Pro-Russian?: Syriza-ANEL coalition and its approach re Ukraine-Russia conflict

As according to EU Observer Greece says no to EU statement on Russia what do you expect from Syriza-ANEL coalition in foreign policy area, especially towards Russia-Ukraine conflict and related EU policy of sanctions against Russia? Read few comments.

Michális Michael, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Dialogue, La Trobe University

You may have heard that the newly elected Greek PM Alexis Tripras has reacted furiously to the EU Head of Government’s statement calling for tougher sanctions against Russia over its support of the Russian separatists in the Ukraine. Claiming that Greece was not consulted (which he may have a point), the matter will be discussed at the EU FMs conference tomorrow where a veto by new FM Nikos Kotzias will signal a collision course with the rest of the EU over Russia and foreign policy in general.

The new government has a different foreign policy than previous Governments. More akin to 1st socialist PASOK led Andrea Papandreou government of the early 1980s, it’s anti-NATO, against the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and against the anti-Russian orientation of the West.

However, it also is a pro-Russian outfit – derives from two traditions: a sentimentality of Soviet-Russia as passed on by Greece’s communist tradition; and inter-orthodox connection through conservative religious affiliations and links (which would appeal to its junior collation partner ANEL whose leader Kamenos is the defence Minister).

There is also a pragmatic dimension to the new SYRIZA government’s Russian policy: they see them as an alternative to the EU in economic and foreign policy terms. Kotzias has called for in his interviews and publications (he was an academic in European and international relations at Piraeus University) for a new foreign policy orientation for Greece that’s not exclusively anchored to the West.

Indicative of the closeness is that the first ambassador to visit the newly elected PM was the Russian ambassador.

Nikolaos ZahariadisProfessor, Department of Government, University of Alabama at Birmingham

You’re asking a tricky question. Foreign policy was not something advertised or talked much about during the campaign. So it’s hard to come up with a “definitive” answer. Part of the issue is the complicated relationship between Syriza and Anel. What links them are populism and a vitriolic anti-memorandum “ideology,” if their platform/thoughts can be viewed as an ideology. As you’re probably aware, Anel split off the main conservative party, New Democracy. The politics of its leader, because the platform revolves around Mr. Kammenos’s preferences, are to the right of New Democracy, ND (the previous Prime Minister Samaras is ND’s leader). This tells me they are more nationalistic than Syriza and not enthusiastic about closer relations with the Russians.

Syriza on the other hand is unabashedly and instinctively more pro-Russian. Some of its prominent members have also openly suggested asking Putin for “cheap” loans.

Both of these ideas make me think that Greek policy will be pushed and pulled in different directions. Kammenos is the Minister of Defense, so I don’t see him pushing Greece too far away from established EU policy vis-à-vis Russia and the Ukraine. Kotzias, the new foreign minister, whom I know as an academic, seems like a reasonable person. This tells me Greece will not reconceptualize its relations with Russia in the short term. Everything will depend on how the new “bailout,” or whatever they call it, pans out. If the government cannot get what it wants in terms of austerity, it might use this pro-Russian tendency within Syriza as a way to leverage more concessions or declare it will be forced to rethink the sanctions. In all fairness, given the importance of Russian tourists for Greece in recent years – some exports, very high tourist numbers and the one source whose numbers have skyrocketed recently but prior to the problems in Ukraine – it is a tempting and credible threat.

Ioannis MichaletosPolitical & Security Analyst, Associate at Institute for Security and Defence Analysis

Syriza coalition will have a policy concerning EU sanctions on a sceptical level, raising doubts for the continuity of the sanctions itself and/or proposing immediate dialogue first-sanctions later. In short that will be a change compared to the policy followed up to date.

John Nomikos, Director, Research Institute for European and American Studies, Chairman of the Greek Intelligence Studies Association 

Regarding SYRIZA-ANEL we have to wait to see in the first 60 days. However, SYRIZA and ANEL are taking another direction on Russia-Ukriane conflict against the EU sanctions which might “disatisfy” EU decision -makers. But is it very early to make any decision now since the new goverment is 2 days in action…

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