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Who burnt Greece? Hybrid wars: Putin, the South Stream gas pipeline, and the U.S.

Was Greece and the Karamanlis government destabilized and the country set ablaze as part of a hybrid war in response to Greece’s interest in Russian gas pipelines?

Since the U.S. launched in earnest its unipolar bid for world domination in 1990 and once the Gulf war was in full swing, energy geopolitics came to dominate U.S. foreign policy vis-à-vis the European Union. During the 2000s decade, Greece was burnt severely in what almost everyone now believes to have been a CIA destabilization process to break up the arrival of Russian energy pipelines. Twice the U.S. blocked the arrival of Russian gas in the Balkans, once in Greece and once in Bulgaria.

Fires in Greece

For over a decade, Greece experienced fires which always magically emerged in locations where there were many trees or bushes and spread like wildfire (pun intended), as they erupted, coincidentally, on days with high winds. Anyone who observed the reports saw that the allegations centered upon theory: individual mistakes (such as cigarettes thrown out of car windows, electricity pylons catching fire, and grandmothers cooking carelessly and burning their food), and that behind each disaster were property developers out to make a killing.

The theories worked in so far as there was property development up until 2010 but there was one nagging issue: certain fires occurred near the tops of mountains where access would only be possible by helicopter. So building a house on a mountain top where you couldn’t even get materials up there or access any built property was an absurd notion.

Each summer, the deficiencies of the state were revealed. Not enough water planes were available to put out the fires and not enough firefighters were in operation. But everyone knows that a fire that is started deliberately is doubly difficult to extinguish. Indeed, reports have frequently surfaced from firefighters themselves that they have discovered incendiary devices at the site of the blazes. So, when observing a fire in real time, one can see one wing of it extinguished and then another front immediately flares up at a great distance. The corporate-controlled media always has an excuse for everything, claiming nonsense such as a smoldering cinders flew a couple of miles and started another blaze in another area.

Satellite image of major fires raging in the Peloponnese region and in the Parnitha mountain range outside of Athens, 2007.

When basic logic evaporates, then anything else can fill the vacuum, and the purpose behind that is to hide who the real perpetrators are and to put forth any sort of justifications ensuring that no questions are asked and no proper investigations are ever called for. Those are the politics of those who are apologists of the system: they never seem to see any ulterior motives. But history always works against those who require lies to cover the truth. The truth will emerge, sooner rather than later.

In the 2000s under the Konstantinos Karamanlis regime, Greece made a turn towards energy dependence on Russia. Large public buildings such as hospitals and schools would be provided with Russian gas, in particular after Greek shipowners pioneered the delivery of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in container ships, leading to its easier delivery and storage. But another part of the proposals encompassed the securing of a Southern EU-Russian pipeline, like the one that exists in Northern Europe (i.e. Germany).

What happened next is a case study in hybrid warfare. Without going public, the Greek government was destabilized by massive “wildfires” up and down the breadth of the country, resulting in numerous fatalities. There was no way the South Stream pipeline would be allowed, on American dictats. Karamanlis’ former classmate Christos Zahopoulos allegedly jumped off a building as a result of an affair, an unheard-of reaction in Greek society. The fires reached right next to Karamanlis’ summer house in Rafina.

After his election in 2004, Karamanlis met Putin, who then followed up with a visit to Greece. A deal was cut between Greece, Bulgaria, and Italy to set up the South Stream Russian gas pipeline.

A U.S. lobbyist by the name of Matthew Bryza, who married Turkish journalist Zeyno Baran, was the first to write against the Putin-Karamanlis deal regarding the South Stream pipeline. After all, this was the pipeline that sidelined Turkey. It’s an irony of history that as dozens of Greeks were burnt alive in the Peloponnese region, Bryza was marrying in Constantinople in 2007, on the 23rd of August. This was the period when Turkey was steadfastly pro-American.

American shenanigans

U.S. officials met then-deputy foreign minister Giannis Valinakis in Rafina in March 2007. Bryza got straight to the point: “[o]ther European countries have objections to the policies of the Greek government in the energy sector. Independently from your desires you are pursuing the dependence of Europe to Russian gas and therefore to Russian interests,” he said.

Out of many of the meetings they had in New York City, one of the meetings which they had in the Waldorf Astoria in September 2008 was characteristic. “Every time I tried to raise our own agenda regarding the Greek-Turkish situation, the conversation was steered back to energy issue, while in another meeting progress in national issues was linked directly to energy, i.e. the cancellation of South Stream pipeline” Valinakis recalls. American desires came to the fore: “We cannot help on issues that you raise like the Greek-Turkish ones, when you are advancing Russian interests’ Bryza stated. “You need to help us so you have assurances that there is no tension in the Aegean.”

In response, Valinakis states that he answered that “[t]he energy issues are dealt with directly between (then-foreign minister) Dora Bakogianni and the prime minister. Greece follows an independent energy policy.” Even when Valinakis spoke about the start of discussions with Gaddafi regarding independent oil drilling areas south of Crete he received the following answer: “That is good. You can negotiate with countries like Libya and others but not with Russia.”

Valinakis publicly responded to Bryza in May 2008, “[w]ith a serious and responsible manner, the prime minister and the government are advancing and protecting national interests in the best way on all fronts. As an extension, whatever advice is received from whichever quarter only creates noise and does not aid in any way.”

