WASHINGTON – Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras thought that it was a good idea to pay a visit to Putin in Moscow. Nothing really substantive happened. But in politics symbolism matters. And this looks really bad.
We do not want to pay
Let’s look at the context. Here is a querulous, if fatuous, far left Greek Prime Minister who is trying his best to get his country out of commitments made by his predecessors with the EU, the IMF, and the ECB regarding austerity measures for Greece in return for life saving loans. This looks already pretty bad.
On top of that, his government officially demanded the payment from Germany of “war reparations” due to the damages inflicted by Germany to Greece during WWII. This demand is frivolous and stupid, in as much as all WWII issues have been settled long ago. Therefore Greece has no legal ground for making fresh demands.
In all this, to date it is not at all clear that Greece, despite a recent payment to the IMF, will be able to survive financially, within the Eurozone or out of it, after a debt default.
So, here we have a beat up country, now run by leftist ideologues, surviving only because of the good will of its European partners. You would think that, at the very least the Greek government would lay low and stay quiet.
Visit to Moscow
Well, no. Tsipras chose this very moment to fly to Moscow for consultations with Putin. Never mind that Putin is a huge problem for both the European Union and for NATO, on account of his active role in fomenting subversion in Eastern Ukraine. Do keep in mind that Greece is a member of both, the European Union and NATO.
And what was the point of this visit? This is not entirely clear, at least based on what has been publicly announced. But, for sure Tsipras wanted the whole world to know that Greece and Russia are on very friendly terms. Besides that, during his Moscow visit, Tsipras indicated that he disagrees with the economic sanctions policy against Russia imposed by the EU.
Work with Putin on energy
And there is more. On the very sensitive issue of Russian energy supplies to Europe, Tsipras and Putin also discussed Russia’s plan for a new gas pipeline that would deliver Russian gas across Turkey and potentially Greece in order to reach European markets. There have been rumors that Russia may give money to Greece now, as an advance on the transit fees that Greece would collect once the pipeline is built and completed.
This looks bad
Anyway, all this is mostly talk. But “the optics” of this visit, (as the Obama White House communications people would call the images of Tsipras and Putin smiling at each other), are positively awful.
Here is a sorry-looking country that owes its very survival to the benevolence of Europe and the West. And yet its Prime Minister loudly complains about the unjust terms inflicted upon it, while making preposterous war reparations demands.
This is bad enough. But not for Tsipras. In this very difficult situation, caused mostly by his behavior, the Greek Prime Minister, certainly aware of the security threat created by Moscow’s clear desire to redraw the post Cold War map of Europe, flies to Moscow for a friendly chat with Putin, the chief offender.
As a minimum, this is in very bad taste. And yet nobody says anything.