By Alexis Papachelas
Over the last few years, Greece has achieved broad consensus over its foreign policy. People have matured and shed their sentiment and biases, regardless of whether it was in their own personal interest. The progress made in Greek-Israeli relations, for example, is impressive as it has broken down barriers which have stood for decades and even succeeded in getting some from the left of the political spectrum to accept the relationship with Israel.
This particular part of Greece’s foreign policy has also been achieved with cross-party consensus, starting with George Papandreou’s PASOK government, which had the support of New Democracy, and continuing today under the Defense and Foreign ministries. Israel needs Greece because it lacks strategic depth and, in part, maritime experience. Greece, in turn, needs an ally that can provide strong technical and strategic support.
The interesting thing is that something similar is happening with Greek-American relations, even though in this case politicians are reluctant to admit it publicly because they fear the remnants of sick anti-Americanism. Over the past few years, the United States has proved itself a staunch ally of Greece, both in terms of the management of the economic crisis and in other areas as well, and this without Greece having made any significant strategic exchanges beyond offering the use of the Souda Air Base on Crete during major crises, such as the recent attacks against American diplomatic missions in the Middle East.
Over the next few months, relations between Greece and the US and Israel will become even more crucial. The country has finally formed a more reliable and organized approach to issues related to oil and gas exploration and, given the economic situation, will need powerful allies in order to proceed with its energy plans. All of Greece’s biggest political players are abundantly aware of this, as they are of the fact that a Greece within the European Union is infinitely stronger than an orphaned Greece scrambling for patrons that are simply not out there.
In general terms, the progress made by Greece in achieving consensus not just in the public discourse but also in negotiations behind closed doors is impressive. In its foreign policy, we see evidence of strategic maturity, we see a political establishment that thinks realistically about the country’s national interest, does what it needs to do quietly and without fanfare and dangerous posturing, and forges a strategy that is not based on biases of the past, but on the facts and real conditions.
*** From Kathimerini