This amounts to a diplomatic hand grenade, lobbed directly at Brussels. EU sanctions against Russia will expire in March unless renewed by the unanimous decision of member states, giving Greece an effective veto. Amid a breakdown of the ceasefire in East Ukraine, and intensifying Western claims of Russian aggression, the US is exerting enormous pressure on “our European colleagues” to renew, and even tighten, sanctions against Russia. Has Syriza found the leverage it needs to secure serious debt-restructuring?
The question of Russian sanctions renewal will loom extremely large over the upcoming row over keeping Greece in the eurozone. Syriza has carefully laid the groundwork, voicing early support for the annexation of Crimea last March, then accusing the EU of “shooting itself in the foot” with sanctions and pointing to “neo-Nazis” within Ukraine’s Western-backed government.
Just before topping the Greek poll in European parliamentary elections last May, Syriza’s high command met in Moscow with pro-Putin politicians subject to EU travel bans. In September, Syriza’s MEPs voted against the European Parliament’s ratification of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. Then last week, Tspiras announced that his new defence secretary is the leader of Greek Independents, Panos Kammenos – who last year stated that his party “publicly supports President Putin and the Russian government who have protected our Orthodox brothers in Crimea”. Oh, and Syriza’s manifesto also calls for Greece to leave Nato.
Do they really have a veto over sanctions? If so, how much debt is that worth?