K. Filis: What would a break in Greek-Russian relations mean?

Konstantinos Phyllis, director of the Greek IGA, associate professor at the American College of Greece and international affairs analyst for the state television channel Ant1, wrote an article in Kathimerini about the prospects for Russian-Greek relations.

Greece, from the very beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, has maintained a position of principle, fixing its eyes on the other side of the Aegean and, in particular, on the general views and methods of Russia and Turkey on several topics. In addition to humanitarian aid, Athens preferred to send weapons to Ukraine, although later they refused to supply missile systems to Kiev. Despite the fact that other countries are providing increasingly significant assistance to Ukraine, we see that Moscow and, in particular, its Foreign Ministry and its representative, have turned their eyes to Greece.

This is logical at a time when Russia is seeking support in the West to reach out to Greek society, citing our historical, cultural and religious ties to cause division. Expecting the Greek government to heed the reaction and soften its commitment to the US. In fact, the Kremlin is investing in forces that find common ground with Russia and oppose existing policies in order to advance their propaganda ideas. Indeed, according to public opinion polls, a significant number of Greeks have a different attitude towards our position than towards Moscow, and this percentage is likely to increase after the unsuccessful performance of the Greek-born Azov fighter (many of whose members have neo-Nazi features).

In any case, the Russian side constantly refers to the ties between the two peoples in order to stir up part of public opinion and show the distance between him and the authorities. This situation can be exploited later, even with more active involvement of Russian-controlled elements in domestic political events or in the upcoming decisive election contests. In this sense, the expulsion of 12 Russian diplomats, in addition to demonstrating that Athens is not constrained by drastic measures and has decided to join the Western world, is also a warning that Moscow should not interfere in our internal affairs.

The latter position is explained by the vision of the struggle of democracy against authoritarianism, the liberal order against reviewers and the defense of the borders of sovereignty and territorial integrity from aggressive invading forces. It is also clear that Greece sees analogies in Russia’s call for the protection of minorities with the corresponding rhetoric of Ankara, which insists on the perception of the Greek-Turkish Muslim minority in Thrace as Turkish. And although at the moment the current situation does not allow any aggressive actions on the part of Turkey, in the medium and long term we must ensure or even try to compensate for the solidarity that we generously offer Ukraine. We must understand, especially with the improvement in relations between the United States and Turkey, that this principled stance is not always rewarded, and irresponsible and counterproductive behavior is not properly punished. However, since we as a country have different values ​​than Turkey, it is understandable why we prefer an attitude of responsibility and trust, if not predictability, but they should never be taken for granted by our partners.

And one can only agree with the intention of the leadership of the Foreign Ministry to ask The Hague to investigate war crimes in tortured Mariupol, all the more so given the historical existence of the Greek element in the region. On the other hand, the expulsion of diplomats creates problems. And it is building bridges with Russia, putting bilateral relations on a path of no return. And the psyche of Russians, like the size of their country, will not allow them not to respond appropriately, in addition, they can also save negative surprises [для нас] for the future. As part of the expulsion of diplomats, one of our consuls general in St. Petersburg and Novorossiysk may be expelled, the latter case creating real problems for the Greek emigrants living in the area.

And although, succumbing to the influence of the moment, we followed the actions of other European states because it was dictated by Mrs. Nuland, we need to be smarter and not agree to other [более жесткие] suggestions.

In any case, after the end of the Moscow military operation, we must gradually restore our relations to the previous (functional) level and do everything possible to prevent actions that will damage our interests in critical issues such as Cypriot and Greek-Turkish. In tourism, the Russian share is small, and any damage is manageable. In the end, after 2018, Russia and I are in opposite camps, because we disagree on more issues than we agree on. However, a final break would be mutually harmful and still not bring us closer to the United States.

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