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Who burnt Greece? Hybrid wars: Putin, the South Stream gas pipeline, and the U.S.

Was Greece and the Karamanlis government destabilized and the country set ablaze as part of a hybrid war in response to Greece’s interest in Russian gas pipelines?

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Since the U.S. launched in earnest its unipolar bid for world domination in 1990 and once the Gulf war was in full swing, energy geopolitics came to dominate U.S. foreign policy vis-à-vis the European Union. During the 2000s decade, Greece was burnt severely in what almost everyone now believes to have been a CIA destabilization process to break up the arrival of Russian energy pipelines. Twice the U.S. blocked the arrival of Russian gas in the Balkans, once in Greece and once in Bulgaria.

Fires in Greece

For over a decade, Greece experienced fires which always magically emerged in locations where there were many trees or bushes and spread like wildfire (pun intended), as they erupted, coincidentally, on days with high winds. Anyone who observed the reports saw that the allegations centered upon theory: individual mistakes (such as cigarettes thrown out of car windows, electricity pylons catching fire, and grandmothers cooking carelessly and burning their food), and that behind each disaster were property developers out to make a killing.

The theories worked in so far as there was property development up until 2010 but there was one nagging issue: certain fires occurred near the tops of mountains where access would only be possible by helicopter. So building a house on a mountain top where you couldn’t even get materials up there or access any built property was an absurd notion.

Each summer, the deficiencies of the state were revealed. Not enough water planes were available to put out the fires and not enough firefighters were in operation. But everyone knows that a fire that is started deliberately is doubly difficult to extinguish. Indeed, reports have frequently surfaced from firefighters themselves that they have discovered incendiary devices at the site of the blazes. So, when observing a fire in real time, one can see one wing of it extinguished and then another front immediately flares up at a great distance. The corporate-controlled media always has an excuse for everything, claiming nonsense such as a smoldering cinders flew a couple of miles and started another blaze in another area.

Satellite image of major fires raging in the Peloponnese region and in the Parnitha mountain range outside of Athens, 2007.

When basic logic evaporates, then anything else can fill the vacuum, and the purpose behind that is to hide who the real perpetrators are and to put forth any sort of justifications ensuring that no questions are asked and no proper investigations are ever called for. Those are the politics of those who are apologists of the system: they never seem to see any ulterior motives. But history always works against those who require lies to cover the truth. The truth will emerge, sooner rather than later.

In the 2000s under the Konstantinos Karamanlis regime, Greece made a turn towards energy dependence on Russia. Large public buildings such as hospitals and schools would be provided with Russian gas, in particular after Greek shipowners pioneered the delivery of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in container ships, leading to its easier delivery and storage. But another part of the proposals encompassed the securing of a Southern EU-Russian pipeline, like the one that exists in Northern Europe (i.e. Germany).

What happened next is a case study in hybrid warfare. Without going public, the Greek government was destabilized by massive “wildfires” up and down the breadth of the country, resulting in numerous fatalities. There was no way the South Stream pipeline would be allowed, on American dictats. Karamanlis’ former classmate Christos Zahopoulos allegedly jumped off a building as a result of an affair, an unheard-of reaction in Greek society. The fires reached right next to Karamanlis’ summer house in Rafina.

After his election in 2004, Karamanlis met Putin, who then followed up with a visit to Greece. A deal was cut between Greece, Bulgaria, and Italy to set up the South Stream Russian gas pipeline.

A U.S. lobbyist by the name of Matthew Bryza, who married Turkish journalist Zeyno Baran, was the first to write against the Putin-Karamanlis deal regarding the South Stream pipeline. After all, this was the pipeline that sidelined Turkey. It’s an irony of history that as dozens of Greeks were burnt alive in the Peloponnese region, Bryza was marrying in Constantinople in 2007, on the 23rd of August. This was the period when Turkey was steadfastly pro-American.

American shenanigans

U.S. officials met then-deputy foreign minister Giannis Valinakis in Rafina in March 2007. Bryza got straight to the point: “[o]ther European countries have objections to the policies of the Greek government in the energy sector. Independently from your desires you are pursuing the dependence of Europe to Russian gas and therefore to Russian interests,” he said.

Out of many of the meetings they had in New York City, one of the meetings which they had in the Waldorf Astoria in September 2008 was characteristic. “Every time I tried to raise our own agenda regarding the Greek-Turkish situation, the conversation was steered back to energy issue, while in another meeting progress in national issues was linked directly to energy, i.e. the cancellation of South Stream pipeline” Valinakis recalls. American desires came to the fore: “We cannot help on issues that you raise like the Greek-Turkish ones, when you are advancing Russian interests’ Bryza stated. “You need to help us so you have assurances that there is no tension in the Aegean.”

