Mark Collins – After Grexit? Putin the Orthodox? Xi the Moneybags?

Should bailout negotiations fall apart there may be some serious opportunities for a couple of, er, adversarial states–with serious implications for both the EU and NATO.  Two pieces at Foreign Policy:1) The Bear:

Putin Lurks on the Sidelines as Greek Economic Crisis Heads Down to the Wire

in the background, hoping to exploit a geopolitical opening, waits Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Russian leader — who spoke with Tsipras by phone Monday — has hinted that he would welcome Athens into his warm embrace if it were to exit the eurozone and perhaps the EU itself. He has talked of building a new Russian natural gas pipeline through Greece that would help Athens service its debt by generating revenue for the Greek government and creating jobs. Moscow and Athens have also considered that Russian firms would participate in the privatization of some Greek industry.

Tsipras has at least tried to reciprocate Putin’s overtures…

European leaders are well-aware that Greece represents an attractive target for Putin because of its membership in both NATO and the EU. Influence within the military alliance and the sanctions decision-making bodies of the EU would be a great prize for the Russian leader...[as for Orthodoxy, scroll down here: “
Putin emphasises Russia’s thousand-year-old ties with the Greek Orthodox Church which brought Christianity first to Ukraine, then Russia itself. In 1947…]

2) The Dragon:

Could China Save Greece from Financial Ruin?

One nation that does have the capital to rescue Greece is China. With some $4 trillion in hard currency reserves, and $21 trillion in savings, China undoubtedly has the resources to bail out Greece. Moreover, the Chinese appear intent on expanding their financial role. China loaned some $22 billion to Latin America in 2014, more than the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank combined [see “China Buying Brazil, or, What Monroe Doctrine?“]…

…In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the creation of both an overland Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which will connect China by land and sea to Europe. This so-called “One Belt, One Road” initiative will be funded by a dedicated $40 billion Silk Road fund as well as potentially by the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which has been formally ratified by Asian and European members [see also: “The Bear, the Dragon and Eurasia“].

China has expressed some interest in having Greece serve as the western terminus of the “One Road, One Belt” effort of fostering trade among China, the Central Asian states, and Europe. Last year, Chinese and Greek leaders initialed contracts totaling some $5 billion, centered on the port of Piraeus. As with all reports of Chinese foreign investment, these figures represent more ideals and aspirations, rather than actual expenditures. However, they do reflect a longer-term Chinese interest in establishing a presence in the eastern Mediterranean...

…Whether the West, and especially the United States, likes it or not, China has the ability to financially influence and even determine developments globally…[But note recent economic woes: “China stocks fall again despite support measures”.]

Just a thought: might Russia and China collaborate to some extent to undermine Western predominance in Greece?  Hmm.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


4 thoughts on “Mark Collins – After Grexit? Putin the Orthodox? Xi the Moneybags?”

  1. George Petrolekas picks up on the theme:

    The nightmare scenario is one in which Greece not only lets go of its European institutional anchors but attaches itself to Russia – a nation Greece empathizes with deeply because of religion and history. Russia may be struggling economically, but any aid in that scenario would be warmly received in Greece. EU or, more importantly, NATO initiatives seeking increased sanctions against Russia for its actions in Ukraine would not be supported in a post-exit Greece. Immediately after Syriza’s election, Alexis Tsipras asked how the EU could be considering sanctions when Greece had not been consulted.

    In the 66-year history of NATO, the No. 1 source of vetoes has been over Greek-Turkish relations. The alliance cannot use any of its extensive plans and contingency forces unless there is unanimity or consensus. NATO’s new rapid reaction force – deployable within days to counter fears of Russian actions in Eastern Europe – cannot deploy without consensus political approval of the NATO constituent states; it becomes a paper tiger.

    If Russia has little cash, the Chinese do. One effect of sanctions against Russia was much deeper co-operation between Russia and China. Restrictions on Russian energy growth westward resulted in a massive energy deal with China and Xi Jinping featured prominently at the Russian Victory Day parade in May.

    China’s long-term maritime strategy seeks to secure its energy and trade lines of communication through investments in port facilities – the so-called “string of pearls” – while increasing the reach of its navy from coastal waters all the way to the Suez Canal.

    The Mediterranean also features in its vision. The importance of the Mediterranean became obvious to China during the Libyan intervention. Greece became the epicentre of Chinese operations, with the Chinese military attaché in Athens conducting an evacuation of 45,000 Chinese nationals using Greek shipping. With Greece having to sell off assets such as the Port of Piraeus, it makes sense that Chinese investment would be facilitated…’

    Mark Collins

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