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Europe in Denial as Tsipras Cuts Deals With Moscow

Greece and Russia are building bridges and Europe can't accept it

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

The Greeks and Russians feel humiliated – this is The Guardian's latest take on the current rift in Europe. 

According to our favorite British daily, Tsipras’ recent visit to Moscow was literally to cry on Putin’s shoulder as they both wallow in the misery of geopolitical isolation.

Let’s not be ridiculous. Pride is the last thing on Greece’s or Russia’s mind. Traditional, polite diplomacy has long been abandoned by western nations with their anti-Russian rhetoric and comments from Obama such as Putin looking ‘like the bored kid at the back of the classroom’.  The US government wouldn’t know the meaning of ‘diplomacy’ if it hit it in the face. In order to feel humiliated you would need to have some respect for the party doing the humiliating; respect for the EU and US which was lost some time ago by Greece and Russia.

The excitement of being in the EU has waned for the Greeks. It has been quite clear from the actions of their European ‘partners’ over the last few years that friendship was not an option; it has been difficult enough for Greece and Russia to gain basic respect. The audacity of the EC to announce a sum of 11 billion Euros as part of their ‘Support Package to Ukraine’ --- a country not even in the EU --- while Greece floundered, was a clear message. Friendship, at any level, also requires a degree of trust to be genuine and something which after the Ukraine crisis has been lost completely.

In any case the relationships within the EU itself are superficial shows of unity. We all know Britain’s current position on EU membership, and while jumping on the bandwagon when it came to the Ukraine crisis, its role in its resolution proved that it is nothing more than a ‘Yes man’. Britain’s scheduled referendum on an exit from the EU at this time is just another indication of how flimsy these European relationships are. And I would predict that if Britain were to leave the EU, we’d see another Deutsch-dominated Europe for the first time since the Second World War. With Merkel at the helm, it’s almost there already.

So let’s be honest about what’s at stake here. As much as certain quarters would like to believe it in Europe, the Greeks and Russians aren’t stupid. Tsipras didn’t go to Moscow because he was humiliated. He went there to do business. Russia currently seems to be the only significant player with any common sense and credibility left and fundamentally the only one that can be trusted. Hence this latest $2 billion deal signed by both parties on the Turkish Stream gas pipeline (pictured below) with Russia also stating that it would finance future infrastructure projects in Greece. Cheaper gas, increased Russian investment and tourism sounds like just the economic boost it needs.  

Indeed, this was not Tsipras’ first visit to Russia. Back in April this year he signed a trade deal with Putin worth 4.2 billion euros and a Memorandum was signed entitled: “2016: Year of Greece-Russia relations”. Russia’s benefits are twofold: a trading partner and an ally in the Black Sea region.

Tsipras needs to persuade his people that the EU romance is over — which may be an easier task than one might think. In a survey carried out by the Pew Research Center in September 2013, 63% of Greeks viewed Russia in a positive light. It’s probably even higher now. The Greeks are the Russians’ Orthodox brothers; they have a common heritage. Russia also presents a prime example of how a nation can pull itself out of the economic quagmire and be resilient enough to defeat any sanctions that are thrown its way. It could be the older brother Greece needs right now.

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