In response, Valinakis states that he answered that “[t]he energy issues are dealt with directly between (then-foreign minister) Dora Bakogianni and the prime minister. Greece follows an independent energy policy.” Even when Valinakis spoke about the start of discussions with Gaddafi regarding independent oil drilling areas south of Crete he received the following answer: “That is good. You can negotiate with countries like Libya and others but not with Russia.”

Valinakis publicly responded to Bryza in May 2008, “[w]ith a serious and responsible manner, the prime minister and the government are advancing and protecting national interests in the best way on all fronts. As an extension, whatever advice is received from whichever quarter only creates noise and does not aid in any way.”

Secret meeting in Brussels

In 2007, the newspaper To Vima revealed the plan of shocking the three prime ministers (those of Greece, Italy, and Bulgaria) in order to muddy the waters and throw a monkey wrench in the pipeline talks. The issue of phone calls being wiretapped and intercepted had just broken out as a scandal in Greece, and the Americans were following closely all the steps of the prime minister. The Greek government tried to take matters into its own hands so the agreement would not collapse. Thus, in June 2007 a secret meeting was held in Brussels by the prime ministers of the three aforementioned countries.

This meeting was to take place while another meeting with European heads of state was being held in Brussels, thus providing cover. Karamanlis, Sergei Stanishev and Mario Prodi had coordinated amongst themselves to come out of the meeting at the same time and all those that followed them knew about it. They all went to the offices of the Greek representatives and ironed out all the petty details regarding South Stream.

Three days later, from Constantinople came the announcement that Greece and Russia had decided to deepen their cooperation beyond the Burghas-Alexandroupolis pipeline. The fact Karamanlis and Putin shook hands for the South Stream pipeline resulted in total astonishment on the part of the Americans. We are told in the report from To Vima that the U.S. ambassador immediately departed Athens.

It’s worth noting that in the documents of the Trilateral Commission, decisions were made in the 1970s to control European output in manufactured goods and energy. Hence coal mining was shuttered in most northern European states and European countries became energy dependent on imports of both coal and gas. Greece is fortunate enough to have an abundance of lignite, which provides around 50 percent of the country’s electricity needs.

Over a two-decade period, the EU has pushed for the full-scale privatization and closure of the lignite mines in order for Greece to become fully dependent on imports. In a strange irony, Germany cut a deal with Russia and now has two pipelines supplying it with gas and oil whilst southern Europe still has none. The U.S. obviously wanted to supply southern Europe via the gas and oil reserves of Turkey’s ally Azerbaijan with the TAP pipeline.

As written by To Vima in 2007, “[t]he game is big and our country is small. Putin’s rushing and the reactions of the Americans show that Greece is in the middle of a serious conflict. It is clear we need careful decisions and a flexible approach. Greece should come out on top and not become a target of revenge-mania as we all know how big powers react.”

Eyewitness account from Evia, 2009

At the time, I was on the Greek island of Evia, which is close to Athens. From there, one could observe the outbreak of fires both on the mainland and on the island. Indeed, mountainsides erupted in flames out of the blue in more than one location at the same time. Firefighters on the scene mentioned pyrotechnic fire mechanisms which were either thrown from the side of roads or dropped from above. An unlucky pilot attempting to extinguish the fires flew low and crashed, killing himself.

Greece is mountainous in many areas, and such areas are impossible to access by foot easily or by a vehicle of any sort. It is therefore illogical to believe that fires would start simultaneously on mountaintops in more than one location, making it impossible for firefighters or military planes to put them out. Such was the case with the fire that burnt the Parnitha mountain range just outside Athens.

Reaffirmation by Vyron Polydoras

An argument broke out regarding South Stream pipeline amongst the then-minister of public order of the Greek Parliament Vyron Polydoras and the then-U.S. ambassador Daniel Speckhard in 2009. Speckhard had called in the interior minister of Western Samoa and six Greek MPs for a meal. Amidst all this, he said: “Whats gotten into you with South Stream?” to which Polydoras replied: “[i]t would be an ideal route.”

Speckhard’s response was firm: “[i]t’s not allowed, you understand, this is a geopolitical issue.” In response, Polydoras stated: “[w]e will go against Russia? Why don’t you ask Chancellor Schroeder? No pipeline competes with another. Europe requires four and five pipelines and still will not be satisfied energy wise.”

