Iranian demonstrators burn paper US flags during a protest in front of the former US Embassy in response to President Donald Trump's decision Tuesday to pull out of the nuclear deal and renew sanctions, in Tehran, Iran.
From the start of his presidency it was clear that Donald Trump would present a unique challenge to his country, that his reckless indifference to the consequences of his actions would endanger democratic institutions and the political culture of the United States.
It was also clear that if he did not heed the advice of professional diplomats he would damage America’s relations with the rest of the world and perhaps disturb the balances that had held together the global system of political and economic security.
In less than a year-and-a-half, Trump has managed to cause more harm than expected. Without delving into the wounds he has opened in the United States and in the global order, we need to look into the dangers that Greece may face because of the US president’s policy.
Paradoxically, relations between Greece and the United States have been very good lately. The odd marriage between SYRIZA and Independent Greeks managed to curtail the Left’s knee-jerk anti-Americanism and to strengthen cooperation with Washington at a time when relations between the United States and Turkey are in free fall.
However, any act by the United States could trigger protests by forces to the left of SYRIZA who are continually trying to score anti-imperialist points, as the recent demonstration by the Communist Party’s labor wing showed, when protesters took a disk saw to the ankles of a statue of US President Harry S. Truman as retribution for the latest US bombing of Syria.
Moving the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and walking out of the international deal with Iran could provoke long turmoil in the region. Among the more immediate dangers is that Israel might be caught in an escalating cycle of violence with the Palestinians and Iran, just at the time when Greece and Cyprus are strengthening relations with Israel.
They need this alliance but they also need stability and quiet in the region, to allow their economies to grow and to avoid further refugee flows.
Is SYRIZA ready to manage the fallout from a clash in which some countries will be in favor of US policy and while others are against? Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s support for Iran may further strengthen Greece’s place in US planning, but will the Greek government be able to deal with local activists (whom it once encouraged) when they take to the streets to protest against America and Israel?
Any disagreement between the United States and the European Union will create further problems. Greece needs strong allies but the European security system is still on the drawing board.
So Athens needs to foster even closer ties with Washington without estranging its European partners. All this at precisely the moment that President Trump is undermining American credibility.