spiderwebptnetFirst rule of dealing with the spider at the centre: don’t touch the web

Pardon me for pointing this out, but is it not now 13 weeks since the eurogroupe (which is not quite the EC but definitely not a Troika either, ooooh nonononono) began its discussions with the Greeks on reform?

I think you’ll find it is.

And hush my mouth, but during that time has the Schäuble-Draghi-Drivelboom Troika triad of positively engaged negotiators done anything useful except leak falsehoods, turn Athens ideas down flat, and destabilise Greek banks to increase the pressure on Syriza?

I think you’ll find they haven’t.

And cut out my tongue that I should be so non-violently extremist, but do the new set of Trident nuclear proposals demonstrate any continuity whatsoever with the discussions that had been progressing during the last 13 weeks?

I think you’ll find they don’t.

And far be it from me to blow The Slog Trumpet too often, but did I not write way back on February 27th that:

‘Even the fairly large print of the Memorandum makes YV’s job impossible, and it isn’t helped by the obviously manipulated departure of bank deposits. Four months from now they will be back around the same table, and there is just one thing alone that might make Yanis’s hand stronger: Italy turning to sh*t – which it could do….and ought to do.

But if your main adversary is an Italian crook heading up the ECB, I wouldn’t hold your breath on it. In that four months, there’ll be 24/7 smearing and trolls, manufactured bank panics, and pretty much anything they can think of to take Syriza’s eye off the ball. Last month, a record €12.2 billion left Greek banks: that is more than any outflows experienced during any of the previous Greek crises and bailouts…’

And this on March 9th, quoting a Brussels mole:

“It is an open secret here that the eurogroupe had made their minds up to reject the paper out of hand. That much was crystal clear last Friday night. They never had any intention of agreeing to it – they would have rejected it whatever it had said. Because they didn’t make this clear last week, Greece has lost another day before facing the IMF payment next Friday. It’s all designed to put Athens in a corner with no escape.”

And this on March 10th:

‘…the attempt now is to snow-job the Greeks into submission. And the tactic is work, work, work.

Work to provide another reform list within two weeks. Work to provide more detail within three days. Then two days to find the second instalment for the IMF. Then another 3 days for the third, then four days for the fourth.

Dijsselbloem is a gobby little twerp who gives himself away with every brainlessly insensitive thing he says. At a Volkskrant Rally in Amsterdam at the weekend: “The Greeks have almost no money left in their money-box”, and his parting shot at Varoufakis yesterday, “We are wasting too much time….you have a huge amount of work to do over the coming days and weeks.”

You must work. You must pay. You must lose…’

And this on March 11th :

‘By far the biggest Greek creditor today is….the ECB. Schäuble fudges this by referring to the need “to include the lenders” in eurogroupe outcomes. It’s pure, timewasting poppycock: they’re the same people.’

I think you’ll find I did.

There really is only one overall conclusion to draw from this: the only intentions the three-pronged EU Devil ever had in forcing the current memorandum onto an ambushed Varoufakis were themselves threefold:

1. To waste time and ensure that the Greeks were kept running about trying to compromise with a bunch of Nazis whose idea of compromise is ritual humiliation. Think Dubcek in 1968, and you’re about there.

2. To destabilise the Syriza government in every way possible.

3. To talk gaily about progress and raise Greek hopes when the Spidermen never had any intention of doing anything except get Syriza out of the equation at the earliest opportunity.

In his speech of last night, the one thing Alexis Tsipras said that I simply couldn’t make sense of was his assurance that Athens and Brussels were “nearer than ever to a deal”. He himself openly stated that the “new” eurogroupe proposals were completely unacceptable, so how can those two supposed ‘facts’ be possible at the same time? Is it really possible that Tsipras doesn’t grasp that Draghi and Schäuble have been shielding the ball at the corner-flag in a blatant attempt to waste time? I doubt it.

I still maintain as a relative outsider and Grecophile that – despite all the leaks, muscle-flexing and spurious insults that the Troikanauts have handed out throughout this encounter – they have set out only to damage Greece’s fiscal position, not destroy its sovereign viability. This too says to me that they cannot afford for the latter to happen. If Greece opts for by far the best option open to it – default inside the eurozone – then the bad debt will spike bond yields throughout ClubMed, and the defiance will fan the flames of resistance to German-driven federalism in Spain, Italy and Portugal.

The Troikanauts really do not want that. I repeat: they are bluffing.

The IMF, meanwhile, has learned the same lesson that subordinated Greek and Cypriot bondholders took on board over a year ago: Berlin’s Schäuble and Frankfurt’s Draghi cannot be trusted to honour promises.

News broke earlier this evening that a meeting has taken place (confirmed by both parties) between Spain’s radical Podemos Party, and several IMF representatives. For obvious reasons, neither side would comment on the content of the talks. But I’d bet a Pound to a penny that this is Lagarde’s bruised and tarnished US lending machine sussing out early what the likely next Spanish Government Party really thinks. And my hunch is that they’ll choose to stay out of it. Once bitten, twice shy and all that.

I suspect that Merkel and Schäuble would welcome that decision. As for Draghi, who knows? It is a tangled web these arachnoids weave. But when it comes to bite, Troika2 is more common house spider than deadly tarantula. So long as Syriza stays out of the parlour while blowing hard at the web , the Greeks have nothing to fear….and the EU has everything to fear.

Related from The Slog archives: The importance of building bridges