Could Russia influence Greece’s foreign policy?

With Syriza-ANEL coalition would you say that Russia may actively try to influence new Greek government in foreign policy area, especially towards Russia-Ukraine conflict and related EU policy of sanctions against Russia? read few comments.

Sergey Utkin, Head of Department of Strategic Assessment, Centre for Situation Analysis, Russian Academy of Sciences

I’d say there is no government that doesn’t try to influence other governments on matters that it considers significant. Of course, the Russian government is interested in having as many EU members as possible, if not supportive of the Russian policies, then at least unsupportive regarding the sanctions policy of the EU. Therefore, the results of the Greek vote may be welcomed with hope in the Kremlin. Given that the official Russia is keen to underline the inapt nature of the EU institutions, and Syriza people are in the same mood, they might have quite some topics to discuss together. The ‘Turkish stream’ pipeline project, which suggests participation of Greece, conceived in place of the ‘South stream’ might be another obvious pillar to make this special relationship last.

Luke March, Senior Lecturer, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh

Yes, I think you are right on both counts, for four reasons

1) This is Russia’s general policy – try to influence EU members bilaterally to break from a common position, not just over the Ukraine/sanctions issue.

2) Russia is actively looking for partners who break with EU mainstream consensus to help lobby for their views within EU. Prev this was mainly radical right parties, who are closer to Russian position in cultural politics, but they would exploit any force who might break EU consensus. Tsipras has already indicated some disquiet with EU position, even prior to coming to office.

3) Added to that, at least some of the radical left is prone to ‘campism’ i.e. a view of the world as divided into imperialist and anti-imperialist camps. Therefore, on the principle that ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’, many on radical left support Russian position, often largely uncritically, because it opposes US imperialism. No matter that Russia is no socialist, democratic or even anti-capitalist state, and many of the equivalents of Syriza-type organisations are oppressed or in prison (viz Left Front, Alexei Gaskarov).

4) Syriza is inexperienced, potentially shaky government opposed to EU consensus and needing external allies. A perfect opportunity for Russia to help in moral or logistical terms.

I couldn’t predict what such help might involve – most likely some behind the scenes dialogue and public support for Greek government. I wouldn’t exclude that Russia might offer some financial help should renegotiation of Greece’s debt prove protracted and/or tricky, in return for a more compliant foreign policy. Certainly expect some advantageous trade deals being offered, dependent of course on the state of the Russian economy (although for Russia the symbolism will be more important than the actual financial outlay).

Kristi Raik, Senior Research Fellow, Finnish Institute of International Affairs

Russia is trying to influence many governments of EU member states, especially the ones considered ’weak links’ such as Greece, Hungary, Austria. I’m not an expert on Russia’s actions in this regard, but I am an expert of EU policy making and can tell from that perspective that Greece should weigh its priorities and tactics very carefully now. The top concern for the new government is their debt burden. Greeks wants to stay in the EU and in the Eurozone. Provided that they want to achieve at least some more flexibility on the debt, it does not help if they act obstructively on the very serious and delicate Russia issue, as they have already done. In general it is not advisable for a member state (especially a smaller MS) to be left alone in EU decision making, opposing a decision supported/approved by all other member states. Greece may try to use the Russia card as a bargaining chip to try to put pressure on Germany and others on the debt issue, but this approach is a very risky one and may backfire.

It is a separate matter then, how on earth can a left-wing party calling for social justice support the regime of Putin that is authoritarian, violating core international norms and using military force against a weaker neighbor. Greece calls for solidarity, but don’t they feel any solidarity towards Ukraine, a European country being under attack by a powerful neighbor, and also fighting for internal reforms and against corruption as Greeks do.

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

Russia has limited leverage in Greek politics, but it can provide several points to Athens if that will help easing of sanctions, such as more access to Russian markets (for example agricultural products embargo has been very costly for the Greek economy).

Also it has to be noted that a crucial role regarding Greek-Russian relations is the factor named Turkey. That means that the renewed Russian-Turkish cooperation (Turkish stream natural gas pipelines and several other projects) puts forward a new dimension, and that is the increasing role of Turkey via the help of Russia, which in turn makes Athens to be more active in its relations vis-a-vis Moscow.


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