A historical crossroads

Thursday’s meeting between Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and US President Barack Obama in Washington confirmed that the White House continues to watch developments in the eurozone with substantial concern.

The leadership of the United States is also particularly worried about a Greek meltdown under increasing pressure from the fiscal adjustment program designed by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. It is clear that while fiscal adjustment is crucial, it is not sufficient by itself to pull Greece out of the crisis. What the country needs, in tandem with structural reforms and austerity measures aimed at curbing state spending, is measures to boost growth and employment. President Obama said as much himself, comparing the American recipe for dealing with its crisis to that being promoted by the Germans and other Europeans for the eurozone.

The US president’s statement made it clear that Greece has the country’s full support in its effort to rebound, although, of course, it will not be providing any form of direct financial assistance. Rather, Washington is prepared to provide an umbrella of political and strategic might, even though it is Germany that is exercising soft power over Greece because of the financial situation and the two countries’ European bond.

In a sense, we are seeing a redistribution of influence over Athens: the influence of Washington, which has traditionally held the strongest and most influential role, is waning, while that of Berlin grows stronger despite its innate reluctance and awkward diplomatic position.

The unreserved support that Washington expressed for the present and future governments in Athens is explained by the geopolitical and geoeconomic significance that Greece holds in the increasingly unstable Mediterranean basin. This also explains the emphasis placed on the strategic and energy alliance of Israel, Cyprus and Greece, which together can provide a pro-Western pillar of stability of the highest order in a troubled region.

America’s interest in regional developments will continue and grow stronger to the degree that expectations regarding hydrocarbon reserves in the Mediterranean are confirmed and to the degree that the countries of the Arab world and Turkey continue to experience instability.

Greece is at a historical crossroads. But the question is whether it will it make full use of its geopolitical advantages in order to achieve financial and social stability.