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Alexis Tsipras in Moscow: a first-class window of opportunity for Russia

08.04.2015 20:58

Professor Dr. Ilias Iliopoulos

The newly elected Prime Minister of Greece Mr. Alexis Tsipras pays his first state visit to Moscow on Wednesday (8th April). The Greek Prime Minister will meet the President of the Russian Federation Mr. Vladimir Putin. The two statesmen are expected to discuss the entire issue of the current and future relations between the two brotherly nations which share not only a common past and a marvelous cultural and religious heritage, but also a similar view on major current geopolitical and international questions and events. Hence, we consider it appropriate, and even necessary, to take a careful look at the geopolitical position and role of Greece, and its significance for Russia.

Greece is the very epitome of a coastal state and a maritime nation. With more than 6.000 islands and an extensive coastline – even larger than that of Britain or Italy, for instance – Greece represents, literally, "a country of ports and bays", as a British political analyst observed in 1938. The Greek geopolitical space is the crossover point between three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa. It dominates the Eastern Mediterranean basin, covering the shortest Western European sea line of communications, which leads through the Suez Canal to the Indian Ocean.

Under the prism of the classic geopolitical analysis of the (Anglo-Saxon) Maritime Powers, Greece is a vital and invaluable part of the so called "Rimland", the outer ring stretching around the entire vast Eurasian mass ("World Island") and serving the purpose of the strategic encirclement and containment of the (Eurasian) Land, or Continental Power (which is, in fact, a sophisticated geopolitical term for Russia). Noticeably, Sir Halford Mackinder, the founder of the classic Anglo-Saxon geopolitical school of thought, made the observation, almost a century ago, that, should a major Land, or Continental Power gain Greece, this Power would probably gain control over the entire "World Island". Similarly, Nicholas Spykman, Mackinder’s successor and the father of U.S. geopolitics, considered it self-evident that the southernmost end of the Balkan peninsula, and the Aegean Sea expressis verbis, should be part of the "Rimland".

Indeed, a Land, or Continental Power which operates from the North (or, to put it in geopolitical terms, from the "Heartland" of the larger Eurasian space – read: the Eastern European, or Western Russian valleys) could eventually draw a significant advantage from the use of the Greek land, marine and air space since the latter:

- eventually helps the Eurasian Power open the two inland seas (Adriatic and Black Sea),

- provides the Eurasian Power with a crucial tactical advantage, helping it overcoming the obstacle of the Straits of Bosphorus and the Dardanelles,

- provides the Eurasian Power with direct access to Eastern Mediterranean as well as with an extensive network of military bases, facilities and outposts, thus securing both "Command of the Sea" in favor of the Eurasian Power at Eastern Mediterranean as well as freedom of action in case of further operations in Middle East and North Africa.

Furthermore, the "Southern Strategic Route" of the larger European geopolitical space, starting from a critical land area of Southern Russia, helps Forces Deployment along two major Strategic Axes: - one, leading to the Straits and the Greek geopolitical space, both inextricably linked to each other from the strategic point of view, and - a second, leading to Middle East.

Remarkably, whenever the Land, or Continental Power (the Holy Russian Empire or the Soviet Union) projected power southwards, throughout history, it did so along these two strategic axes; and both history and geography implies that this should be the case in the future, too. Besides, the Greek Marine Space, including the Aegean, Ionian and Cretan Seas with all respective island chains, is a Critical Marine Area of the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Aegean Sea is the Critical Marine Area of the Straits of Bosphorus and the Dardanelles; in combination with the Cretan Sea, it offers a Great Power huge advantages regarding Command of the Sea at Eastern Mediterranean and Strategic Control over the Suez Canal.

The Ionian Sea is the Critical Marine Area of the Straits of Otranto, enabling a Great Power to exercise control over the Sicily – Tunis Passage. Admiral Fyodor Ushakov, one of the most brilliant minds of the Russian Naval History, was completely aware of the strategic significance of Corfu, for instance. "The vital importance of the island is that it dominates the Adriatic Sea", an American analyst added, some 130 years after Ushakov’s time.

The Cretan Sea supports and impressively multiplies the operational capabilities provided by the Aegean and the Ionian Seas, safeguarding full Command of the Sea at the Eastern Mediterranean and securing control over both: the Bosphorus – Dardanellles – Aegean – Crete Sea Route as well as the Western European Sea Line of Communications with Egypt and Syria. Venice knew this during the era of its maritime supremacy; and so does Washington nowadays.

Apart from its tremendous strategic significance, the Greek geopolitical space may offer considerable operational and tactical benefits too. Especially the Greek islands facilitate naval warfare of all kinds and allow land, amphibious and air support to operating naval forces.

In the light of the above stated observations and reflections it becomes obvious that, should Greece reconsider its geopolitical position and, consequently, make a major strategic decision in favor of Russia, this would inevitably mean that Russia would immediately gain direct and full access to the Mediterranean - while, at the same time, neutralizing the Sea Lines of Communication between Western and Eastern Mediterranean.

To put it in simple words, this would automatically mean that the (Anglo-Saxon) Maritime Powers would lose Command of the Sea at the Mediterranean for the first time since the decisive sea-battle at Abukir and the British Royal Navy’s victory over Napoleon (1798).

It should be clear that the visit of the Greek Prime Minister in Moscow, at this given time, marks the opening of a geopolitical window of opportunity for Russia, which is, literally, of historical dimension. The old, great, historical, Orthodox nation which is the major geo-strategic actor of the Greater Eurasian Geopolitical Space (and which is facing an aggression from the part of the USA and its satellites) has now opportunity to complete the course started in 1774 – and persistently and repeatedly blocked by the West in 1856, 1878 and 1944.