Tsipras: Sending weapons to Ukraine was 'a major mistake'

Alexis Tsipras

Main opposition SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance President Alexis Tsipras said in an interview on ANT1 television channel on Thursday night that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is "an extremely unfavourable development for humanity, for Europe."

Regarding Greece's stance, Tsipras noted that there must be a clear position opposing Russia's violation of international law but he also criticised Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis for the decision to send defence rather than humanitarian supplies to Ukraine, thus converting Greece "from a country that traditionally becomes involved for peace, [to] a country that is getting involved in a war."

"I believe that this is a major mistake and reckless on the part of the prime minister... I ask that we should be clearly in favour of the side defending itself but also ask that the recklessness stops," he added.

He also accused the prime minister of making this decision without consulting with any of the opposition parties and said that Greece should retain its traditional foreign policy dogma, of a country that was a pillar of stability in the region and "part of the solution".

Tsipras noted that it was dramatic to witness a nuclear power engaged in an open violation of international law and bloodshed in Europe, adding that it was hard to estimate whether the war will end soon but, even if that was the case, its consequences will be momentous.

"The world after February 24 is a different world. We woke up in a world that is once again bipolar, a world in which we will once again see a harsh cold war," he said.

Tsipras expressed concern for the ethnic and expatriate Greeks in Ukraine, while predicting that the "other side" in the new global order will not be just Russia and that the geopolitical "chessboard" will shift further east "with terrifying consequences".

"This will not be easy for Russia either," he added, "because the dominant partner in such an alliance will be China."

According to the opposition leader, "the only certain thing is that for Europe, this development will be exceedingly unfavourable, geopolitically and economically."

"It is not possible to do anything but radically and categorically condemn this invasion, this violation of international law, in the face of this dramatic development for which the Russian Federation and President [Vladimir] Putin have the main responsibility," Tsipras said.

Asked whether this might "whet the appetite" of Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with respect to Greece, Tsipras said that while he has been uneasy for some time, this should not be easily assumed, while noting that, contrary to the pundits who saw Turkey as "isolated", the latest developments had actually enhanced Turkey's role in the region.

"Turkey is to a greater degree today a power to be reckoned with in the eyes of the western allies," he said, adding that Erdogan will seek to exploit this by striving to maintain an attitude of "cunning neutrality".

READ MORE: Turkish network praises SYRIZA and Tsipras for opposing Greece’s defence spending.

On the same day, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in an interview to Alpha TV that Russia's unexpected invasion of Ukraine constitutes the undoing of peace and security, and introduces a new cold war with unpredictable ending.

Greece does not currently have communication with Russia at the highest level, noted the premier, and he added that the economic sanctions imposed on Russia have already severely affected its economy.

Greek authorities did communicate with Russia as far as the departing consular staff and journalists from Mariupol were concerned, he added.

Sending military defense equipment to Ukraine was "morally correct, an imperative move as a nation," noted the premier, as "we did the right thing, like the vast majority of European countries."

There is "no question of Greece getting involved with its soldiers in this war," he said: "if we are asked by NATO to send forces to neighboring countries, we will do so, but we have not been asked to do so, so far."

The vast majority of Ukrainians of Greek descent chose to remain at their homes instead of fleeing, he noted, "and this is true for [Greeks in] both Odessa and Mariupol."

But this might change as the area is rapidly turning to a war zone. A ceasefire and the protection of civilians is most important right now, he observed.

Speaking of relations with Turkey, which with Greece comprises NATO's southeastern flank, both could contribute to ease tensions, through a meeting between their leaders, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and himself, noted Mitsotakis, who said that he is open to a meeting with the Turkish President, "especially now."

READ MORE: Even dead Russians are not safe from being cancelled in the West.

He also expressed his certainty that Turkey will rethink its recent rhetoric towards Greece. There is currently "no audience for any type of revisionism, for any demilitarization.

That's why it's important to be on the right side of history, with our allies," the prime minister added.

Greece and Turkey have a positive agenda in tourism and the environment, Mitsotakis said.

The Greek premier also spoke of renewable energy sources as "a one-way street" out of the crisis in energy prices.

Natural gas "has always been a transitional-stage fuel," the premier said.

The path to follow towards making Greece an energy hub is reducing reliance on Russian natural gas, to turn Greece into "the gateway to Europe for hydrogen."

If Greece did not get any natural gas from Russia, it could have turned back to using more lignite for power production, "but lignite still remains incredibly expensive, and it is not the solution to our [energy] problem."

Speaking of the energy price hikes, Mitsotakis said the Greek government will continue to support households and businesses throughout this energy crisis, by subsidizing electricity and gas bills.

He noted that wages have remained at low levels because of the ten-year economic crisis of Greece, while rents have reached nearly half of a monthly wage, which is unacceptable.

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