Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is handling Panos Kammenos, the leader of junior coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL), like the three wise monkeys, seeing no evil, hearing no evil and speaking no evil.
However, the fact is that Kammenos, who is also defense minister, is a problem for the government. Everyone knows that, notwithstanding the casual excuses put forward by leftist government and party officials, their partnership is the result of a cynical decision to grab power and hold on to it.
Even Dimitris Tzanakopoulos, the government spokesman, is finding it hard to dispel the widespread impression that the prime minister is being held to ransom by his defense minister.
During the time that the Kammenos problem was confined to home, when general elections were still a distant prospect and the “Macedonia” name dispute was not in the final stages, Tsipras had the luxury of being able to ignore the pressure and attacks from the political opposition.
But this is no longer the case. The situation has spun out of his control and also taken on an international dimension. Kammenos’s growing frustration over his political future is driving him to act up when he is abroad, putting the SYRIZA-ANEL coalition in a very difficult spot.
During his recent visit to Washington, Kammenos sought to account for his opposition to the name deal with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), while in a show of pro-Americanism he put forward a proposition for more US military bases in Greece.
However, upon his return to Athens he announced that he will be paying a visit to Russia.
More importantly, when FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev succeeded in mustering the necessary two-thirds majority to push the Prespes accord through the Balkan country’s Parliament, the ANEL chief posted a message on Twitter reproducing claims that opposition lawmakers had been offered bribes of up to 2 million euros to vote in favor of the constitutional amendments.
In doing so, Kammenos effectively sided with Moscow’s claims that the vote had been rigged through a combination of blackmail, threats and vote-buying.
All that was happening while the West is pushing the Prespes deal in the context of a head-on collision with Russia which is dangerously escalating. Tsipras must be cursing himself deep inside now that he too has wholeheartedly embraced the we-belong-to-the-West motto.