A lot has changed in the way the Obama Administration has been dealing with the Greek debt crisis in five months. In what many perceived to be favoritism to the Greek side and a sympathetic view towards the Greek people early in 2015, the tides seemed to have turned and geopolitics might have a say in the reasoning. See our timeline below to better understand what exactly has transpired.
Obama sympathetic to Struggling Greeks
Obama expressed sympathy for Alexis Tsipras’ government and suggested there were limits to how far European creditors can press the Greek people. “You cannot keep on squeezing countries that are in the midst of depression. At some point there has to be a growth strategy in order for them to pay off their debts to eliminate some of their deficits,” Obama said in a CNN interview. He said Athens needs to restructure its economy to boost its competitiveness, “but it’s very hard to initiate those changes if people’s standards of livings are dropping by 25%. Over time, eventually the political system, the society can’t sustain it.”
Obama’s Role in Negotiations Called “Elaborate”
Numerous media reported that the president had a much stronger hand than reported in Greece’s dealing with its international creditors. At the regular briefing for reporters at the White House, a reporter from Newsmax cited the rumors and asked Press Secretary Josh Earnest to explain any “elaborate role the president has played” in helping Greece renegotiate the remainder of its 5-year-old, 240 billion-euro loans. Specifically, Newsmax referred to at least two private conversations President Barack Obama reportedly had with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in February as Greece was seeking extensions of its loans and a conversation that White House Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics Caroline Atkinson reportedly had with officials of the administration of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. In those rumored conversations, sources from Greece told Newsmax, the president is reported to have urged Merkel to be more open to relaxing the repayment plan Athens has with the three institutions. Atkinson, we were told, urged the Tsipras government to tone down its increasingly harsh rhetoric about its creditors.
New Prison Law Sparks American Rebuke
Greek lawmakers approved a controversial prison overhaul to ease overcrowding in the country’s congested prison system. In what many believe to be a turning point for American involvement on what was perceived to be Greece’s side in the debt negotiations, the controversial new law could have released known and convicted terrorists, including November 17th convicted murderer Savos Xiros, from serving numerous life sentences for his role in murdering American officials.
April 20, 2015
Releasing Terrorist Called an “Unfriendly Act” by US Ambassador
In what many believe to be a turning point for American involvement on what was perceived to be Greece’s side in the debt negotiations, a controversial new law was considered by the Syriza government that would have released known and convicted terrorists, including November 17th convicted murderer Savos Xiros, from serving numerous life sentences for his role in murdering American officials. The US Ambassador to Greece David Pearce called it an “unfriendly act” in an unprecedented press conference he gave, standing before a plaque dedicated to American Embassy officials killed while on service at the Athens Embassy. The following day on April 21st the U.S. State Department gave official terrorist designations to Xiros and another Greek, Nikolaos Maziotis.
May 8, 2015
US Shows its Muscle in Russia-Greece Oil Deal
In Athens on May 8, State Department envoy, Amos J. Hochstein, said Greece would increase its appeal to Western investors — and would help reduce the European Union’s dependence on Russian gas supplies — if it declined to play host to a pipeline proposed by the Russian state-controlled energy giant Gazprom. The United States was clearly and visibly unhappy that Tsipras was courting potential Russian dialogue and openly criticized Tsipras for the move.
Reforms Needed in Greece; No Mention of Austerity
Obama, at a press conference in Germany after the G7 Summit said the Greek government must undertake economic reforms that will require tough political choices to resolve a standoff over an international bailout and protect global financial markets. He also said that international community needs to recognize “the extraordinary challenges” that Greece faces.Obama said Greece needs to satisfy creditors and help revive the Greek economy.
June 21, 2015
US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew “The Burden is on Greece”
In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew stated blatantly that “the burden was on Greece” to reach a deal, clearly the most definitive message from the Obama Administration that it would no longer nudge Germany or other Europeans for compromise.