Cooperation between Greece and the United States has gradually strengthened over the last two centuries, starting with US President James Monroe, who in 1822 stated “a strong hope is entertained that the Greeks will recover their independence,” through Barack Obama’s “Zito i Ellas” (Long live Greece), to Donald Trump, who said that the Greeks “have been loyal friends and allies.”
Economic and military assistance was consolidated via the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan and, of course, Greece’s accession to the NATO alliance that was the political embodiment of Constantine Karamanlis’s mantra “We belong to the West.” It was a policy of strategic significance, with an eye fixed on the future of the nation and the new generations, and in spite of the populist tide of the time. It was a policy that set the foundations for a clean and honest relationship, the endurance of which derives from two fundamental principles: longevity and trust. Longevity determines credibility while mutual trust creates mutual benefits.
Bilateral relations of course are not always linear. They are influenced by each country’s power and interests at that particular time. However, historically speaking, consistency must be seen as a virtue and not as a weakness.
Conservative New Democracy built contemporary Greek-American ties on healthy foundations. It stabilized them and safeguarded them, even at times of crisis and disagreement. It rendered Greece a strategic partner, elevating the country to a pillar of stability in the wider region of the southeastern Mediterranean. Thanks to the party’s foreign policy, we have now reached a point where summit meetings between the two states are the rule and not the exception.
On the other hand, the opportunistic self-importance of those who make politics with one eye fixed on Caracas has nothing to offer the national interest apart from short-lived petty political benefits for domestic consumption. These are after all the same people whose blind anti-Americanism for decades undermined the national interest. As the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu said, a strategy of tactical maneuvers and long-term goals will lead you to victory, whereas tactical maneuvers without strategy and with a short-term prospect will end in defeat.
The SYRIZA-Independent Greeks (ANEL) coalition is wasting time on pointless maneuvering as it does not know, and it cannot meet, even the most moderate expectations of such an important meeting with the US president and at a favorable timing. It is extremely disappointing that the government claims to be “pleased” at the fact that a diplomatic meeting on that level produced no tangible result apart from a deal to upgrade the operational capability of Greece’s F-16 fighter jets.
New Democracy is a responsible party that has played a leading role in safeguarding national sovereignty and which recognizes the priority and need to reinforce the country’s security in a volatile neighborhood. In this context, I want to underline two things: We seem to be far from the point where the European Union obtains a coordinated defense policy that could guarantee Greece a strong level of border security. It is also clear that the credibility of foreign policy is based on strong institutional pillars.
Just as there is extensive consultation in the defense and security committees of the US Congress on these issues, the Greek Parliament’s defense committee should discuss the issue of defense procurements. This way, the Greek people will know all the truth. As things stand, the people have nothing – even on a symbolic level – to remember about this meeting. As if there are no issues where the diplomatic support of the US would be crucial for the country’s interests – energy, migration/refugee crisis, Cyprus, maritime zones and so on.
Sure, one does not always expect some bilateral deal to emerge, but in international relations even a joint statement on the content of the agenda can send a message. No such statement emerged, a common understanding, as it were, about what was discussed. But how could this government be expected to make use of such opportunities when its officials do not hesitate to visit the White House and then march to the US Embassy in Athens shouting pseudo-rebellious slogans within the space of only a few weeks?
* Vassilis Kikilias is a New Democracy MP and shadow defense minister.