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Δευτέρα, 31 Οκτωβρίου 2011

Origins of the Greek Debt / Eurozone Crisis: Greek Bailout, 1947

Big Three at the Potsdam Conference in Germany...Image via WikipediaThe "Big Three" at the Yalta Confere...Image via WikipediaFrom left to right: Joseph Stalin, Franklin D....Image via WikipediaJust a reminder of historic events

Recipe for disaster:

* Take one small, war-ravaged nation with no natural resources and no heavy industry to speak of.

*Subsidise their economic recovery to ensure the right outcome in their ongoing Civil War by ensuring the establishment of a comfortable, broadly social democratic welfare state, with an ecconomy based chiefly on tourism to ancient sites and the excessive breaking of crockery after every meal.

* Leave to stand for 60 years until the social welfare expectations are firmly set.

* Firmly adhere this economy to those of all the economic and industrial powerhouses of the EU and observe results.

"From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an "iron curtain" has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. " Winston Spencer Churchill, 1946

This was not *quite* true. Although many of these states and nations had been agreed upon negotion at the Tehran, Yalta and Potsdam Conferences to fall within the Soviet sphere of influence after the War, there was an exception that Churchill was desperate to cover under a secret, side deal at Fourth Moscow Conference in 1944, attended only by Churchill and Stalin.

Winston was a public school boy, schooled in Classical Civilisation, Homer, Plato and Ovid and tales of The Grand Tour, birthright of all young British nobles. To Churchill, the idea of Athens being walled off from Britain and under Soviet control was unthinkable. He negotiated the so-called "Percentages Agreement", whereby Britain would control 90% of post-war Greece in exchange for concessions over Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, which would all become Communist dictatorships as a consequence.

Stalin failed to understand why Churchill should even care; after all, Greece had few natural resources aside from it's people and under the agreement, he would have more territory and slave labour than he would know what to do with. Greece would remain behind the Iron Curtain but independent. Stalin had no aspirations there and was happy to focus his efforts towards Communism in one Country (with "indpendant" Warsaw Pact sattelite states to trade with.

FDR was not present or informed of this back-room arrangement. Nor was Truman later on, as far as we know.

Yugoslavia under Tito developed into a relatively moderate and independant anti-Stalinist Communist dictatorship and Albania in it's turn became the red-headed stepchild of the Communist world, subsidised in it's failures first by Moscow and then by Beijing. Stalin ignored Greece as he had alway intended to and Churchill was thrown out of office in the landslide election of 1945, replaced by the courageous new reformists of Clement Attle's Labour Government. Attlee replaced Churchill at Yalta just as Truman replaced FDR. Stalin ran the table.

Britain was broke and reliant on US aid to stay alive, much less rebuild. Added to that, thanks to Churchill's legacy, they were committed to support the Greek state, now entering a new phase of civil war, driven in part by non-alligned Communist insurgents. In under two years, Britain could no longer afford to pay to support Greece's independence.

Enter Harry S. Truman. Enter the Marshall Plan. And enter the Domino Theory.

Best way to beat grassroots Communist Insurgency? Vast subsidies for social welfare programs and a generous welfare state. Backed by dollars, backed by the US Gold Reserve in Fort Knox.

What could possibly go wrong?


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