With Greece digging around in the couch cushions to try and scrape up €2 billion by Friday in order to make payments to the IMF, the ECB, and Goldman, and with celebrity FinMin Yanis Varoufakis doing his absolute best to sink the entire ship with a series of epic PR faux pas, one is left to wonder just where Athens will turn when Berlin and Brussels finally reach the end of their ropes with what increasingly looks like gross incompetence in the Aegean. We may have gotten the answer to that question today via Reuters:
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will visit Moscow on April 8 after being invited to talks by Russian President Vladimir Putin, a Greek government official said on Tuesday.
Greece's government has previously said Putin had invited Tsipras to visit Moscow on May 9 and it was not immediately clear if that trip had been changed. It would be Tsipras's first official visit to Moscow since being elected in January.
There you have it. As Syriza faces the unenviable proposition of either completely giving up on its campaign promises or plunging the Greek economy and banking system into a drachma death spiral, it appears as though Athens is playing the one card it has left, which is threatening to effectively surrender itself to the Kremlin. As Reuters notes, this wouldn’t be the first time Greece has (maybe) inadvertently created speculation around the possibility that Moscow could end up being the White (or Red) Knight:
Tsipras's left-wing government ruffled feathers among European partners in its initial days in power with comments suggesting Greece might not support EU policy on Russia.
That prompted speculation that Greece might look to Moscow for financial aid to stave off bankruptcy, though Athens rejects the idea.
It’s also worth noting that Tsipras is calling for a high level huddle with Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, and Mario Draghi on the sidelines of this week’s EU summit. Here’s Reuters again:
The Greek official said Tsipras had personally made his appeal for a meeting this week in a phone call to Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, who organizes EU summitsand coordinates business between the EU's 28 national governments.
Tusk's spokesman Preben Aamann confirmed on Tuesday that Tusk was in contact with Tsipras and other EU leaders about organizing a meeting on the margins of the summit.
Merkel spoke with Tsipras on Monday amid simmering tensions between Berlin and Athens over his government's economic plans and invited him for talks in the German capital on March 23.
At that meeting Tsipras plans to reiterate Greece's commitment to implementing reforms and to raise Athens' cash problems, the Greek government spokesman said.
In other words, the Greek PM may be employing the always effective “negotiate or I might talk to Putin” ruse in order to secure some leverage at a time when Germany and France are already under pressure to deal more forcefully with the Russian presence in Ukraine. This is all made especially ironic by the fact that Tsipras is now “borrowing” from the public purse in order to pay back the IMF who will promptly channel the funds to bailout Kiev.
Oh, the geopolitical ironies.