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Greece calls Europe's bluff; won't extend bailout

Traders work the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
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Traders work the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Greece called Europe's bluff on Monday as its Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, said Greece will not seek an extension of the current bailout and instead try to find a new agreement. Tsipras wants a bridge loan to keep the country afloat until June, when a permanent solution can be crafted. The current bailout program expires February 28.

What's the difference between a "bridge loan" and an extension of aid? Seems like the same thing to me, just a matter of semantics.

Austerity seems to be out the window, as Greece is not making changes in retirement age, and reversing a property tax rise, among other reforms being reversed.

This is a delicate moment, as Tsipras is calling Europe's bluff by arguing that, if Greece is forced out of the euro, other countries will follow, and the entire currency bloc will fall apart.

There may be some truth to this. An article in the Irish Times over the weekend cited Simon Coveney, the Irish minister for agriculture, who insisted any new or improved deal secured by Greece should also apply to Ireland.

Nevertheless, the Greeks need access to additional cash in the short-term, since they are on the verge of running out of money. The total debt in Greece is about 325 billion euros, or $367 billion. Greece has 11 million people. That's $33,363 for every person in the country. That is unsustainable, by anybody's standards.

At the end of the day, though, something will get done. The eurozone negotiators will allow a relaxation of some of the austerity measures. There will be some kind of extension that will bring them into the middle of the year. Call it whatever you want.

Eventually, debt maturities will be extended. But it's highly unlikely that kind of deal will be made this week.

The Greek leadership is scheduled to meet with eurozone Finance Ministers on Wednesday.

  • Bob Pisani

    A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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