Sunday, February 1, 2015

Tispras & Varoufakis: Good Cop & Bad Cop?

Below is the text of an email which Alexis Tsipras allegedly sent out Friday evening. I don't know who exactly he addressed it to. Allegedly to 'business'. 

"The deliberation with our European partners has just begun. Despite the fact that there are differences in perspective, I am absolutely confident that we will soon manage to reach a mutually beneficial agreement, both for Greece and for Europe as a whole. No side is seeking conflict and it has never been our intention to act unilaterally on Greek debt. My obligation to respect the clear mandate of the Greek people with respect to ending the policies of austerity and returning to a growth agenda, in no way entails that we will not fulfill our loan obligations to the ECB or the IMF.

On the contrary, it means that we need time to breathe and create our own medium-term recovery program, which amongst other things will incorporate the targets of primary balanced budgets and radical reforms to address the issues of tax evasion, corruption and clientelistic policies. I am  convinced that an agreement on these lines will be acceptable to our partners, because our common interest is the economic stability and recovery for our common home, Europe."

Thursday evening he wouldn't have had to send such an email because the meeting with Martin Schulz, although 'open and constructive', seemed to have left all doors open. At least Schulz said so on German TV that evening. On Friday, a couple of doors were slammed, apparently provoking the above email.

This raises the question of how close the communication between Tsipras and Varoufakis is. It could be that it is not very close and that there is still some confusion as to who the boss is. Or it is so close that the good-cop-bad-cop routine has become second nature to them. Time will tell.


  1. klaus: this is clever politics. Varoufakis is the technocrat who plays hardball negotiations, and Tsipras is the good guy who smoothes over the international markets to minimise the damage during the tough period. They also fuck up the enemy by sending mixed signals, which makes the Troika's position more difficult than if they deal only with Varoufakis.

    AS I have told you elsewhere, do not underestimate the skills of these guys (much more than two of them, too). Greece is a small country against a very stubborn monothematic regime headed by Germans: a mixture of cleverness, deception, concealed power and luck is needed for Greece to get anywhere in restructuring the eurozone mess. If they manage such, I don't think stubborn old fools in wheelchairs, or unpleasant Dutch agricultural economists will know which way to stumble.

    1. Xenos, I won't deny that both are smart persons. BUT this tactic of of Bad- and Good Guy does not work via international media. It can only be used when the audience is small and closed!

      Imho Varoufakis already has broken too much china.


    2. Mr. Trickler,

      Do not worry. Think like politician. Even in Germany, the statements were always "no haircut". Leaving space for other solutions. Today in France, the same. Prof. Varoufakis didn't mention haircut either. They just can't go openly and say "we ask extension", because Tsipras needs to save face, because for 4 years, he has been saying that the debt at 175% and with extension is not viable. There are videos with all SYRIZA's economist saying the same thing. They will need to put it in a package, so that they can tell the population: "What a different program we bring! Oh, and a wonderful solution for the debt! Don't worry that it is not haircut, the result will be the same. Look, no troika! No 4.5% primary surplus". I hope you see the picture.

      Southern european versatility. And the best way to play against Germans, is confuse them. Because of their monolithic thinking, they fall into Mr. Kastner's dilemma: "What is he doing!". Prof. Varoufakis has been for long time in the US. This gives him an advantage over an ordinary Greek negotiator. Game theory aside, he must have had an american friend teach him poker. The German is a tight player. So it is useless to try to play as a tight player too, because he has better cards. So you have to play in non orthodox way. Loose. Loose thinking makes a German mad. It is the same principle of guerilla warfare. Don't fight the German on tactical field of battle. Fight him on the mountains, where he can't use advanced equipment and he can't see or follow your movements. Worked well in Greece.

    3. @Anonymous: I agree with 100% of this!!

  2. "... stubborn old fools in wheelchairs, or unpleasant Dutch agricultural economists"
    I think your tone is unpleasant, and aggressive, derogatory and uncivilised.
    I don't understand that Klaus tolerates comments like that.

