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Greece–Russia relations

Greece–Russia relations

Greece–Russia relations refers to the bilateral relationship between Greece and Russia and their predecessor states. Diplomatic relations between the Russian Empire and the Greek state were established in September 1828.[1] Both Greece and Russia are full members of some international organizations, including the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation. Greece is a member of NATO and the European Union.

Greece has an Embassy in Moscow, and three Consulates General: in Moscow,[2] in Saint Petersburg and in Novorossiysk. Russia has an embassy in Athens, and a Consulate General in Thessaloniki[3]

Greece-Russia relations





Pontic Greeks historically inhabited the northern coast of the Black Sea and Crimea, which were incorporated in the Russian Empire in the latter half of the 18th century.

Russia assisted the Greeks against the Ottoman rule prior to and during the Greek War of Independence that broke out in 1821. Ioannis Kapodistrias, the first Governor of the unrecognised Greek State (nominally from April 1827), had previously served as Russia′s foreign minister. The Russian Empire established diplomatic ties with the Greek State on 6 [N.S. 18] September 1828.[4]

The second queen of modern Greece was born Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia, granddaughter of Tsar Nicholas I.

The Kingdom of Greece and Russia fought on the same side during WWI against the Central Powers, and again later, during WWII, against the Axis.

From autumn of 1920, Soviet Russia, having concluded the friendship treaty with the Government of the Grand National Assembly in March 1921, went on to extend material assistance, both in gold and arms, to the Kemalist regime in Ankara, thus significantly contributing to the Kemalists′ military success in the war against the Greeks in Asia Minor,[5] where the genocide of native Greeks was completed as a result in 1922.

The USSR and the Kingdom of Greece established diplomatic relations on 8 March 1924.[4] Official relations were frosty in the 1930s, especially under the staunchly anti-Communist authoritarian regime of Greek prime minister Ioannis Metaxas. The Percentages agreement struck by Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill in Moscow in October 1944, which placed Greece firmly in the UK′s spheres of influence, led to the Soviet Union′s non-interference in support of the communist uprising in Athens in December 1944 that was crushed with the UK′s backing as well as to Stalin′s reluctance to render tangible assistance to the Greek Communists during the Civil War that they lost in October 1949.[6][7]

Most of the ethnic Greeks resident in Crimea as well as other regions near the Black Sea in the USSR were deported to eastern parts of the country in three waves of forced resettlement carried out in the 1940s. A significant number of Soviet Greeks, especially those resident in the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic and other Central Asian Soviet republics, emigrated to Greece in the late 1980s and early 1990s, shortly prior to the dissolution of the USSR.[8]

According to Western intelligence officials, Greece′s society and political establishment have been deeply penetrated by the USSR′s and later Russia′s espionage agencies.[9]

Diplomatic spat of 2018

In early July 2018, the government of Greece expelled two Russian diplomats and barred the entry of two others accusing them of undermining national security of Greece. The move was made public, which was seen by experts as unprecedented in the two countries′ relations.[10][11][12] Amidst the subsequent acrimonious exchange of official statements, Greece accused the Russian foreign ministry of "disrespect for a third country and a lack of understanding of today’s world, in which states, regardless of their size, are independent and can exercise an independent, multidimensional and democratic foreign policy".[13] Following Russia′s retaliatory move in early August, it was revealed Greece intended to recall its ambassador, Andreas Fryganas, who had been appointed in May 2016.[14][15][16][17]

The Greek foreign ministry′s statement of 10 August 2018 said: ″Since [Russia] began fighting as a comrade in arms with Turkey, providing it with a number of facilitations in the security sector, it appears to be steadily distancing itself from positions befitting the level of friendship and cooperation that has characterized Greek-Russian relations for the past 190 years. It appears not to understand that Greece has its own interests and criteria in international politics.″[18] The statement accused Russia of ″attempts to a) bribe state officials, b) undermine its foreign policy, and c) interfere in its internal affairs.″[18]

On 7 December 2018, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras went to Russia on a working visit, his first visit to Russia in three years.[19] After talks he had with Vladimir Putin, both leaders expressed hope that the spat between the two countries was in the past; bilateral agreements were signed, international issues such as the Cyprus dispute were discussed.[20][21][22][23] Alexis Tsipras said he had expressed to Putin his concern at Turkey buying advanced weapons, such as S-400 missile systems, from Russia.[24][25] Experts noted that Greece—Russia relations were not as they had been prior to the spat pointing to the growing importance of Greece′s strategic military ties with the U.S. in the situation where military cooperation between Russia and Turkey was in the ascendant.[26] On 13 December 2018, in Washington, D.C. Greece′ and the U.S.′ foreign ministers formally launched what they called "the inaugural U.S.-Greece Strategic Dialogue",[27][28] which Greek acting foreign minister Georgios Katrougalos characterised as ″a procedure that shows the upgrading of our relations with that country″[29] and ″the apex of our bilateral relations″.[30]

