Europe in sight: what message Putin delivered in Greece

The working part of the visit took place in Athens, where Putin met not just with the ruling by the country’s President Prokopis pavlopoulos and the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras but also with the leader of the opposition party “New democracy” Kiryakoza the Mitsotakis.

Saturday, the President of Russia held on mount Athos, where, together with Patriarch Kirill took part in the events dedicated to the 1000th anniversary of Russian monasticism.

A community without money

Vladimir Putin arrived in Greece for the first time since 2007. Despite a break in visits, relations between Moscow and Athens have actively supported. After the annexation of Crimea to Russia and the start of the conflict in the East of Ukraine guide of Greece is one of the main partners of Moscow in the European Union (Greece is a EU member since 1981 and NATO since 1952). The current Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras last year twice visited Russia: in April visited the Kremlin, and in June arrived at the St. Petersburg international economic forum. In January of this year in Moscow, Putin with the President of Greece Pavlopoulos opened cross Year of Russia and Greece.

Trip Tsipras to Moscow provoked questions from the media about whether he is a Trojan horse for the EU. “This question would be fair if I came to Athens,” retorted Putin last year. Tsipras defended their right to multilateral foreign policy.

On Friday in Athens, Tsipras also told the Russian President that his country had made a “strategic choice in favor of strengthening ties with Russia, because we have a historically close religious and spiritual ties”. But economic cooperation does not meet the high spirit, acknowledged the two leaders.

The trade has been declining since 2013. In 2014, he made $4.17 billion, having decreased during the year by 39%. Last year the trade turnover has decreased by 34% to $2.7 billion, Putin gave the figures at a joint press conference.

The Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov reduction in trade volumes was explained by the introduction of mutual sanctions, currency fluctuations. On Wednesday at a briefing in Moscow, he pointed to the fact that Russia will not cancel its decision on the embargo for any country of the EU. In the end Tsipras at a press conference, admitted that his country is interested in supplies of agricultural products to Russia, but it can be done through the creation of joint ventures.

To help intensify economic cooperation needs programme of action, which was signed during the visit. To discuss the situation in the economy and to find projects should be an intergovernmental Commission, which will meet in autumn in Thessaloniki, said Putin at a press conference.

While, according to Putin, only grows tourism. This year Greece was visited by about a million Russian tourists, if properly and promptly resolved the issue with the visas, “can be three times more,” estimated Russian President. The interest in Greece is dictated by the closure of the Russians for traditional vacation spots Turkey and Egypt, he explained.

The Embassy of Greece since the beginning of the tourist season for several times could not cope with the flow of visas. To deal with the situation should the Deputy foreign Minister of Greece, who will arrive in Moscow, said Tsipras.

The only trade agreement that was signed during the visit was the agreement “Rosneft” company Hellenic Petroleum SA on the terms of oil supplies.

Besides him, were signed in a variety of mostly declarations of intent, therefore, what specific projects could be implemented in reality, is not clear. But in Russia it often happens that newsworthy generate demand for various services and stuffing the idea that Greece is now the major tourist destination, many might be perceived as a call to action, suggests Sergey Utkin from the Centre for situation analysis, Russian Academy of Sciences. The development of economic cooperation between the two countries even in terms of sanctions and economic difficulties it is possible, the expert believes.

The Athens tribune

Negotiations were held in Athens in a friendly manner and a good atmosphere, said Putin. Were satisfied and the members of the delegation. The President of “Rosneft” Igor Sechin joked with journalists before the press conference, offering a prize to the one who will quote the first line of the Iliad. Presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said that during interviews walked around the policy issues of bilateral cooperation.

The theme of missile defense, which Putin started the press conference, according to Ushakov, at negotiations was not discussed. But it was she who caused the most stringent review of the Russian leader.

Answering the first question raised about the relationship of economic development projects with the security system in Europe, Putin said that the commissioning position area US missile defense in Romania on this cooperation is reflected negatively. “We will be forced now to respond appropriately. And if yesterday still part of the territory of Romania just didn’t know what it’s like to be under the gun, today we will have to perform certain actions that will ensure our safety! < … > the same thing will happen in Poland”, — Putin warned.

He acknowledged that Russia repeats these words like a mantra” since the beginning of 2000-ies, however, it is still “nobody’s listening”. “The whole world has seen our capabilities and missile medium range sea and air-based. We’re not breaking any laws, but ground up to 500 km “Iskander” is also brilliantly established”, — told about the response of the Russian President.

All that Putin had said before, Friday’s statement was most likely done intentionally, it in the logic of the Russian leadership, which believes that in this way may force the West to reckon with its interests, said Utkin.

Nothing new in Putin’s rhetoric, no, this position is known good, I agree the political scientist Yevgeny Minchenko.

In response to Putin’s threats by the Minister of foreign Affairs of Poland Witold Waszczykowski on duty said that nothing does not threaten Russia: “This system is to protect Europe from missile attacks from the Middle East”. He stressed that the US military presence and international forces of NATO is a response to “very aggressive behavior and threats from Russian authorities.”

