I confess that I would not like to be in Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s shoes. He was in such a rush to get into power that he had no idea what lay in store, though it is true that he has matured compared to how he was when he was first elected. However, it’s too little too late, as the saying goes, and now Tsipras is like a captain watching the perfect storm brew on the horizon with no idea of what to do about it.
Things are not going well in negotiations with the country’s partners and creditors. The cursed Bermuda Triangle of Greece-IMF-eurozone is not unjustly considered the cause of tragic and inexplicable accidents. It is a triangle that can’t be squared, however much anyone tries. Those in the know say that the deadlock will continue for some months. Greece’s bailout review will remain incomplete, its inclusion in the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing program will be pushed back, and uncertainty will crush the economy. Tsipras has little power over this situation, especially as his allies French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi are on their way out. US President Barack Obama is still trying to help Greece out, but with little to show for it. Incurable optimists believe that German Chancellor Angela Merkel will save Greece in the final hour by citing geopolitical concerns. They even argue that she hasn’t stepped in yet because she isn’t sufficiently informed on the “Greek question.”
And as if all that were not enough, we are also dealing with rising tension in Greek-Turkish relations and problems on the Cyprus front.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan obviously wants to sit down with Tsipras and renegotiate everything – from the Aegean to Cyprus – which is exactly what Greek foreign policy has always strived to avoid. In any case, the Greek prime minister does not appear to have full control over issues pertaining to foreign policy and security and his opinions do not seem to coincide with those of his high-ranking associates. But Greece is entering a crucial phase where there is no room for uncertainty and hesitation. The decision over whether he will attend an international meeting and how he will respond to Erdogan’s every proposal rests solely with the Greek premier, as does the decision as to whether Greece needs to escalate its rhetoric or how it would respond to a possible unilateral move by Ankara vis-a-vis Cyprus.
This is the time for Tsipras to prove his mettle. Public opinion polls are dire and he is surrounded by people who give him lousy advice. The news from Europe and the east is not good. What Tsipras obviously hasn’t realized is that the distance between triumph and destruction is extremely short – and he’s not the first in that office.