‘Syriza Betrayal’: Greece-Russia Relations Ebb with Diplomat Expulsions

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Earlier in the day, the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Greece in Russia to report on the retaliatory measures taken by Moscow in response to Athens’ recent hostile actions.

A government source reported that the Greek Foreign Ministry is preparing an official statement on Russia’s retaliatory measures following the expulsion of its diplomats.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has imposed an entry ban on the head of the Political Cabinet of the Greek Foreign Ministry, a Greek government source has said. A representative of the Russian Embassy in Greece has also been summoned to the Greek Ministry to give clarification on the subject.

The climate with Moscow worsened after Athens decided to expel two Russian diplomats and impose a travel ban on two more for alleged illegal actions threatening the country’s national security.

Moscow rebutted all claims and promised to respond to the expulsions. Later, the Russian Foreign Ministry convened the Ambassador of Greece to Russia to submit a note informing him of retaliatory measures.

These hostile moves are a far cry from 2016 when special adviser to the Greek Prime Minister, Dimitris Velanis, in an interview with the Russian agency RIA Novosti, praised relations with Russia.

“We believe in the peaceful course of Russian foreign policy, we are grateful for the policy of friendship and partnership of the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, towards Greece,” he said back in November 2016.

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“Greece will never agree to play a cold war against Russia,” Velanis said then. At the same time, Velanis even praised Russia’s role in Syria.

“We know that Russia is bombing terrorists and not Syrian civilians, as some Western states claim. The statements that Russia is attacking civilians are 100% false. Western media do not show what is happening in reality, and apparently there is a propaganda machine working against Russia, but the Greek people understand everything,” the prime minister’s aide said.

Despite these positive relations as recent as 2016, and even 2017, Greece has followed suit with the United States and the United Kingdom who have accused Russia of meddling in presidential elections and committing chemical attacks respectively, without providing any evidence, in making allegations against Moscow.

The current administration headed by Syriza’s Alex Tsipras came into power in January 2015 with the promise of rolling back neo-liberalism in Greece and defying subservience to the European Union and NATO.

However, as the last several years have passed, Tsipras has proven to be another treacherous neo-liberal loyal to the EU and NATO, as well as the United States. It is therefore unsurprising that Greece is now the latest state to engage in accusation-flinging against Russia without providing an iota of evidence to support their claims.

It is worth noting that this goes against Greeks’ popular votes and sentiments, as the recent anti-Russia rhetoric and moves are not reflected among the majority of Greeks, who themselves often refer to the “Syriza betrayal” as they did not deliver on their election promises.

Moreover, in light of Greece’s officially 98% Orthodox population and widespread remembrance for Russian assistance in the country’s liberation war against the Ottoman Empire in 1821, the Greek people are by and large in solidarity with Russian policies, as strongly reflected in Velanis’ 2016 statements, despite their government’s turn. The unfolding “Greek-Russian dispute” should therefore be seen in the context of larger EU, NATO, and US geopolitical games to which Syriza has seemingly “defected.”

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