    1. I am sorry that accurate descriptions seem offensive to you. These are my perceptions of two key politicians; I do not have good things to say about most European politicians, especially the privileged dolts that run my own country, the UK.

      As I recall, the debacle about "free speech" first in Denmark and then with the French rag "Charlie Hebdo" includes the right to mock the Islamic religion amongst other things. Frankly, I prefer to mock the a**holes who are destroying Europe while feathering their own financial nests. Klaus does not have to agree with my views, but he has the good manners to allow them to be stated.

  3. I think, it's more of a dumb cop, dumber cop. Varoufakis was stuttering but things would have been better if he had kept his mouth shut. Are things now better or 2 days ago?

    One more thing to note: Varoufakis showed up dressed like paliatsos with his hand in his pocket. Was he going to a PASP party? When negotiating, the other side wants to gauge if you are serious and you can keep promises. This is not the impression he gave.

    Hire a tailor Yanni, I think you can afford him. And some manners and knowledge of protocol would not hurt either.

    1. Again, I beg to differ with most of the commenters here. How well the strategy will work out is in the future. But let me explain to you what happened:
      (1) Varoufakis has a political image, which is left and in Greece this requires very casual dress.
      (2) Varoufakis is an academic, who often turn up in not very presentable clothing.
      (3) Varoufakis has a role to play, which is basically to sort out Greece's problems with the eurozone.

      Did you see what happened? The Dutch bureaucrat-politician turned up in typical formal suit, elegant tie etc. He didn't know how to cope, how to behave with a much clever guy who dressed like a yob. He was intimidated and baffled.

      I will make a prediction for you, and you can tell me in one or two years if it was right. This reminds me of how male politicians were unable to deal with the only powerful woman in UK politics -- Thatcher. They were confused, intimidated, baffled: she won every fight through being female and powerful. That pattern is now old. The new pattern looks to be clever academics with power, to deal with idiots of the classical political class.

      Whenever I have dealt with politicians (as an advisor) they look at me with contempt. In their gaze, I see the message "you may know more than me, have a higher IQ, more education, BUT I AM THE MINISTER, THE ONE WITH POWER". Highly skilled and radical academics (not so common, of course) placed in powerful positions will be able to deal with the conservative mediocrities and their corrupt alliances with financial capital. This could turn out to be the new political representation that will free the peoples of Europe from the catastrophic mismanagement of the last two decades.

    2. @AnonymousFebruary 1, 2015 at 8:13 PM

      Sorry butI do not think that he is in need of a taylor. But imho it is obvious that he lacks experience in international communication.

      If you are interested how a well known German newspaper perceives the new government, you can read at:


    3. Mr. Trickler,

      I have written worse things about Tsipras in this blog than what any German can write. However, think of this. German media or even politicians may now say that Samaras was terrible, but if you had time to search videos, you would find very flattering pats on the back by Merkel, Schauble, etc. Germany always campaigned for Samaras before the elections. Now to justify as to how Tsipras won, as to how foreign media say that austerity doesn't work, he became a bad politician Samaras begged Merkel to give him a tangible weapon to use against Tsipras. She didn't, thinking that "Tsipras will do the same as Samaras. Immediately continue Samaras' program, just like Samaras did with Papandreou's program".
      Well, Tsipras must give something to his audience. If he did exactly like Samaras, he would get exactly what Samaras got. The end of his career. And he is so young, Mr. Trickler! So young! Do you want him to end his career already, now, that riding the wave of antimemorandum rhetoric and voting against every single reform, he managed to become PM?
      Tsipras right now, has 70% approval in Greece. He has 2 paths ahead of him. Use that to do prof. Varoufakis' plan or use the situation to get a "better memorandum". I say that he will get the better memorandum. But, he would never get, had he not convinced Germany, that he is crazy enough to bring down everything, as prof. Varoufakis says.
      Tsipras right now is so popular in Greece, that for the first time, i trully believe, that if there was a referendum, after a hard battle with Germany, asking "do you want to follow me to the Grexit or kneel and continue Samaras' program", the people would vote for Grexit.
      But, Tsipras, is too young and inexperienced to follow prof. Varoufakis if he has another option. I think prof. Varoufakis would have no issue in defaulting within the euro, since i am certain, that he is convinced that his plan will work. And thus, he would do it, to prove that he was right. But, i think Tsipras is too fond of his new power to risk it. Still, prof. Varoufakis handling the negotiations, is what will allow Tsipras to get "a better package". Because, if you aren't dangerous, the German will never conceed anything. Just like he didn't with Samaras. If he believes that you are a danger, he will. Because the German hates uncertainty. Hates having to deal with a "mad Varoufakis". And so Tsipras will get his package, even if not the one he was preaching while in opposition.

