"I do not remember never like this in our relationship." In this way, political scientists comment on the diplomatic scandal organized by Greece: Athens is expelling two Russian diplomats. What is the reason for such a demarche of Greece, who is behind it and is this country really as friendly towards Russia as it is commonly believed?
In Greece, a diplomatic scandal unprecedented for this country against Russia has flared up. Athens decided to expel two Russian diplomats from the country and ban the entry of two more, said the Athens newspaper Kathimerini, citing high-ranking sources in diplomatic circles. According to the publication, one of the expelled Russians is called Viktor Yakovlev. Diplomats are suspected of interfering in the internal affairs of the country, as well as undermining national security.
A little while later the official information of the newspaper was confirmed by the official representative of the Greek government Dimitris Tzanakopulos. "Greece demonstrated in its multidimensional policy that it wants good relations with all states, but that all states should respect international law," Tzanakopulos said. According to him, "it is impossible to agree with a behavior that does not show respect for the Greek state." When asked if any measures had been taken, Tzanakopulos replied: "The assessment is that such behavior was, and therefore the necessary measures will be taken."
Of course, the deportation of two diplomats will not surprise anyone: Western countries have sent about two hundred Russian embassy employees to their homeland for the past two years, and Russia sent out no less than foreign diplomatic representatives. However, for a country like Greece, this is an unprecedented scandal. Until today, there have been practically no expulsions of diplomats from Greece, but with such loud statements in the press - there was not at all. Yes, and Russian-Greek relations, it would seem, were extremely positive.
This year, Russia and Greece marked the 190 anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations and the 25 anniversary of the Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation between the two countries. In total, there are more than 50 treaties between Greece and Russia. As the Ambassador of Russia in Greece Andrei Maslov said on this occasion, diplomats "work in an exceptionally favorable socio-political environment." In an interview with the WG, he assured that the Greek partners and public opinion treat Russia with benevolence, "while solving practical issues, we do not experience any problems of a political, diplomatic or organizational plan here." According to various opinion polls, Greece is leading among the European countries in the positive attitude towards Russia. According to the level of confidence in the Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Greeks are also far ahead of the rest of Europe.
Last year, there was a tendency to restore Russian-Greek trade after a sharp decline in 2014-2015. One of the main factors of growth was the increase in the supply of Russian natural gas, which Athens bought at 9,3 percent more (2,9 billion cubic meters). The Greek side expressed support for the southern route of natural gas deliveries from Russia to Europe, which could be the continuation of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline to Greece and then to Italy. In addition, the parties interact in the banking sector, transport, shipping, food production and processing, construction and high technology, as well as in energy and tourism.
And suddenly on this cloudless background there is such scandal. Moreover, Kathimerini notes that this case points to tense relations between the countries that have developed over the past two years and are related to the general situation in the region. And thus, Athens decided to respond "to a number of concerted steps to expand Russia's influence in Greece."
Greek journalist, correspondent of the MEGA channel Afanasy Avgerinos noted that Greece and Cyprus are the only two European countries that had traditionally close brass ties with Russia. These relations were respected even during the Cold War. "However, unfortunately, our current government is not able to withstand even these compromise positions of the previous rulers. They systematically go on deteriorating relations with Russia. In recent years, both capitals have exchanged very warm words, but I'm afraid that they do not mean anything from our rulers, "Avgerinos told VZGLYAD. He recalled the former deportations of the Greeks by Russian diplomats, but without wide publicity. Such cases, for example, were in 2016 and 2017 years.
The promising statements made earlier by the Greek leaders in fact do not mean anything, "because there is no independent state under the name of Greece," the source said. "Greece is a debt colony. Political and state leaders are not in a position to make independent decisions. The Greek government is increasingly subject to the American will. It is no coincidence that instead of one American base in Greece, already three are under construction, "said Avgerinos.
The anti-Russian sentiments in the country began to intensify two years ago, since the arrival of American diplomat Jeffrey Piett, who previously (from 2013 to 2016) worked as US ambassador to Ukraine and was one of the initiators of EuroMaidan. "He was able to deepen the split between Russia and Ukraine. I'm almost sure that with the same mission he came from Kiev to Greece,
- stressed Avgerinos.
Now we, unfortunately, the rulers only pretend that they are friends with Russia, thus deceiving their own voters, the Greek pointed out. The current facts are such that there are no big projects between the two countries. Talks about the pipeline and other energy threads left the agenda. In this situation, he called it natural that friendly relations between diplomats and representatives of the two societies "are no longer allowed". "Washington is very much hampered by the soft power of Russia in Greece. This is a religious relationship and tourism. Therefore, I am not surprised that Athos is mentioned among the reasons for the expulsion of diplomats. Recently, Mr. Piette showed great interest to Athos, who visited him this year. Tens of years, the US ambassador was not on Athos, "- recalled Avgerinos.
His role could be played and not too good attitude to Russia, the Foreign Minister of Greece Nikos Kodzias, noted the source. Prior to his appointment, he advocated for friendship with Russia, but after his position changed somewhat. According to unconfirmed reports, such a change could occur in connection with some personal resentment of the minister.
Yevgeny Kvashnin, head of the Institute for European Studies at the IMEMO RAS, noted that the media presented Russia's relations with Greece as a success story, "but in fact there were many negative moments." In the period from 2009 to 2011 year - during the time of Georgios Papandreou's premiership - several energy projects were thwarted. "Nevertheless, both sides tried not to take rubbish out of the hut. After coming to power in 2014 Alexis Tsipras, there was a certain euphoria about the fact that in the future the relations will begin to develop rapidly, new joint trade and investment projects will appear. Then even Tsipras came to Moscow, delivered an open lecture at MGIMO and told us that "we have come to sow seeds that will grow in a few years." However, nothing special happened over the years. There are practically no joint projects, "Kvashnin told VZGLYAD. Moreover, now Greece participates in projects on offshore gas development together with Israel and Cyprus, which stand across the Russian interests.
As for the incident itself, the main reason, according to Kvashnin, could be the Macedonian question. Especially recently, Athens and Skopje came to a compromise over the renaming of Macedonia to northern Macedonia, which opens the way for the country to join NATO. "There are other versions. For example, that it is an echo of the "business of the Violins". Many countries, following Great Britain, sent out Russian diplomats. At that time, Greece did not follow this example, but after the new poisoning in Amesbury, Athens decided to go in the wake of a common European policy, "the expert believes.
According to high-ranking diplomatic sources of the Kathimerini newspaper, Moscow's actions undermine the friendship of the two peoples and the image of Russia in Greece, "as they are part of systematic attempts to violate the sovereignty of the country and international law." An example of this is the attempt to intervene in particularly sensitive national problems and the interests of Greece in the Balkans, in particular, on the question of the nomenclature with the Republic of Macedonia.
At the same time, diplomatic sources note that the decision of Athens refers solely to the actions of these four people, and not to Greece's overall good attitude towards Russia, the possible return of Moscow by Greek diplomats "will lead to a further relapse." Greek officials also tried to mitigate the problem, saying that the expulsion is linked to a specific incident, and not to the relations of the two countries. "I must say that this has nothing to do with our broader relations with Russia. You remember that in the case of the Violins, we had a different line, we refused to send diplomats, "the government official said.
However, the attempts of the Greeks to mitigate the effect do not detract from the seriousness of the demarche. That's in the Russian Foreign Ministry did not hesitate with the primary reaction to the Greek step and promised the return of diplomats. "According to the established practice, in similar cases a mirror answer follows," the Russian Foreign Ministry explained.
"Oh, from someone, but from the Greeks, we did not expect this. First they poured it into the press, then they officially confirmed it. When such things are first published in the press - it has a political assessment. If they would like to send someone without a demarche - they could do it quietly, without involving the media,
- former UN Deputy Secretary-General Sergei Ordzhonikidze told the newspaper VZGLYAD.
"I think the Greeks took such a step under the pressure of the Americans, it is hardly a personal initiative of the Greek government," the interlocutor suggested. "I hope that this unfriendly step will not affect bilateral relations. We do not lose our diplomatic positions in Greece, for us this is not critical. They sent two diplomats, and we will send two, what to do. "
It is possible to see in this expulsion another subtext. As Kathimerini notes, the diplomats are accused of trying to disseminate negative information about Greece, influence the municipalities, metropolitans and Athos, and make "coordinated efforts to expand Russia's influence in Greece through the activities of the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society", and also unsuccessfully tried to bribe government officials. That is, in fact, the Russians were accused of conducting intelligence activities, just in a very veiled form. As far as this corresponds to reality, one can only guess, but in connection with such accusations there is still a spy aspect in this scandal.
Member of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy Major-General FSB in reserve Alexander Mikhailov noted that such reproaches really look like accusations of espionage. "But we have calm and even relations with Greece, what kind of intelligence work can be discussed against it, everything is actually done transparently," he told VZGLYAD. In this regard, he also expressed the view that the United States could stand behind this, which endure the confrontation of their special services with Russia and Greece. "Today there is not a single special service in Europe that does not work under the control of its American counterparts. Undoubtedly, the Greek siloviki coordinated these issues with the Americans, "he said.
"I do not remember never like this in our relationship. Any scandals do not contribute to anything good, and everything depends on how it will develop further, "Mikhailov said. There can be a negative effect on this for Russian intelligence and diplomatic positions in Greece, as the situation for us in this country is becoming less favorable.