Yves here. It became clear in June that the mood among the creditors had hardened and that they had decided the current Greek government had to go. I e-mailed something to that effect to some colleagues in mid-June, but with the benefit of hindsight, the commitment among the Europeans probably took place at the so-called “mini summit” of June 1. We’ll never know whether the Tsipras Le Monde op-ed, which appeared just before that confab took place, played into that dynamic. The Administration clearly backed the lenders against Greece in its G-7 remarks a week later.
Even so, Obama and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew have been far more quiet than you’d expect given their attentiveness to the needs of the investing classes and the threat that protracted wrangling with Greece might pose to that. Of course, they might believe that Draghi’s bazooka is more effective than Hank Paulson’s proved to be in the runup to the final phase of the financial crisis. But John Helmer indicates below that the Greek referendum has intensified the Administration’s interest in regime change in Greece. He confirms what we’d noticed, that Putin has been quite pointedly avoided being seen as meddling in Greece now; he can always pick up any pieces later. Also note that the anti-Greek government interests have connections to Hillary Clinton.
By John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and only member of a US presidential administration (Jimmy Carter) to establish himself in Russia. Originally published at Dances with Bears
A putsch in Athens to save allied Greece from enemy Russia is in preparation by the US and Germany, with backing from the non-taxpayers of Greece – the Greek oligarchs, Anglo-Greek shipowners, and the Greek Church. At the highest and lowest level of Greek government, and from Thessaloniki to Milvorni, all Greeks understand what is happening. Yesterday they voted overwhelmingly to resist. According to a high political figure in Athens, a 40-year veteran, “what is actually happening is a slow process of regime change.”
Until Sunday afternoon it was a close-run thing. The Yes and No votes were equally balanced, and the margin between them razor thin. At the start of the morning, Rupert Murdoch’s London Times claimed “Greek security forces have drawn up a secret plan to deploy the army alongside special riot police to contain possible civil unrest after today’s referendum on the country’s future in Europe. Codenamed Nemesis, it makes provision for troops to patrol large cities if there is widespread and prolonged public disorder. Details of the plan emerged as polls showed the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ camps neck and neck.” Greek officers don’t speak to the Murdoch press; British and US government agents do.
“It was neck to neck until 3 pm,” reports the political veteran in Athens, “then the young started voting. “
Can the outcome — the 61% to 39% referendum vote, with a 22% margin for Οχι (No) which the New York Times calls “shocking” and a “victory [that] settled little” – defeat Operation Nemesis? Will the new Axis – the Americans and the Germans – attack again, as the Germans did after the first Greek Οχι of October 28, 1940, defeated the Italian invasion?
The Kremlin understands too. So when the State Department’s Victoria Nuland (nee Nudelman; lead image, right) visited Athens to issue an ultimatum against breaking the anti-Russian sanctions regime, and the Anglo-American think-tanks followed with warnings the Russian Navy is about to sail into Piraeus, the object of the game has been clear. The line for Operation Nemesis has been that Greece must be saved, not from itself or from its creditors, but from the enemy in Moscow. The Russian line has been to do nothing to give credence to that propaganda; to wait and to watch.
As the head of State’s Bureau of European and Eurasian affairs, Nuland is the official in charge of warmaking in Europe. Her record in the Ukraine has been documented here. Almost unnoticed, she was in Athens on March 17 to deliver two ultimatums. The communique released by the US Embassy in Athens was headlined, “we want to see prosperity and growth in Greece.”
What Nuland (above, left) was doing with her hands is in the small print of the release. She told Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (right) not to break ranks with the NATO allies against Russia. “Because of the increasing rounds of aggression in eastern Ukraine” she reportedly said the US is “very gratified that we’ve had solidarity between the EU and the U.S., and that Greece has played its role in helping to build consensus.”
Nuland also warned Tsipras not to default on its debts to Germany, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Tsipras was told “to make a good deal with the institutions”. The referendum Tsipras called on June 27 was a surprise for Nuland. The nemesis in Operation Nemesis is the retribution planned for that display of Greek hubris.
Having thundered for a year on the illegitimacy of the March 2014 referendum in Crimea, saying yes to accession to Russia, the State Department ignored the Greek referendum for forty-eight hours. On June 29, asked what the US government was thinking of doing if the outcome “is a no vote”, Nuland’s spokesman, Mark Toner, said the US would ignore it. “We’re focused on, frankly, the opposite, which is finding a path forward that allows Greece to continue to make reforms, return to growth, and remain in the Eurozone.”
