There’s a scene in the movie “Thirteen Days,” which chronicles the Cuban Missile Crisis, where President Kennedy’s defense secretary, Robert McNamara, gets into a screaming match with a Navy admiral during the blockade. (Stick with me, this is going somewhere, I promise.)
The admiral orders his ships to fire over a Russian freighter headed toward Cuba, basically standard operating procedure for a blockade. In the tension-filled war room, McNamara flips out, because the President ordered no firing. The admiral is furious that his authority’s being undermined. Tempers are flaring.
“This isn’t a blockade,” McNamara says, “this, is language, a new vocabulary the likes of which the world has never seen. This is President Kennedy communicating with Secretary Khruschev.” (By the way, this is a very good movie, except for one weird part: the “star” is Kevin Costner, but he plays the President’s special assistant Ken O’Donnell, a supporting role in the actual crisis. I’m not Joe Morgenstern, I thought it threw the movie off.)
I was reminded of that scene when I read this on the Broadtape a little while ago:
If Greece should need financial aid from the European Union, Athens would prefer a long-term loan rather than bond guarantees, two people with familiar with the Greek government’s thinking said Friday.
“A loan is a clear way of saying to the markets that the EU has confidence in the Greek government’s measures to tackle the budget deficit,” one of the people told Dow Jones Newswires. “But there is still no indication from Brussels on what may be decided.”
Greece hasn’t asked for help in tackling its debt crisis, but if that should become necessary, the second person said, “Around EUR20 billion would satisfy the government.”
The Greek Finance Ministry didn’t respond to attempts to seek comment.
Is this an example of the Greeks communicating with Brussels, and the marketplace, and maybe even the German people who’d have to pony up a big chunk of that 20 billion euro to satisfy the Greeks? If so, then there’s still a lot of negotiating to be done over the Greeks’ non-request for aid and Brussels’ non-offer of any.
Everybody was very quick to point out yesterday that the Greeks hadn’t actually asked for help. But if that was really true, why so much speculation about whether or not they would get help? If the Greeks really didn’t want help, it would have behooved them greatly to say so early on, if only to calm the markets, forget actually avoiding the fear and speculation that was driving up their own funding costs.
No, it’s safe to say while the Greeks may not have issued a formal request for help, there’s some back channel banter going on to the point of, the Greeks need help. And, obviously, that little pat on the back from the EU yesterday just didn’t show quite enough support for the Greeks’ taste. Whereas, apparently they’re thinking that about 20 billion would be just supportive enough.
If anybody thought yesterday’s little statement would be enough to calm this storm, I fear they’re in for a disappointment.