Obama Needs to Come Up With a Marshall Plan for Greece

Alexis Tsipras. Credit: piazzadelpopolo/Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

Alexis Tsipras. Credit: piazzadelpopolo/Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

The condominium of European and American banks represented by the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund insist that as a price of keeping Greece out of bankruptcy, the country must stay on a starving diet of austerity. They know that austerity, imposed on Greece since 2010, has failed to help its people out of continuing degradation: suicides, hunger, increasing homelessness, shuttered public health, and huge unemployment.

But such facts make no difference to the bankers and their European and American government representatives. Austerity has simply drained Greece not merely of money but of national honour and pride.

Will Greece sign on the dotted line for the continuation of a debt, which Greeks consider illegal and odious? After all, the memoranda between Greece and the lenders violated Greek and international law. How could a sovereign country agree or be forced to agree to give up its own sovereignty? Would not such an act be cowardly, treasonous, and illegal? 

The young but inexperienced Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras went to Strasbourg and spoke to the members of the European parliament, telling them that 61 per cent of Greeks voted ‘No’ to the continuation of the humiliating debt agreements between the lenders and Greece. But the majority of the parliamentarians, sharing the German contempt for Greece, gave him a cold reception.

This is a critical moment for Europe and America. If they allow the inhumane conditions of the lenders to prevail and punish Greece further, we will be entering new, untested territory in international relations.

Greece will probably leave the Eurozone and go back to her own currency, the drachma. In fact, she should do that. She entered the Eurozone unprepared. Foreign powers bribed Greek politicians to undermine Greek economic self-reliance and sovereignty. Now these politicians are latching on to anything they hear, like the lukewarm support of President Obama for a Greece within the EU.

Should Greece leaves the Eurozone, the suffering of the Greeks will probably increase, but, in time, they will manage to put their economy together. They will at least have the satisfaction of not paying back most of the odious debt.

What will take time to heal will be the rising antagonism, even hatred, between Greeks and Western European politicians.

Greeks will be especially angry against the Germans who precipitated their international humiliation and oppression. The Greeks have not forgotten the savage German occupation of their country during the Second World War. And neither do they appreciate that Germany had its gigantic post-WWII debt forgiven. So why doesn’t the US, which forgave the German debt, not insist that the Greek debt also be forgiven? And, why don’t the EU and America demand that Germany pay Greece compensation for the devastating pillage it did during WWII? Obama stays away from that history.

Second, a Europe without Greece is no longer Europe. Greece gave Europe both her name and her civilisation. European politicians should think twice about the consequences of allowing bankers, rather than the virtues of Greek-inspired civilisation, the last say on their conflict with the country. 

Finally, a desperate Greece may do desperate things. (1) Sign another abominable memorandum with her creditors for additional oppression and even more economic impoverishment of her citizens, selling away her sovereignty and degrading further her national identity and national defence; (2) Unsettle NATO and America’s strategic interests in Europe. Europe may turn into hazardous terrain. The so-called state of Macedonia and NATO member, Turkey, both ill-disposed towards Greece, may take its economic weakness as an opportune time to cause trouble. Meanwhile, thousands of war refugees from the Middle East land on the islands of debt ravaged Greece.

America is treating a bankrupt Ukraine with sympathy. Why not extend the same favours to Greece? America needs to show leadership in Europe. The Europeans and especially the Germans have to be told to invest in the rebuilding of the wrecked Greek economy. Germany and the US can start that process with a Marshall Plan for Greece.

Evaggelos Vallianatos is the author of Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA (with McKay Jenkins, Bloomsbury Press, 2014).