August 13, 2011

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The total destruction of Greek-Russian relations

If the current Greek government is judged as a government that tries to solve the problems of the Greek people and to enhance the well being of the country, then it can easily claim the worst performance in all Greek history. But if this government is considered as a vehicle of destruction of essential conditions of existence of Greece, it gets excellent grade! There is no policy area that has not been completely degraded.

Russia is the most important potential abutment of Greece’s external pressures. This is a fact confirmed by four centuries of historical experience, even though Russia, as any foreign power, even the most friendly one, should not be idealized. It was clear, even from the time of Capodistrias and Kolokotronis. It is no coincidence that politicians as diverse as Markezinis, Makarios and Lyssarides, both Karamanlis and Andreas Papandreou, and Tassos Papadopoulos, shifted towards Moscow to rest against pressures from the West. Only one member country of the Security Council UN supports the Cypriot permanent positions and is prepared to offer necessary weapons to Cyprus: Russia.

Just because Russia could significantly increase the potential for independent policy of Athens, permanent and central goal of Britain, the USA, Israel (who wants to incorporate Athens into its own sphere of influence) and the emerging superpower, which is the international finance center, is the “cut off” of Greece from Moscow.

The rise of the Papandreou government led Greek-Russian relations to the worst points that have ever been found for decades.  The most recent example being that of the designed and scornful manner in which the Kremlin cancelled at the last minute, and without compelling reason the visit of the Greek FM Lambrinidis in Moscow.

Moreover, Prime Minister Putin reportedly under highly informed sources in the Russian capital, had said to his closest colleagues: “In the way Greece is governed today, is pushing us inevitably into the arms of Turkey, we have no other choice.”

According to experienced analysts the cancellation of the visit of Mr Lambrinidis in the Russian capital confirms that Moscow has now ceased to keep the pretexts. Moscow concluded that there is reason to maintain a semblance of normalcy, but wants instead to show the discomfort for both the substantive freeze of bilateral relations and for the unfamiliar way in which Athens reacts, intentionally or not. For the first time, somewhat rare in Russian and Soviet diplomatic tradition, the Moscow also introduces a distinction between the Greek government and the general concept of “Greece”, which has an important and very positive position on the ideology of Russia in general and on the Russian statism in particular.

A number of substantive and symbolic actions have caused particular coldness in Moscow against Athens for the first time in decades. In Russia they have concluded that there is an “American party” in the Greek political system and the state, much stronger than those facing in countries like Italy, Turkey and Germany, which have very close relations. 

So, whenever something important between Athens and Moscow gets started, a war immediately begins against it and leads to frustration. Among other thing they report the case of S300, the Putin – Karamanlis approach, the procurement of Russian armored vehicles and the Burgas-Alexandroupolis project.

An “invisible hand” intervenes every time something is agreed between Moscow and Athens and finally thwarts the plans. After an initial “surprise”, forces within the political system are activated and discover all vulnerabilities of Greek-Russian contracts and only those contracts. German submarines can be tilted or American F-16 cannot fight as they do not have a self-protection system, but only the Russian projects are “sheet and feather” and all kinds of real or imagined shortcomings are discovered.

Sometimes, Greece does that in a derogatory way for Russia. When the Karamanlis government began to recede in the implementation of the Convention on the armored vehicles, which was signed by the then Minister of Defence, he discovered the original method of avoiding talking on the phone with the then Russian Ambassador, in order not to fix a meeting and find himself embarrassed! Ultimately the contract was canceled by the next minister, Mr. Venizelos, despite the official Russian proposal to pay the vehicles with Greek agricultural products.

The new Russian Ambassador in Athens was appointed in early 2009. As customary in international practice, the new Ambassador tried to meet the leader of the then opposition, Mr. Papandreou. Eventually he did not see him. After many months he met with Mr. Droutsas instead. In all countries of the world, including the U.S., is a matter of little time for the Ambassador of Russia to meet any political or government agent he asks to. We do not know who suggested to Mr. Papandreou such behavior, but the one that did so, apparently wanted to create trouble to the Greek-Russian relations with an extreme act of provocation.

Only in Greece can such things happen. Greece is also in the few countries in the world where the entire Council of Ministers jostle in the events of the American Embassy and the police of the country, under all governments, prohibits the circulation and remove parked cars at great distance around the residence of the American Ambassador.  

This behavior suits to the governors of a protectorate who want in every way to show their subservience. More generally, the whole situation in the Embassy reminds occupied city. At the same time a Secretary of State alone honored the last reception of the Russian embassy on the country’s national anniversary.

Papandreou’s statements against the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline and the characterization of the agreements with Russia as Leonteio favor, during the campaign of 2009, were never forgotten in Moscow. Despite the subsequent corrective action was considered as hostile action, declarative of intentions of the new government. 

The Russians also monitor carefully the influential involvement of Mr. Rondos in Yugoslavia, Georgia, Bulgaria and Ukraine, where he played a key role in undermining Russian interests. A close associate of the Greek prime minister closely linked to powerful forces of global status quo, Rondos signed up with Brzezinski a text questioning the importance of the Soviet victory over Hitler. He also used the name Papandreou to open many doors in the Middle East that normally would remain sealed. Supporter of the Annan plan, considered by some the architect of major initiatives of Papandreou like the “approach” with the right wing and most internationally isolated government in Israeli history.

Russian diplomacy has also paid attention to the fact that while the Greek-Russian relations are freezed, though grounded in a historical background of centuries, Athens got very dramatic initiatives by convening or proposing to convene joint meetings of Ministerial Councils in Turkey and Israel and creating ad hoc institutions for cooperation with these countries, which, by contrast, were also actions that reflect the strategic priorities of Athens.

Even “minor” issues are not going well. The Russian Bank for Foreign Trade and the Savings Bank (Sberbank) wait for six months the license to operate branches in Athens. Justified or unjustified obstacles encountered also halt an investment of the Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich and two investments in Halkidiki and Crete. Finally, nothing was announced about the Thessaloniki-Moscow railway line.

In a very critical period for the fate of Greece, Russia seems not even be in the consideration of Athens, and Athens oddly seems that wants to show it. The current situation is strongly reminiscent of the period 1989-93. Then, also due to the political instability in Athens, Russia was abandoned by the Greek diplomacy which woke up suddenly after Moscow’s recognition of Skopje. Then Greeks ministers ran to the Russian capital, but it was too late.

by Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
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