A beautiful new friendship appeared to blossom in Moscow today between two embattled leaders. Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras held his first official meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Both clearly hoped they might be able help each other in their time of need.
Putin wants to snag at least one “no” vote when the European Union meets this summer to consider renewing sanctions against Russia over Ukraine. The sanctions have to be approved unanimously, so one negative vote would terminate the measure and bring Russia some much needed economic relief.
In turn, Putin might, “give the Greeks a bundle of goodies,” says Athenian blogger John Psaropoulos.
But, analysts warn that Putin may have a tough time doling out large amounts of cash to Greece; the sanctions and the collapsing price of oil have taken their toll on the Kremlin’s finances.
Putin might reward the Greeks in other ways. He has imposed counter sanctions on a whole range of foodstuffs from the EU, an embargo that has cost Greek fruit growers $1 billion in exports a year. The Russian president could lift the ban on Greek produce. He could also give the Greeks a further discount on Russian oil and gas supplies.
But the Germans say these are paltry rewards when you consider what the Greeks are risking. By playing footsie with Putin, they are putting their whole relationship with the western world in jeopardy.
“What is it that Russia can offer to Greece that can compensate for falling out completely with Europe at large and the United States?” asks Heinz Schulte, a leading German commentator.
In Athens, Psaropoulos says that after six years of economic misery, Greeks no longer seem to care about upsetting their Western partners.
“There’s no feeling that in this marriage between Greece and the West, there’s a danger of breaking the wedding china because the wedding china has already been broken,” Psaropoulos says.
The question now is whether the rift will end in divorce, with Greece’s ejection from the eurozone.