The instinct of Westerners is to react negatively to recent news of a Greek-Russian natural gas deal that would allow the so-called Turkish Stream pipeline to eventually transport natural gas through Greece into Europe. The West and Russia are, after all, in a standoff over the Ukraine Crisis. Meanwhile, it appears the primarily motivation behind the Greek decision is wishful thinking and weak progress on efforts to ease a eurozone funded bailout amid an impending collapse of the Greek economy.
Even with the Ukraine Crisis, bypassing Ukraine and rerouting gas supplies through politically troubled NATO member Turkey is a risky gamble for the Russians and Greeks. Not only is there a risk the pipeline might not be build and Greece might default on a potential Russian “advance,” thus further hindering the Greek economy should the deal fall through, the deal puts a wedge between Greece and the rest of Europe. It is important to note experts doubt the Turkish Stream pipeline is even commercially viable. Meanwhile, it provokes a conflict of interest between Turkey and the rest of NATO, which is certain to result in further backlash against Russia.
The business success of the Greek deal is, however, likely second to the political statements being made. The Putin government saw Western deal making with Ukraine as a threat, even as Russian economic ties to the West grew closer. In turn, the Russians appear to believe Westerners see Russian negotiations with Greece in a similar light. In many respect, they are correct. The truth is that Westerners are uncomfortable with Greece making deals with Russia. In fact, there is currently great opposition to such dealings.
That said, the West is not necessarily being hypocritical, even though this how the Russians likely frame the situation. Westerners have long cast suspicion on Russia, often treating it as an enemy rather than a post-Cold War ally. The reason Westerners are reacting to this particular deal at this particular time, however, is due to the ongoing Ukraine Crisis. For the Netherlands in particular, Moscow’s support of the pro-Russian separatists is tantamount to aiding in the murder of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 victims. Greek cooperation with Russia, in turn, sends a very chilling message.
On the other hand, NATO is not going to invade Greece over the gas deal in this or in any other circumstance. Russia used economic and political intimidation to dissuade former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych from pursing closer relations with the West then used military force to punish the Ukrainian People for rejecting Russia’s interference. Part of the Putin government justification for these actions is the Russian view that the West does the same thing. Frankly, the West may be very uncomfortable with the gas deal and has engaged in counterproductive, hypocritical policies at times, but the West is not going to treat Greece the way Putin has been mistreating Ukraine.
Due to the Ukraine Crisis, the West is likely going to grow increasingly distant to Greek over their dealings with the Russian government. Where the Greek People may experience the eurozone bailout provisions as oppression, which they are crushing the Greek People, the EU’s willingness to prop up the Greek economy is a gesture of goodwill and economic necessity rooted in economic relations embraced to help better the lives of all Europeans. Through its cooperation with Russia during this time of conflict, however, the Greeks are offending their benefactors. Eventually, this will exhaust the goodwill of eurozone nations.
When the US distances itself from other nations, which essentially isolates them from the global economy due to the influence of the US economy, it does so, because it does not want to support behavior, policies, and ideologies that the American People find unacceptable. Under normal circumstances, any uneasiness over the Greek-Russian gas deal would never be manifested in policy nor world it dominate coverage of the news. The deal would likely be seen as a win-win. The Ukraine Crisis makes it a problem for Greece. For Russia, Putin and his comrades should closely consider what the Ukraine-Greek analogy actually says about its behavior.
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