Why Europe Needs U.S. Leadership / All’Europa serve Obama per salvare la Grecia

Traduzione inglese dell’articolo pubblicato su Il Sole 24 Ore di oggi

Europe is on the brink. Like 101 years ago, it all started in the Balkans. Like 101 years ago nobody wants to escalate the tension, but everybody is afraid to lose face. Like 101 years ago all the players have much to lose from not cooperating, but the fear of being caught off guard makes everybody unwilling to cooperate.

We know what happened 101 years ago. A war that could have been avoided, a war that cost the European continent 16 million lives and even more human suffering, a war that set the premises for the rise of Nazism and a second devastating world war. Fortunately, the risk today is not a war, but the implosion of the Eurozone. An implosion that many in the United States see as inevitable and so are resigned to witness on the side line.

While the break out of the euro might be inevitable, the way we arrive to this outcome is more important than the outcome itself. If instead of an orderly process, we arrive to a sudden break up, among recriminations of the various sides, at risk is not just the common currency project, but the European Union and even peace and democracy in Europe. The rise of xenophobic and extremist parties throughout the European continent is an example of the risk such an explosion entails.

In Greek tragedies, when the characters were faced with an impossible task to resolve, it was brought to the scene a deus ex machina, literally a divine character descending on stage thanks to some theatrical machine. The modern Greek drama, unfolding in front of our eyes, is desperately needing a deus ex machina too, an outside party able to reconcile the differences among the various players and bring them to reason.

Even without resorting to divine intervention, this role could be played by the United States. But why should it?

After the failure of the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, America is an increasing flirting with isolationism. Why to spend resources, even if only time and energy of U.S. diplomats, to deal with “internal” problems of foreign countries? And even if we wanted to do so, why to waste those resources in old Europe, when the future is in Asia and possibly in Africa?

It would be a double mistake.
While the economic future of the United States may well be Asia and Africa, its present is still very much linked to Europe. It would be very difficult for the United States to escape the economic consequences of a an abrupt break-up of the euro. The last thing the U.S. economy needs right now is a negative shock from abroad. But it would be a political mistake as well. With the Ukrainian crisis in full swing, the United States cannot tolerate a Greek-Russia “entente cordial” with an anti-European (and anti-American) purpose. Yet, if there is no alternative to save its face, the new Greek government will easily end up in Russian arms.

Can the United States make a difference? The answer is clearly affirmative.
Today, Europe is in a catch-22 between a new Greek government, which has staked all its reputation on a renegotiation of the Troika’s diktats, and a German and European establishment, which cannot afford to bend at all or they will irremediably undermine the economic reforms achieved so far. In this situation an intermediary, willing to defend the German principles, while at the same time facilitating a softening of the Troika’s effective economic stand (possibly easing the process with some small subsidies) can go a great deal towards brokering a deal. Being the winning nation who had the foresight to forgive the defeated country’s debt, the United States has also the moral standing to play that role.

In the last few days President Obama has finally spoken on the issue. But rather than public statements, what the United States would need is a reliable team of negotiators on the ground, working behind the scene. People of talents for such a job do not lack. What is lacking is the political will to take on a fight we can lose. But such will is necessary if we want to prevent that the current Greek drama degenerate into a world tragedy.


L’Europa è sull’orlo della crisi. Come 101 anni fa, tutto è cominciato nei Balcani. Come 101 anni fa nessuno vuole inasprire la tensione, ma tutti hanno paura di perdere la faccia. Come 101 anni fa, hanno tutti tanto da perdere se non collaboreranno, ma la paura di essere presi alla sprovvista fa sì che nessuno sia disposto a collaborare. Noi sappiamo cosa è successo 101 anni fa.
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