by Dimitris Konstantakopoulos, Katehon
I remember the talk I had with the German Ambassador in Athens and Mr. Tsipras in February 2013, during a reception at the Russian Embassy. I was speaking with the Ambassador, when Tsipras, then leader of the opposition, as he finished his private discussion with the Russian ambassador, saw us talking and approached. I was in a rather jovial mood, so I decided, out of a sudden inner impulse, to make a joke, which was not in reality so much a joke. As Tsipras joined our company, I said “you will destroy Europe”.
The way I put it, not looking specifically to any of my interlocutors, it was not clear whom I was really addressing. They both jumped on their feet asking me: “Who?” (will destroy Europe). “Both”, I answered them. “You will revolt”, I said looking to Tsipras and then, turning to the German ambassador, I added, “and you will suppress him”.
Fifteen years ago I interviewed Karl Lamers about German strategy towards Europe and the world. He is supposed to be the spiritual father of Wolfgang Scheuble and of his special, “financial”, not military this time, sort of (not very well dissimulated) German nationalism.
Lamers explained to me, quite frankly I should admit, his idea that Europe had to be “reorganized” according to a principle of “variable geometry”. The conclusion from what he said was that Greece, for instance, was to be included in a South-Eastern (Balkan) “pole”.
I was in agreement with Lamers on the “irrational” character of European integration (which in fact was not so “irrational”; simply the forces behind the architecture were building a very different structure from the one they were saying they were building!). And this irrational character would become much more obvious with the gigantic expansion of the EU in 2004 with 10 new members, of very different economic level and historical background, without any mechanism of compensation for this reality. This extension, the way it was planned, was more a “globalization” and NATO project, than a European one. And it was also one huge and direct cause for the big, “existential” crisis of the EU which erupted in 2010, when Europe had to decide what to do with the after shock waves of the US financial crisis of 2008. Brussels and Berlin finally solved this problem by transferring all the burden of the crisis to one of the EU member-states, Greece, literally destroying it. It seems monstrous, and it was indeed, but this idea was obeying its own logic. After all if they had not done what they did with Greece, they would have had to try to make banks pay for all the chaos they had created.
The architecture of the EU structure, on this we agreed with Lamers, was deeply erroneous. But you don’t correct an error with another one. I tried to tell him that if somebody is making a mistake by inviting some friends to join a family, then he cannot just say to them they have to sit in the kitchen. Nobody wants to be in the kitchen, especially if he was invited as a full family member, and nobody joined the EU to be on the second or third class wagon. Only Procrustes used such a method to correct the “errors” in human bodies. Helmut Schmitt was also of the same opinion. His view was that it was a mistake to incorporate Greece into the eurozone, but after this mistake was made, Greece had to be helped to remain where it was invited to participate. Of course this would suppose probably deep, structural reforms in the eurozone, which nobody was willing to undertake.
Of course, I could not persuade Lamers, who was deeply in love with his own intellectual schemes, maybe believing that he was designing by them a new “grand strategy” for Germany after its unification (and he could not imagine that he was preparing the way for banks and US to keep ruling Europe). About ten years after I took the interview, his student Scheuble found in the financial and Greek crisis the opportunity to apply his ideas. He exercised the maximum pressure to Greece, probably hoping to make it quit the eurozone. (Now he keeps saying that the unprecedented catastrophe of the country is due to Greeks themselves. “It is the application stupid”, he had said to Tsipras in Davos. I asked once his own man, Mr. Reihenbah, the chief of the European Task Force, to explain the difference between Greece and Portugal. He gave me a simpler explanation than the stupidity of Greeks or the intelligence of Mr. Scheuble. “We subtracted from the Greek economy three times more demand than we did from the Portuguese economy”)
Turning Greece into the “perfect European province”
I published the Lamers interview in my newspaper in Greece. I don’ t remember the exact headline my editor put to it, but it was something like “they want Greece outside the inner core of Europe” or something similar. My editor was happy with the headlines making a lot of sensation. He enjoyed also the European “allure” I was giving to his newspaper with my reporting.
But my editor was in fact the only person in Greece who paid some attention to this interview. Nobody wanted to think about it. The Greek “elite”, already extensively fed by the huge financial benefits Siemens was distributing everywhere in Athens, in exchange for conquering the Greek market, did not even want to read what Lamers was saying. After all, Greeks were happy with “Europe” and Athens was doing everything to forget its own “eastern”, “Balkan” identity or any particular Greek national interests.
The “neoliberal socialist” Minister of Economy Nikos Christodoulakis, a member of the very pro-German, pro-Europe government of Kostas Simitis, along with the President of the National Bank, Karatzas, had even invented a formula for the Greek foreign policy, revealing in an astonishing way the mentality of the forces governing Greece at that time: “We have to identify Greek national interests with the interests of the Mighty and the Wealthy”.
The fact that Chrostodoulakis and Karatzas knew nothing about foreign policy had helped them launch such a “doctrine”, which was a contradiction in itself. Given the objective character of the national interests of any country, to decide to “identify” them with the interests of the Mighty and the Wealthy (USA, Germany, EU, NATO and Israel), was in fact tantamount to surrendering to them (at least in the fields in which they probably were at odds). In fact the new “doctrine” was nothing else but a reflection of the fact that, under Simitis, the Athens “strategy” in all fields was to abolish as many aspects of national policy as possible, making Greece “the perfect province” of EU and NATO.
