The anti-austerity coalition that took power in Athens this week could threaten the West’s hold on Greece and give Russia a chance to expand its influence in the country.
In a sign of things to come, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ new government said on Wednesday it opposed a European Union statement issued in Brussels a day earlier that condemned continued Russian aggression in Ukraine and opened the door to further sanctions.
“Greece doesn’t consent,” the government said in a statement.
Having been elected on a promise to put an end to austerity, Tsipras defied his European Union creditors a day after taking office by rolling back the privatization of Greece’s largest seaport and its public power utility. Both were supposed to be sold off under the terms of Greece’s bailouts.
Tsipras has spoken favorably of Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, in the past. His party opposed the European association treaty with Ukraine that triggered last year’s deterioration in East-West relations. Its pro-Russian orientation owes much to its rejection of the “neoliberal” project it calls the European Union.
Greece’s new foreign minister, Nikos Kotzias, advocates closer relations with Russia and has spoken out against a supposedly German-dominated Europe. A former communist, Kotzias praised the Polish government’s crackdown on the Solidarity movement in the 1980s, setting him up for an awkward encounter in Brussels. The current president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, started his political career as a Solidarity activist.
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