By Drew Cunningham
To be frank, a Greek turn to Russia would simply be naïve. Russia is in no position to be taking any needy European countries under its already financially burdened wings. Greece turning to Russia would be like a teenage girl running away with her high school dropout boyfriend to seek respite from her critical parents. Just as the runaway would quickly realize her loser boyfriend’s deficiencies and return to her parents, so to would Greece soon realize its mistake in courting Russia and seek once again support from Western Europe.
If Greece were to seriously be considering totally cutting its tense, though strong, ties with Western Europe following the “No” vote on Sunday, I would suspect it not turning to its near eastern megalomanic friends, but rather to its far eastern acquaintance, The Red Dragon herself, China. Recently, China’s state-backed COSCO (no, not Costco) took control of one-third of Piraeus, Greece’s largest port. The deal has come to be seen as extremely valuable by the Greeks, who have been wishing for a successful privatization deal. The Chinese, who are constantly searching for ways to expand trade with European economies, welcomed Greek officials seeking a purchaser for the remaining state-owned shares of Piraeus into their country in May, which intimates satisfaction with prior dealings on both sides. China has also recently invested in some Greek IOUs (technically T-bills), just as Athens is scouring for someone to take on their debt—another gesture of a strengthening bond between the two countries.
If you think about it, this makes perfect sense. China, in recent decades, has been searching for every opportunity to garner broader trade relations with European countries. Greece is a European country, it has a somewhat large economy, and it needs a suitor. China can swoop right in, offer some help, and establish tight economic junctions. This would allow Greece to remain European, as most Greeks want, no doubt. But if Greece were to turn to the Russians, Western Europe, who has been battling Russia as of late, would rebuke the southern European nation and by doing so distance it from its European identity. China, on the other hand, is not a threat to sovereignty in Europe and thus a Greek relationship with the Asian country would not provoke any visceral, existential backlash from Western Europe. Essentially, greater relations with China would be purely economical, whereas strengthening bonds with Russia would certainly also entail a great degree of politics.
Mr. Donnenberg suggests in his article that Greece would become entrenched in some “neo-colonial” relationship after being “financially annexed” by Russia. I disagree with this claim and with his use of language. As stated above, I do not believe that Greece wants to be any closer to Russia and its corrupting politics. If Greece did, in fact, want to do so, it had many opportunities to before now. The new relationship that Mr. Donnenberg refers to in his article is, in fact, not new, but, rather, marks the rejuvenation of a connection between the two countries that has lasted for many years. I believe that Mr. Donnenberg’s language discredits Greece’s agency. If Greece decides to shift its attention to another power, it will do so deliberately. Greece is a fully developed nation and I don’t suspect that it will be “colonized” anytime soon. Mr. Donnenberg’s whole argument rests on the notion that some country will essentially envelope Greece. Greece will remain sovereign. Nations infrequently cede their sovereignty without a fight, and I believe Greece would be no exception.
The reality of the situation, however, is that Greece will have to woo. No one — neither Russia, nor China — is going to want to take on the faltering Greek economy without some financial incentive. If Greeks wants to reenergize their economy by way of increased relations with any country, they cannot do so passively.
If you liked this article, don’t despair! Check out the two other posts in this three-part series about Greece, the Eurozone, and the world economy for more content just like this. And be sure to share these articles on social media if you liked them!
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