Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reschedules meeting visit with Russian President Vladimir Putin for 8 April. Does this mean the indebted eurozone state could be the next Eurasian Economic Union member soon?
Desperate for cash, and playing all the cards in his hands, Greece's newly elected PM is in a pinch. Having vowed to end austerity in his country, Tsipras is "all in" in a forieign policy game of high stakes poker between Greece, the EU, and unlikely table partner Russia. With a final installment of a €240 billion euro bailout in the offing, Greece must have a four month extension for the broke government to carry on.
News today that Tsipras bumped up his visit to meet with Russia's president by a month seems a sure sign the EU and Greece's biggest creditor Germany are not going to budge. The hasty revamp of the PM's schedule also foretells of just how sour negotions have turned since Greece's guru of finance Yanis Varoufakis began hammering out viable debt repayment options going forward. A stoic German position, and Greece's desire to breath some fresh air outside crippling austerity has led to the current situation. The rushed Russia meetings are actually the next logical progression of economic relations gone bad. First Germany said "no", then Greece said "please", and after more "no's" the Spartans demanded their gold back from the days of Nazi Germany. Tsipras has framed the hurried meetings as necessary to relieve "stifling economic conditions" set by Europe's creditors.
Beyond the war of words between Athens and Berlin though, the Great Game is still afoot in between world powers trying to soidify and extend inluence. Russia's worst critic in the region, US diplomat Victoria Nuland flew in for hastended talks with Greece’s foreign minister, Nikos Kotzias on the hurry up the other day. In the wake of that guarded discussion, Tsipras hopes tp meet with key partners in the European Commuission and with the European Central Bank tomorrow.
This news, the latest up card in Greece's hand, will play out in front of German Chancellor Merkel in a meeting in Berlin on Monday next. With Nikos Kotzias having openly questioned EU sanctions agains Russia because of its annexation of Crimea, it's a safe bet Merkel, US President Barack Obama, and Vladimir Putin understand Greece and Tsipras (above) are no strangers to high stakes.
As for Greece dropping out of the EU and the eurozone, many experts say this is inevitable. Whether or not Alexis Tsipras and his ministers are prepared to give NATO heart palpatations by joining Putin's Eurasian Union, only time will tell. With ground breaking on the new Russia-Turkey pipeline project, and several eastern European players leaning heavily toward Russia these days, Greece going over to join Russia and the BRICs would be a foreign relations catastrophe for the western powers. If Greece does go, Bulagia, Serbia, and several others may well follow suit. On the "currency" side of things, many experts debate about the possible drachma's reintroduction if Greece dumps the euro and not the EU altogether. One big plus for Russia and rouble futures for this move would be, bargain basement export prices from Greece if their currency is devalued. The stimulus there, may just be enough to push Moscow into bailing out Athens.
This Speigel Online report frames the sitution fairly well if Russia and Greece do come to some agreement in April. Zero Hedge was spot on early in the new Greek adminitration's strategy in framing the Greek attitude at least. The point there being, with nothing much left to lose and no love lost between Greece and the EU, Russia could play out as the white knight for a country that was dealt a deadly economic blow. In the end however, all the experts are speculating today. What matters now is the last up card in this back and forth portrait of wheeling and dealing. On Russia's side? Well, this Pew Research Poll says the Greek people favor Russia over the EU 2 to 1. Looking at this report, it's also clear Russia's reputation is not as bad as the American perspective suggests. Even after a massive negative media onslaught these last 14 months the world tone on Russia is as equally postive as it is negative. This is actually fabulous if you're Putin and being assailed.
In the end it all comes down to Greece's leaer though. As a politician, Tsipras could do a lot worse than giving his people what they ask for.