Also rigidly Putin spoke about energy projects with the European Union. “We need a preliminary guarantee, just talking about the fact that it is of great mutual interest, we will not buy and money spent on this will not” — he called the condition of future energy projects, Recalling the fate of the project “South stream”, from which Moscow has refused, so as not received the consent of the European Commission, though work has already begun.

Meeting with the opposition

In the negotiations with the leader of the opposition party “New democracy Mitsotakis Kyriakos by Putin chose to emphasize the common ground of the ruling coalition and the opposition: “In Russia and Greece, the question of the development of our intergovernmental relations adopted a supra-political character and does not depend on the current political situation”.

Meeting with opposition leader Lukyanov calls the transfer of Western practices. The Russian authorities are often criticized for the lack of contacts with the opposition, he says.

During his trips abroad the President of Russia doesn’t usually meet opposition politicians of the host country. However, completely from dialogue with critics of the authorities of Moscow will not refuse. This year Putin in Moscow met with Prime Minister of Bavaria Horst Seehofer, who heads the Christian social Union, which is in coalition with the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, but criticising her. Last year Putin meets with Nicolas Sarkozy, a likely rival of the incumbent President of France Francois Hollande in the elections of 2017.

The Role Of Greece

Tsipras, commenting on Putin’s statements on missile defense, energy projects, and the Ukraine, all the time stressed his country’s readiness to become a bridge between Russia and the European Union. “Our role, of course, <…> it is to contribute, in order to have smoothed the sharp corners of the opposites and to find a basis for rapprochement between the EU and Russia,” said Tsipras on the question of how Greece will vote on the issue of extending sanctions of the EU against Russia.

Sanctions, Putin assured, at negotiations was not discussed, and Greece from Moscow not much waiting. “We understand the world in which we live, and Greece herself is in a difficult situation <…> And we don’t expect from Greece committing deeds of Hercules, and it is unlikely Greece will be able to clean up the Augean stables of the European bureaucracy”, — said Putin of the ability of Athens.

Putin’s harsh remarks, made in Athens, is unlikely to weaken the position of Tsipras to the EU, and so not very durable, also the atmosphere in the EU is changing — many are starting to understand that with the sharp confrontation must be ended, says Lukyanov. Symbolism in the fact that the tough statements Putin has made, while in the EU, no, said Lukyanov.

“Bear, no one will not ask permission”

Since 2007 Vladimir Putin has repeatedly called his statements a heated debate abroad. Often his remarks were perceived in the West as a threat

“Munich speech”

The speech of Vladimir Putin at the Munich conference on security policy in February 2007 was seen as the strong statement of the leader of Russia since the cold war. The main theses of Putin was to ensure that the system of law of the United States “has overstepped its national borders in all spheres — in economy, in politics and in the humanitarian sector and imposed on other States”, while in violation of the promises made even to the Soviet leaders, NATO continues to expand and operates beyond its traditional boundaries. Russia, in turn, according to Putin, “is almost always <…> had the privilege to conduct independent foreign policy” and is not going to change this tradition today”.

Output from the CFE Treaty

During his address to the Federal Assembly in April 2007 that Vladimir Putin first threatened to withdraw from the Treaty on conventional armed forces in Europe (CFE). According to the agreement in 1990, the countries — members of NATO on the one hand and the participating countries of the Warsaw Pact on the other were to have an equal number of conventional weapons and military equipment. Due to the expansion of NATO after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the increase in the number of vehicles of the countries of the bloc, Russia was considered parity is broken. It turns out, “on our own territory, we are limited in the matters of deployment of the armed forces,” said Putin to legislators. “With difficulty, hardly possible to imagine that, for example, the United States is limited on this basis the movement of troops on its own territory”, — he added.

Missiles at Ukraine

On the possible direction to Ukraine of nuclear weapons Vladimir Putin spoke for the first time after meeting with the President of the neighboring country in February 2008. “Imagine a city of our Russian-Ukrainian sea military glory of Sevastopol. And there is a NATO base. <…> The placement of the bases or the location of the position area of missile defence, located in Eastern Europe, we believe, have as their purpose the neutralization of our nuclear missile potential, which puts Russia before necessity of reciprocal actions. Not only to say, I shudder to think that Russia in response to such placement, the possible placement of such a positional areas, and theoretically it cannot be excluded that, on the Ukrainian territory will be aimed at Ukraine its missile system”, — Putin said.

The destruction of the United States

Answering questions of participants of the Valdai club about the relationship with the United States in November 2011, Putin said that recently I read a report about the attitude of ordinary Americans to Russia. The results contained in this survey, the majority still sees it as a country that can destroy USA in half an hour, Putin said. “First, it is much faster — quoted Prime Minister “Kommersant”. — And secondly, it is a pity that Americans still start thinking about Russia with this argument.”

“Valdai speech”

“Valdai speech, Putin had spoken in the fall of 2014 and devoted to criticism of American dominance, was perceived as a “second Munich”. Speaking about Kosovo referendum as a precedent of the Declaration of independence, Putin said: “I Want to tell you that the bear no one will not ask permission. Generally it is considered to have the owner of the taiga and is not going, I know this is exactly where some move to other climatic zones, where it uncomfortable. But taiga he would give her no one. I think it should be clear”.