“For Greek Government openings, dial 007” (updated)

A few weeks ago I wrote about the intensive contacts between the current Greek governing coalition and Moscow (Moscow being a generic term, comprising oligarchs, ideologists, and government officers).  One thing that I thought was of particular importance was the fact that in November 2014, the Greek Institute of Strategic Studies, a think-tank linked to the nationalist party Independent Greeks, had visited – and signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with RISS.  At approximately the same time, we read in the hacked emails of Russian Athens embassy officer George Gavrish, Pannos Kammenas, chairman of Independent Greeks, got an epiphany and decided to cooperate closely with their political rival, Syriza.

RISS is a notoriously unscientific Russian-government think-tank; formerly affiliated with the Foreign Intelligence Service, and since 2009 a separate budget-funded advisory institute working exclusively for the Kremlin (among its typical outputs are: “Analysis of Russian NGOs and Universities that may be foreign agents”, and this video documentary, which claims Ukraine does not exist and was invented by the West to penalize Russia). RISS is chaired by Leonid Reshetnikov, a Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian-fluent ex-Foreign Intelligence Service General and а KGB intelligence officer since 1976 .

What has now become known, through a careless boast on RISS’s website, is that the Independent Greeks were not the only Greek political entity that visited Moscow and cooperated with RISS in 2014. An inconspicuous news story at RISS.ru, titled “Letter to RISS from Greece“, reads:

Dear Mr. Director! Dear team of RISS!

It’s with particular joy that I inform you, that all members of the Greek delegation who visited your institute on 12 May 2014 and worked with you on the conference on Greek-Russian relations, have taken the following Government positions in the Greek Government:

Alexis Tsipras – Prime Minister (head of Government)

Yannis Dragasakis – deputy Prime Minister, in charge of economic development

Nikos Pappas – Minister of coordination of government

Nadya Valavani – deputy minister of economy

Nikos Kotzias – Minister of Foreign Affairs

Kostas Isichos – Deputy Minister of Defense

With wishes to continue our fruitful cooperation between us, and our peoples,

Dimitriois Velanis

Athens, 28-1-2015

Dimitris Velanis is a Greek entrepreneur and member of the Greek-Russian Trade Chamber, who spent years in the 70’s studying and working in the Soviet Union. In March 2014, he wrote to RISS, thanking President Putin for sticking it to the West and “taking a principled position on Ukraine”. There is no obvious explanation why a Greek entrepreneur would write to a Russian Foreign-Intelligence Lieutenant-General to thank Putin.

The Greek government has been angered recently by publications implying that Syriza and Independent Greeks have been “working with” Russian government and quasi-government interests. In this statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs attacked the Financial Times for claiming that Nikos Kotzias (FM) visited Moscow to meet with militant Eurasionist and Ukraine-denier Dugin. Kotzias, the statement said, never traveled to Moscow to meet Dugin. What the statement didn’t say, apparently, is that Kotzias did travel to Moscow to be trained by an FSB-linked and Kremlin-funded “institute”.

What I expect will happen next is that the Greek government will say that Syriza and Independent Greek’s foreplay with RISS was a one-night stand and irrelevant in the scheme of things. Just to spare them the breath, I will quote a recent statement from FSB Lieut. General Reshetnikov.

В течение года мы активно сотрудничали с аналитиками греческой партии СИРИЗА, победившей сегодня на выборах, руководитель этой партии А. Ципрас побывал в РИСИ.

During the year [2014] we actively cooperated with analysis from the Greek party Syriza, which won today in the elections; this party’s leader A. Tsipras visited RISS.

So, in summary, both (previously rival) political parties that are members of the current governing coalition in Greece, throughout 2014 visited and cooperated “actively” with a Russian strategic institute that is under Kremlin’s direct control and  is chaired by an FSB Foreign Intelligence General with a particular sphere of competence in the Balkans. And essentially, they all ended up in a surprising coalition government together, despite the odds.

Indeed, correlation does not prove causation. But in the absence of alternative explanations, it is often is the closest to a proof as we can hope for.

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2 thoughts on ““For Greek Government openings, dial 007” (updated)

    1. By his own words, he worked “between 1976 and 2009 in foreign intelligence”. Thus, prior to 1991 he cannot have worked anywhere else than at the 1st Department of KGB. Following 1991, you are right, it’s Foreign Intelligence Service, will correct it.

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