Greece: Next Stop Russia?

What are the chances of Tsipras and Putin becoming allies?

July 21, 2015

What are the chances of Tsipras and Putin becoming allies?

You almost have to believe that pigs can fly to buy into the notion of a fiscally responsible government in Athens. It requires a level of resolve that is hard to imagine, especially for someone like Alexis Tsipras who accepted the package against his Marxist convictions. (See TG’s recent coverage of Greece here)

And even if the Greek parliament plays along with the implementation of the ambitious program, uncertainty will prevail. It is doubtful that, even with the best of intentions, the EU can find a way to lead Greece on the path of sustainable recovery within the Union.

As a result, “Grexit” may all of a sudden become the only move left to the Greeks. This not only puts into question Greece’s membership in the EU, but also magnifies the sense of abandonment that the Greeks are already displaying.

Knocking on Russia’s door

An abandoned Greece will look for new alliances and strategic partners outside of the European Union. Tsipras has already shown his hand in this regard after his unsuccessful poker game with Brussels. He traveled to Moscow on a few occasions, seeking financial support from Russia.

President Putin has shown some restraint so far, offering only limited support in infrastructure spending. But it would be a mistake to think that Russia will not look at the Greek opportunity with much more interest once its current paymasters have sent off the Hellenic Republic to an uncertain destiny.

Russia and Greece have common ground to explore, most important their shared Eastern Orthodox faith. While the vast majority of EU member states are predominantly Roman Catholic or Protestant, Greece’s religious family is in Russia and Eastern Europe, not in Rome.

This all feeds into Russia’s strategic vision of re-creating a kind of Orthodoxy-based “empire” of Greater Russia. It includes the main Slavic nations such as Belarus, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Serbia, but possibly extends into non-Slavic territory in Romania, Macedonia and Greece.

What else does Russia get

Putin will not waver if given the opportunity to bring Greece into Russia’s sphere of influence. The benefits to Russia are simply too great to resist the temptation. By exploiting the failure of the European Union to deal effectively with the Greek situation, Putin would come several steps closer to getting direct high seas access for his Crimea-based fleet.

All Russia needs to do to get there is to make any significant monetary assistance to Greece conditional. It would demand Athens resigning its membership in NATO — and force the United States to close its military base in Crete. Russia could then sail its Crimean fleet safely through Greek waters into the Mediterranean Sea.

This isn’t a tough deal for Greece’s radical left. In fact, it merely reflects longstanding demands on previous Greek governments to do just that.

Others will follow

If there were to be a deal with Russia, Greece will become a client state in the new Russian Empire. Cynics might say that this would not be so different from the tutelage the Greeks experience under the watchful eye of the eurozone Institutions and the IMF over the next couple of decades.

A Greek exit from NATO may also inspire Turkey to do the same, as the Erdogan-led government may find NATO membership a hindrance to its ambition to be a leading Middle Eastern power on its own merit.

This would create a completely new strategic situation. The mere prospect of losing military control at the Bosporus gives the senior military leadership in the United States a serious headache.

Takeaways

Tsipras traveled to Moscow on a few occasions seeking financial support from Russia.

Russia will look at the Greek opportunity much closer once its current paymasters abandon it.

Greece feeds into Russia’s strategic vision of re-creating an “empire” of Greater Russia.

Putin will not waver if given the opportunity to bring Greece into Russia’s sphere of influence.

The prospect of losing military control at the Bosporus would give the US a serious headache.

If there were to be a deal with Russia, Greece will become a client state in the new Russian Empire.