Tom Ellis TOM ELLIS

A message of cooperation, but something is missing

COMMENT

TAGS: Coronavirus, Diplomacy, US

Greece on Wednesday celebrated the anniversary of the beginning of the Greek War of Independence against 400 years of Ottoman rule on March 25, 1821. The country received many congratulatory messages from world leaders, including of the United States, the country that hosts the most important Greek diaspora in terms of size and wealth in the world.

Thus, we have the annual proclamation on Greek Independence Day from the US president. This year, it was again Donald Trump who, as America’s leader, praised the ties that unite Greece and the US. He focused on deepening security cooperation and, using the recent update of the Revised Defense Cooperation Agreement as a milestone, assessed that the foundations for long-term bilateral military cooperation have been laid.

He talked about synergies and a partnership through which the two countries promote their common strategic interests from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Black Sea and the Western Balkans.

He also stressed the cultural ties and the fact that March 25 highlights the rich history that the two countries share. The Founding Fathers of American democracy were inspired by the ideas of freedom, self-determination and rule of law which have their roots in ancient Greece. The same values that underpinned the American Revolution also inspired the people of Greece to seek their own freedom and independence.

The message of the American president is based on historical foundations, and refers to many important parameters of bilateral relations, which include social ties and educational, cultural and scientific cooperation. But for some reason, over the last few years this message seems to have been fading. It doesn’t sound so convincing, it doesn’t have the same force, the same radiance it once had. It notes some of the real truths of today, but to many ears it sounds as if it refers to things of the past.

It is clear that under its current leadership, the US is isolating itself from the rest of the world. It does not lead. It is not an example to imitate. It chooses not to project the soft power that was its most important weapon. Instead of leading the global fight against the new coronavirus, the US – which was the Mecca of scientific progress and innovation for decades – remains detached from events, to put it mildly.

Thus, it is gradually alienating itself from Greece as well. Greeks comprehend its military strength and look forward to the defense cooperation with the US and its support, but the emotional connection, the human side of the relationship, has been damaged. The respect, and often admiration, of many Greeks for the good side of America is subsiding.

There is growing discomfort about an increasingly introverted country that is only interested in its own trade interests. While the world is experiencing the coronavirus pandemic, Trump is not showing any human sensitivity and solidarity with the rest of the world. A different president might have behaved differently. And in the case of Greece, it would have reminded people of the American support offered through the Marshall Plan.

At the same time, the second largest – soon to be the first – economy in the world, China, sent 8 tons of medical supplies to Greece to assist in the fight against the new coronavirus.

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