      And afterwards, the dances will open for Tsipras. From theory, to practice.

  4. Mr. Kastner,

    I said the other day i won't visit again, but just to ease your mind. Obama calls in deed Berlin.

    Jack Lew spoke with minister Varoufakis. John Kerry phoned foreign minister Kotzias and agreed to meet soon. There has been also news about a "high ranking" US enoyee that will visit Athens soon. You can bet phonecalls weren't made only to Greece...

    Now wait for Tsipras to sign the deal. Wrapped up in the same package, Tsipras will be able to sell to the greeks, any solution for debt, hiding it under the more positive aspects of less austerity.

    Dear german gentlemen, divorce is postponed.

    Dear Mr. Kastner, when you have to fight a monolithic Polyphemus, you send in Ulisses. A German at the gates of Troy, would keep sieging for 50 years, insisting that one day, he would breach the walls. "Hard work will bring the wall down".
    Like it has happened before, the US will once more put reason to everyone.

    Mr. Seukel,
    I have read worse things written about Greece and Greeks in this blog's comments. Either directly or implied.


  5. More than once in recent comments the question has come up whether one should be polite or not. One argument sounded almost like one should be proud of being impolite. Let me quote below a mail which a Greek friend of mine whom I have known well for over over 30 years because he once worked for the same American bank as I did:

    "Barufa" in colloquial Greek means bull shit. So, your pen pal Mr. Varoufakis better be called Mr. Baroufakis. The only thing I have to say is the man is a shame to the greek race! I mean, if you want to start an effective negotiation with an important person of your lenders you don't appear with a colored shirt tucked out of your trousers, a "blasee" conceited attitude and winking all around you with a broad smile on your face.
    I don't know - God help Greece...

    In case there is any doubt, I associate myself with the value structure of my Greek friend and I do hope that my blog reflects that. Sometimes I wonder whether people who are radically and emotionally anti-something know that they are psychologically undressing themselves. Whether it is anti-German, anti-American, anti-West, anti-Semitism or whatever, what is typically behind such emotions is the feeling that others are better, smarter, stronger, more successful, etc. Let me quote a paragraph from an essay on the socalled ‘modern leftism’:

    “The two psychological tendencies that underlie modern leftism are "feelings of inferiority" and "oversocialization." Feelings of inferiority are characteristic of modern leftism as a whole, while oversocialization is characteristic only of a certain segment of modern leftism; but this segment is highly influential”.

    For about 4 years now, I have followed just about everything which Yanis Varoufakis has written. We have established, particularly in the last few months, a very active and mutually respectful dialogue by mail. The man has a brilliant mind and a brilliant eloquence (at least in English). Sort of a junior John Maynard Keynes. And yet, every once in a while he would use language in an article where I was simply shocked and wondered why he would do that when he is someone who really doesn’t need to prove much when it comes to intellectual power.

    One of the greatest wastes of resources is when one is in a position to make a great contribution and when one does make a contribution only to discredit oneself with foul language. I have not deleted any comments so far because the value of their contribution seemed greater to me than the damage of their foul language (whereby that damage was principally to themselves). I would really ask all that I won't have to make such trade-off’s going forward. Thank you!

