Greek-Russian relations: Reckless sacrifice on the wrong altar

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis SYRIZA

The inclusion of Greece in the list of "unfriendly countries" announced by Moscow is a result of the fact that Greek-Russian relations are deteriorating in a way that has no historical precedent. Today, they are at a much worse level than even the harshest days of the old Cold War.

Andreas Papandreou, and Konstantinos Karamanlis before him, had chosen to maintain a good relationship with the then Soviet Union and the communist countries of the Balkans, as a counterweight to the decisive influence of the West and especially the Americans in Greece.

On the contrary, the Mitsotakis government seems to have chosen a policy of absolute identification with the harshest anti-Russianism in the West, which nullifies Greek-Russian relations.

The truth is that before this, Nikos Kotzias, as Foreign Minister of the Tsipras government, was the first to seriously injure Greek-Russian relations with the well-known expulsions.

In the West there is a strong political current, which propagates the view that Russia is a historically constant threat to Europe. This demonisation of Russia implicitly but clearly presents the Nazis as early and misunderstood defenders of Europe, despite their "excesses".

The discussion in question is starting and has passed in Greece as well, if we take a look at social media.

If this policy of absolute hostility to Russia and unconditional identification with the West were based on some rudimentarily realistic reading of the international environment, we could perhaps discuss it. But that doesn't seem to be happening.

In fact, in a world of intense ferment and change, absolute identifications with one international actor or another is not just wrong: It is criminally wrong.

Despite the rhetoric that has developed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we are not on the brink of World War III to pick sides, nor have traditional US allies in the Arab World and Latin America.

In addition, the developments on the war fronts in Ukraine do not justify the initial expectations of the West. This means that Putin's Russia will be present in our region and even strengthened.

The new multipolar system

We are now in the midst of a new multipolar world system where relations between actors are still fluid and unclear and will remain so for a long time. The war in Ukraine, in fact, accelerated the relevant processes.

Until its beginning, after all, there was no single "West" to identify with, if we remember Trump's attempt to restart US-Russian relations.

The former US president sought to avoid the possibility of a solid Sino-Russian bloc vying for the role of global hegemon in the long term (which is exactly what is happening now). And Trump, who is holding large rallies of his supporters in the US, seems willing to run again, amid the erosion of Biden's popularity.

Why there was a breakthrough in Ukraine for Antonov (upd)

Finally, many European countries, although they support Ukraine in the war, put limits on their confrontation with Moscow, knowing that the continuation of the war will cause tectonic socio-economic shocks, as the developments in Italy show.

But our country does not do that either. On the contrary, we choose to identify with American politics, even without visible exchanges.

Turkish ambitions

In the meantime, Erdogan's Turkey is claiming – ever more aggressively – a dominant position in the Eurasian system, hence the international reports referring to its impending entry into the BRICS club.

Turkey considers Greece and the Republic of Cyprus as two annoying thorns in its side, which it seeks to remove by drastically diminishing their national sovereignty.

Ankara is aware that this is a condition for the country to be able to deal with what really concerns it, namely the determination of its relations with Russia, China, India, Iran, the US and the other major "players" of the international system, and thus "sells" its mediating role in the war in Ukraine.

Against this new imperial Turkey, Greece stands alone, with the EU offering limited political support and nothing else. As for the USA, they seem to be trapped in the huge geopolitical investment they have made in Turkey, despite the "slaps" they receive from Erdogan.

In this new world, Greece must stand on its own two feet, move autonomously and independently, so as to survive. Instead, Greece appears to have chosen to identify with an imaginary unified anti-Russian West.

In this way, Athens has demonised every concept of an independent, multifactorial and nationally beneficial foreign policy, and in this context, nullifies Greek-Russian relations.

The campaign launched immediately after the invasion of Ukraine is not only aimed at Russia. A parallel and very important goal of Washington is to make it impossible for the autonomy of Europe and its member states to pursue a policy that promotes their interests and not narrow American interests.

And while the problem is pan-European, the case of Greece is extreme.

In the writer's opinion, the Greek attitude is a manifestation of an organic element of the timeless (with few exceptions) geopolitical identity of the newest Greek state.

As I have argued in previous articles, the Greek state was created as an offshoot state of the Western powers, with the primary role of acting as a barrier against Russia.

This was because it became inevitable that a piece of Greek territory would become independent after the 1821 Revolution and it appeared that the Ottoman Empire could no longer play this role alone.

Greek-Russian relations and Greek elites

Since then, until today, the Greek elites have been trained from their birth to operate in this simplistic and absolute bipolar scheme: West-Russia, Good-Bad.

In the years of the Cold War and when leaders of high political stature were in the leadership of the country, compensatory relations with Moscow arose, so that the national interests were served. This, however, operated within the framework of a clarified international bipolar system and without affecting the country's strategic orientation.

Today, however, this clear international system no longer exists, as pointed out by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who sees "the end of Western political and economic dominance"!

In the new international system there is ambiguity, ferments, mixed elements of competition-synergies among the great powers, polarisation and dissolution elements within the West and much more.

But this is too complex a world for Greek elites, trained to operate in simple and comprehensible bipolar schemes, to be aware of, and not at all comfortable within it.

Thus, they resort to a clear and comprehensible world, which is a caricature of the bipolar international system of the Cold War, choosing the absolute identification with one pole and the complete denial of relations with the other. The problem is that this world exists only in their minds.

In short, we could say that the country's foreign policy system is operating in the wrong historical time. The way they perceive Greco-Russian relations is a derivative of the aforementioned world view.

Of course, someone can consider that the words of the writer are exaggerated or out of reality. But the fact remains that the Greek government has chosen a policy of absolute identification with the West and an equally absolute hostility towards Russia.

Instead of exchanges, Zelensky, whom Greece supports unreservedly, threatens us with sanctions ! If we even compare his attitude towards Turkey, we will draw useful conclusions.

It is obvious that the politics of Athens do not coincide with the geopolitical time and this is indeed dangerous...

Konstantinos Grivas is a professor of Geopolitics and Modern Military Technologies, director of the Department of War Theory and Analysis at the Military School of Guards. He also teaches Geography of Security in the Wider Middle East at the Department of Turkish and Contemporary Asian Studies, University of Athens. He is a regular contributor to SLPress.

READ MORE: Greece and Turkey in the era of Global Hybrid War.

Guest Contributor

This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor