There are various narratives for what is happening to Greece as another deadline looms – the April 24 gathering of finance ministers in Riga — and European officials show no sign of compromise. The most common is that this is a game of brinkmanship, with the Germans and their allies pushing for “reforms” that the Syriza government in Greece doesn’t want to adopt. Most of the media seems more partial to the European officials than to Greece. But even among those who are more neutral or sympathetic to Greece, it is still a story about hardline European officials threatening to use their control over funding to the Greek government and banking system in order to bring Greece to its knees.
But this narrative misses the elephant on the middle of the negotiating table. While the Greek government cannot do anything to replace its negotiating partners with people more to their liking, the European officials on the other side seem to believe they can do exactly that. And it is becoming increasingly clear that this is their current strategy.
The idea is to do enough damage to the Greek economy during the negotiating process so as to undermine support for the current government, and ultimately replace it. The destabilization actually began before the January 25 election, when officials from the then-ruling New Democracy Party announced that if Syriza won the election, Greece would leave the euro and people would not be able to get money from their bank accounts. In a nasty breach of protocol, they were supported by important European officials.