The real multiplier

Your geopolitical significance is not a decoration to flaunt to other nations. Rather, it is a strong card that you flash depending on your interests and your calculations. If you make the right move, you win. If you don’t, well, it just happens that you lose.

It’s good to keep all the above in mind these days. Politicians, analysts and pundits do not tire of rehashing cliches about Greece’s supposedly exceptional strategic location. Similar statements can be heard in meetings with foreign diplomats.

The problem is that we seem to have strapped ourselves into a straitjacket that prevents every political leader from playing a serious geopolitical game. “Be careful: We don’t want a military jeep to crash and injure some of our soldiers,” a Greek minister cautioned his subordinates during a briefing on Greece’s participation in an international mission.

The fear of bad publicity and concern about the so-called political cost is enough to paralyze every Greek politician at the precise moment he needs to make use of the country’s position and capabilities. As a result, we tend to overestimate our leverage while international leaders remain relatively unimpressed. “The Greeks are not serious. They don’t play ball,” they say.

We have it all mixed up about how the international system works. We tend to believe that everyone owes us a favor and that we never have to do anything for anyone else. We have reached a point where when we refer to our geopolitical importance, we do so in the most devaluing manner. This is why we are saying: “Look at the mess we are in. Don’t let us fall apart.”

This is not what Greece used to be like. The late leader Eleftherios Venizelos would play his cards with gains and painful losses. However, he managed to save the country in the process.

It is certain that when the expected intervention in Syria actually happens, we shall once again be subjected to the usual allegations about traitors, spies and other national villains that always make us feel so special.

I would really like to believe that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos and SYRIZA chief Alexis Tsipras have held a secret meeting during which they agreed to clash in public over the issue but to essentially follow a common national line.

Of course this is wishful thinking. It’s a pity, because when it comes to foreign policy issues there is no bigger multiplier that national understanding.