Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was in Moscow Wednesday to meet with President Vladmir Putin, making him the latest EU leader unwilling to break ties with Russia during the exchange of sanctions with the country.
Greece has a massive debt of €324 billion, and over one billion of that is due to the IMF in coming weeks. Unfortunately, Greece’s economy is still suffering from their debt crisis, with their GDP down 20% and unemployment up to 25%, while one in three Greeks live at or below the poverty line. To make matters worse, EU sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis, along with Moscow’s reciprocal reaction has cut Greece off from its biggest trading partner. With agriculture alone, €178 million worth of products are no longer being shipped to Russia, which is hitting Greece hard while it is already down.
Thus, a key subject during talks with Putin are these sanctions, and whether exceptions can be made for individual EU states. It was also expected that Tsipras would ask for Russian aid in Greece’s payment obligations to its debtors, though it has since been confirmed that the topic was not discussed. Russia has expressed past interest in providing loans to the Greek government however, though its own hard times have put Moscow’s ability to do so in question. Nevertheless, the speculation alone alludes to fears over Putin exerting his influence over traditional allies in the European Union.
Each of the 28 member nations have veto power over any further sanctions on Russia, and Tsipras has already spoken out against them, calling it a “dead-end policy” and a “road to nowhere.” Furthermore, Putin has also recently met with the leaders of Cyprus and Hungary, while President Milos Zeman of the Czech Republic is expected to be the only EU leader to accept an invitation to Moscow’s Victory Day Parade on May 9th despite criticism from the US.
Putin may be arrogant and ruthless, but it is at least very clear that he is not stupid.