Back to the Future

If one looks at the plans of the two pipelines above, one pipeline originating from Cyprus is independent of Turkey and the second pipeline represents the original pipeline to replace the Russian South Stream via Turkey. The Greek portion of TAP is almost completed, but the issue is whether it will ever come online via Turkey.

Now, the irony of the situation is that Russia has cut a deal to have South Stream pipelines going to Turkey from the Black Sea. Turkey’s geopolitical role has suddenly been raised and America is now engaged in a turf war with Turkey, not wanting to allow it any further geopolitical power. As if history repeats itself, the new Italian government – shades of Berlusconi – seems to be friendlier towards Russia. Berlusconi had been instrumental in the 2000s in agreeing to the South Stream pipeline and was probably ousted as a consequence of that, having faced scandals not unlike those repeatedly faced by the Karamanlis government.

Oil and gas appear to be America’s weapon of choice in its attempt to maintain its global role and the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, when in reality almost all observers realize it is in full-scale retreat. The issue however remains: America does not appear able to supply southern Europe with energy, and two decades on, since this issue first arose, we are nowhere nearer to resolving the current geopolitical situation with respect to energy for the Balkans.

Timeline of Putin’s Meetings with Greek prime minister Konstantinos Karamanlis:

07.12.04: Karamanlis visits Russia
08.09.05: Karamanlis meets Putin in Porto Carras (Halkidiki), Greece
04.09.06: Karamanlis meets Putin in Athens
15.03.07: Karamanlis-Putin meeting, first serious discussion by South Stream.
22.06.07: Karamanlis – Prodi – Stanisev meet in secret in Brussels
25.06.07: Karamanlis meets Putin in Constantinople (this is where the agreement was officially announced towards everyone’s astonishment, even Erdogan’s)
18.12.07: Karamanlis makes an official visit to Moscow
29.04.08: Working visit by Karamanlis to Moscow

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Germany Returning Migrants to Greece

Germany’s policy contradicts claims that the migrants are “war refugees,” because if that were the case, they’d seek asylum at the nearest, non-wartorn country.

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Via Infowars Europe:


Germany will soon send back migrants to Greece if they had already applied for asylum there.

The two countries made the deal at the behest of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose coalition government is on shaky ground due to increased opposition to her immigration policies.

“EU law states that refugees should apply for asylum in the first EU country they reach, but Germany has typically allowed newcomers with open applications elsewhere to reside in the country as it examines their claim,” reported the Wall Street Journal. “In practice, very few ever leave Germany, even if they fail to obtain asylum there.”

Germany’s policy contradicts claims that the migrants are “war refugees,” because if that were the case, they’d seek asylum at the nearest, non-wartorn country.

In fact, many of the migrants travel across multiple European countries, including Greece, to seek asylum in Germany, which under Merkel has offered comprehensive welfare to migrants.

Merkel’s recent immigration backtrack was also likely influenced by the backlash against open borders in neighboring countries, particularly Austria.

Austria has ramped up deportations under recently-appointed Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.

“I’m convinced that the solution to the migrant problem lies with decent border protection and stronger help in countries of origin,” he said earlier this year.

Poland, Hungary and other Eastern European countries have similarly sealed off their borders to the chagrin of the EU, which had previous demanded “migrant quotas” for each member nation.

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The Greek Disaster: State Inertia and the Market Economy

In Greece we witnessed this repulsive, internally-generated tragedy in all its horrifying glory. Unfortunately we may soon see more far-reaching consequences…

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What happened in Attica, Greece, close to Athens, is without precedent. An ordinary fire, like the ones that occur in this area almost every other summer, met up with a terrible, sudden wind that turned it into real galloping inferno.

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The tragic result was 87 dead Greek citizens and more than 20 still missing. Huge questions loom on the horizon and only very limited answers are forthcoming. Are some of the lessons from this tragedy related to the wider geopolitical and political-economic questions?

Public-sector clientelism is leading to disastrous inefficiency

Why do tragedies like these occur in social environments with firmly entrenched clientelist political systems and in political entities that operate on the periphery of major, bureaucratic, modern empires? Sweden saw huge uncontrolled fires this summer. However, there was no loss of life or major disasters that befell the urban centers.

