Alexis Papachelas ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

Big games are afoot

COMMENT

TAGS: Defense, Diplomacy, Economy

We Greeks owe a lot to the Percentages Agreement signed in Moscow in 1944 between Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin, which decreed that the West would have 90 percent of the say in what happened in Greece and the Soviet Union just 10 percent. This deal kept Greece in the West and thanks to this the country experienced prosperity and democracy, the latter interrupted by the seven-year junta.

Why are we talking about a 1944 agreement, you may ask? Because there are serious games afoot and I keep hearing people claiming that Greece will never leave the West’s sphere of influence and particularly that of the United States, because of that piece of paper. This, however, presupposes that the US will act as it has in the past.

A lot of things have changed since 1944, as is evident from the fact that the German chancellor recently challenged the future of the Western world’s key postwar institution. There are new and very ambitious players on the world stage who are seeking a strategic presence in Greece, the Balkans and the European Union. China is a major power that has a plan and the cash – a lot of cash. After Africa, it is now looking to expand into Europe, snapping up infrastructure and gaining increasing influence. It is very active in Greece, working with patience and a plan that is centered around the port of Piraeus but does not stop there. The Europeans and the Americans are concerned about the extent of China’s influence in Greece and the EU, but the bitter truth is that a country like Greece doesn’t have the luxury to turn down major investments. The difference between Western investors and China is that the former make decisions that forward their stockholders’ interests and the latter do not.

Russia is also strengthening its influence in Greece, mainly on a cultural level and in northern Greece, rather than on a business level.

So, Greece belongs to the West, but plays with others too – as it should. We have not yet reached the point where one superpower has the monopoly, and this is a likelihood we have to avert, irrespective of the power. Greece is a part of the EU and has received incredible amounts of funding and assistance from it. If Europe matures strategically, Greece must remain in its hard core.

In terms of security, Greece is part of NATO and the US is its closest ally. We can imagine a Chinese port in Piraeus and a Russian one in Thessaloniki, but we cannot imagine Chinese or Russian warships docking there. How could such a scenario come about? If something were to happen with Turkey and we suddenly discovered that America was not by our side, prompting Europe to assume a more proactive role.

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