Rethinking Greece’s geopolitical role

By Alexis Papachelas

Greece has been quite lucky at several crucial junctures in its history. Competition between the great powers for influence in the Eastern Mediterranean saw Greece coveted as an ally and secured it significant geopolitical and economic advantages. To put it cynically, without the Soviet threat there would have been no Marshall Plan, which was responsible for much of the country’s postwar reconstruction and development.

Today, we Greeks talk a lot about the country’s geopolitical advantages, but others, unfortunately, are not doing the same. No one wants Greece to be a failed state in the midst of an uncertain and volatile situation in the broader region. There also seems to be no demand for Greece as a possible pawn in greater geopolitical games. Some wonder whether Greece could play the Russia card or if Moscow could play the Greek card within the context of another cold war triggered by developments in Ukraine. It is unlikely that Vladimir Putin was being jocular when he wondered, in Brussels, how the European Union would like it if he sent his foreign minister to an anti-Europe rally in Athens.

What this veiled threat means will likely become apparent in the future.

That said, Greece has a duty to itself to safeguard its interests and to draw up a clear policy regarding its role in international developments. Our priority should always be the national interest and protecting democracy and the way of life we have built for ourselves. It is difficult to imagine Greece leaving the safety of Europe and abandoning the idea of belonging to the West. Our economy, our interests and our entire way of life are intrinsically linked to and dependent on the EU. The only thing that could possibly lead to such a scenario would be if our partners kicked us out of the eurozone, either because they were under pressure to do so or because of domestic political developments. Dangerous political developments could include the prevalence of ultranationalist and anti-European powers in the event that Greece were squeezed out of Europe’s core, shifting the country’s geopolitical direction.

However, such a scenario seems very unlikely. The quality of life and democracy in Greece is still many steps above that of Ukraine, and most Greeks want to hold onto the stability and security offered by remaining in the European family. On the other hand, the growing tension between Russia and the EU-US front may serve Greece well. If anything, it could make certain partners start to think in geopolitical dimensions rather than simply in terms of numbers.