The country’s foreign policy and security are too important to be handled lightly by anybody. When that person is the defense minister displaying a flippant attitude in formal discussions with top superpower officials, we have a serious problem.
We may be accustomed to the craziness of opposing policy lines within one government. We may be used to seeing the ministers of foreign affairs and defense locking horns, often getting quite personal. We may be unsurprised that one coalition partner would reject an agreement signed by the other that is of national significance and has broader regional ramifications. But when this theater of the absurd is transported to the world’s most important decision-making center, then the country’s credibility is challenged.
We have a name deal with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia that was signed by the government of Greece, via its prime minister and foreign affairs chief, and has the avid support of the Americans and the Europeans – each for their own reasons. And then we have that very same deal being undermined by the very same government via the minister of defense, and all that taking place inside the US State Department, during a meeting with the assistant secretary of state for European affairs.
We are equally baffled by Defense Minister Panos Kammenos’s proposal for the creation of a “Balkan alliance” with Albania and Bulgaria. Why would Greece not just propose but actively play a leading role in including FYROM in a regional “arch of stability” that would effectively operate under a US umbrella, without getting anything in return with regard to the name dispute, and especially when every country in the region, as well as in most of the world, will keep calling the country the “Republic of Macedonia”? Why would we give Skopje the stability and security it seeks for free, even though it is willing to make concessions on the name issue in return? It doesn’t sound as if the proposal would serve Greece’s national interest in any way.
Kammenos also put forward a proposition for more American bases in Greece. Even if one accepts the geostrategic importance of such a move, and that is indeed the case, this is something that is simply not announced on camera. When it comes to any strategic decision that serves the national interest, if there a serious plan, it has first to be looked at in depth behind closed doors.
When it comes to issues related to the complex regional puzzle of which the name deal is a piece, and to Greece’s strategic cooperation with the United States, a more serious approach is expected of people in positions of responsibility.