This is a very difficult period for the country’s foreign policy. It is therefore useful that we keep a few basic things in mind.
First, we should not react in an erratic manner, celebrating on one day because “the eastern Libyan forces of Khalifa Haftar are about to make their way into Tripoli” and grieving the next because “Erdogan is playing on a whole other level.”
Foreign policy is judged by results and on a long-term basis. It is not a soccer game where fans in the stands swing between admiration and condemnation of their team’s players. Foreign policy requires patience and sober thinking. And we Greeks as a people are certainly not well-known for either of these traits.
A key obstacle is that Greek diplomacy is being held hostage by a deleterious political game. The government and the opposition need to reach a modus vivendi that will protect the country from sinking into a spiral of destruction.
Sure, there are differences and there is nothing wrong with having a different opinion on specific issues. Even a behind-the-scenes cross-party agreement of the sort seen during late socialist prime minister Andreas Papandreou’s call to “sink the Hora” oceanographic research vessel during the crisis with Turkey in 1987 is legitimate if it does not go overboard.
Problems start when we say one thing in public and another behind closed doors. And these problems usually grow when under pressure from extremist forces or the media.
Finally, it’s time we understood that foreign policy requires tough decisions. It implies that you are faced with enemies and it comes at a price. This is particularly the case in the phase we are now entering. Sending a battery of Patriot missiles to Saudi Arabia or disagreeing with a European ally are very difficult decisions. But you cannot be on good terms with everyone, provided of course that your allies are there when you need them and can offer tangible rewards.
The Greek government has played its cards well. But the game is unpredictable, the other players are stronger and the rules of the game are constantly changing. There is still a long way to go.