By Pete Papaherakles
As events continue to unfold in the European economic crisis, it is becoming clear a much bigger game is being played when it comes to Greece. The real game there is about who controls the massive oil and gas reserves located just off the Hellenic coast.
Carefully kept under wraps for decades has been knowledge of the existence of a huge oil and natural gas field in the eastern Mediterranean, in the area between the islands of Crete, Cyprus and Rhodes. Some people contend that an invasion by the Turks and the partitioning of Cyprus in 1974 were directly related to these oil fields and their future exploitation. It is estimated that they can supply energy to Europe for 50 years and are valued in the neighborhood of $9 to $12 trillion.
Russia has shown much interest in a partnership with Greece to drill for these resources, as have Norway and other countries. Currently, Israel has moved in and seems to be the most likely candidate to be Greece’s partner in the endeavor.
Could these vital oil reserves and the way in which Israel is vying for control of them be the real reason why Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin was denied a visa when he tried to visit Mount Athos in Greece during the holy week of Orthodox Easter?
The Kremlin expressed its strong dissatisfaction with the Greek government’s decision, for this visit would have been Putin’s first to a foreign country since winning the presidency. Greece gave the excuse that the country would be on holiday at that time and it could not provide security for Putin.
Mount Athos is an autonomous region with 22 Orthodox monasteries, including Romanian, Serbian and Russian holy sites. Putin was to visit Abbot Ephraim, who was recently released from a controversial prison detainment. Abbot Ephraim and Putin seem to share a spiritual relationship, as Putin is known to be a devout Orthodox Christian.
Orthodoxy, in fact, is making a huge comeback in Russia after 70 years of Communist atheism. Putin has been active in re-establishing the religious, cultural and economic relations that bind Eastern Europe together. He has made many attempts to develop closer ties with Greece.
On March 26 an advertising campaign by the Russian government was launched across the country urging Russians to buy more Greek products and vacation in Greece. With a population of 143 million in Russia, compared to only 9 million Greeks, this could have a crucial impact on Greece’s economy.
Russia also offered to bail out Greece as the country was falling into the clutches of the Western banks. Putin offered to lend Greece at least $25 billion at 1% interest. However, the Papandreou government opted for $148 billion from the IMF and the European banks at a whopping 5.2% and the austerity measures that came with the deal.
Russia has also been kept away in other oil partnerships with Greece. Since 1994 a deal had been in the works for Russia to build the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline bringing Russian oil from the Black Sea through Bulgaria and into the port of Alexandroupolis in northern Greece. That deal was finalized in 2008 during the government of Kostas Karamanlis, and work was to commence shortly afterward. An attempt to assassinate him was made in 2008. In the fall of 2009, Karamanlis was forced to call for early elections,where he lost to the pro-Zionist George Papandreou. Shortly thereafter, the pipeline project was terminated.
Many are wondering why Greece did not accept the bailout offered by Putin or another by China, which would have enabled the Greeks to maintain their sovereignty and avoid the pain, humiliation and loss of assets the debt crisis has brought them.
Peter Papaherakles, a U.S. citizen since 1986, was born in Greece. He is AFP’s outreach director. If you would like to see AFP speakers at your rally, contact Pete at 202-544-5977.