Thursday, 30 April 2009

Karamanlis takes a backward step

Further to this post and discussion on the foreign policy and security challenges facing Greece now that the Obama administration has expressed its clear desire to elevate Turkey to the status of regional hegemon, I've translated below an article by Stavros Lygeros, which sums up well the implications of the Greek government succumbing to American pressure and stepping away from enhanced strategic relations with Russia. (Read the article in Greek here).

It's been two years since Greece's prime minister Konstantine Karamanlis and Russia's Vladimir Putin announced in Constantinople the South Stream pipeline project, which will bring Russian gas to Bulgaria, Greece and Italy. Washington is opposed to the Russo-European strategic energy relationship, and by extension to the South Stream project, arguing that it will lead to Europe's energy and political dependence on Russia.

Karamanlis had appeared to take the view that Greco-Russian relations should be seen through the prism of specific Greek interests, without, of course, this damaging Greece's Euro-Atlantic ties. This state of affairs and Karamanlis' very good personal relations with Putin granted the Greek prime minister the status of privileged interlocutor with Moscow. Washington's displeasure was expressed not only officially, but with the dissemination of propaganda that portrayed Greece and Cyprus as Russia's 'Trojan Horse' in the European Union.

In the last few months, however, it's become clear that the prime minister is retreating. Is it fear or the argument that a precondition for close relations with the new Obama administration is that Athens loosens ties with Moscow? What is certain is that the Greek foreign minister [Dora Bakoyiannis] and a section of the Greek political and diplomatic elite were never well disposed to the Greco-Russian flirtation and the establishment of a strategic energy relationship. Rather, they shared the American view that Russia is the West's competitor and rival.

Recent events have shown that Greece can't expect anything worthwhile from Obama. On all the national issues, American positions were and remain neutral to negative for Greek interests. Moscow, on the other hand, as a rule, supports Greek positions or upholds a favourable neutrality. But there's more to it than this.

With the Turkey-Greece-Italy gas pipeline in operation, and if Greece abandons its participation in the South Stream project, Turkey will become a primary energy transit route and Greece will become dependent on Ankara for its energy needs. In a bilateral crisis, the tap could be turned off and our country starved of energy. This is of no interest to the USA, but it should be of great interest to Athens. It's revealing that Greek circles are stressing how bad Europe's dependence on Russian energy might be, but they're not at all bothered by the possibility of Greece's energy dependence on Turkey.


Hermes said...

Firstly, congratulations John Akritas for providing a quality translation of one of the few good journalists at Kathimerini. We can only really understand the state of Hellenism by reading our own authors and furthering our national aims by making them comprehensible to the barbarians. Contrast this with other Greek English blogs who only reference American and English writers - almost like asking Nazis to write for Haaretz.

Secondly, the Bakoyiannis (and Papandreou) crowd is indicative of a whole class of Greeks who seem to think that what is right for Europe (and America) is right for Greece. What misguided thinking!!!

If these amphibian-like Greek elites read some Byzantine history; specifically books like On the Administration of the Empire by Constantine Porphyrgenitus, they would realise that other peoples and organisations should only be used as instruments to further our national aims and the establishment of the eucemene. For example, in regards to Cyprus we should act as the most vehement Europeans. However, in matters of energy we should assert our own interests. Isn't this the reason why the French set the whole thing up?

john akritas said...

H. The translations help to improve my Greek, so I'm glad to do them. Lygeros is very good. I met him once in Athens and liked him a lot. Intelligent, clear-sighted, Ellinocentric.

Everything else you say is true. If Dora ever becomes prime minister, I'll shoot myself – like Karyotakis.