Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ interview on CNN with journalist Nic Robertson

(Dimitris Papamitsos / Greek Prime Minister's Office)

Nic Robertson: A somber mood, is it?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I’d say a somber mood. An understanding that our world has changed. I think all of us, when we were elected to power, we never contemplated that we would have to deal with a war on European soil. This was completely inconceivable. But this is exactly what is happening.

Nic Robertson: So Greece has given military support.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Greece has given not just humanitarian but also military support. We’re currently hosting approximately 15,000 Ukrainians. We know we have to do much more, but we, Nick, we’re a country that was on the forefront of the refugee crisis of the past.

So we’re very sensitive in terms of making sure that we can provide a safe place for Ukrainian refugees. We will need – we know that in Europe – that we will all need to do more because the numbers are just going to be overwhelming.

Nic Robertson: And there’s been a lot of talk about possibly blocking imports of oil and gas from Russia to the European Union. But there are concerns. The cost of energy in Europe is going up. I know that’s a concern to Greece. You’re looking to the European Union to find caps on the cost of energy and a solution for that. Is the European Union becoming divided under this pressure from Russia over the level and type of sanctions it can apply?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: We have put together a massive package of sanctions, unlike anything we’ve done in the past. And these sanctions actually do bite. You will see the Russian economy contracting by maybe 10%. All the gains that Russia has made over the past decade could be eradicated within a year. So, these are very significant sanctions.

Of course, when it comes to energy we need to be very careful that whatever measures we take don’t end up hurting us more than they hurt Russia.

Nic Robertson: But isn’t that the point of sanctions, though? It’s sanctions rather than fighting a war and the freedoms of Ukraine and the freedoms that this war, in essence, is about they don’t come for free. And the European nations and the United States must expect some economic pain.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I think we are already paying a price. I think we certainly all need to reassess our growth forecast. We’re faced with significant inflationary pressures as a result of the war and energy costs are really hurting. They’re hurting our citizens. But at the end of the day, as much as we have an allegiance to support Ukraine, we also have an allegiance to our citizens, to make sure that they do not suffer more than they can actually bear.

Nic Robertson: Is America getting ahead of the pain that Europe can bear on this? With what America would like to see, what President Biden would like to see happen in terms of sanctions?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: When it comes to energy, the truth is that the US is much less dependent on Russian gas than Europe is. This is a reality.

And of course, the energy transition now for Europe: this is no longer just a climate story, it’s a geopolitical story.