The only other official Washington reference to the Greek referendum came on June 30 when the question at the State Department daily briefing was: “what are you doing within the International Monetary Fund, of which the U.S. is the largest shareholder, to try to also press from that side for more leniency with the Greeks?” The official reply: “we’re carefully monitoring the situation…we continue to believe that it’s important that all sides work together to get back to a path that’s going to allow Greece to resume reforms and to return to growth within the Eurozone. But again, we’re monitoring this very closely.”
The last concerted attempt the US government made to overthrow an elected Greek government was against Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou between 1987 and 1989. With his son and successor George Papandreou, there was no such necessity – George and his mother Margarita Papandreou were already under Washington’s control. But against Andreas serious counter-measures were required. Military ones, of the type which ruled Greece between 1967 and 1974, had been unpopular domestically and internationally. They were demonstrably costly; they also discredited the US and NATO military which stood behind the Athens junta.
So, the Reagan Administration decided Papandreou had to be overthrown by his own people, if possible at an election. The strategy was “to give Papandreou enough rope to hang himself”, said Robert Keeley the US Ambassador to Athens at the time. That too was an Operation Nemesis of sorts – the plan was for Papandreou’s hubris to be defeated in front of the Greek electorate, first in a military showdown in the Aegean with Turkey, then in an allegation of bribery of the prime minister by a Greek banker and football club owner.
Papandreou with Turgut Ozal, Turkey’s Prime Minister, in March 1987 – before the Greek victory and Ozal’s collapse.
Both were neutralized in surprise Greek moves US officials had not anticipated. The Turks retreated after a display of combined Greek and Bulgarian force, and the Turkish Prime Minister was medivaced to a Houston, Texas, cardiology clinic. George Koskotas, Papandreou’s accuser, was arrested in Boston and returned to a Greek jail. Hubris reversed, you might say. For more, read this.
On Sunday, had Greek voters divided evenly down the old Civil War lines, right versus left, blue versus red, the security forces would have been mobilized to confront demonstrators on Maidan, er Syntagma Square, and sharpshooters deployed from the roof of the Grande Bretagne Hotel to kick off Operation Nemesis. To prepare hearts and minds for that, however, the think-tank army has failed almost totally, firing blanks in every direction but Greece.
In London the US-funded Legatum Institute skipped the poll evidence and panel discussions, attacking Venezuela, China, Syria and Russia instead for using “phenomena previously associated with democracy—elections, the Internet, the press, the market—to undermine freedoms”, along with “the self-organising potential of society.” Legatum left Anne Applebaum by herself to announce the Greek government can be overthrown because it was “elected on a completely false premise”.
The Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), the thunderer against Russian info-warfare last month, has since roared on Tunisian and Nigerian democracy; this week it is preparing for a panel discussion on “the progress that Kyiv has made in increasing transparency and reforming key government institutions”. Chatham House has stayed silent on Greek democracy and the referendum.
In Washington, the International Republican Institute (IRI) – motto, “helps democracy become more effective where it is in danger” — has been issuing its State Department-funded democracy polls for months, but for Ivory Coast and Zimbabwe; not for Greece. At the same time, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) has been preoccupied with its democracy schemes in Georgia, Iraq, and Kosovo.
The Pew Research Centre in Washington tried anticipating the Greek referendum by surveying 2.5 million Twitter messages in Greece, and publishing the results on July 3. In the Greek language the tweets were 40% to 33% in favour of voting Yes. In the English language the Greek tweets ran 32% to 7% in favour of Yes. In the event, the social media results were contrived. If Pew hadn’t invented them, the large numbers of “neutral” tweets all turned into No votes on the day.
The Brookings Institution and the Peterson Institute – both funded by the Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk to beat the anti-Russian drum in Ukraine — stopped short of forecasting the Greek referendum result, but condemned the government in Athens for offering it. On July 1, Carlo Bastasin, an Italian journalist on the Brookings stipend, claimed to have eyewitness evidence for “Greek leaders’ conduct as unscrupulous”, and for the Greek government’s “plans [as] more recessionary and austerity-driven than the European ones.” The reporter’s sources lacked names.
