June 22, 2015
With all the fuss and furore over Greek’s possible bankruptcy, it has gone largely unnoticed that Alexis Tsipras, the country’s prime minister, seems to have switched his stance on sanctions against Russia.
This morning, as expected, European Union foreign ministers in Luxembourg agreed to extend the economic measures to 2016.
The sanctions were brought in to punish Russia for the annexation of Crimea and target banks, military and energy companies, and associates of Vladimir Putin. They are also aimed at forcing the Kremlin to comply with the Minsk Ceasefire Agreement.
In April, Tsipras met Putin in Moscow and called on the EU to end the sanctions, warning they could lead to a new cold war.
The visit raised fears that penniless Greece, which was hoping to extend Russian bailout loans, was breaking EU unity over Ukraine.
But despite all the rhetoric, Tsipras toed the line when it came to the crunch. The sanctions have to be unanimously agreed by all leaders.
This morning ahead of an emergency summit on Greece in Brussels, the Greek nationalist paper Eleftheri Ora bore the headline: “Putin save Greece!” – Orthodox brother Vladimir, only you can help us now.”
Greek nationalist paper Eleftheri Ora headline: “Putin save Greece!” – ‘Orthodox brother Vladimir, only you can help us now.’ #Greece
— Nina Schick (@NinaDSchick) June 22, 2015
It seems unlikely that Putin will look kindly on that request given the extension of the restrictive measures.
Or perhaps the fact that Tsipras isn’t prepared to use the sanctions as leverage, signals that Greece’s last minute proposals to prevent the default, stands a decent chance of being successful.
>>Read: EU welcomes 11th hour Greek proposal
Commission President Jean-Claude Junker’s typically affectionate greeting for Tsipras, giving him “big kisses”, also set tongues wagging about the possibility of a deal.
But the famously tactile Juncker also stressed a pact on Greece was “not there yet”.
Juncker and Tsipras kissed when he came out of the lift. For the press point it was just hugs pic.twitter.com/HbXM4e26AI
— Danny Kemp (@dannyctkemp) June 22, 2015
Tsipras is not alone among EU leaders in calling for an end to the Russia sanctions before ultimately backing them.
Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, and the leaders of the Czech and Slovak Republics have also criticised the sanctions, but agreed to continue them.
It’s almost as if their words were grandstanding designed to bring some short term political benefit…
All eyes now turn to today’s emergency summit, one of what feels like 100 judgment days for Greece.
— General Boles (@GeneralBoles) June 22, 2015
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Photo courtesy of the European Commission.Heard in Europe