A conversation with Alexis Tsipras, the Greek opposition leader who could save, or blow up, the world economy.
WM: Over the last few years the Obama administration has pressed German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders for less severe treatment of Greece and for more growth-oriented policies for Greece and the EU generally. Do you believe that has made a difference, and do you believe that problems with Greece can be solved absent more American engagement and pressure?
AT: The U.S. of course plays a very important role in the global economy, and clearly an important power like Germany should take into account the views and pressures that the U.S. chooses to exercise.
WM: If easing Greece’s debt burden is even possible politically, won’t it have to wait until Merkel gets through the next German elections this fall?
AT: We need to find a sustainable solution that will stabilize Europe. I don’t understand why we have to wait for the general election in Germany to take the next step. We must stop navel gazing and look truth in the eyes. The truth is that our debt is not sustainable. It has gone from 120 percent of GDP to 170 percent of GDP and this is an unfathomable amount.
The money flowing into Greece now is basically going into a bottomless pit. It is flowing toward banks instead of toward helping the Greek economy recover. What we are looking for is a viable solution that would include a further haircut to the debt and a moratorium on payment of the debt, so that we can have the opportunity to start giving back money to our lenders, of course, slowly, gradually, while most importantly helping the Greek economy recover and allowing Greek citizens to live in dignity. Back in 1953, under the London Debt Agreement, America asked European countries, including Greece, to agree to write off 60 percent of Germany’s debts from World War II and to put a moratorium on debt repayments. That was accepted as a solution. What we are asking from Germany is basically the same.
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