In Portugal last year — and very recently in Greece  —  scores of people died, mainly due to the inability of the state machinery to efficiently deal with the problem. The major difference between these examples is the quality of the civil service. In Greece and Portugal there is no real ethics in the public administration, which frequently fails to meet any vigorous efficiency test .

In public bureaucracies that sprout favoritism the way trees grow branches, it is very difficult to design long-term plans to handle critical and life-threatening situations. Likewise, the political system lacks the prerequisites to draw upon informed societies that are trained to be cooperative and disciplined when there is a need for coordination.

When clientelism dictates and forms the essence of the political culture, this culminates in fractured societies that are infected with spreading islands of lawlessness and limited possibilities for administrative coherence.

In Greece in particular, the deep-rooted mentality of state favoritism produces whole sectors of uncoordinated urbanization, with no respect for the environment, chaotic borough formation, and a coastline that has been brutally violated by hasty real-estate developmental schemes.

In such a social context, thorough planning becomes almost impossible and the idea of applying administrative guidelines to deal with a crisis sounds like a joke. It is essentially the political system itself that invites disasters and not any sort of physical deluge that begets them.

The need for market solutions

Clientelism and heavy state intervention in the running of the economy and society are the basic causes of inefficiency and, henceforth, administrative chaos. It appears that the process of rational choice is the fatal enemy of the dominant mentality in such systems of government. This is represented by any model that relies on the market to deal with questions of economic policy and societal organization.

A bloated public sector that is encouraged by the political authorities to constantly expand, irrespective of its ability to deliver on its promises, becomes the major problem. Instead of being the solution to emerging issues, the state actually becomes the cause of most troubles and difficulties.

Henceforth, without clear objectives or cost-benefit solutions, the state is unable to provide reliable outcomes or to cope with situations, especially emergencies. In the case of Greece in particular, the fire-fighting service had been financially starved, while its personnel had been recruiting new staff based on specific social criteria!

In other words, firefighters entrusted with saving people from emergency situations were hired on the basis of their physical inability to deal with normal life situations, i.e., the physically handicapped, mentally unfit, generally unhealthy, or recruits who were simply from disadvantaged social backgrounds.

Relying on a market mentality means that choices are made based on measurable results, well structured plans to deal with crises, and thoroughly tested options. When none of these requirements are met, it is more than certain that achievements will be negligible and the consequences disastrous.

Hence one must assume that societies that do not rely on rational-choice procedures and which pursue policies of heavy state intervention and patron-client favoritism are not likely to see successful results. This essentially means that societies built on capitalist principles pursue measurable results that further the welfare of their citizens.

Geopolitical repercussions

There is also a geopolitical angle to these observations. If a country cannot keep up with globally established administrative and financial trends, it will end up facing dead-end situations and find itself being marginalized. With the exception of its reliance on heavy state taxation, the EU always pursues policies of open social frontiers and market economics. Countries that deviate from this logic find themselves gradually lost in a political wilderness.

They constantly creep along on the fringes of events and absent themselves from all contemporary processes. By acting as the exception instead of the rule, they will rapidly find themselves marginalized. They will become a stark anomaly and thus be excluded from every movement going forward. They will become the pariahs of the international system. Geopolitical events will pass them by, and they will be looked upon as the “black holes” of the international order.

Domestic events and major financial and/or economic choices cannot be limited any longer to national or regional occurrences. Notwithstanding the importance of events within a country, opting for heavy state intervention may lead a country into the international wilderness.

What’s more, its international standing may also be impaired, contributing to the nation’s overall marginalization.

In Greece we witnessed this repulsive, internally-generated tragedy in all its horrifying glory. Unfortunately we may soon see more far-reaching consequences…

Via Strategic Culture

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Greek-Russian relations at a crossroads

The political landscape of Greek-Russian relations has suddenly darkened.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras meet in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia on April 8, 2015.

What exactly is the matter? It is almost impossible to cull any accurate information enabling us to clarify the situation and shine a light on recent developments.

Let’s first sweep the picture clean of inaccurate assertions and unfounded claims. Commentators who almost always turn to the anti-Western narrative immediately took to the field. The Greek government, they claim, is trying to earn its credentials vis-à-vis NATO and the US.

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Although nobody has ever required such a demonstration of allegiance from Athens. Under the present circumstances Greece is not going to win any points with such behaviour. With the agreement at Prespa Lake and Athens yielding to FYROMacedonia’s membership in NATO, the Greek government has already earned what it could from like-minded Western European capitals.

A breakup with Russia would not have added anything to Athens’ pro-Western arsenal.