The Prespa agreement

Russia has been accused by Greece and other parties of having sought to thwart the Prespa agreement reached in June 2018 between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia meant to resolve the dispute over the latter's name and seen as removing the main obstacle for Macedonia’s accession to NATO.[31]

On 14 January 2019, Russia′s foreign ministry issued a commentary that referred to the agreement as the "Prespa deal" and stated that the decision by the parliament of Macedonia to change the country’s name had been imposed from outside and did not reflect the will of the people and came "with an aim of pulling Skopje into NATO as soon as possible"; the statement went on to cite "the recent developments in Greece — withdrawal from the government coalition of the Independent Greeks Party leader, Panos Kammenos, coming out against the Prespa accord" as evidence that stability and security in the Balkans was thus being undermined; the ministry suggested that "the issue must be considered by the UN Security Council in accordance with Article 3 of UN Security Council Resolution 845".[32][33] The Russian foreign mimistry′s statement on the Prespa agreement was condemned by Greece whose official statement concluded by saying as follows: "We express our certitude that Russia, which has for years recognized fYRoM as the 'Republic of Macedonia' will respect the sensibilities of the Greek people in using the name Macedonia and will henceforth refer to this country with its new constitutional name, i.e. 'North Macedonia', and most importantly that it will refrain from such statements, which constitute an intervention in Greece’s interior affairs."[34][35][36]

Military cooperation

President Vladimir Putin with former PM Costas Simitis in 2003

President Vladimir Putin with former PM Costas Simitis in 2003

Greece is one of the few pre-1990 NATO member countries (alongside Germany for a time) that makes extensive use of Russian weapons. Greece first received many Soviet-era surplus weapons, such as BMP-1 armoured fighting vehicles, RM-70 rocket launchers, ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft guns and SA-8 anti-aircraft missile systems from the former East German National People's Army inventory in the early 1990s. Since then, Greece has additionally procured the TOR M-1 and S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems (the latter originally destined for Cyprus), the Kornet-E anti-tank missile, AK-74M assault rifles and ZUBR hovercrafts. The militaries of both countries also participate in programmes of military cooperation in the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, as well as giving military support and training to countries that they have close relations with, such as Armenia, with Greece often accepting Armenian military officials in the Hellenic Military Academy.

Economic relations

Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipeline

The Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipeline was proposed in 1993–1994 by several Russian and Greek companies.[37] In 1994, for construction of the pipeline Greece and Bulgaria signed a bilateral agreement, followed by a memorandum of cooperation, signed by Greece and Russia.[38]

In February 1998, a Greek consortium for pipeline construction named Bapline was established, and in May 1998, a memorandum of creation of the Transbalkan Oil Pipeline Company was signed.[38] In 2000, a technical specifications and an economic evaluation of the project were prepared by the German company ILF.[37] A joint protocol for preparing the pipeline's construction was signed by the three countries in January 2005.[39]

The political memorandum between both governments was signed on 12 April 2005. An inter-governmental agreement on the project was agreed on 7 February 2007, and it was signed on 15 March 2007 in Athens, by the involved ministers of the three countries, under the presence of their leaders, Vladimir Putin (Russian president), Sergei Stanishev (Bulgarian prime-minister), and Kostas Karamanlis (prime-minister of Greece).[40][41]

The agreement establishing the international project company was signed in Moscow on 18 December 2007 and the company, called Trans-Balkan Pipeline B.V., was incorporated in the Netherlands on 6 February 2008.[42][43] Construction of the pipeline was scheduled to start in October 2009, and was estimated to be completed by 2011.[44] In 2011, the project was definitively terminated.


Since 2014, mutual trade between the countries has been in steady decline.[45]

Religious and cultural ties, mutual perceptions

Religious ties between the two nations with majorities of both countries adhering to the Eastern Orthodox Church, have played a major role in fostering bilateral relations. Since its formation in 1994, the Athens-based Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy has become a relevant institution in promoting exchange and cooperation.

According to a Pew Research Center opinion poll taken in 2017, 64% of Greeks view Russia favorably versus 31% expressing a negative opinion.[46] 50% of Greeks had confidence in Russia′s president Vladimir Putin when it came to international affairs, the only European Union country surveyed that had confidence in the Russian leader.[47]


The following agreements are in place:[1]

  • Friendship and Cooperation Agreement (1993)

  • Agreement on Economic, Industrial, Technological, and Scientific Cooperation (1993)

See also

  • Foreign relations of Greece

  • Foreign relations of Russia

  • Greeks in Russia

  • Russians in Greece


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