The question of whether Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his close aides are actually in favor of Greece exiting the eurozone has gained fresh attention as of late. Don’t forget that no one was quite sure of Tsipras’s real intentions last year.
Up until the infamous about-face became official strategy following the referendum, all scenarios appeared to be on the table, including a return to the drachma and playing the Russian card.
Very few people are in any position to say what Tsipras’s exact wishes were on the day he was sworn in as premier for the first time. Surely a lot has changed since then. The charm of being glorified as the rock star of the European left has now been replaced by the sweetness of power and hanging out with the world’s elite.
Beneath it all, however, lies a deeper, cultural issue. It is obvious that a portion of the leading team surrounding Tsipras would feel much more at ease if the administration was governing in a clearly drachma environment. That is because they would like to see a repeat of Greece in the 1980s, a time when a phone call sufficed to make appointments and pay favors through public utility companies, banks and the public sector. In other words, given enough cash, their manner of government would be that of a country outside the EU.
But there is also another issue. Europe is a vast melting pot, a place of exchange, comprise and keeping balances. Even when someone takes a tough negotiating stance on behalf of their country’s interests, there are certain lines that cannot be crossed. When pushed too far, Tsipras and a number of his aides tend to react in ways that go beyond the European norm. At that point they believe the sit-ins they took part in during their youth could be repeated on a European, even global level. Experience, however, shows that this behavior is never productive. On the contrary, it places a country in the corner and increases the final bill.
Personally, I very much doubt the existence of a hidden plan that would see the country return to the drachma. In moments of despair, previous bailout-era Greek PMs thought of this, but saw they were running the risk of a national disaster upon a closer inspection. Nevertheless, we might reach the drachma point, even if no one wants that to happen – on the face of it. This could result from an admirable synergy of the tough guys, both in Greece and abroad.
Locally, the tough ones could push for unilateral actions as pressure from the negotiations increases. Meanwhile, the tough players among the country’s lenders would carry on reassuring everyone else that a Grexit is unthinkable, while in private they would be content to think that Tsipras’s mistakes could lead to Greece asking for a time-out. History is made of accidents which were not the result of some secret plan, but a string of errors, human weaknesses and obsessions. Let’s hope we will avoid that.