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Cablegate: Greek Pm in Moscow: Rhetoric (Apparently)

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTH #2375/01 3531401
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 191401Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY ATHENS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0926
INFO RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L ATHENS 002375

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/19/2017
TAGS: EFIN EINV ENRG EPET GR KPRV PGOV PREL RS
SUBJECT: GREEK PM IN MOSCOW: RHETORIC (APPARENTLY)
UNMATCHED BY DEEDS

Classified By: DCM THOMAS COUNTRYMAN. REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D).

1. (C) SUMMARY: During a December 17-18 visit to Moscow,
Greek PM Karamanlis signed with Russian President Putin and
Bulgarian President Parvanov an agreement establishing a
company to construct the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline
through Bulgaria and Greece. Press reports also indicate
Putin and Karamanlis discussed the South Stream gas pipeline,
though little headway was made toward agreement. Beyond the
energy talks, Karamanlis and Putin reportedly engaged on a
broad range of topics, including EU-Russia relations, the
Balkans, Cyprus, and defense cooperation. Embassy hopes to
get a readout from Karamanlis's office upon the delegation's
return from Moscow. END SUMMARY.

BURGAS-ALEXANDROUPOLIS
----------------------

2. (SBU) According to press reports, expanding energy
cooperation between Russia and Greece dominated talks during
the Greek Prime Minister's visit to Moscow December 17-18.
The visit gave a push to the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil
pipeline project as the three interested parties -- Greece,
Russia and Bulgaria -- signed a protocol for the
establishment of an international development company to
oversee construction in the first months of 2008. The Greek
press reported that Karamanlis said there were still steps to
be taken, but that this was a landmark indicating actual
implementation of the project was close. The Russian
President also characterized the signing of the protocol as
the penultimate step for constructing the pipeline.
Addressing an official dinner at the Kremlin before
concluding his visit, Karamanlis underscored the significance
of the protocol, which, beyond its economic significance,
"will constitute a very important step for achieving
international energy security." He furthermore noted that
Greece looked "forward to the mutually beneficial cooperation
of our two countries in other sectors as well, such as
natural gas."

SOUTH STREAM
------------

3. (SBU) Press reports indicated plans for the new South
Stream natural gas pipeline were also discussed, though it is
unclear whether headway was made toward a deal. In June,
Karamanlis announced Greece's involvement in South Stream,
which would bring Russian gas across the Black Sea to
Bulgaria and on to other European countries. The Greek Prime
Minister said in Moscow that discussions were still in
preliminary stages, admitting that more detailed plans needed
to be worked out. He announced that experts from both
countries would examine technical and economic details of the
project, aiming for another bilateral agreement. Putin, on
the other hand, linked the South Stream project with the
expansion of the Greek/Russian agreement on Russian natural
gas supply by saying that Athens was interested in doubling
its natural gas imports from Russia through the proposed
South Stream pipeline between 2016 and 2040. (NOTE: This
would mean that Greek consumption of Russian natural gas
would go from 2.8 bcm currently to up to 5.6 bcm in 2040.
Currently, Greece consumes 3.7 bcm of natural gas. END
NOTE.)

OTHER ISSUES
------------

4. (SBU) Beyond the energy talks, Karamanlis and Putin
reportedly engaged on a broad range of topics, including
EU-Russia relations, the Balkans, Cyprus, and defense
cooperation. During a joint press conference with
Karamanlis, Putin said they had discussed the situation in
the Balkans, particularly the "Kosovo problem," and the
Cyprus issue. Putin put particular stress on how Russia and
Greece might contribute to the promotion of international
stability. "In effect, what is on the agenda is the
important issue of what world order will be established for
many decades to come. Alongside other states, our countries
should make their weighty contribution to the development of
dialogue between civilizations, making the modern world more
just and democratic, and free from reliance on brute force
and blackmail," Putin said.

5. (SBU) In the defense field, Putin and Karamanlis agreed
that bilateral cooperation was rapidly developing in many
different directions, though they did not specify what such
cooperation might entail. (NOTE: Just before Karamanlis's
visit, the Greek supreme defense and foreign policy council
(KYSEA) announced Greece's intention to purchase several

hundred Russia BMP armored personnel carriers, which is the
first such major arms deal in many years. END NOTE) During
the press conference, Putin said Russia was willing to sell
Greece any system short of nuclear weapons.

6. (SBU) Karamanlis also spoke warmly of Greek-Russian
cooperation. He reportedly congratulated Putin on the recent
Duma election three times, a gesture the Greek press
highlighted as in direct contrast to most European leaders'
skepticism concerning the elections. When asked by a Russian
correspondent to comment on the reaction of "Brussels
bureaucrats" to the Greek PM's visit to Moscow, Karamanlis
said: "Greece is a European country and moves along within
European policies ... however, on the bilateral level
(policies) develop according to national interest. Our good
relations with Russia are to the benefit of my country and,
in the end, (to the benefit) of Europe."

VISIT TO THE RUSSIAN PATRIARCH
------------------------------

7. (SBU) Karamanlis also met with Patriarch Alexei II in a
highly symbolic protocol visit at the Danilovskii Monastery.
The Patriach welcomed the Greek PM with a warm address that
emphasized the excellent relations between the Churches of
Greece and Russia and expressed concern about the health of
Greek Archbishop Christodoulos, who is suffering from cancer.
Karamanlis thanked the Patriarch for his concern about
Archbishop Christodoulos and in turn emphasized that
"Orthodoxy is the most tested bridge of communication not
only between our two Churches but also between our two
peoples in our march to the future."

COMMENT
-------

8. (C) Karamanlis's moves toward Russia are viewed positively
by much of the Greek press and public, which attach
considerable value to the common Orthodox heritage and
leftist nostalgia. In signing the Burgas-Alexandroupolis
deal with the Russians and Bulgarians, Karamanlis is able to
make good on a legacy issue of strengthening Greece's
position as an energy-transit hub. He is also trying to
position himself as taking a "balanced" position between the
U.S. and Russia -- in contrast to what some Greeks believe is
the overly pro-American line of his Foreign Minister and
political competitor Dora Bakoyannis. Many Greek
foreign-policy and military officials and specialists,
however, are more skeptical and tell us they are wary Greece
is going down a risky path.

9. (C) We do not believe that Karamanlis's drawing closer to
Moscow represents a fundamental re-alignment in overall Greek
policy. But on certain specific issues, such as moving
toward signing a deal on the South Stream gas pipeline and
the obsequious congratulations to Putin on the recent Duma
elections, Karamanlis has taken positions that are not
helpful. Karamanlis evidently believes he can maintain a
balance in relations with Russia and the West. The danger,
however, is that, having drawn closer to Moscow on energy,
Athens may find itself under pressure to side with the
Russians on other issues, such as relations with Iran. We
have told the Greeks the U.S. has no problem with better
Greek-Russian ties. At the same time, we continue to ask how
Greece can reconcile its support for the Turkey-Greece-Italy
gas inter-connector with the competing South Stream project
-- a question to which we have yet to receive an adequate
reply.
SPECKHARD

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