Last week, another symbol of Greece’s post-junta era was buried in the cemetery of history. The symbol is anti-Americanism, which was one of the building blocks of our national mythology after the fall of the military dictatorship and the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.
Sometimes pictures speak louder than words: Think of the contrast between decades of anger over the docking of the United States Sixth Fleet in Greek ports against the recent festive presence of its flagship, the USS Mount Whitney, in Thessaloniki.
But words can be impressive too, such as statements by US Defense Secretary James Mattis, who has spoken of relations between the two countries being at their best point ever. This is not happening during a quiet period in international affairs, but at a time of renewed Cold War tensions worldwide.
At this point, the greatest risk is of exaggerated expectations, which have a tendency to appear a lot in our neck of the woods. Nor should we underestimate how suspicion and opposition to the United States has not disappeared from our DNA.
But what does public opinion expect from the unprecedented boom in Greek-American relations? Two things: investments and actions, along with statements that will boost the country’s sense of security.
It is too early to see results in terms of the first issue. Investments are being made in tourism but US investors remain skeptical, expecting bold signs from the Greek government. Besides, there is a certain misunderstanding on the issue of investments. The United States is not China or Russia. Members of the administration or the president himself may arrange meetings and open doors, as has happened in the last year. However, the actual decisions are taken by CEOs, after they have assessed risks, the prospects of profits and the obstacles they may face.
The Chinese meanwhile invest according to the decisions of top-ranking officials in Beijing. It will take time for serious American investors to come to Greece. It makes sense for those people to ask, “Where’s the beef?” This will become apparent in the coming months.
As far as security is concerned, the situation is fluid. Washington does not want to write off Turkey, or to start a debate on who “lost” the country. The US Congress is following its own policy, pushing things to the edge. Bureaucrats are reacting, preparing themselves, but do not want to remove their “eggs” from the proverbial Turkish basket. The same goes for the White House.
Greece, along with the Greek Americans and the powerful alliances it has now formed due to its relations with Israel, must continuously keep up the pressure on very specific requests. It is obvious Athens has rolled the dice. At some point, it has to see what it has gained.