OPINION

Greek-Russian ties

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s visit to Russia may appear to be largely unrelated to the burning issues facing Greece’s foreign-policy makers. However, by shifting the focus away from the current headlines toward broader, global developments, one can see that Karamanlis’s visit is of crucial importance to Athens’s foreign relations and that the contacts between the Greek premier and Russian President Vladimir Putin could kick-start a highly beneficial partnership for our country. We should not forget that Russia may still be searching for its proper role in the post-communist world and it may have yet to map out a clear path through the new landscape, but it nevertheless remains a big power in terms of resources, scientific capital, military power and size of population. Despite its many problems, Russia’s strength is sufficient to prompt thoughts among the so-called «Europeanists» inside the EU that an alliance with Moscow is a sine qua non if the bloc is to grow into an independent political power – especially given that such ambition cannot materialize without a strong military capability, something Russia already possesses. With these factors in mind, Greece has additional reasons for promoting closer ties with Russia – whether in the economic and tourism sectors, where Russia’s sheer size opens up possibilities, or the political equilibrium in the Balkan region, where Moscow can act as a legitimate mediator. These days, as the bipolar system has given way to a single superpower bolstered by other subordinate power centers, the factors that used to define and limit Greece’s relationship with Moscow are no longer in place. A closer partnership cannot only be pursued via political means, but it can also be based on the historical and cultural ties between the two countries and their people. The warm climate prevailing during the talks between Putin and Karamanlis underscored that further cooperation is possible while dissolving any misgivings that some circles tried to create following Athens’s inquiry into Greece’s armaments procurements. Greece needs all the cooperation it can get with major international players such as Russia, which is easier now as Moscow is in a position to seek an alliance and support without jeopardizing any of Greece’s commitments to its existing partners and allies.