Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Relations with Russia?

The Greek newspaper, Eleftheros recently published an article titled "Russia and us" written by Apostolos Apostolopoulos which can be accessed here. The article raises a number of important questions and makes a few relevant points about carefully thinking through Greece’s stuttering relations with Russia.

Recently, there has been talk about the need for a “polygamous” foreign policy because our monogamous relationship with the United States does not deliver. The U.S. President, Barack Obama has disappointed us and some (such as international jurist Vassilis Markezinis) suggests that we re-approach Moscow as a counterbalancing measure. This sounds fine. Moreover, others more powerful than Greece have preceded us, such as Germany which has re-approached Moscow slowly and carefully but steadily. Also (we should not forget), Mr Karamanlis, following the German example, launched the gas pipeline policy; namely, the South Stream project. Previously, Mr Tsochatzopoulos, formerly the Defence Minister, purchased anti-aircraft defence systems from Russia for the first time. The two politicians (from opposing parties) have opened doors.

Neither the supply of weapons systems nor the construction of gas pipelines; such as the South Stream project; however, were a general prelude to the reorientation of our foreign policy, although they were of special importance. That is why the reactions of the United States were intense and visible. However, have we posed the question, during our warm embraces with Putin, if these reactions were considered carefully enough? The recent distancing, hesitations and retractions that have occurred in our relations with Russia, indicate there was probably insufficient consideration made of these possible reactions. It would have been useful to have considered more carefully the difficulties of re-approaching Russia.

The first question we should pose is whether the idea of re-approaching Russia suggests a general re-orientation of our foreign policy, and consequently, a distancing from the Western fold. Without clarifying this, the “question” is simply unrealistic.

The second question is what we have to offer to Russia. For example, Turkey offers services to the United States and extracts favours. What we can offer to the Russians so that we have their steady support?

The third question, and perhaps the most critical, is what the Russians want and especially what can the Russians give us? Recognising that Greece is part of the larger (and still unresolved) Eastern Question.

Inertia and unconditional obedience (to the United States) has lead to poor foreign policy but also “steps" (towards Russia) without clearly defined objectives can also be destructive. With upcoming European elections, the parties should be explaining to Greeks how they believe Greece should be maneuvering itself in the world. But with the Pavlidis issue at the centre of our political life our thinking about these issues is limited.

Source: Eleftheros (Apostolos Apostolopoulos)

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