No Putin Bounce: Russia Slams Greece-FYROM Name Deal

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FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Despite soothing words and mutual back-slapping that a row is over after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ visit to Moscow, Russia reiterated its unhappiness over a deal he reached with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) that opens the door to NATO.

Greece earlier this year ejected two Russian diplomats accused of trying to undermine the agreement the anti-nationalist Tsipras reached that is opposed by more than 62 percent of Greeks and his own Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, leader of the tiny, pro-austerity, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) who are the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA’s partner.

Russia said the United States pressured Greece and FYROM to settle a 27-year-old name dispute that would change the country’s name to North Macedonia so NATO could have a new member as a bulwark against Moscow’s interests in the Balkans.

With Tsipras and Putin having just now said the flap was behind them, Russia now said the deal is “inadequate,” although it wouldn’t go so far as to try to veto the agreement when it comes before the United Nations Security Council where it is a permanent member.

In a visit to FYROM’s capital Skopje this week, US Assistant Secretary of State John Sullivan praised Tsipras and FYROM Premier  Zoran Zaev after saying Russia had tried to scuttle the The Russian Foreign Ministry accused the US of anti-Russian rhetoric, saying Washington is trying to justify its “unjustifiable interference” in FYROM's domestic affairs and legitimize “the inadequate Prespes Agreement” in order to lead another Balkan country to NATO.

That was in reference to Lake Prespes, which borders Greece and FYROM and where the agreement was signed with great fanfare. It has been okayed in FYROM but not in Greece and Kammenos said he would his party’s seven members vote against it and would take ANEL out of the coalition - but then said he wouldn’t, leaving his stance up in the air.