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Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, right, and Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou seen at a news conference in Moscow, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010. (Misha Japaridze)
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, right, and Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou seen at a news conference in Moscow, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010. (Misha Japaridze)

Putin calms Greece, says U.S. debt big too Add to ...

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin played down Greece's economic woes on Tuesday, telling his visiting Greek counterpart that the United States were no better than Greece in handling its debt and fiscal deficit.

"As we all know, the global economic crisis started neither in Greece, nor in Russia, nor in Europe," Mr. Putin told a news conference after talks with George Papandreou. "It came to us from across the ocean," he said in a clear reference to the United States.

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"There (in the U.S.) we can see similar problems - massive external debt, budget deficit," Mr. Putin added, suggesting Russia and Greece should concentrate on the "real economy" to weather the economic crisis.

Mr. Papandreou arrived in Moscow amid rumours that the cash-strapped euro zone member may turn to Moscow, still running the world's third biggest foreign exchange reserves and eager to boost its political clout, for financial assistance.

Iceland began loan talks with Russia in October, 2008, after its main banks and currency collapsed. The tiny NATO member eventually secured funding from the International Monetary Fund and Nordic neighbours and the Russian loan never materialized.

On Tuesday European ministers told Greece it may need to take further steps to bring a swollen debt under control, with Germany saying Greece should imitate Ireland and Latvia, both of which are slashing spending and wages savagely.

Both Greek and Russian officials denied financial aid was on the agenda during talks in Moscow, while President Dmitry Medvedev said he had told Papandreou to turn to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for help.

"This is not the end of the world. I believe that we will come out of this situation much stronger than we are today," Mr. Papandreou told the news conference.

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