    1. Mr. Kastner,

      I am aware that i sound to you like a broken record, but the dress code of the SYRIZA goverment in the 1st day, was the result of an imitation attempt, brought to extremes, of Andreas Papandreou. I have no doubt, that the ministers close to Tsipras, agreed the day before on this, "no tie" (or should we say "no decent clothes") appearance.
      Papandreou taught the greek left, everything on how to be perceived as the "man next door". Also, how the left can win. However, Papandreou limited such appearances in unofficial events. SYRIZA, has long ago tried to copy everything they can about Papandreou, thinking "the more, the better". And the poorer the greek on the street is, the poorer i must look too. His influence can only be understood, looking at Alexander the Great. Since the sarisa, the long spear, was of paramount importance for the effectiveness of Alexander's modified phalanx, in the years after his death, all greek generals, kept increasing sarisa's length, to the point that it became cumbersome and unwieldy, as they later found out with the Romans.

      On the other hand, prof. Varoufakis, being a man of the world, a true cosmopolitan, couldn't possibly give oath dressed like he was about to go to a village's kafeneio (coffee shop). So he adapted the party line to a more "modern, relaxed" style. Coffee break in Washington DC, not in the mountain village of Epirus. Mrs. Valavani, in her first encounter with her ministry's cleaning staff, told them "Call me Nadia!".

      At the same time, SYRIZA MPs, aren't as poor as they want to appear. Out of my head, i remember 2 current SYRIZA ministers with big sums in foreign banks and with investment portfolios in the hands of the capitalist JPMorgan and BlackRock. Another frontline SYRIZA MP, was caught not having declared 1 meur as his professional fee. His explanation was that he had forgotten about it.

      Prof. Varoufakis, while he is a very intelligent man, i think that he is also letting himself go sometimes, when in front of the TV cameras. I have no doubt, that he must be feeling like a demi-god inside this cabinet. This though, transpired in his body language, both in his meeting with the young Dutch emissary whose name i can't ever spell correctly and in the meeting with Sapin. I almost felt bad for EU's dutch emissary, when prof. Varoufakis seemed to be liquidating him like a professor would send away a poorly prepared student during examinations. He certainly boosted his already very high approval amongst the greek population, but he didn't win any modesty prize. But then again, prof. Varoufakis has modified even his name, in Yanis instead of Yannis, for aesthetic reasons, according to his statemements.

      His fellow minister Mr. Tsakalotos, presented himself to Sapin, with his famous scarf, part of his typical "greek parliament attire". I am surprised this scarf he wears still resists the passing of time. I almost felt he was Prof. Varoufakis' smaller and poorer, brother.

      Symbolisms are good, but time comes, where symbolism, when pushed to extremes, can bring ridicule. The problems this cabinet will face, despite being less severe compared to those faced by George Papandreou and Samaras, will not be solved using symbolisms, nor with casual dressing code.

    2. Klaus: I understand your position. Obviously, you don't fully comprehend the position of Varoufakis, and probably not mine either. I cannot speak for Varoufakis, but I can explain myself.

      You speak from the position and experience of someone who conformed to society's demands, and received respect in return. I do not. In my youth, I was the epitome of politeness, and this was not returned by my professors or subsequent employers. Indeed, they were mostly obnoxious and most of my employers (universities and colleges, one private sector research business) behaved in a thoroughly illegal (cheating me of money) and abusive manner.

      Later in my career, I found to my astonishment that politicians and civil servants (especially the former) would publicly abuse me and try to humiliate me in order to discredit research conclusions. At this point I decided definitively that such people are vermin, with a few exceptions, and should be treated as such. Years later, it has become apparent how much money has been stolen and defrauded from European societies by these scum, who continue within power -- while I am without work or pension, because they systematically destroyed the careers of several Greek professors and my own research centre.

      So, perhaps you can begin to appreciate that highly educated people, with real ability, who have been marginalised and even excluded from society by a criminal class do not feel a need to be polite.

