Soothsayers and realpolitik

When the Cold War ended, some were quick to declare the end of History. They foresaw the termination of conflicts across the globe and the emergence of a new, postmodern system of governance.

All that, of course, was a chimera. Watching history unfold, you get the feeling it has started to roll backwards. Far from being a thing of the world’s periphery, religious and racial conflict has returned with fresh intensity. Washington is faced with a bleak, complex landscape in which friends and enemies are not always easy to perceive. History will be tough on former US President George W. Bush for spending precious strategic capital in invading Iraq. His father, the calculating master of realpolitik, was fiercely criticized for not launching American troops on Baghdad after the war in Kuwait. George Bush Sr knew, however, that Saddam Hussein’s illiberal regime was the glue that kept together a state with a vital role in the region.

His son on the other hand, thought that US troops would be welcomed by liberated Iraqis waving American flags in the streets of Baghdad and that the country would become the Mideast equivalent of Puerto Rico. We are now seeing the consequences of that mistake,

European leaders also misjudged when they intervened in Libya and Syria without a clear goal and exit strategy. Later, Europe’s hawks pushed Ukraine into a tricky adventure that was exploited by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

All of this has created a vast, volatile zone stretching from Ukraine to Libya. No one knows who is really in charge today or who will be in charge tomorrow – nor what kind of conventional and non-conventional weapons are changing hands in the area. Could these crisis points feed the rise of a new type of terrorism? And what are the implications for immigration flows to Europe?

The EU has no idea how to play the geopolitical game. It is also weighted down by competing interests. America’s power is waning and Washington is trying to come to terms with this unavoidable fact. Russia is playing it tough but it will soon have to face the reality of its financial weaknesses. Only China is gaining ground, despite its internal problems.

Where does all this leave Greece? It would be premature, perhaps even foolish, to draw any conclusions. Some, back in the Cold War days, eyed an alliance with Washington against Berlin. Later, they thought that collaborating with Moscow against everyone else would be a better idea. More recently, they have been arguing in favor of an alliance with Beijing against Berlin.

Foreign policy requires patience and a level head. For the most part, Greece has been able to pick the right alliances. It will soon have to do so again after the dust settles. Until then, we should leave geopolitical plans and forecasts to our soothsayers.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.