Despite Rift, Kammenos Says Russia Still Key Greek Partner

October 31, 2018

The ejection of two Russian diplomats accused of trying to scuttle the anti-nationalist Radical Left SYRIZA’s deal to rename the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) doesn’t mean Greece doesn’t view Moscow as an ally, Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said.

He is the leader of the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) who are the junior coalition partner in the administration, who spoke after meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shogiu.

“I would like to say that Greece has had a strategic partnership with Russia for many years, while also using weapons systems produced by the Russian defense industry. We are maintaining them in working condition and would like to discuss ways in which we can continue our cooperation,” Kammenos said.

He opposed a deal that Greece’s anti-nationalist Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias made to rename FYROM as North Macedonia and remove a veto keeping the country out of NATO and opening the door to European Union accession talks and which would give away the name of the ancient abutting Greek province of Macedonia forever.

A clash between the two led to Kotzias quitting after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, needing ANEL’s seven votes to have a three-vote majority in Parliament, sided with Kammenos. The agreement Kotzias reached – with Tsipras’ consent – was brokered with the help of United Nations envoy Matthew Nimetz, an American lawyer who had failed for almost two decades to resolve the problem but resumed talks earlier this year after a three-year break amid speculation the US wanted to get what would be North Macedonia into NATO as a bulwark against Russian interests in the Balkans.

Shoigu said he wants to discuss the boosted presence of NATO contingents, in particular those of the US, in Greece with Kammenos wooing both Moscow and Washington, saying he’d like a bigger American military presence in Greece while buying Russian weapons.

“Today, NATO’s military activity has reached an unprecedented level since the Cold War. The intensity and the scale of operational and combat training have increased,” said Shoigu.

Shoigu also told Kammenos that the European Union and NATO should weigh the consequences of a US exit from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, warning it will entail “serious consequences” for Europe.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)


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