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Leftist tipped to be next Greek leader warns of 'Cold War' over austerity

Until a few weeks ago very few people had heard of him, but Alexis Tsipras could soon be the next Prime Minister of Greece. His anti-austerity stance won his party second place in the recent election, and the forecasts for next month's run-off suggest they could do even better.

A radical leftist tipped to become Greece's next prime minister says his country is involved in a "Cold War" over austerity measures with Germany and the U.K.

In an interview with the U.K.'s Channel 4 News, Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Syriza party, said countries insisting on austerity measures in exchange bailout funds would not dare throw Greece out of the euro currency because that would cause a domino effect, plunging states like Italy into crisis.

"The problem is not a Greek problem, it's a European problem," he said. "If Greece goes outside ... the eurozone, the second day, the next day, the markets will try and find who will be the next. And the next is Italy with 1.9 trillion euros debt, not like Greece, we have only 350 billion euros [debt].

Read more stories from Britain's Channel 4 News

Economic powerhouse Germany has been insisting on austerity policies to cut government debts as part of the price of economic help.

But the 37-year-old Tsipras, whose party is currently leading the polls on 30 percent ahead of the June 17 election, said Germany and countries taking a similar stance would back down.

Many residents fear that a slow economy is cutting into the number of foreign visitors. NBC's Stephanie Gosk reports.

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"I believe we find ourselves in a situation equivalent to the one the U.S. found itself in with Russia back during the days of the Cold War," he told Channel 4 News.

"Both sides had nuclear weapons in their hands and both sides threatened to push the button and activate. When you have a Cold War neither side will back down, so now we don't expect Mrs. Merkel or Mr. Cameron to back down either," he added, referring to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron. "We are quite sure that when the time comes logic will prevail and they will not activate their nuclear weapons."

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Tsipras said it would be a "win-win" situation to find a "solution without austerity" and without currency devaluation.

A new election is scheduled for June 17, as debate continues over the country's place in the euro zone. NBC's Stephanie Gosk reports.

Greece is currently expected to introduce 11 billion euros of austerity measures by the end of June, but Tsipras said this was simply not possible because of the country's "destroyed economy."

"Do you actually think they would be able to implement these measures?" he said. "The problem is the austerity measures which have failed."

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