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Opinion

Opinion: Tsipras' visit to Moscow was a flop

Judgement before the visit was harsh. Not only did the EU and Ukraine castigate Greece's solitary mission in Moscow, but Alexis Tsipras also lost this political game, says DW's Barbara Wesel.

So far, the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' has not yet proved anything in his dealings with the European Union - above all, that he is capable of learning. Since taking office in January, he shows the same blend of stubbornness, denial of reality and aggression towards his benefactors.

Perhaps the visit with Vladimir Putin will finally lead him to some self-knowledge. The stakes were high as Tsipras lay down his last political card on the table - only to go home with an empty wallet. The Greek Prime Minister was willing to gamble away his consent to the extension of EU's Russia sanctions and jeopardize solidarity with the EU to gain a new friend and helper in Moscow. He wanted to show the Europeans that he has options other than the excruciating negotiations with Brussels on reforms and regulations, which are supposed to put an end to his acute financial problems.

As a consequence, he was publicly outmaneuvered by the old fox in the Kremlin. He who eats with Putin needs a very long spoon - Angela Merkel could have told Tsipras that after Putin's visit to Berlin two weeks ago.

Putin has outsmarted Tsipras

Alexis Tsipras somehow seems eager to have all the bad experiences possible and to get into the nitty-gritty of them. So he smashed the plates in the customary Greek manner and angered European Commission President Juncker, European Parliament President Schulz and all European partners with this mistimed visit to Moscow, just so he could get nothing out of Putin for this bold act except some warm words and vague promises. Tsipras could not even triumphantly return to Athens to announce the lifting of the Russian import boycott to his peach farmers.

Porträt - Barbara Wesel

DW's Barbara Wesel

The conjured spring feelings in Moscow, a Greek-Russian cultural year and the emphasis on common religious roots will neither pay the pending installment of nearly half a billion years to the IMF (International Monetary Fund) or, next week, the daunting sum of 2.4 billion EUR for short-term bonds on the financial market. Vladimir Putin cunningly undermined the Greeks' advances in terms of EU sanctions by expressing that it is understandable that Greece had to support the European sanctions resolution, unfortunately, there are no exceptions for an individual EU country in the countermeasures. However, more cooperation in agriculture through joint Russian-Greek companies is possible - this is, at best, an ambiguous promise of a type of joint venture for collective farms. The same applies to Athens' supposed major role in the delivery of Russian gas to Europe: the construction of the Turkish Stream pipeline and a connection to Greece are dreams of the future. The project will take years; until then, much may change politically. The Greeks need specific projects to revitalize their economy now and not some time in five years. And they really need money, lots of money and very soon.

Greece's Prime Minister has gambled and lost

Alexis Tsipras has put everything on the line and lost big. Even though the angry words of the last few days have been toned down in initial reactions from Brussels, the Greek prime minister has to sit at the negotiating table in the next two weeks with the same people he has incensed by his trip to Moscow. Brussels and Merkel in Berlin have shown him solidarity and understanding but instead, he has responded with juvenile swagger. Trust between Athens and its creditors and donors should be built up again, but Alexis Tsipras is once again proving to be unreliable and unpredictable.

The billions in aid that Athens urgently needs must come from European partners. Vladimir Putin has - as expected - made it very clear that he has nothing to give and will not assume responsibility for the bankruptcy candidate, Greece. Tsipras has achieved nothing on his trip to Moscow Spring except the brief elation of being an honored guest in the Kremlin and feeling important for half an hour. One could say something reminiscent of Talleyrand, French statesman during the French revolution: It's worse than a mistake; it's stupidity.

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