Greece and the triumvirate of power

By Costas Iordanidis

Last Sunday’s Turkish presidential election confirmed Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the third most powerful political leader of the European system – in the broader sense of the word – after German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

All three figures have the power to cultivate politics and spur developments, at least for as long as they remain in their coveted positions.

At the same time politicians on Europe’s periphery as well as US President Barack Obama – who seems to be entirely out of sync when it comes to international affairs issues – are all trying to tame the aforementioned politicians’ desire for power.

For reasons that don’t have to be explained at this point but have been largely analyzed in the past, Greece has synchronized its policies with those of Germany for over four years now and the numerous loud voices and protests from both sides of the local political spectrum cannot change this fact.

This development was to be expected considering that Germany has been declared the European Union’s most powerful country and also because in politics, just as in life, “democratic procedures” fade against power – not only against the power of a rival, but that of a partner as well.

Going along with German policy has never been the national strategy of any Greek independent state. Nor was Constantine I of Greece a puppet in the hands of Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II during World War I, as Eleftherios Venizelos’s supporters claimed at the time.

Back then, of course, the political equation also involved the period’s “naval powers,” initially Britain and, following the war, the United States. While the former is clearly experiencing a period of decay, the latter gives the impression of wishing to withdraw following a series of ill-fated interventions that have had a rather destabilizing effect on the region.

While it is not clear where this going-along-with-Germany will lead to, Greece’s relationships with Putin’s Russia and Erdogan’s Turkey are awkward, at best. Meanwhile, Merkel is visibly making efforts to bridge Germany’s differences with the US, while Putin and Erdogan are working outside the Anglo-Saxon system’s logic – the former more than the latter.

Ties with Russia are being put to the test through bilateral economic sanctions imposed by both the West and Moscow. And with Turkey led by a politician whose self-esteem currently reflects that of the Ottoman Empire’s early sultans, coupled with a growing economy, Greece is facing a major problem.

Given Greece’s dire financial situation and its sad lack of political leadership, the danger of the country’s “Finlandization” is tangible. And it is doubtful whether the European Union would deter such a negative development from taking place.