Athens-Moscow relations on an even keel

Never before in the diplomatic history of Greece have Athens and Moscow met as frequently as during Costas Karamanlis’s tenure as prime minister. Karamanlis is in Moscow today for his seventh visit with outgoing Russian President and future Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. This has some in Washington worried, although there is nothing really at stake as far as Greece’s position with the West is concerned. Closer Athens-Moscow ties in the energy sector coincide with US-Russian relations not being at their best. Although following a difficult NATO summit in Bucharest, it does not mean that Athens and Moscow will be forming any strategic alliance. This is not the intention of either Karamanlis or Putin, who certainly wants to improve Russia’s status as an international player, but does not want to make any political and especially military commitments outside the country’s sphere of interests. Putin’s greatest contribution has been separating Russian politics from ideology and this is what has made cooperation with Western countries possible and weakened American arguments. America’s regional presence, however, has not been weakened at all. In fact the opposite appears to be true. Washington-Skopje bilateral relations will allow the US to bring SE Europe under its sphere of military influence, even if FYROM is not invited to NATO because of the name dispute. The US already has a major military base in Kosovo and Serbia is the only country to be unaffected by the changes taking place. Russia is not responding dynamically to these changes, possibly because it believes too much US involvement will lead to a regional impasse. Moscow has remained a critical and often judgmental observer. But, either way, any Athens-Moscow cooperation is safe politically.

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