We have a very bad habit in Greece. We often confuse the domestic with the international “game.” We want prime ministers who in their meetings or their speeches abroad will passionately bring to the table solely Greek positions on issues that concern only us. This is a mistake. It is ineffective. It obviously wins kudos and votes within the country. After all, from some point on, foreign policy began being formulated from what is popular and what has a political cost
This is not a way to win over friends and allies. The United States president or any other important leader in the world has tens of open issues on their mind. They might know Greece, might be aware of Greek issues; however, at the end of the day, it is a “small piece” of a much larger puzzle. A Greek leader must decide what the issues of immediate interest are, after making clear that they understand the larger puzzle, and explain that our country can contribute to solving it. After all, no one will take our side simply because they are a philhellene. Diplomacy is an eternal give and take.
The great leaders of the past, with Eleftherios Venizelos at the fore, taught us how foreign policy is conducted. They put forward ambitious goals domestically but always reined in the irresponsible passion that leads to troubles. They spoke candidly with foreign leaders on everything and convinced them that Greece could reinforce their interests while also serving its own national strategy.
I understand that, in this day and age, passion and shouting is more attractive than cold logic. A significant portion of popular opinion is enthused, saying, “It’s about time someone told them,” when they hear a politician state something off the playlist of classic hits during an international tour. We are right on many things, and we have the right to be upset over the West’s double standards on certain issues. However, it is not about “feeling better,” or feeling like “we got it off our chest.” The issue is to persuade key leaders that our “problem” is an issue of wider and significant importance, that it is linked to issues at stake internationally, and that Greece has a way to contribute to them in its region.