It looks like Russia is trying to make a military ally within its biggest enemy.
On Tuesday, Greece’s defence minister and outspoken “Eurosceptic” Panos Kammenos announced that he was invited to Moscow to meet his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoygu in the near future.
Still, Russia appears to be courting Greece’s defence minister. On Tuesday, Kammenos met with both the US and Russian ambassadors to Greece.
“The discussion with the ambassador of Russia, Mr. Maslov, was also about the pending agreements between the Ministries of National Defence of Greece and Russia, the capabilities of a strategic cooperation, the organisation of the year of Greek-Russian friendship in 2016 which will take place in Greece and in Russia. I received an invitation by Russia’s Minister of Defence to visit Moscow within the next period of time,” Kammenos wrote on Greece’s Ministry of National Defence website.
The new Greek government has on occasion been openly critical of both the EU and NATO.
Kammenos, (a noted devout Orthodox Christian, who is anti-immigration, and has expressed anti-Semitic and homophobic remarks), is the leader of the right-wing junior coalition partner in the radical-leftist Alexis Tsipras’ Greek government. He has also garnered some attention because of his anti-EU rhetoric.
“The junior party is openly Euroscpetic and withering of the way international creditors have turned Greece into an ‘occupied zone, a debt colony’. Its leader, Panos Kammenos, who has declared that Europe is governed by ‘German neo-Nazis’, assumes the help of the defence ministry,” reported The Guardian.
Most of Kammenos’ criticisms are aimed at (unsurprisingly) Germany, which is seen as the driving force behind the austerity push. He even once said that Germany treats its European partners as “concubines.”
“He is not anti-European, he is anti-EU. There’s a difference,” the president of the French anti-EU group Debout la France, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, said.
And it’s not just Kammenos. Syriza, the Tsipras-led, radical leftist party that won the election, has also expressed some anti-NATO sentiments.
“On Nato, Syriza describes its approach as a ‘multi-dimensional, pro-peace foreign policy for Greece, with no involvement in wars or military plans.’ It seeks ‘the re-foundation of Europe away from artificial divisions and Cold War alliances such as Nato.’ … Last year on Syriza MP called for Greece to leave Nato altogether, though the comments were rapidly played down by senior officials,” writes BBC.
“The new Greek government is cause for concern, especially because Tsipras has voiced his opposition to NATO membership in the past,” Ian Bremmer told Business Insider last week. “And his early actions — these comments regarding sanctions, as well as his meeting with the Russian ambassador to Greece without hours of taking office — demonstrates that he is willing to engage differently with Moscow.”
And Greece has already caused a bit of a stir when it appeared that it might block the extension of sanctions against Russia following the escalation of violence in Ukraine, although analysts believe that Greece was using this as a bargaining chip against the EU, since, ultimately, Greece is negotiating for a debt write-off.
In any case, the signals from the Tsipras government have been decidedly pro-Russia.
“Greece and Cyprus can become a bridge of peace and cooperation between the EU and Russia,” the new prime minister Tsipras reportedly said on Wednesday.
For Russia, this is just the latest news of a budding military alliance. Over the year, Russia has been increasing its military cooperation with non-NATO members, including China, India, North Korea, and Iran.
Although Greece is still a NATO member, Russia might be looking to leverage the fact that Greece’s new leadership has been critical of NATO and the EU on occasion.
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