The Corner

Putin’s Greek Win

It’s no secret that Greece’s new government (dominated by the far-left Syriza, but with an assist from the Independent Greeks [ANEL], who are right-wing nationalists) is going to be creating some difficulty for those who run the euro zone, but it’s also worth keeping an eye on what Syriza’s arrival in power might mean for another source of trouble.

Radio Free Europe has some background:

A look at how Syriza members in the European Parliament have voted on foreign-policy resolutions related to Russia and the Eastern Partnership countries in recent months gives an indication of where things could be headed. Syriza members of the European Parliament voted against the Association Agreement with Ukraine in the autumn of 2014, which was supported by the majority of the Strasbourg chamber. They also abstained in the vote on Association Agreements for Georgia and Moldova, as well as in supporting a resolution condemning the closing of the Russian human rights NGO Memorial. Other legislation Syriza deputies opposed included two recent resolutions drafted by the European Parliament that called for more sanctions on Moscow, condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine such as the annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s support for separatists in the eastern part of the country….

Or if you prefer, there’s this (from Bloomberg News):

In a Sept. 1 statement,  [Syriza’s Foreign Affairs spokesman Costa] Isychos called the ratcheting up of sanctions an example of the EU’s “neo-colonial bulimia” and saluted the “impressive counter-attacks” of Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. He accused the pro-EU Ukrainian government of tolerating “neo-Nazi abominations.”

And there’s plenty more where that came from, not to speak of this talk by the (distinctly controversial) Russian academic, Alexander Dugin, at Greece’s university of Piraeus in 2013. It’s like reading treacle (I suspect poor translation is partly, but only partly, to blame) but not uninteresting. I couldn’t help but note the suggestion that  Orthodox countries “(like Greece)” and some of the Slavic nations could operate as some sort of neutral zone—or an area of overlapping identities—between ‘Eurasian’ Russia and the West. The discussion was hosted by a professor Nikos Kotzias.

Who’s he?

Well, he’s Greece’s new foreign minister.

Ah.

To be fair, Kotzias may have disagreed with everything that Dugin had to say, but….

Over the last year or so the EU establishment (and its echo chamber in the media) has gone to considerable lengths to label euroskeptics of the right as Putin’s patsies or worse. Oddly, relatively little has been said about Putin’s fan club on the left. The fact that a number of its members quite like the idea, at least in principle, of more closely integrated Europe has, I am sure, nothing to do with this reticence. 

That said, there are parties on the European right that are indeed too enthusiastic about Putin, and one of them is Syriza’s coalition partner, ANEL.  Mind you, ANEL has come up with a few little extra grace notes all its own. One of its members, Panos Kammenos, created something of a stir with his claim late last year that Greece’s Jews paid less tax than other Greek citizens, an allegation that he decided to make a few days after a drive-by shooting at the Israeli embassy in Athens.

And who is this Kammenos?  Oh, he’s ANEL’s leader, and Greece’s new defense minister.

Ah.

And then there’s this (from the Financial Times):

The first foreign diplomat to meet Mr Tsipras after his formal appointment as premier on Monday was Andrei Maslov, the Russian ambassador to Athens, who passed on a congratulatory telegram from President Vladimir Putin.

And this (also from the Financial Times):

Greece’s new radical leftwing-dominated government signalled on Tuesday that friction with its European partners might extend from economic to foreign policy when it distanced itself from an EU call to consider broader sanctions against Russia.

A spokesman for the ruling coalition of Alexis Tsipras, prime minister, said Greece had not approved a statement from EU heads of government that asked their foreign ministers to review further sanctions in response to the latest flare-up of violence in eastern Ukraine, blamed by the US and most European nations on Russian-backed separatists.

It is true, as the FT notes, that Greece and Russia are culturally close, courtesy of Orthodoxy and, on the left, memories of Soviet opposition to the former dictatorship. Nevertheless, even allowing for that history, the Greek election looks like good news for Putin. And bad news for Ukraine.

Without the devastation caused by the euro, this would not have happened.

And yet the State Department continues to insist that, when it comes to Europe, Brussels knows best. 

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