Moscow lures Athens with investments
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras agreed on closer cooperation at Wednesday's meeting, but financial help for the highly indebted euro state was not up for discussion. Some commentators explain this as Putin's desperate reaction to the EU's increasingly united stance. Others see the meeting as a clever move by the Kremlin chief aimed at easing EU sanctions.
Kremlin head unintententionally bolsters EU
Russia's President Vladimir Putin has unintentionally strengthened cohesion in the EU with his policy, the conservative daily Die Presse writes in view of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's visit to Moscow: "The more Putin has tried to weaken his European sparring partner, the more the latter has been strengthened. Because in reality despite his mastery at driving wedges in EU cracks he has been far less successful than he dreamed he would be. Moscow's attempt to prevent a common EU energy policy in the gas sector - so vitally important for Russia - by tempting certain countries with preferential treatment has achieved the opposite. ... The fact is that Moscow has now been forced to move its wedge-banging activities from the centre to the south-eastern edge of the EU. That is tantamount to an act of desperation. More than ever it is feeling the growing solidarity within the EU - particularly regarding the sanctions - first hand."
Putin's tactical masterpiece
Putin has been very astute in refraining from driving a further wedge into the EU with an announcement of financial help for Greece, the liberal business paper Il Sole 24 Ore comments: "Putin is above all interested in having Greece join the group of countries that are once again willing to cooperate with Moscow, like Cyprus and Hungary. His goal is to make this group as big as possible and ultimately have the sanctions lifted - the decision on prolonging them is slated for June. ... At the same time, however, he wants to renew the bonds with all the partners and markets that Moscow needs. The Russian president cleverly peppered his comments with quotes from Helmut Kohl and Charles de Gaulle, holding up the image of a Europe united from the Atlantic to the Ural. His goal: to present cooperation between Russia and Greece as benefiting the European population as a whole."
Populist duo wants to annoy Brussels
The Russian president and Greek prime minister both stand to gain from their meeting in Moscow, the left-liberal daily Süddeutsche Zeitung explains: "Putin and Tsipras both have a conflict with Brussels: Putin over the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in Donbass, and Tsipras over Greek debt. The two populist leaders are certainly not going to miss a chance to annoy Brussels and exert some pressure. Moreover the images of the visit are worth their weight in gold. They give the impression Russia isn't at all isolated and that Europe is so weak that its members come begging to Moscow. And just as underhand is the exception in the Russian embargo against European food products. All it does is drive in the wedge meant to disrupt EU unity on the issue of sanctions. And that is Putin's short-term goal."
Tsipras gambling for dangerously high stakes
By setting up a Moscow-Athens axis the Greek government aims to crank up the pressure on its EU partners, the conservative daily El Mundo comments, adding that this strategy could backfire: "With his threats to break with EU discipline on its sanctions against Moscow and his rhetoric stressing Greece's need to regain sovereignty in foreign policy, Tsipras is hoping to pressure the institutions of the old troika to give in. But by pulling the rope ever tighter in the tug of war with his European partners he risks breaking it, prompting them to turn off the artificial respiration that has kept the country going for years. The prospect of Greece leaving the EU has ceased to inspire fear on the markets because measures have been taken to mitigate the worst effects of such a scenario."