      I also mentioned in one of my posts the disgusting incidents of legalised hate speech directed at Muslims -- allegedly in the name of free speech. As soon as anyone directs it at real criminals -- the political class that has deliberately betrayed European people and the European idea -- we are told that it is "impolite".

      So, although I understand your position, I do not agree with it. You have been lucky in life, unless you actively sought always to have an easy life and not be honest. The latter is not my judgement.

    3. @ Guest(xenos) at 11.00
      When my American bank sent me, at age 25, on my first assignment to an overseas branch, the manager (and my boss) was a young Dutch. The Dutch have a way of not wasting words when it comes to important issues; of zeroing in on the point at issue. Often with humor.

      We received a credit inquiry from the Credit Policy Committee at Head Office. To the dynamic Dutch, those were just a bunch of old men who didn't know what real business life was all about. He gave me the inquiry to respond to it. So, motivated by the Dutch's reaction, I responded in a rather aggressive and cynical way. The Dutch saw my telex (no mail at the time), came to me and said: "You know, we strongly believe in telling other people that they are stupid when they really are stupid. Except, we tell it to them in a different way". Well, that sentence I remembered for the rest of my career.

      Another more senior American once suggested to me how one tells others that they are stupid. He would simply tell them: "To be perfectly honest with you, I am not sure that I understood your question".

      Do you get my point?

      When I read your comment, I read the words of someone who feels that he has been deprived in life; perhaps even denigrated. The revolutionary mindset grows on the turf of not having been accepted; of being rejected; perhaps even of feeling humiliated. I just think that revenge - just like fear - is never a good adviser. And it makes one vulnerable.

      Throughout my business career, I found the easiest people to deal with, particularly when they were customers or prospects, those who clearly had some kind of a complex. Once you discover what that complex is, you can play into the other person's card. The difficult ones are the ones with self-control. And to quote Jack Welsh: "Whatever you do in life, never make yourself feel like a victim!"

      BTW, I made my career because I was in almost all my 11 positions a reformer, a bit of a maverick. Once I lost my job because of that. But there was one management job where conforming was called for and not reforming. In that job I almost failed.

      I hope you won't respond by telling me that, being perfectly honest with me, you are not quite sure that you understood what I was trying to say.

    4. dear Klaus, you have my respect (you have always had it). I am interested to hear that you were a bit of a maverick in your career: probably I should have guessed that. My only comment is that in the institutions in which I have worked, reform was actively denigrated and conformism rewarded. So, perhaps we are not so different in character, but have had rather different experiences of the world.

      Neverthless, I shall endeavour not to disconcert you unnecessarily with strong comments on your blog. My preferred mode of communication is one of respect and politeness: I use others when these fail.

    5. Just want to point out one thing.

      Freedom of speech protects you from being imprisoned by the government for your beliefs and opinions. Freedom of speech does not shield you from criticism, opposing views or being called impolite.

    6. Herr Kastner, I quote you: "Sometimes I wonder whether people who are radically and emotionally anti-something know that they are psychologically undressing themselves."
      "typically behind such emotions (being anti somebody or something) is the feeling that others are better, smarter, stronger, more successful, etc.
      To be clear: yes, I consider Varoufakis as smarter, stronger (and until now) more successful than any other. My intelligence is sharp enough to admit that NOTHING will nor can be found to change his mind. Only life and facts. Sometimes it takes a long time before the people's realism is waking up from the coma created by mass hysteria, brainwashing hypnotizing speeches of politicians and TV hosts and programs.

      Undressing oneself sounds within this context as unveiling the own minor one, the dark side of the writer/commentator self, who criticizes others or things/pehnomenons.

      Is that always the case? No! Because a psychologist for instance, analyzes people's behavior, and creates a list of what is observed. Neutral. Just collecting facts. Does that say something of the psychologist's personal struggles? He has learned not to be personally involved.

