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Greece

Why Greece's Tsipras Could Prove To Be A Wise Choice

Pure necessity could turn Alexis Tsipras Greece's liberal prime minister-elect, into an unexpected reformer willing to go against client politics.

A Victorious Tsipras on Sunday
A Victorious Tsipras on Sunday
Silke Mülherr

-OpEd-

BERLIN — Despite all the warnings from Europe, the Greeks voted for the leader they felt was right. Whether or not Brussels and Berlin like it, the next prime minister of Greece will be Alexis Tsipras, but does his Syriza party victory really seal the downfall of the European West, or at least the Eurozone?

There are a whole series of reasons why, in the end, Tsipras may not be the worst person to put Greece on the right path. Of course, his campaign promises — to reject the austerity program and create debt relief — are dangerous, not just for Greece itself but for the whole currency union. But not even Greek voters believe that Tsipras will antagonize international creditors.

What could turn him into an unexpected reformer is pure necessity. Populist Tsipras is going to have to present some unpleasant truths to voters, too many of whom aren't facing facts. Most importantly, Greece is broke, and if no alternative lenders can be found, Tsipras will have no other choice than to turn to the Troika (the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund). Athens is faced with bankruptcy, and the Syriza boss knows that. So if common sense doesn't turn him into a pragmatist, the state of the Greek treasury will.

What Tsipras also has going for him is that his people trust him. Unlike the established parties in his country — and very much because of his sniping at Brussels and Berlin — he's not perceived as a puppet of foreign creditors. The 40-year-old promises to put an end to the Brussels diktat and see to it that the Greeks take their fate back into their own hands. That's a key right there because it makes clear what the Greek elections were all about: psychology. The wounded collective soul needed to be soothed. And the charismatic Tsipras stepped in to soothe.

Who but him could get the necessary reforms past all the resistance? The conservative government of Antonis Samaras misused its political capital. Despite all announced intentions, the public sector didn't shrink, and few inroads were made into stemming tax evasion.

Maybe what's needed is a leftist such as Tsipras from whom nobody is expecting a successful new start but who is paradoxically poised to bring one about. In Germany, for example, who would have thought that the Social Democrats under Gerhard Schröder would have rescued the jobs market and social policies with their Hartz IV program?

The Greeks saw no alternative to Syriza, and now they have to live with the consequences. Tsipras made the loudest promises about a new beginning for his country, and voters have officially tapped him to make it happen. In the future, all lamentations and blame formerly directed at Brussels will serve nothing. If Tsipras drags the Greeks down, they will have brought that misfortune on themselves.

Meanwhile, the left alliance now must show whether it dares to break with client politics.

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Geopolitics

The Xi-Putin Alliance Is Dead, Long Live The Xi-Putin Alliance

The façade of unity between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin was lifted in Uzbekistan last week. But where exactly does the Chinese head of state stand on the Russian invasion of Ukraine? Beijing is still establishing its place in the world, and it remains in contradiction to the West

China's President Xi Jinping, Uzbekistan's President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Russia's President Vladimir Putin during the 22nd Summit of the SCO

Gregor Schwung

-Analysis-

Xi Jinping is not out of practice. The Chinese President's public demeanor on his first foreign trip since January 2020 was as confident as ever. When meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, he promptly removed his mask and stood inches away from the Russian president, smiling affably.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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What looked routine to the outside world was a diplomatic tightrope walk that the Chinese leader felt compelled to perform. It was the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since February, when they proclaimed a "friendship without borders" at the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Shortly thereafter, Putin launched his campaign against Ukraine – and the world wondered whether Putin had used his Olympic visit to obtain Xi's approval for his invasion.

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