empire desperate to carry on being the Top Cop on the planet. Geopolitics is as much about egomania as it is left-brain stuff.

      • You’re babbling again. Any oil/gas extracted from deep waters is not “easily drilled oil and natural gas” as you claim. Ask BP in the US Gulf and the oilcos in the North Sea. That said, if oil/gas exists in the large quantities you claim it will of course be of interest to the oilcos and foreign govts from all sides. If the Greek political elites take your expert advice I’d expect them to do a deal with Chinese or Russians.

        One other thing is that given your obvious grave concerns about GW/AGW you should be arguing for leaving the oil/gas where it is, not exploiting it. Or is oil burning OK when it suits you? Such hypocrisy….?

        ha-ha.
        HAND :-)

      • Bill… I just want to thank you… with guys like you online, it’s just too easy… please continue…

    • Bollockus destructato… again.

      1. “Any oil/gas extracted from deep waters is not “easily drilled oil and natural gas” as you claim.”… Yes, it is cheaper than the tar sands excavatiions this conversation was about … still trying to change subjects and misdirect the text? High School stuff…

      2. We already have Gas deals with Russia, and oil deals with Israel, and we are currently entertaining 11 different offers from 9 muliti-national oil co’s (all the usual Exxon, BP, etc.)

      3. I don’t “claim” there is gas it is a fact in evidence… again your so intellectually lazy you can’t even lift one feeble finger to Google any of the facts…

      4. Actually my opinion would be to directly reinvest oil/gas proceeds into taking advantage of our MASSIVE Kwh of sunlight and turn Greece into an energy producer… so that we can sell natural gas, oil, and electricity through the Balkans and into Europe… never said I was against oil and cars… more fabrications of your delusion. I have no problem with driving a car, and also caring to limit the damage of global warming, until better solutions are worked out… because, unlike you… my brain can handle more than way of thinking at a time… when you misuse the term hypocrisy I realize it is because it’s a Greek word and you don’t fully understand it’s real meaning… additionally… are you so simple minded and narrow reasoned that you need to pretend global warming is a multi national Marxist “leftist” scam to limit how big of an engine is in your car in order to justify having a car in the first place? I mean… you have to understand I am having trouble stooping down to the level of your “intellect” so I don’t quite understand what you are trying to say…. listen why don’t you save us all from having to try and decipher any more of your bollocks and go jerk off in your mothers salad, m’kay.

      • @Ioannis: You’re babbling again. And to add some spice to it you added some dishonest projections. ha-ha. HAND :-)

        EOD

      • Boy, I hope you didn’t hurt yourself coming up with that scaldingly witty retort… so not only do you not bother trying to validate any of your loose lipped red asssed monkey gibberish statements by referencing any kind of sources (partially because the intense level of camel dung you froth out that puckered anus you call a mouth is false, and can’t be proven anyway), but you are SUUUch a dullard, such a mound of nincompoopery bound together by a mixture of sheer simian stupidity, and a will to keep fighting no matter how much brain damage you keep piling onto what’s left of your “brain” that this… this, is the best you can do. I am starting to feel guilty now… I feel like I am making fun of the retarded kid in class, or pouring salt on snails… I can’t say it’s been fun, certainly not interesting or informative… please, if you can’t make a credible statement, or at least a decent insult… don’t bother.

      • @BT since when has the Aegean (or any other bit of the Med for that matter) been ‘deep’?

        @Bill OK so….why should Greek oil be any more or less fungible than that from any other drilled from the sea? I thank you in advance for enlightening a person of inferior intellect

      • @aflatoxin: This is what I actually wrote above in context:
        “Any oil/gas extracted from deep waters is not “easily drilled oil and natural gas” as you claim.”

        And it was for the purpose of explaining to our all-knowing dear Oracle @Ioannis that drilling in the sea is not like drilling on land. Sure, there’s expertise around but also risks and dangers, eg Meltemi. I have a chart at home on my file server which shows the various depths of the seas around Greece and (IIRC) you might be surprised. Also remember other natural events in that region.

      • There you go again… changing the subject matter to suit your argument… my original statement was that drilling in Greek waters would be easier and more cost effective than extracting oil from the millions of tons of sand in Canada’s Tar Sands region that YOU brought up… that was the ORIGINAL conversation, you can take it out of context now if you like but it does not change anything… the proof of this is in the fact that the US is still trying to drill off of it’s own shores before bothering with Tar Sands, still trying to get all the oil in the middle east before developing Tar Sands, etc, etc. etc. please continue lets see if that foot in your mouth can reach your stomach.

  14. Deceitful fools tarry about raping and pillaging believing that this is all there is and believing that they are masters of all… yet, the morning brings the silent worms to devour one’s carcass in the end, releasing their souls to the reaper who harvests their greed to stoke the fires of a endless Hell whereby being tormented by vicious demons jealous of their earthly successes and demanding retribution for their ill-gotten lucre.

    Howl today, you jackals of perdition, for on the morrow there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

    • Postus

      well, there are those that choose the path you describe, thinking that it is all just nonsense.

      Let us steer your thinking in a different direction for a moment. Let us put this in terms that have a little more meaning, even for a banker whose soul is tattered and abused. All the things you describe are the consequences of seeking material gain. Yes? We see this all around us – we see those people always wanting more. Bankers, businessmen, alcoholics – they all want more.

      The problem that they are not addressing is the fact that material things come to an end.

      Emotions, such as greed, fear, do not. Which is the picture you are painting. These needs, feelings, continue – only now they cannot be slaked by material possessions or whatever you used in the material world to cover up your weakness.

      My point in saying this is that if you deal with your addiction – be this to money, the internet, your motorcars or sex – you will deal with those demons you speak of whilst you are still able to.

      Can you understand me now when I say that I pity bankers?

  15. This oil and gas,if it really exists,is on the doorstep of the richest part of the planet.A bevy of expensive,fuel guzzling,cars cruise Europe and a host of heating or air conditioning hums across a population unused to anything else.This is a market for which Greece will be sacrificed and the money squirreled away to the banks of the USA.

    • Minimum 30 Billion barrels of oil (in only one small area surveyed) confirmed by American, Israeli, and Russian companies… additionally and more importantly 9 trillion dollars worth of natural gas… next door to the richest market in the world… bear in mind these are the preliminary findings… once drilling starts they usually find much more. http://rense.com/general95/newmedd.html

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