      Am I objective or subjective, when commenting, after "observing" people within items in this blog?
      During the years I have learned to be both, without any shame, but naming things and people as fair as possible for me, within the ethics I learned during life, within my growing awareness of what ethics are, in their deepest meaning.
      What is or might be right or wrong: these two extremes are related with ethics and awareness, full awareness, and what is the highest of all; what is and should rule the world and humanity, Life. Who decides however what is the highest of all?

      If I might have undressed myself here in a negative way, then there is my question: >who< decides that it is negative? Doesn't that undress himself or herself as well? >Who< is capable to see what is really there, behind masks of people and phenomenons? Only those who can watch through masks will be understood and supported by those who can see exactly the same. If not, they will be accused for being blind. By the blind. How to explain a color to a blind person? Impossible.
      How far am I blind? Or: are there black spots that take away the full sight? So: we all need to be very critical towards oneself as well. That is only possible within open discussions.

      About Mr. Varoufakis and Mr. Tsipras: as far I am capable to analyze each of them, I consider Mr. Varoufakis as dangerous within the developments of Greece as Mr. Tsipras. Mr. Varoufakis because of his one sided, though super high intelligence, and Mr. Tsipras because of his lack of it.

      Mr. Varoufakis has become the arrogant face of Greece. Mr. Varoufakis uses nice words, sharp, as a knife, (though) often misleading, circling around the core of the subject but not naming it. His behavior and dress code are so incredible indecent though that it is clear who is behind the mask of smiles and acted correctness. He is an actor. His behavior is more violent and humiliating than any word can be.

      Varoufakis' hardly hidden indecent aggression, patronizing cynicism and overestimated self-trust will grow because it is waiting in him. But it will send him more and more into the narrow corner without any possibility to escape from, and there he will get the boomerang that he has thrown to Europe and via Europe to Greece.
      At least: I hope so.

  6. Guys chill out with the comments on how Germans / Greeks / People etc are. Maintain some composure and gentlemenship. You are all intelectuals and are not worth bringing yourselves to the level of 12 year old adolescents. Doing that you only manage to insult yourselves!


    1. I agree, at a personal level. I hope that anyone who has met me socially will remember good manners and a good conversation.

      However, I do insist that the cultural differences (which are not homogenous within a society of course) between European countries are important explanations for the lack of real progress in Europe. I can even agree that some characterisations of British people are not so far from the average reality: that does not mean everyone is like that.

    2. Mr. Guest (Xenos),

      I sympathize with your belief about Europe and disappointment of intergration. Europe is still too deeply heterogeneous and everyone, thinks his own reality, beliefs, as the normality, to which the others must adapt and endorse.

      What has been going on in Europe, is a dialogue among deaf. If you also take this blog as a sample, you will see that everyone believes exactly what he believed months before on every single subject and there is nothing one can change about this.

      I have used this blog, as a social experiment to show to both greek and non greek friends this phenomenon.

      In the case of the EU, once more, the US will probably come and once more, quietly, will mend things.

      And now i think i should really terminate my experiment and my use of the hosts' cybernetic space as a repository of discussions for it.

    3. Yes you are right about the differentiation of people and cultures of Europe. This has affected the progress because only our leaders chose not to look into the socialogical studies of the various European people before starting this Euro. They put us all in the meat grinder on a econimcal, socialogical and psychological level without even thinking.

      I think the Greatness of Europe's diversity is what makes it so great. And it is on this diversity we should melt together as Europeans without losing our own identity. There is no fellow European people, who i do nto find intruging. (Even if they piss me off from time to time.) As a born and raised American, I knew this, Greatness of Europeans "people," from a child. I always felt like a duck in chickens coup. Americans just do not understand the European and what is behind us.

      I knew there was no way when i finished my education that i would not live on any other continent. European and all people of Europe are so worth fighting for even if it means fighting each other.

      I am strong believer we will find our road together. And even if we don't or are stopped from doing so, our roots and DNA will always drive us to unify out of common good. We need each other.