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Tsipras in Moscow
by Thanos Kalamidas
2015-04-08 11:35:35
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There is one thing you learn in politics from the very beginning, everything is about perspective. The Czech president talks with Putin is about the Czech products and the damage the Russian embargo has caused to the Czech economy. Angela Merkel talks on the phone every half an hour with Vladimir Putin, is about last efforts for peace and an end to the Ukrainian crisis. The new Greek Prime Minister goers to Moscow, Greece abandons EU and it becomes a Russian satellite.

You see everything depends on who says it and how they explain it. Is just like the Barack Obama issue. If you hear it from Fox News, the American president is a radical Arab sleeper who has falsified his birth certificate and all that is a cover for the anti-Christ.

Greece has a serious economic problem. Very serious and is not about how much the country has borrowed or how these money will ever be paid back. Actually these are the littlest of all the problems. When more than half of your working force is unemployed, when there are thousands of homeless and there are kids fainting at school because they didn’t have anything to eat at home; how you will pay the banks is the smallest of your problems.

Nobody wants to admit that Greece is dealing with a humanitarian crisis because this will look too bad for Europe and in general for the west. Greece this moment faces situations we see conveniently only in photos from countries in Africa or Asia and most of time from the past.

Only one example parenthetically. The last six years the number of kids left in orphanages and churches has increase dramatically to numbers unbelievable. Do you know why? Because parents cannot afford to feed them anymore, so they prefer the separation. They prefer their kid to live in an orphanage where at least there is food and clothes than have them at home and see them hungry. Thankfully a couple of international organizations have made documentaries so at least more people are aware of the situation.

But the governments and media cover-up everything, is not nice to talk about it in modern, champion of capitalism and consuming Europe. They only talk about the Greek debt and the lazy Greek who lived over their limits. They never mention that the ones responsible for this situation were their political partners and supporters. They like to blame the people but when the people need their help they ignore them. But this is another long story I have often wrote about. Let’s go back the Tsipras' trip to Moscow.

tsipras01_400Mr Tsipras took over less than 70 days ago, he took over from a government that represented exactly that establishment that made the debt and they felt obliged to the banks to repay. But the new PM decided that the wellbeing of the people was his priority. After all, he didn’t want to govern an empty country where the ones who cannot immigrate abroad are dying in misery and poverty. He actually wants to do what an ethic man and a lawful prime minister is supposed to do. Protect and serve his people.

His priority is to feed and settle his people and for that he needs every reserve he can find. Russia has always been a good commercial partner for Greece, buying huge amounts of agricultural products; especially vegetables and fruits, main Greek exports. More than a third of the Greek production for decades goes to Russia. But then sanctions and counter sanctions came and no exports for Greece that bleeds.

Fair and square, Putin has overdone in and his involvement in Ukraine was and is not a naïve move to protect the Russian minority, even though there is a Russian minority in Ukraine with huge problems and even though the new government might not be a corrupted Russian puppet but it is a corrupted neo-Nazi puppet. There are legal ways and international institutions where Putin could state the situation. Tanks and canons never help. And sadly because everybody has gradually realized who rules Ukraine now, he would have even found unexpected support. But he didn’t and now he has to live with the consequences of his decision. As I said, fair and square.

But things are not exactly that simple. They never are actually. You see, when USA enforced those sanctions knew that most of the American exports to Russia – for example wheat – have stopped the last ten years. So Putin’s counter sanction did nothing to the American economy. The Germans, the biggest economic power in Europe and the ruler of the EU at the moment, doesn’t export watermelons, lemons or apricots and grapes to Russia so they didn’t mind for Putin’s counter sanctions. But they export and import energy so they made sure that they protected and excluding energy products from the sanctions on both ways.

Holland did the same with certain food products, Belgium with shipyards, Finland with wood and not to forget France and the frigates with the canons. None of the above was included in this exchange of sanctions. Everybody made sure that while they “punish” Russia they also protect their economy. Obviously except Greece. When Greece dared say anything in one of these critical committees the protectors of the European "dignity" reminded the Greek participants that with this debt you better ...shut your mouth and do what you are told to do, despite damage to your already bleeding country.

But let’s talk about principals and democratic dignity because for a funny reason when there are no other arguments we all turn to principals. The last few days all the European leaders have - one way or another - remind to the Greek Prime Minister that the European Union’s democratic principles are not negotiable and they don’t let a member state to talk with a man who doesn’t respect democracy, freedom of speech and neighbours.

I was literally shaken by the argument. They obviously mean that the former EU president, the all democratic Barroso and the president of the EU parliament Martin Schulz should have never invited and have tea with the caricature Hitler of Africa, the man responsible of thousands death, a racist barbaric dictator like Mugabe. But they did. And actually negotiated with him about the future of the relationships between Africa and EU.

I suppose they also mean that Kaddafi should have never fund the presidential campaign of Nicolas Sarkozy a few years ago. But he did and thanks to his generosity this inhuman murderous dictator had access to European banks and a seat in the French president’s dinner table. Actually in a way it was lucky that Kaddafi was murdered the way he was before he could appear in a court room and open his mouth about his relationship with the all democratic EU. 

And these are just two examples that just crossed my mind. If I do further research I’m sure I will find more, for example how human rights disappear from the conversation when we buy oil from Saudi Arabia or when China invests in Germany, Holland or in UK; on the contrary red carpets unveiled and queens and kings bow.

Some western media joke showing Mr Tsipras as a beggar going to Russia for help. They are right. When one third of your population is starving, you do beg for food. I expect nothing less from the Greek prime minister. Tsipras went to Russia to renegotiate the sanctions against the Greek agricultural products just like the rest of the EU partners made sure that their products were protected.

Behind all these hypocritical euphemisms about democracy and violation of international laws all of them cover their hypocrisy. But for the Greek the situation is neither euphemism nor an argument in a political situation. It is reality. Not a reality show like the one we often see in the European parliament but the reality where mothers leave their young kids in front of orphanages because they cannot feed them and there are thousands of people sleeping in the streets. And that is not a case of perspective for the Greek Prime Minister who is in Moscow this minute meeting Vladimir Putin.

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Emanuel Paparella2015-04-08 18:44:23
Indeed, perspective, or optics as the superficial international media loves to quip nowadays, is what counts.

In Aristotle’s times they would have appealed to “harmony” and balance… but Aristotle would probably have reminded the media that what counts is character and virtue and not appearances and optics.

When Ignazio Silone resigned from the Communist party and stopped going to Russia, Togliatti for the Communist International meetings, the head of the Communist party in Italy, Togliatti, was very upset with him. He considered him almost a traitor to the cause of socialism. Silone corrected him reminding him that he had not abandoned socialism which he traced back to Plato and the Acts of the Apostle as a universal aspiration of the human spirit, but he had abandoned a system that used people as objects and instruments at the service of an economic system.

So the issue on both sides of the political fence, even today, is ultimately whether we believe in “optics” and appearances or do we believe in virtue and solidarity which is what the EU is supposed to be all about, at least on paper…; or do we just want to pay lip service to the cause of solidarity because it looks good, on paper…?

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