LastPoint.gr – Dec. 19, 2019
Recent developments in the Mediterranean bring to the fore the planned visit of the US Secretary of State to Athens last October to meet with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the new Greek Foreign Minister, so it is useful to clear some points. This visit was seen by some as a compensation for the cancellation of Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ meeting with Donald Trump in New York, due to tensions then prevailing in Congress and the impeachment against the US president. However, the reality is different.
The visit was not intended to cover Trump, nor send a message of US support to the Greek government in the face of increased Turkish aggression in the Eastern Mediterranean. It also did not aim to support Athens in the face of the ongoing refugee crisis of March 2016 or to alleviate the Greek government’s fears of Ankara’s threats to open the gates to millions of people and strangle Europe through Greece. This visit was to impose American interests and the American vision on Athens in three areas: political, military and economic.
The political file
Throughout the five-year-long Greek rule by SYRIZA, considered a left-wing party clearly close to communist ideology, the political, economic and military atmosphere between Athens and Washington confirmed, without doubt, that former prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was obedient to the end to US demands. In the Ukrainian crisis, the Tsipras government rushed to take the US side against Russia. It also chose to clash with Greek people and Greek history by signing an agreement with the government of Skopje, although Alexis Tsipras himself knew that this agreement would ruin his chances of being re-elected in the government elections, a fact confirmed by the numbers. The deal came in the context of fulfilling the American vision of wanting Eastern European countries to join NATO and put more economic and military pressure on Moscow.
These sensitive steps of Tsipras have made Greece a a lucrative partner of the US government. Thus, Pompeo’s visit sought to ensure that the new Greek government would continue to follow the same political course that is consistent with Washington’s global and European vision and in other sensitive archives such as Ukraine, the Russian-Turkish pipeline, Syria and the US sanctions on Iran.
The military file
In recent years, under the leadership of SYRIZA, the Greek government has signed a series of military agreements with the US Department of Defense, including contracts to upgrade the Greek Air Force’s F-16 aircrafts for approximately $1.5 billion, as well as new military agreements that give the US military the green light to build three new military bases within Greek geography with the potential to increase their number to five. In this area, as well, Pompeo’s visit was intended to ensure that Athens continues the same approach, is open to wider military co-operation with Washington, and fulfills the previous government’s promises of new US military bases.
The financial file
It was the most important part of the US Secretary of State’s visit to Athens. Greek and US officials’ statements on the previous issues were an attempt to cover up the main reason for this visit, which was gas in the Eastern Mediterranean.
An invisible war is underway between energy companies to control natural gas fields. Meanwhile, the government of Nicosia has signed an agreement with the Russian company Rosneft for gas research worth $9.3 billion. The Russian company has also recently begun talks with the Cypriot government in an effort to mediate with the Turkish government in resolving the recent crisis between the two countries over research in the Eastern Mediterranean.
This is not the first time Rosneft has played a role in an international crisis. It also did so with the tension between Ankara and the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq at the end of 2017, where it acted as a mediator on the issue of the transportation of Kurdish oil through Turkish territory. Rosneft continues to play an important role in other countries such as Venezuela and Libya.
Mike Pompeo, therefore, wanted to send a direct message to Nicosia via Athens that Washington disagrees with any mediation between Ankara and Nicosia, especially if it comes from Moscow and its representatives. The confirmation of this view was the visit of Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias to Nicosia, the day after the end of Pompeo’s visit to Athens.
After five months of governing the country by Nea Demokratia, we can say that the course of Greek foreign policy is not much different from that of Alexis Tsipras. Full compliance with the dictates of Washington and European leaders continues. The new government’s actions on Turkish escalation prove that it has no real plan to deal with the gas crisis but for the overall resolution of the Cyprus crisis. If we remember the way the Iranian tanker was the Iranian tanker was handled, the avoidance of condemnation of the Iranian attack on Aramco’s facilities in Saudi Arabia and the Greek stance on the issue of northern Syria, we see the absence of a plan that will restore Athens as an important player on the European continent and the world.