In the meantime, the turmoil offers an opportunity for Russia to advance its interests. Of course, the EU is an absolutely critical trading partner for Russia, so if the bloc starts to fray at the seams, that presents financial risks to an already struggling Russian economy. Russia’s central bank governor Elvira Nabiulllina warned in June of the brewing threat that a Greek default would have on Russia. “We do consider that scenario as one of possible risks which would increase turbulence in the financial markets in the European market, bearing in mind the fact the European Union is one of major trading partners, and we are definitely worried by it,” she said in an interview with CNBC.
With the economic fallout in mind, Russia does see strategic opportunities in growing discord within Europe. First, Russia is pushing its Turkish Stream Pipeline, a natural gas pipeline that it has proposed that would run from Russia through Turkey and link up in Greece. From there, Russian gas would travel on to the rest of Europe. Russia is vying against a separate pipeline project that would send natural gas from the Caspian Sea through Turkey and on to Europe.
In mid-June, Alexis Tsipras met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Russia and Greece signed a memorandum following the meeting to push the project forward. Russia’s energy minister Alexander Novak emphasized that Gazprom would not own the section of the pipeline on Greek territory, a crucial fact that avoids heavy antitrust scrutiny from EU regulators.
With an eye on the looming default, Russia agreed to finance the project, and Greek officials portrayed the project as economic assistance amidst its ongoing debt crisis.
The pipeline remains in limbo. Despite Russian insistence that construction could begin in 2016 and be completed by 2019, the 2 billion euro project does not have firm commitments from Turkey, and it also still faces opposition within Europe, which is trying to wean itself off of Russian gas.
But with Greece’s debt crisis hitting new lows, there remains the possibility that Russia could come to Greece’s aid if the latter starts to pull away from Europe. And Greece has tried to use a potential turn towards Russia as leverage in talks with Europe.
Full article: Russia Taking Full Advantage Of Greek Crisis (Oil Price)