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Greco-Roman Wrestling: EU vs. Greece

Dan McReavy - 27/01/2015 10:37 CST

Athens, Attiki, Greece

EUR/USD has cleared the post-ECB announcement lows.  With Syriza taking control of Greece, I anticipate they will leverage their weakness as a weapon against everyone.  In the case of Germany and Greece's membership in the European Union, the EU is looking to avoid setting a bad precedent with Greece and the money isn't the primary issue.  Like the world learned with the failed League of Nations, you can't be a successful union kicking members out to discipline them.  The United Nations added the Security Council to discipline non-compliance with the will of the union, but the UN mostly relies on economic sanctions to affect their will on dissenters.

In the case of the Greeks, they are no stranger to currency trading and have a healthy distrust of governments.   The ordinary Greek knows to spread his money out lest he become vulnerable to the financial whims of a currency.  That systemic diversification across the population makes the Greeks relatively immune to economic sanctions.  While economic sanctions certainly don't help Greeks, they don't hurt the Greeks to the extent that other countries are vulnerable.  Regardless, Germany and the EU will have to show some real teeth anyway and will likely close credit lines with Greek banks.

Escalating financial hardship will invite a savior from abroad and this is the secondary problem that Germany and the European Union face when disciplining Greece.  The last thing the European Union needs is Greece to demit from the union and cozy up to the United States, China or, perhaps, even Russia.  Russia is already hemorrhaging reserves, so I can't see Putin anchoring any Greek deal, but I could see Russia supporting a deal with China.  This is not really an option for the European Union or the United States, so I don't give it a real chance.  It does make for a good Greek threat, however.  I expect the Greeks to do just to extract favorable terms of financial reorganization from the EU as well as beneficial trade deals with China and Russia.

Germany and the United States have money and that money is only useful when it is put to use.  The IMF is a Greek creditor, so it is expected that the US will be pulled further into the "Great Greek Extortion".  At the end of the day, I would not be surprised if major social unrest erupted in Greece that would invite a military intervention.  The Greeks just don't have any meaningful incentive to cover the debts of the politicians-past and they have plenty of financial benefit to default on them.  The losses will be born by foreign investors, so what do the Greek people really care?

The European Union and United States are in the game to establish a truly global union of states and that begins with financial and legal harmonization.  At some point this will come to violent coercion because the foreign lawyers and bankers just aren't important to the Greek people and the Greek people just don't care for their contracts.

At the end of the day, Greeks see themselves as Greek and not European despite any shared history.