At a time when the US is blaming Germany for being friendly with Russia and other European states — namely Austria, Italy, and Hungary, among others — appear to be moving closer to Moscow, what would an anti-Russian gesture by Greece signify? How could Athens expect to capitalize on this? I cannot honestly discern any direct benefit for Greece.

Likewise, why would Washington pressure Athens to adapt such a hostile attitude? What would the Americans expect to earn at a time when the US president himself reiterates that in Vladimir Putin he sees a man he can fully understand … and make a deal with…

On the other hand, as far as bilateral relations are concerned, Athens’ relationship with Moscow has been seriously wounded — without any clear benefits for Greece. Putin has made it clear how he would react if faced with a repeated challenge: “If you squeeze a spring as far as it will go, it will snap back hard. You must always remember this”.

One should not overlook the fact that some months ago a meeting was called off between the Greek and Russian government ministries that had been aimed at fostering economic cooperation between the two countries. The reason given was the unexpected appearance at the meeting of some Crimean politicians — the Russians maintaining however that the Greek side had been forewarned and had not raised any objections at the time.

In the end the episode was brushed aside without any major repercussions, at least public ones. But it was an issue nevertheless…

At the last occurrence, culminating in the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Athens there is enough ambivalence as concerns the matter. The main issue being discussed is a possible Russian effort against the Prespa agreement, objecting in order to to nullify FYROM’s future membership in NATO. Two comments must be made here. Only Northern Macedonia can render the agreement invalid at this point, not Greece.

Even if the Greek parliament fails to ratify the agreement, the northern Macedonians will automatically become members of the Atlantic alliance. In order for that to happen the government in Skopje merely needs to satisfy the requirements set out by the Prespa agreement and stipulated by NATO. It is ridiculous to think that Russian diplomats are not fully aware of this situation. Why then, as some observers insinuate, should they try to nudge Greece into walking out of the agreement?

As for NATO, it is doubtful that the Russians do not recognize that the attitude of the US and of its president, who recently met with Russian officials and with President Putin himself in Helsinki, poses a greater threat to the cohesion of the alliance than the membership of tiny FYROM.

My opinion is that the various reports on the issue are making the matter seem much weightier than it really is. My assessment is that Moscow is much less concerned about it than is generally acknowledged.

There is, however, definitely an issue. Otherwise we would not have reached the point of repatriating diplomats. One should never overlook the fact that great powers are usually burdened by many decision-influencing centres. Sometimes they are working outside of the official process that the governments dictate. Russia can hardly be an exception. Often the tentacles of such decision-making centres reach the state machinery.

This has happened in Greece in the past, when a retired Air Force pilot attempted to bomb parts of Albania. We saw it again in the case of a fugitive from Turkey, the Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan. In the US it is very often the case that various agencies take initiatives without the knowledge of the central government authorities.

With Russia, the issue of Orthodox Christian belief is quite important. Adherence to those principles can potentially prompt actions and moves without the knowledge or approval of a central authority. Unfortunately, I am not privy to specific information, but I believe that my ideas make logical sense.

Why should the Kremlin jeopardise a carefully cultivated cordial relationship with Athens just to pursue a dead-end policy on the issue of Skopje? After all, that’s an issue of paramount importance to Greece. And it could not possibly produce any fruitful results.

There are people in northern Greece who have often involved themselves in issues of vital importance to Greece without the slightest official authorisation or coordination with the aims of the Greek state. Some of them refer to Russia as a sister Orthodox power, without having been entrusted with such authority.

On the other hand, one should not overlook the fact that Greece carries a grudge against the Kremlin for having embraced Turkey in recent months, supplying it with missiles and accepting its friendly overtures on the Syrian front, although aware of its diverse inclinations concerning the future of that region.

It is not impossible that such sentiments may have culminated in and led to the recent crisis between the two states.

Notwithstanding the above, there is a wider issue contributing to the current misunderstandings. Russia has always been a puzzle for anyone attempting to do business with her. They find it difficult to comprehend her reactions and behaviour. Almost all are reminded of Winston Churchill’s words describing Russia: “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma“. What few people remember is the rest of Churchill’s phrase: “But perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest“.

Some years later he explained: “I am convinced that there is nothing they [the Russians] admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than for weakness”.

No country can expect a positive appraisal if it does nothing but beg and offers little or no policy coordination. These words might adequately explain Russia’s attitude towards other countries and its posture towards various global affairs.

Via Strategic Culture

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