Who among the comrades at SYRIZA’s central committee meetings that penned and signed so many anti-Western and anti-NATO declarations would have imagined two or three years ago that their chosen leader would be prime minister of Greece today? Furthermore, who would have thought he’d be in the Oval Office meeting with the president of the United States – even if that is Donald Trump? History often introduces such farcical twists, but such is reality.
The meeting between Trump and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is basically a formal expression of American interest in further upgrading the role of the US Navy base at Souda in Crete and increasing use of the Greek airports at Kasteli and Andravida, as well as Greece’s desire to satisfy these demands. This is reasonable given that Greece “belongs to the West” and Tsipras is wholeheartedly – and thankfully – embracing this notion. After all, not even Andreas Papandreou disputed Souda on his rampage against American bases in Greece once they no longer had a reason to be here.
That said, it is not easy to assess the political gains the prime minister can expect from a meeting with this particular US president, who has shown time and again that he is ready to cancel deals signed with other countries (even recent ones), who is accused even by senators of his own party of trying to start World War III, and who is looking increasingly unlikely of surviving his term.
In the meantime, though, NATO’s bases in Greece need to be upgraded because the situation in the Middle East does not look like calming down anytime soon, not even with the defeat of ISIS. Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is becoming increasingly unpredictable and Trump’s threats to terminate the nuclear deal with Iran despite the objections of the Europeans is creating a greater sense of insecurity. The possibility of a Kurdish state being created with the support of Israel and the United States only further complicates matters.
Greece, in short, is fast becoming a direct player in developments, without the option of bowing out.