“Russia, Greece: strategic partnership based on common historical, spiritual heritage” published in Kathimerini daily newspaper, May 21, 2009
By Ambassador Vladimir I. Chkhikvishvili
Russia and Greece have deeply rooted ties of friendship that span a history of over a thousand years.
From the era of the Greek Byzantium, we adopted Christianity, an influential force for philosophy, the arts and the state structure of ancient Russia.
The Cyrillic character is based on the Greek language. The common Orthodox faith resulted in the formation of a common mentality that bonded Russians and Greeks.
That relationship continued even after the fall of the Byzantine Empire when relations were further strengthened through royal marriages.
In the years that followed, Russia made a decisive contribution to the Greek struggle for independence, and it is evidenced by monuments to Russian soldiers and Philhellenes.
The foundations of the Greek state were laid by its first President, Ioannis Capodistrias, who had previously served as Russia’s Secretary for Foreign Affairs. To this day, Capodistrias reflects one of the strongest symbols of Russian-Greek
Through both World Wars of the 20th century Russia and Greece were allies.
This unprecedented, historical and spiritual base allows us to develop mutually beneficial and friendly relations; the height, of which, was witnessed in recent years. A contributing factor is also that we share the same or similar approaches to
major regional and international problems.
As a result, we have established a stable framework of partnership between Russia and Greece, involving political, economic, military and cultural cooperation.
In 2008, the volume of trade between Russia and Greece reached a record US$ 7 billion. Greek exports, in fact, skyrocketed by 25 percent.
Last year, also, Greece, with its natural beauties and glorious history, attracted more than 300.000 Russian tourists while Greek tourism to Russia continued to gather momentum.
Despite the global economic slowdown, we are determined to further boost bilateral trade and tourism. And this, because the potential for development is vast.
Energy, however, is the centerpiece of our economic cooperation with Greece.
Russia is a major supplier of gas and oil to Greece. Together with Greece we will raise this cooperation to a new level with the construction of two pipes. The first includes the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline that it will transport Russian and
Kazakh oil through Bulgaria and Greece to the Mediterranean.
The second project includes South Stream, a pipeline that will bring Russian natural gas directly to Europe, minimizing, therefore, transit risks.
Both projects are exclusively of commercial nature and aim to enhance Europe’s energy security through the diversification of energy routes and increased supply.
For Greece, the two projects will provide significant impetus for the national economy and will help transform the country into an important international energy hub.
Indicative of the credibility of our relations is the military cooperation that has developed between Russia and Greece.
In recent years, the volume of our arms exports to Greece reached US$1 billion. In 2008 alone, an intergovernmental agreement that was signed called for Greece’s purchase of 420 Russian infantry fighting vehicles.
Other pillars of Russian-Greek relations involve culture and public diplomacy.
Several guest performances are held, annually, in various regions of our countries.
The years of 2013 and 2014 have been declared the Year of Greece in Russia and the Year of Russia in Greece, respectively. This means that we will have an opportunity to see major cultural events on the eve of the Winter Olympics in
In light of the 180th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our countries, the Russian-Greek Civil Societies Forum was established last year, bringing together representatives from the spheres of politics, arts, culture,
business, Church and science. The second Forum will be held this June in Saint Petersburg.
The progress in our relations is obvious. The prospects of growth, however, are even greater.
It’s of crucial importance that there is a broad national consensus in Russia and Greece to further promote our friendly relations and make all our ambitious plans, a reality.