The only six months of the Putin’s visit to EU will be a visit to Greece

To stop pause

The visit of President Vladimir Putin to Greece will take place at the end of next week, said three officials familiar with the process of its preparation. In Athens, Putin will arrive on may 27, the visit will last two days, said one of them.

On the preparation of this trip, Russian officials say Greece and in the spring. 12 March, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko reported that preparations for the visit started, but the date is not reported.

Putin’s visit to Greece will interrupt a long pause in his visits to Western countries. Last time in the countries of the European Union, which includes Greece, Putin arrived on 30 November last year, when he participated in the UN conference on climate in Paris.

This year the President of Russia once traveled outside of the country — 25 February, he visited Minsk on a working visit.

New Putin’s visit to the EU in this half-year is not planned, said two people close to the foreign Ministry and the presidential administration. One of them said that someone from the European leaders can visit in June the St. Petersburg international economic forum where Putin will take part.

Again to Athos

The invitation to visit Greece Putin told the country’s President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who visited Moscow in January. The President then formally launched the cross-year of Russia and Greece.

In Greece, the Russian leader has not been since 2007. Then Putin visited to participate in a trilateral meeting with Prime Ministers of Greece and Bulgaria, they signed an agreement on cooperation in building and operating the TRANS-Balkan oil pipeline Burgas–Alexandroupolis.

In 2005, the Russian President was in Greece, but not in Athens: first, he held talks with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Galini Villa in Halkidiki, and the next day visited Athos.

“Russian newspaper” reported on may 16 that Putin during the visit, going again to visit mount Athos.

At the end of may of Greece, intends to visit Patriarch Kirill will make pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain, the website of the Patriarchate. The visit is scheduled among the festivities dedicated to the 1000th anniversary of the Russian presence on Mount Athos.

That the President and the Patriarch will pay a visit to Athos and reports the channel “Tsargrad”, the chief editor of which, Alexander Dugin, the Greek border guards after several hours of detention passed in the country.

The interlocutors familiar with the process of preparation of the visit indicated that the program is still being worked out.

“The Russian map”

Prime Minister of Greece, on the contrary, a frequent guest in Russia. Last year Alexis Tsipras was twice in Russia visited St. Petersburg international economic forum in June, and in April was in Moscow. Last year Putin and Tsipras spoke six times by phone.

Overall, since coming to power in January 2015, the Greek party SYRIZA, relations between Moscow and Athens is noticeably warmer. During those six years the Western media has repeatedly called Greece one of the main opponents of sanctions against Russia. A few days after the victory of SYRIZA became known that intelligence services of NATO are studying a possible link to the Kremlin with the new government of Greece.

Despite such doubts of Brussels in the direction of Greek politics, Athens is stably supported by the extension of sanctions against Russia at EU summits. As explained by Yuri Kvashnin, head of the research sector of the European Union, IMEMO ran, seeming “inconsistency” of the actions of the government of SYRIZA has some explanations. On the one hand, Athens play “the Russian card”, flirting with the Kremlin to show its importance for Brussels and, probably, to persuade him to a more liberal course in regard to the debt problem. Parallel to this, in practice Greece defiantly supports a common European position.

The second factor is political. Traditionally, the Greeks have a positive attitude towards Russia, despite diplomaticheskii crises and other circumstances. In 2015, according to Gallup, 35% of Greeks have a positive view towards Russia’s leadership (vs 23% in relation to the EU authorities). In the summer of 2014, estimated by Pew Research, 61% of the inhabitants of Greece had a warm attitude towards Russia as a whole, which is much higher than in other EU countries.

For the Greek opposition normal practice is populist game prorossyiskih relations, says Kvashnin. Having come to power, these parties begin to pursue a more moderate foreign policy — is no exception and SYRIZA Alexis Tsipras.

On the other hand, the priority of Athens remains the normalization of relations with Moscow. About a month ago and said President Pavlopoulos, noting that “Russia has many allies within the EU”. It is in this context Athens to resume the practice of bilateral meetings and exchange of visits at the highest level, says Kvashnin. According to him, the peak of Russian-Greek relations occurred in the reign of Costas Karamanlis in the mid 2000-ies, when Greece was a strategic partner of Moscow — in particular, and on military-technical partnership. Subsequently, a severe crisis and frequent change of the ruling party led to the freezing of relations. Their restoration and maintenance is now the responsibility of the government of SYRIZA.

The decline of trade

According to the FCS of Russia, in 2015 the trade turnover between the countries fell by 34% to $2.8 billion, Over 90% of this amount, the export from Russia to Greece reduced by 31%. Russia imports in Greece mainly minerals, and exports the vehicles, medicines and aluminum products. Leading up to 2014, the category of imports from Greece — agricultural products — have disappeared because of the food counter-sanctions of the Kremlin.