The Greek elite was doing everything Berlin, Brussels, Washington and Paris were asking from it (including manipulating, with the help of Goldman Sachs, statistical data for meeting the Maastricht criteria for inclusion of Greece into the eurozone). Their mentality was similar to that of some Hellenistic kings during the late Roman Empire who voluntarily gave their kingdoms to Rome (and of course they took from it a guarantee of personal wealth and position; the famous “Greek corruption”, especially the Siemens born corruption, had flourished at exactly that time). This course found its logical conclusion in finally surrendering their country and their people to the “Creditors” after 2010!
The Greek elite wanted to forget forever its “eastern”, “Balkan” identity, history, and origin. Some were even ashamed of it deep inside. The last thing they wanted to consider was to “return” to the “south-eastern”, “Balkan” pole Lamers was thinking of creating. They were ready to do everything to remain in the “first pole” of the EU and this is why the strategy of Scheuble (destroying Greece and thus providing it with a motive to leave the eurozone) has failed so miserably, provoking the exactly opposite result.
The syndrome of the “beaten dog”
By ruining Greece, Scheuble created such a petrifying terror in the minds of the Greek elite, which was and is feeling that the roof of the house was falling upon them, that they did not want to consider leaving the euro even for one second. The Greek elite was simply terrified of the prospect of suddenly running a nation-state that has long ago stopped functioning (by obeying Brussels and Berlin orders and policies) and which is now in a terrible state of ruin after six years of “help” it received from its “partners” and the IMF.
It is not maybe pointless to remind ourselves, at this point, that, as a result of the “help” it received from its partners — the EU, the ECB and the IMF — Greece has suffered since 2010 more material losses as a percentage of GDP, than France during the 1st World War!
For many years German leaders, bankers and Eurocrats “taught” Greek politicians, followed by the Greek middle classes, to play the role of the perfect pupil of Europe, which would solve all the problems of the country. Now they wanted them to suddenly reverse course and quit the “Europe” ideology on which they had based everything for decades, without having anything else to say or propose!
Destructive (and self-destroying) strategy
Back in 2001, I had asked to interview Lamers because I was trying to understand where Germany wanted to go. The last time I visited Berlin was when I was covering, as a journalist, the Gorbachev visit to East Berlin which decided the fate of Honnecker and the Wall. At the beginning of the 21st century, I was very curious to understand what this country, so important for all Europe, was thinking of its future and the future of the continent. I was amazed to discover that, in the very centre of its reunited capital, in the scene of some of the most dramatic events which shaped the history of our world, Germans, the most romantic of European nations, had nothing else to put but a huge Sony commercial center. It seemed to my eyes the symbol of a new marriage between Germany and Money, an always difficult relation as Faust taught us, of the full incorporation of the country into the world of globalization. This Sony center seemed to me like the German architectural equivalent of Fukuyama’s “end of History”.
But what had happened with German history and identity? How did it evaporate? Where was it? I was asking these questions. I am rather suspicious of people, be they Greeks or Germans for that matter, who try to dissimulate their real identities. And like it happens sometimes with music, silence means more than the sound.
Most Germans love logic. One of their biggest thinkers, Hegel was the writer of the “Logic”. A student of Hegel in some respects, Karl Marx tried also to found a complete theory of economy and society, writing his unfinished (and it could not be otherwise) “Das Kapital”. In his introduction, he admits even that he was inspired by the unparalleled creation of human thought represented by the (albeit very closed and deterministic) work of Newton. A third German, Albert Einstein, spent most of his life trying – and failing – to compose one general system incorporating all the forces of Nature. Although Einstein was the one who introduced the notion of observer to physics, you can still feel his struggle not to accept uncertainty, as expressed in the famous phrase he launched against Niels Bohr, “God does not play dice” (by the way, the exact opposite of the way Heraclitus defines the world when he states “time is a child playing dice. To the child belongs the Kingdom”).
You look for something when you need it most. What is happening with German leaders, Greece and the European Union is not a triumph of logic; it is rather a triumph for psychoanalysis, also a notion born in the German cultural space. I mean the way Mr. Scheuble, followed by Mrs. Merkel, have tried to “rehabilitate” some form of “German nationalism” and “German discipline” over Europe they were able, in the end (and we still do not see the end!) to harm so badly the international image and the political capital of Germany and their own aim of governing and “disciplining” Europe, bringing the EU one step from collapse!
Berlin was able to defeat Greeks, but it persuaded French workers and Belgian public servants that they do not have to make the slightest concession – “we are not Greeks”, was the slogan in some French demonstrations. Brits are wondering now if they want to remain in this EU. And even Greece was “pacified” only temporarily. The last monstrous “agreement” with creditors was described by the oldest and very right wing newspaper of Greece, Estia, as a “Treaty of Versailles”. They are mistaken; it is rather a form of Potsdam surrender terms. The situation in Greece not only will not be stabilized, it may enter a new and unpredictable phase (with geopolitical connotations). Washington knows that; this is probably why it has send to Athens its previous ambassador to Kiev, one of the most “dynamic” US diplomats, with no EU background but with a strong Ukrainian, Iranian and Latin American one.
In 1917, the “isolationist” and “pacifist” US President Wilson was excluding any intervention of his country in the European war. Two months after the last time he’d made such declarations, he forgot them completely and Washington intervened in Europe, sealing the defeat of Germany in the 1st World War. It never left the continent after that.
By the policy it has followed during the last years in Greece, but also in Ukraine and elsewhere, Berlin has offered not only to the US but also to the new “Empire of Finance” (collectively, institutionally represented also by the IMF) the most precious tool they needed to go on dominating the continent by use of its divisions, at the same time destroying good relations and cooperation with Russia, which is also a basic precondition for Germany and Europe as a whole to become, one day, sovereign.