Tom Ellis TOM ELLIS

Cooperation with China, Russia and the US

COMMENT

TAGS: Diplomacy

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis spent four days in Shanghai this week promoting Greece’s exit from the crisis and attracting foreign investments. He met with China’s political leadership and representatives of important Chinese firms and discussed cooperation between the two nations, which is expected to deepen further with the Chinese president’s visit to Athens next week. Chinese interest in Greece is not limited to Cosco in the port of Piraeus; it also pertains to Beijing’s decision to include Greece in a long-term plan that has a commercial focus, but which is inevitably acquiring a geopolitical one too.

In the meantime, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias was in Russia on Wednesday in a bid to restore relations between the two countries following the expulsion last year of two Russian diplomats from Greece. The visit took place at a particularly sensitive juncture, during which – and partly as a result of Washington’s unexpected actions – Moscow’s influence has grown stronger in the Eastern Mediterranean, where the stakes are high for both Greece and Cyprus. The cooperation that will develop on the basis of “existing circumstances” is not limited to the bilateral level, but will expand to regional issues. Successive Greek governments, moreover, have sought to cast Athens in the role of bridge between Moscow and Brussels.

Also on Wednesday, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer held talks with Greek officials in Athens. The meetings came just a month after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit here highlighted the progress of the US-Greece Strategic Dialogue and the expansion of the defense agreement between the two countries, which helps bolster Greece. Under different circumstances, one could say the agreement buttresses Greece against regional challenges and threats, though not today, given Washington’s recent erratic behavior.

China, Russia and the US have penetrated the Greek economy in different fields, from energy and transport – particularly ports – to specific business sectors. This cooperation with the three great powers comes on top of the development of trilateral partnerships built by Greece and Cyprus with Israel and Egypt. The defense ministers of Greece, Cyprus and Egypt met in Athens just two days ago, a month after a trilateral summit in Cairo. Similar summits and ministerial meetings have also become regular events in the Greece-Cyprus-Israel partnership. Israel’s foreign minister, for example, was in Athens just last week.

Greece has to contend with multiple challenges in the tough neighborhoods of the Balkans and the Eastern Med. Key among them are the refugee and migration crisis, Turkey’s revisionist outbursts and even the uncertainty created by the EU’s unfortunate decision not to green-light accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania.

Faced with such a situation, Greece should not only focus on bolstering its defense, and investing in regional partnerships, but also getting itself included in the commercial and energy plans of the major world players.

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