Merkel-Hollande: Greece’s Turn to Russia a Sideshow


German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande view Greece’s overtures toward Russia as political theater and won’t be drawn into a debate on the matter, says a Bloomberg report.

The two country leaders are said to believe that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 8 are not likely to yield significant financial aid for Greece since Russia’s economy is not in good shape.

Greece’s geopolitical position as an ace in Tsipras’ sleeve in the negotiations with European creditors is a theory many political analysts embrace. However, three government officials who asked not to be identified, said that Merkel and Hollande believe the Greece-Russia overtures are a political bluff and not a geopolitical shift, Bloomberg says.

As Russia challenges the present European order and the European Union has imposed sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine issue, Greece’s flirt with Russia has generated scenarios that Athens is looking for new alliances. Ahead of Tsipras’ meeting with Putin next Wednesday, Greece’s ministers of energy and foreign affairs have visited Moscow for “renewing the friendship ties” between the two countries.

However, even though Merkel and Hollande watch developments closely, the German chancellor shrugs off the meeting between the two leaders.

“We were also in Moscow and we’re still members of the European Union and stand unified,” Merkel said during a joint press conference with Hollande in Berlin on Tuesday. The two visited Putin at the Kremlin in February to hold discussions over the conflict in Ukraine.

“We trust that the talks with the Russian leadership will be conducted in the spirit of our shared politics,” Michael Roth, Germany’s deputy minister for European affairs, said in an interview. “It’s not only advisable for Greece to remain in the euro economically speaking, but it’s also important from a European and foreign policy point of view.”

The French government views Tsipras’ actions as uneasiness stemming from the impasse in negotiations between Greece and its creditors. The Tsipras government seems to lack a consistent strategic plan, one official said.

In an interview published by Russian news service Tass on Tuesday, Tsipras “flirted” again with Russia by denouncing the EU sanctions on Russia calling them “senseless” and a “road to nowhere”, reiterating a past position.

“The fact that Greece is trying to play off Brussels against Moscow is unbelievably short-sighted,” said Judy Dempsey a researcher at the Carnegie Institute in Berlin. It “will make Tsipras’ relations within the euro zone even more difficult.”