On the Peterson Institute’s executive committee Greek strategy is directed by Andreas Dracopoulos. He is a member of the family of the Greek shipowner Stavros Niarchos, whose foundation money Dracopoulos is in charge of awarding. When Dracopoulos has been asked what the Niarchos money is doing for the domestic crisis, he has mentioned food vouchers for the poor and beds for the homeless. He didn’t mention paying tax. Dracopoulos has been knighted by a previous Greek government as Grand Commander of the Order of the Phoenix; that was for the Niarchos Foundation’s philanthropy. Dracopoulos is pictured above with Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the American Diocese of the Greek Church, a traditional foe of governments in Athens the diocese considers left wing, or worse.
The Greek-American community has avoided a public statement on the referendum. Instead on July 1, the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), as the national lobby group is known, announced: “We also call on the Obama Administration to step-up its engagement to ensure the parties achieve a proper solution.” If the Greek-Americans, Dracopoulos, and the Church meant Operation Nemesis, they weren’t saying no on July 5. Ahead of the vote, AHEPA issued its second announcement: “Regardless of the outcome of the referendum held in Greece on July 5, 2015, what is crucial to the Greek American community is that U.S.-Greece relations remain strong and certain and Greece’s geostrategic importance and contributions to the security interests of the U.S. and NATO is valued and appreciated.”
Political sources in Athens acknowledge that after taking power in January, Tsipras and his Syriza colleagues quietly took precautions against a putsch by the security forces. “The leadership [of the military and intelligence services] was changed,” the sources say, “but not radically. The defence minister [Panos Kammenos] is rightist so there are no ‘radicals’ in command.”
In Moscow there has been scepticism from the start that Tsipras could or would withstand the American and German pressure. For more, read this. In April, and then again in June, Kammenos sidestepped the issue of what fresh military cooperation with Russia is contemplated by the Greek side. Discussion of the details has been postponed until the two governments hold a joint ministerial commission meeting later this month.
Kammenos meets Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in Moscow on April 15, 2015.
Russian military analysts expect Cyprus to arrange increased military cooperation, including the Russian Navy and naval support aircraft. They do not expect Greece will ask for, nor the Kremlin agree to comparable Greek cooperation. That story can be read here.
So where did Robert Kaplan (lead image, rear) get the idea that the US and the European Union (EU) should act “to keep Russian warships away from Greek ports”? Kaplan, from the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) in Washington, reported to Wall Street Journal readers on June 30 that the Kremlin plot is to use Syriza as its stalking horse to drive Greece out of the EU, and dismantle US alliance positions along the Mediterranean shore and in the Balkans. Russia, according to Kaplan, “may [sic] be helping to inflame Syriza’s internal divisions in the hope that Greece’s ruling party cannot make the difficult concessions necessary to stay in the eurozone.” Combined “with the dismemberment and weakening of Ukraine, [Greece’s no vote] will seriously weaken Europe’s geopolitical position vis-à-vis Russia.”
Kaplan’s think-tank in Washington reports that its funding comes from well-known military equipment suppliers, US oil companies, the governments of Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore; NATO; the US Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force; plus George Soros’s Open Society Foundations. Chief executive of CNAS is Michele Flournoy, a founder of the think-tank which is serving as her platform to run for the next Secretary of Defense, if Hillary Clinton wins the presidential election next year. Flournoy is one of the drafters of a recent plan for the US to escalate arms and troop reinforcements in Ukraine and along the Russian frontier with the Baltic states. Here’s her plan for “What the United States and NATO Must Do” . For more on Flournoy, read this.
Until Kaplan’s report last week, the only notice CNAS has taken of Greece was a report last January explaining “Why Putin Is the Big Winner in Greece’s Election”. The think-tank expert for that one was an ex-US Treasury official with a training in Arabic and no record on Europe, let alone Greece. Kaplan, an Israeli soldier as well as a Pentagon employee and lecturer to US intelligence agencies, explains his expertise on Greece comes “from living in Athens during that decade [1980s].” If he wasn’t on an extended holiday, Kaplan may mean he was under cover.
For warfighting in Greece now, all you need to know is who the Greeks must be saved from. If the Greeks have voted more demonstratively than the Ukrainians against sacrificing themselves to this idea, the experts are confident that’s not democracy, as the Axis understands it, but hubris, for which there’s Operation Nemesis. Natch!