Greece’s dear European partners have recently tried to convince Alexis Tsipras to support their pressure on Russia in exchange for censure of Turkey’s aggressive steps, but the Greek leader has reacted by calling on them to stop their “Cold War rhetoric” against Moscow.
Greece fears hot war and Turkey’s aggressive steps near the Imia islands and Cyprus are giving grounds for such fear. In early Mar, the Turks captured two Greek soldiers near their border and are keeping them in jail in Edirne. They say that the soldiers are spies and seem to be planning to exchange them for the eight Turkish military men who fled to Greece after the attempted coup against Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016. In early 2018, the Greek authorities said that they would not extradite the men as in Turkey, they might face tortures and long terms in prison. But we can’t say what they will do now that their people are demonstrating in the streets in support of the Greek soldiers.
Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk mentioned the Greek soldiers during their last meeting with Recep Erdogan in Varna. They asked the Turkish president to give the men back by the Easter. But Erdogan ignored their request and blamed Europe for applying double standards and refusing to admit Turkey into the EU because it was actively fighting terrorism.
It seems that the Greeks have already lost hope that their European patrons will be able to convince the Turks. During their last Independence Day on Mar 25 (on that day in 1821 a revolt in Greece freed the country from the Ottoman rule), they organized a parade that was more like a muscle show. While speaking at the parade, Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said: “We are peaceful people but everyone who will dare to infringe on our sovereignty will be crushed the way the Ottoman Empire was crushed in 1821. As regards those dreaming of that empire’s revival, they must remember how it was crushed by Greek rebels in 1821.”
There is no more sense for the Greeks to play nice as the Turks are getting more and more aggressive towards them. More and more Turkish politicians have said of late that the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 and the Paris Treaties of 1947 – documents that demarcated the present-day borders between Greece and Turkey – should be revised. The Turks are claiming back 18 Greek islands and 150 islets in the “grey zone” of the Aegean Sea.
In this confrontation, the Greeks need support. But neither the EU nor NATO seem to be willing to give it to them. All they are receiving from the West is promises and blackmail: during the last EU summit, British Prime Minister Theresa May tried to force Alexis Tsipras into joining the anti-Russian campaign. But Tsipras replied by asking the European leaders if they didn’t think that their campaign was hasty and that they had first to investigate the Skripal case.
We all can guess what the leaders answered. So, Tsipras decided to call Putin. “The Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic sincerely congratulated Vladimir Putin on winning the presidential election. Both sides reaffirmed their intention to further promote Russian-Greek cooperation. They also noted with satisfaction the increasing cooperation in the trade, economic and humanitarian areas. Current issues of European security and the developments in the Eastern Mediterranean region were discussed. The two leaders also discussed the situation following the UK’s allegations against Russia after the incident in Salisbury. Vladimir Putin invited Alexis Tsipras to visit Russia,” reports the Kremlin’s press service.
Tsipras accepted that invitation and may visit Russia shortly.
It is hard to say what consequences this visit will have. On the one hand, Cyprus (the true one, not the one occupied by the Turks) has also refused to join the anti-Russian hysteria. On the other hand, despite the continuing “stabs in the back” by Turkey (the last one being the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s statement that Crimea was annexed and that the local referendum was not legal), Russia has promised to supply Turkey with S400 systems. Greece does not have such systems. So, Tsipras and Putin will have lots of topics to discuss – especially as under current geopolitical circumstances, each ally is as valuable as gold.