March 31, 2013
Like much of Europe, Cyprus’ banks are wobbly, teetering on collapse.
Cyprus is a small country of about a million people, so the money needed to prop them up was smaller than other European or American bailouts have been. It’s absurd to call 10 billion euros — about $13 billion — small, but these days politicians are used to talking in trillions.
But this time Germany, the strongest European economy and the largest bailer-outer, balked. Cyprus’ banks, they noted, weren’t really for Cypriots — they do the bulk of their business for wealthy Russians, who use Cyprus’ banks the same way other wheeler-dealers use Caribbean banks. Let’s be gentle and say it’s for “legal reasons.”