OPINION

When idealism meets realism

When idealism meets realism

There’s hardly any room for sentimentalism in international relations. Nevertheless, the idea that we could close our eyes and ears to the drama of the Ukrainian people because we are a small country with limited leverage, or because we have historic ties with Russia, or because Turkey has so far refused to join international sanctions against Russia as it hopes to exploit the situation, would be hypocritical for a country that has traditionally anchored its foreign policy on international law.

On top of condemning the Russia’s invasion, Greece sent military assistance to Ukraine and is backing economic sanctions targeting Russia – a decision that comes at a hefty cost given that, at the moment, any exposure to Russia’s market is considered a weakness.

Speaking at the Delphi Economic Forum in Washington this week, Alternate Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis said that the cost of Greece’s foreign policy on the Ukraine crisis is already evident. He added that Greece is under pressure from Russia over Ukraine on all fronts, including diplomacy, the economy, energy and tourism.

Greece is seen as a key strategic partner that promotes stability and democracy in areas which are of US security concern

The US State Department thanked the Greek government for its “steadfast support” over Ukraine in the form of humanitarian and military assistance. It noted that Greek support was provided only a few hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had made an international plea for help. US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt praised the country’s swift and determined response to Ukraine’s request, underscoring Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ speech in Parliament and the country’s crucial contribution in defense equipment.

US analysts speaking at the same conference said that the world is at a turning point. The international security architecture is undergoing a systemic transformation, ushering in a fresh cold war-style competition between big powers based around strategic power and interdependent hotspots. From the US perspective, the role of Greece is pretty clear. Greece is seen as a key strategic partner that promotes stability and democracy in areas which are of US security concern. The country also plays a key role in defending NATO’s southeastern flank.

In this context, a policy of neutrality for a European country that is exposed to the volatile Eastern Mediterranean region would not mean more flexibility but instead more risk. Even more so given that the country feels threatened by the revisionist policies of an aggressive neighbor. This is the point where idealism meets realism.

A small country with significant geostrategic status has the opportunity to invest in it with the aim of strengthening the comparative advantage of its strong alliances and bolstering its national security while at the same time defending the fundamental principles of international law, territorial integrity and sovereignty.