NATO sees Greek exit from euro as security risk, says deputy secretary general

NATO is worried that a Greek exit from the euro area could pose a security risk to the alliance, deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow said.

Russia, which is locked in a dispute with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization over the conflict in Ukraine, has made overtures to Greece as it wrangles over its future in the common currency with its international creditors. Russia boosted ties with Greece on Friday with a preliminary deal to build natural-gas pipelines through the Mediterranean state.

“It does indeed have repercussions for” NATO, Vershbow told a security conference in Bratislava, the Slovak capital. “So we are worried about it.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin is wooing Greece and its neighbor Turkey with pledges to make them energy centers for southern Europe if it builds the proposed Black Sea gas link. Other countries Russia has approached include European Union candidate Serbia and aspirant Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), where Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said “outside forces” are trying to stoke ethnic tension to derail the project.

NATO and EU leaders have accused Russia of undoing years of stability by redrawing Europe’s borders with its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine last year. They also accuse it of funneling troops, cash and weapons to support the separatist war in that country’s eastern regions, where more than 6,400 people have died. Russia denies involvement.

The Greek crisis could ignite greater instability in the Balkans, less than two decades after the wars that ravaged the region following the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, according to Wolfgang Ischinger, a former German ambassador to the U.S. who now heads the annual security conference that takes place in Munich.

“If Greece leaves, I’ll bet you that in Moscow, this will be seen as confirmation of the Russian theory that the European Union is in decline and about to fall apart,” he said. “The Balkans are still not a stable and peaceful place. We need the stabilizing capacity of the European Union from all sides. If Greece falls out of that it’d be terrible.”