A fine political balance

Yesterday’s discussion in Parliament was one of the very few occasions on which the opposition has unjustly criticized the government. The entire Greek nation is opposed to the attack on Iraq and quite rightly demonstrates about it, but it does not automatically follow that the government should prohibit the Americans from using the base at Souda Bay and other military installations. In this dangerously fluid geopolitical environment, Athens must act with caution. With unresolved national issues, it has less leeway than its EU partners when it comes to following a clear line. Greece cannot indulge itself by opposing the USA when its own interests are not at stake. Ankara has set obstacles before the Americans because it fears the path is opening up toward recognition of a Kurdish state, and not because it is anti-war. The government is trying to develop and maintain a balance: It employs anti-war rhetoric but avoids clashing with Washington; it did not close the Iraqi Embassy as the US State Department demanded, but has expelled a high-ranking Iraqi diplomat. Athens has another reason for maintaining a cautious stance: Having strategically favored a united Europe, and seeking a place in its core, it will always be on the other side (politically speaking) from the USA. National interests impel Greece to join initiatives, such as that taken by France, Germany and Belgium, in order to shape an independent European defense structure. In order not to adopt a position at present, Costas Simitis’s government has invoked the current Greek EU presidency. By winning time, he can see if the three countries’ initiative gains support, or whether American diplomacy will sabotage it. In other words, when he decides the scene is clearer and the risk lower.

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