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Cablegate: Greek Mfa On Russia/Abkhazia and Greece/Russia

VZCZCXYZ0005
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTH #0217 0461652
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 151652Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY ATHENS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1217
INFO RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHSI/AMEMBASSY TBILISI PRIORITY 0397

C O N F I D E N T I A L ATHENS 000217

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/15/2018
TAGS: GR PGOV PREL GG RU KNAR
SUBJECT: GREEK MFA ON RUSSIA/ABKHAZIA AND GREECE/RUSSIA

REF: SECSTATE 14840

Classified By: A/POLCOUNS JEFF HOVENIER. REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D).

1. (C) SUMMARY: Greek MFA Russian affairs directorate chief
Ambassador Tsamados said Greece had seen little evidence
indicating Russia was serious about recognizing Abkhazia as
independent and had no interest in altering Soviet-era
borders. The GOG was not pleased by Putin's recent comments
comparing the situation in Kosovo with that in northern
Cyprus. On Greek-Russian relations overall, Tsamados said
they were not driven by ideological or cultural factors, such
as the common Orthodox heritage, but by pragmatism and
commerce, particularly energy pipelines. Putin's
authoritarianism was of concern, but Greece was not a
"Russian Trojan Horse." END SUMMARY.

ABKHAZIA
--------

2. (C) On February 15, DepPolCouns delivered reftel points on
possible Russian recognition of Abkhazia to MFA A5
Directorate for Russia and CIS Countries Director Ambassador
Nikolaos Tsamados, A5 First Counsellor for Georgian affairs
Stella Bezirtzoglou, and A5 Counsellor for Russia affairs
Elisabeth Fotiadou.

3. (C) Tsamados said his office had seen little evidence that
the Russians were seriously considering recognizing Abkhazia.
In fact, they had noticed an upswing in Russian-Georgian
relations. A UDI by Kosovo followed by recognition by
Western countries could complicate the situation, and Russia
might want to "throw some salt into the wounds."
Nevertheless, Tsamados believed any Russian noise on Kosovo
would represent nothing more than saber rattling since Russia
had little real interest in allowing alteration of old Soviet
borders. Any alteration of Soviet borders, he argued, could
set a precedent not only in Georgia but also for Chechnya,
Dagestan, Yakutia, and other autonomy-minded Russian
provinces.

4. (C) Tsamados said Athens took particular note of Putin's
comments comparing the declaration of independence for Kosovo
with a declaration of independence for northern Cyprus. Such
comments, he pointed out, did little to win Greeks over to
the Russian view.

GREECE-RUSSIA
-------------

5. (C) Tsamados also took the opportunity to discuss the
broader Greek-Russian relationship. He said the relationship
had little to do with ideology and was not really based on
the Orthodox religion, which often amounted to a common faith
dividing them. Greek-Russian relations, rather, were
"business-like" and focused on pragmatic commercial deals,
such as the pipelines. DepPolCouns noted that PM Karamanlis
had lately been speaking positively about the Russian South
Stream project but had not been as outspoken on the
Turkey-Greece-Italy (TGI) gas interconnector, which could
send investors a wrong signal. Tsamados and Fotiadou
retorted that TGI was already well on its way to completion
while South Stream was much earlier in the planning stages.

6. (C) They also characterized the recent Greek agreement to
purchase Russian BMP armored personnel carriers from Moscow
as driven by political factors surrounding PM Karamanlis's
December visit to Moscow -- "any high-level visit needs to
have some deliverables." It was also driven, in part, by the
Greek arms industry, which had been in serious decline
recently but would now participate in manufacturing the BMPs.

7. (C) DepPolCouns noted that the U.S. too wanted good,
business-like relations with Russia and welcomed good
Greek-Russian relations, but history demonstrated that an
increasingly authoritarian Russia was an increasingly
dangerous Russia, so commercial deals should be approached
with caution. Tsamados granted the logic of this argument
and said Putin's statements in his annual press conference
yesterday contained some particularly worrisome statements.
Nevertheless, Tsamados argued that Greece kept its national
interests front and center and was not concerned that it was
being drawn into a relationship that it could not control.
"We are not a Russian Trojan horse," he stated.

8. (C) Finally, Tsamados noted that Greece and Russia were
close to completing an agreement that would return Jewish
Thessaloniki archives stolen by the Germans and captured by
the Soviets at the end of WW II. He provided no further
details on the archives.
SPECKHARD

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