Greece has expelled two Russian diplomats and barred two more from entry. This comes as an answer to Russian meddling in the negotiations of the surrounding the Macedonian naming dispute. The result of the negotiations that the region will be recognized as Northern Macedonia, and Greece will lift its veto for the neighboring country’s accession to the EU and NATO. The Russian diplomats, little more than a euphemism for intelligence agency personnel under official cover, are accused of funneling money through a Greek businessman in Alexandroupoli to finance protests against the Macedonian naming dispute.
The obvious reason is that they want to stop the EU and NATO from growing any larger. There are also complicated, historical reasons, being as Russia sees the Balkans as belonging to its sphere of influence, and the Slavic people in the region as natural allies through the theory of Pan-Slavism. That was demonstrated by Tito, the leader of Yugoslavia, moved away from the USSR during the Cold War. With the dissolution of the USSR and the onset of the Yugoslav Wars, the Russians returned, as volunteers for the Serbian military, with the help of the reinstated Eastern Orthodox Church — and who can forget the Pristina airport incident, where Russia showed that it still had teeth, not versus insurgents in Chechnya, but against Western militaries.
Greece’s deportation of Russian diplomats is a historic first — not even during the Cold War, or following the novichok attacks were Russian diplomats expelled from the country. Although it has no historical basis, The prevailing sentiment in Greece is to view Russia as an ally, primarily because their religion and the influence of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Sharing the same faith is enough reason to be liked in Greece; Russians, Serbs, etc. are often called brothers, even though Greece has always been saved by Western allies. During the Greek War of Independence, it was often said that the “blond folk” would come to our aid. The saying held true — but it was the British and the French (both fairer people than Greeks) and not the Russians that came to our aid. Even so, people still hold that the blond folk will come to help us.
Since Vladimir Putin’s rise to power, there has been a surge of people who act as mouthpieces. They have TV shows and YouTube channels that promote the technological superiority of the Russian Federation and praise the cunning of President Putin. The reason I am not claiming these outlets are a part of a Russian information operation is that there is a good chance that this is merely the manifestation of Greek Russophilia in the digital age.
Russia’s meddling in the Macedonian naming dispute, the DNC hack, the use of Facebook to push propaganda and other such events shows that активные мероприятия [active measures] are alive and well.
Featured image: Demonstrators chant slogans during a protest against a deal over the name of neighboring Macedonia, in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, on Sunday, June 24, 2018. The preliminary deal launches a long process that will last several months and If successful, it will end a decades-long dispute between neighbors Greece and Macedonia — which will be renamed North Macedonia. | AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos