Co-authored by William Witenberg a contemporary artist focused on abstract painting
The headlines on the talks between Brussels and Athens on the 86 billion euro bailout of Greece seem to indicate nothing but problems. It appears that even before talks can begin, Greece is being asked to enact further laws. The blog of the Greece's former Finance Minister Yanis Vaoufakis is filled with nothing but criticism of the creditors.
Rather than the parties embracing the prospect of an agreement they seem to be entrenched in debates. In the meanwhile Athens stock market is opening this week for the first time in a month. There is little doubt that world's financial markets have expressed nervousness about the fate of Greece and the Euro. Next to the sharp fall in China's stock market, Greece is contributing the most to the international financial market concerns.
This drama unfolding in Europe replaced the situation in eastern Ukraine in the headlines. Despite the absence of headlines, relations between the West and Russia are not showing any signs of thawing. It is important to remember that Greece is a member of NATO. Not only is it part of NATO, but its military spending has been among the highest, as a percentage of GDP, of all of NATO members except the United States. Much of that is for pensions and personal expenses; which creditors are demanding to be reduced. The United Sates is operating a naval base on Crete. If the demanded cutbacks force Greece to not support that Naval base, it cannot help the military footprint of the United States.
Without a doubt Putin is watching the developments in these drawn out negotiations. After Greek voters rejected the terms of the EU, Putin called Prime Minister Tsipras to express Russian support for the Greek people. The Greek defense minister has labeled Russia a 'brother country" - a term few European defense ministers ever used to describe Russia. The importance of Greece as a member of NATO is clear. As military expert Robert Kaplan has stated...."Greece is the only part of the Balkans accessible on several seaboards to the Mediterranean, and is thus a crucial gateway to and from the West." Simply put NATO is not as powerful without Greece and during this time of Greece trouble it would not be surprising to see Putin become friendlier to Greece. While it is unlikely that Greece will leave NATO there is no doubt that Russia benefits from Greece's discomfort with its bailout. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former US security advisor has expressly stated that because "NATO is bound by the principal of unanimity"....a Greece that is friendly to Russia could "paralyze" NATO due to its veto power. Greece's membership in NATO in this time of
American and Russian renewed cold war is undoubtedly on the minds of all participants in the debt negotiation and clearly being watched very carefully by Putin. In the final analysis, it maybe that Greece's significance to NATO is the most powerful chip the Greeks have during these negotiations.