ATHENS – Besieged by a series of crises – inflation, Turkish provocations, refugee pushback allegations, soaring energy costs and a spying scandal – Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he senses the hands of Russia and Turkey trying to undermine him.
Talking to his Cabinet, he made reference to a falling out with Russian President Vladimir Putin because of Greece’s support for Ukraine being invaded, and that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is working against him even more now.
“Mr. Putin does not hide it, but neither does Mr. Erdogan, who has publicly stated that he would like another government in Athens,” said a beleaguered Mitsotakis, media reports said.
There’s a lot on the Premier’s plate and he thinks it’s including Russian and Turkish foodstuffs that are tainted, Putin wanting to punish Greece and Erdogan wanting to pummel him politically, and get him out of the way.
While Russian energy has been exempted from European Union sanctions over the invasion, the costs for oil and gas are jumping and Putin has hinted he could lessen – or cut off – the flow for the coming winter.
That could leave Greeks, and Mitsotakis, in the cold and dark as he had called off any idea of snap elections, with the major rival SYRIZA snipping at his heels, and said he will take on all comers in 2023 elections.
Erdogan has taken a different tack after intimidating NATO, which has refused to intervene over repeated violations of Greek airspace by Turkish fighter jets, and the Turkish leader said he’ll send energy research vessels around Greek waters.
Erdogan, too, is facing a tough re-election fight in 2023 and Mitsotakis indicated that his foe – who hasn’t been talking to him since the Greek leader asked the US Congress to reject selling more F-16’s to Turkey – wants him defeated.
BLACK CLOUD RISING
Erdogan has become increasingly belligerent after saying that Mitsotakis “no longer exists” for him, demanding Greece take troops off islands near Turkey’s coast and claiming that Greek missile defenses locked on to Turkish jets taking part in a NATO exercise, denied by Greece.
Mitsotakis told his ministers that, “The international environment has dark clouds that foretell a black and difficult winter,” for Greek households and businesses and likely for him, caught in a Putin-Erdogan vise
“Russia is attacking Europe as a whole with the weapon of natural gas, the price of which has shot up 10 times,” he said, forcing his government to use big tourism revenues during the waning COVID-19 pandemic to subsidize electric bills for households – which are voters.
It said it was “an unprecedented threat to the entire West, a threat of a strategic nature, because everything indicates that Moscow is causing political instability within the countries that oppose its plans. It is interfering in the states that are defending peace.”
Greece and Russia have long been close Orthodox countries with some shared heritages, but the Ukraine invasion splintered that and in May led to Moscow ripping him for it, suggesting a deterioration in relations.
At the time, Russia’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, after Mitsotakis’ trip to Washington, said that Greece’s stance against Russia was “a show of faith in the orders imposed by the United States and NATO.”
Mitsotakis had told the US Congress that Putin “will not succeed … he must not succeed. Not only for the sake of Ukraine but also in order to send a message to all authoritarian leaders that historical revisionism and open acts of aggression that violate international law will not be tolerated.”
The Greek leader added that, “We took sides. Unequivocally. We stand by Ukraine against Putin’s aggression,” drawing the wrath of the Russian President and his withering glare now directed, apparently personally, at Mitsotakis.