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U.S. Encourages Europe To Keep Greece In The Eurozone


Washington wants Europe to work out a deal that keeps Greece in the eurozone that is using the common currency. President Obama has called German Chancellor Merkel. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has spoken with Greek Prime Minister Tsipras. Why are the highest-ranking figures in Washington working the phones so ardently? What's in it for the U.S.? Well, we're going to put that question to Ivo Daalder, who's president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and used to be the U.S. ambassador to NATO. Welcome to the program once again.

IVO DAALDER: Great to be here.

SIEGEL: Why is it so important for the U.S. to avoid a so-called Grexit - a Greek exit from the eurozone?

DAALDER: Well, Greece is a strong and long-standing member of the Western community of nations. It's been a member of NATO since 1952. It's been a member of the European Union and part of the rebuilding of Europe after World War II. And if the Greeks were to leave the European Union, or even the eurozone, there is a fear in Washington - a justifiable fear - that we don't really know where it will be going and we don't really know that Greece would be the only one that would be leaving. And it's that uncertainty, particularly at a time when we see a growing confrontation with Russia, that Washington is saying this is probably not the time to shake up the system.

SIEGEL: You mentioned Russia. During the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, the Greeks, like the Russians, were typically pro-Serbian. There was a kind of an Orthodox brotherhood of nations. Is that potentially a meaningful block in Europe?

DAALDER: Potentially you can see the Orthodox getting together and saying these are the kind of traditional values that - you hear that already from Russians and from President Putin - that need to be strengthened against the immoral values that are coming from the West. There's nothing in Greece to suggest that that's where Greeks want to go, except that if the politics and the economics pushes Greece away, pushes them into a terra incognita - into a way that they don't know where to go - they may decide that it is better to side with not just the Serbs, but the Russians against the West as a means to punish the West or indeed it is a means for salvation for the future of Greece. It's that kind of thinking that I think we need to prevent from happening by not pushing Greece in the direction that it's moving.

SIEGEL: The stuff of EU politics is typically very technical and economic, but as you say, the aim of the European Union was to solidify peace in Europe. Are Greece's creditors missing the forest for the trees here and placing too much emphasis on the means of European integration as opposed to the ends?

DAALDER: Well, I think that's part of the debate that will be going on this week. There is an economic case for the euro and for the creditors, but there's also a political case for European Union. And it is that important political case that Europeans, led by Germany, frankly, for the past 60-plus years, have emphasized. It has always been important for Germany in particular, but for all European countries to look to ways to find a union within which conflict is no longer possible, at least military conflict is no longer possible. And from the U.S. perspective, that's exactly what we have sought here for 70 years. And therefore, if you are sitting in Washington and you look at the beginning of a potential breakdown of disorder, you say that's probably not the wisest way forward.

SIEGEL: Ivo Daalder - president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Ivo, thank you very much.

DAALDER: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.