Secret meeting in Brussels

In 2007, the newspaper To Vima revealed the plan of shocking the three prime ministers (those of Greece, Italy, and Bulgaria) in order to muddy the waters and throw a monkey wrench in the pipeline talks. The issue of phone calls being wiretapped and intercepted had just broken out as a scandal in Greece, and the Americans were following closely all the steps of the prime minister. The Greek government tried to take matters into its own hands so the agreement would not collapse. Thus, in June 2007 a secret meeting was held in Brussels by the prime ministers of the three aforementioned countries.

This meeting was to take place while another meeting with European heads of state was being held in Brussels, thus providing cover. Karamanlis, Sergei Stanishev and Mario Prodi had coordinated amongst themselves to come out of the meeting at the same time and all those that followed them knew about it. They all went to the offices of the Greek representatives and ironed out all the petty details regarding South Stream.

Three days later, from Constantinople came the announcement that Greece and Russia had decided to deepen their cooperation beyond the Burghas-Alexandroupolis pipeline. The fact Karamanlis and Putin shook hands for the South Stream pipeline resulted in total astonishment on the part of the Americans. We are told in the report from To Vima that the U.S. ambassador immediately departed Athens.

It’s worth noting that in the documents of the Trilateral Commission, decisions were made in the 1970s to control European output in manufactured goods and energy. Hence coal mining was shuttered in most northern European states and European countries became energy dependent on imports of both coal and gas. Greece is fortunate enough to have an abundance of lignite, which provides around 50 percent of the country’s electricity needs.

Over a two-decade period, the EU has pushed for the full-scale privatization and closure of the lignite mines in order for Greece to become fully dependent on imports. In a strange irony, Germany cut a deal with Russia and now has two pipelines supplying it with gas and oil whilst southern Europe still has none. The U.S. obviously wanted to supply southern Europe via the gas and oil reserves of Turkey’s ally Azerbaijan with the TAP pipeline.

As written by To Vima in 2007, “[t]he game is big and our country is small. Putin’s rushing and the reactions of the Americans show that Greece is in the middle of a serious conflict. It is clear we need careful decisions and a flexible approach. Greece should come out on top and not become a target of revenge-mania as we all know how big powers react.”

Eyewitness account from Evia, 2009

At the time, I was on the Greek island of Evia, which is close to Athens. From there, one could observe the outbreak of fires both on the mainland and on the island. Indeed, mountainsides erupted in flames out of the blue in more than one location at the same time. Firefighters on the scene mentioned pyrotechnic fire mechanisms which were either thrown from the side of roads or dropped from above. An unlucky pilot attempting to extinguish the fires flew low and crashed, killing himself.

Greece is mountainous in many areas, and such areas are impossible to access by foot easily or by a vehicle of any sort. It is therefore illogical to believe that fires would start simultaneously on mountaintops in more than one location, making it impossible for firefighters or military planes to put them out. Such was the case with the fire that burnt the Parnitha mountain range just outside Athens.

Reaffirmation by Vyron Polydoras

An argument broke out regarding South Stream pipeline amongst the then-minister of public order of the Greek Parliament Vyron Polydoras and the then-U.S. ambassador Daniel Speckhard in 2009. Speckhard had called in the interior minister of Western Samoa and six Greek MPs for a meal. Amidst all this, he said: “Whats gotten into you with South Stream?” to which Polydoras replied: “[i]t would be an ideal route.”

Speckhard’s response was firm: “[i]t’s not allowed, you understand, this is a geopolitical issue.” In response, Polydoras stated: “[w]e will go against Russia? Why don’t you ask Chancellor Schroeder? No pipeline competes with another. Europe requires four and five pipelines and still will not be satisfied energy wise.”

Back to the Future

If one looks at the plans of the two pipelines above, one pipeline originating from Cyprus is independent of Turkey and the second pipeline represents the original pipeline to replace the Russian South Stream via Turkey. The Greek portion of TAP is almost completed, but the issue is whether it will ever come online via Turkey.

Now, the irony of the situation is that Russia has cut a deal to have South Stream pipelines going to Turkey from the Black Sea. Turkey’s geopolitical role has suddenly been raised and America is now engaged in a turf war with Turkey, not wanting to allow it any further geopolitical power. As if history repeats itself, the new Italian government – shades of Berlusconi – seems to be friendlier towards Russia. Berlusconi had been instrumental in the 2000s in agreeing to the South Stream pipeline and was probably ousted as a consequence of that, having faced scandals not unlike those repeatedly faced by the Karamanlis government.

Oil and gas appear to be America’s weapon of choice in its attempt to maintain its global role and the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, when in reality almost all observers realize it is in full-scale retreat. The issue however remains: America does not appear able to supply southern Europe with energy, and two decades on, since this issue first arose, we are nowhere nearer to resolving the current geopolitical situation with respect to energy for the Balkans.

Timeline of Putin’s Meetings with Greek prime minister Konstantinos Karamanlis:

07.12.04: Karamanlis visits Russia
08.09.05: Karamanlis meets Putin in Porto Carras (Halkidiki), Greece
04.09.06: Karamanlis meets Putin in Athens
15.03.07: Karamanlis-Putin meeting, first serious discussion by South Stream.
22.06.07: Karamanlis – Prodi – Stanisev meet in secret in Brussels
25.06.07: Karamanlis meets Putin in Constantinople (this is where the agreement was officially announced towards everyone’s astonishment, even Erdogan’s)
18.12.07: Karamanlis makes an official visit to Moscow
29.04.08: Working visit by Karamanlis to Moscow

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