Newly released emails from the anti-privacy site Wikileaks show engagement at the highest levels of American government during the tense days of the Greek-Eurozone debt negotiations in the summer of 2015 with the intention of keeping Greece in the Eurozone and trying to “nudge” German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The emails were circulating in mid-July 2015 between White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Amitabh Desia, the foreign policy adviser to Bill Clinton and John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman and involved the former President’s direct involvement in Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras’ dealings with Germany and other European nations.
The emails reveal that, as previously reported in another set of released emails, former President Bill Clinton was actively involved in both coaching the Greek prime minister, as well as trying to simultaneously engage privately with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In one email dated July 11, 2015, White House Chief of Staff McDonough gives five talking points for Clinton to communicate to Tsipras — including that Tsipras should “stay calm and engaged even if his interlocutors at times seem to make unreasonable demands.” Podesta was copied on the email.
That same email mentioned “An underscoring of the importance of (Greece) staying in Euro for both geopolitical and economic reasons.”
The specific talking points that Clinton was asked to use when talking to Tsipras:
1) The PM should stay calm and engaged even if his interlocutors at times seem to make unreasonable demands.
2) An underscoring of the importance of staying in Euro for both geopolitical and economic reasons.
3) A recognition that debt re-profiling is an important win for Greece and for growth, beyond what the PM’s predecessors were able to achieve.
4) Advice that to build trust and show Greece’s ability and willingness to implement reforms, important to move as quickly as possible to pass key reforms through the parliament in the coming days.
5) And a reminder that it is important to be mindful that Merkel and other European leaders also have political constraints in their democracies and need strong evidence that the Greece is committed to reform and willing to be flexible.
Feverish attempts to connect the former President with both Merkel and Tsipras were made, including ways to convince Merkel to get on a call with Clinton to discuss Greece and using an upcoming trip by Clinton to Bosnia as a way into the conversation, during which he would bring up Greece as a secondary discussion topic.
“We’ve been in close touch with Merkel’s folks this week in advance of WJC’s Bosnia visit and given Merkel’s visit to Bosnia earlier this week – so it would be an innocuous and easy lift – if a nudge to Merkel is needed – to have WJC call Merkel on basis of checking in for guidance on Bosnia and then casually asking her about Greece on the back end.”
“Ironically, Merkel said she’s too busy with Greece today to do a call about Bosnia. So we haven’t connected,” Desai, Clinton’s foreign policy advisor said in an email to McDonough, adding “Please let us know if we should make the call overtly about Greece.”
Numerous attempts were made, the emails reveal, to connect Tsipras with Clinton and discuss the talking points circulated between White House officials and members of Hillary Clinton’s team.
Simultaneously, an email between the two noted that “PM Tsipras is available this afternoon and we’re aiming to connect with him soon,” a reference to Clinton and Tsipras trying to find a time to talk.
“WJC’s meetings ran longer than expected and we missed Tsipras’ window today. We’ll try tomorrow from New York. Same talking points?” asked Desai to the White House Chief of Staff.
The emails do not reveal if Clinton ever spoke to Tsipras or Merkel.
As the validity of these emails has not been confirmed by any party and some have questioned their authenticity, it remains to be seen if the White House, or the former President’s involvement actually had any impact in the negotiations. But if they are real, it does show a vigorous involvement to avert a Grexit and keep Greece inside the Eurozone.