But today the White House is asking its European allies to make economic sacrifices to counter the Kremlin.Putin plays up the idea that President Obama is pursuing an anti-Russian policy of sanctions, but that the price is paid by austerity-hit Europeans.Of course, Britain has been at odds with Russian imperial ambitions in the region before. In 1878, jingoism got its first outing when London’s music halls echoed to the sentiment ‘We don’t want to fight but by jingo if we do’, before listing what the Russians wouldn’t be allowed to grab in the Balkans.
Putin is offering the region the carrot of a lucrative gas pipeline and other incentives to draw countries like Greece and Turkey away from the West.
Manoeuvring for position in any ‘Grexit’ is part of Russia’s deepening rift with the West, over everything from Ukraine to the Middle East.
There, in a highly symbolic tribute, Tsipras laid a wreath at the statue of Kapodistrias, the ethnic Greek officer in the Imperial Russian army who ignited Greece’s War for Independence in 1821.
He was the forerunner of today’s Russian ‘volunteers’ in eastern Ukraine.
Then, each superpower engaged in a hardly covert struggle for influence, backing their local allies and trying to undermine the other side.