Dreaming of Trump

Dreaming of Trump

Greek society is raging again. People are exhausted and angry. The things you hear being said are very similar to the noises ahead of the first elections in 2012, when the old political system was routed in a spectacular manner. Nobody could have predicted then what would follow.

In this era of rage and exasperation, Donald Trump has, unsurprisingly, gained fans here in Greece, some of whom are particularly fiery. His anti-systemic style, the offering of simple and immediate solutions to longstanding problems and his underlying authoritarianism are completely in line with the kind of qualities part of our society would like in a leader.

The longer our democracy fails to provide solutions to problems, the more admiration for Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Trump will grow. Of course, I find it difficult to imagine how today’s Greece would accept a government made up of bankers, hedge fund managers and generals, but in this crazy age anything is possible.

Is it to Greece’s advantage that Trump is the US president today? At the moment, he seems to be leading an administration that has a positive view of the political forces that want to break up the European Union and is not particularly interested in the eurozone’s cohesion. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will no longer be able to call Barack Obama or Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and ask them to put pressure on the International Monetary Fund. Some people seem to believe that as a result of some kind of metaphysical miracle, the new US president will order the American representative on the IMF board to insist that the Fund withdraws from the Greek program. There are many in the IMF who would like this to happen but there is absolutely no indication that it will.

The fact that Washington is abandoning its policy of supporting a united Europe and a cohesive eurozone means that it is certain we will encounter challenges in the future.

In geopolitical terms, we do not yet have a clue about how Trump will affect us. One possibility, wihch has been the subject of much discussion, is closer cooperation between Greece and the USA in the fight against Islamic terrorism. Some people take it a step further and suggest that if Incirlik Air Base in Turkey ceases to be available to the Americans, Greece could host their aircraft instead. They believe that Greece will become the West’s line of defense against Islam.

The question that will arise in such an eventuality is whether we can live up to such a role. Are we a country that could or would want to be a lighter version of Israel? And, how serious will the threat of a terrorist attack be in retaliation for our cooperation with the US? As is well known, Greece is not an impregnable fortress in terms of domestic security.

Lastly, Trump is certain to try to get involved in energy issues between Turkey, Israel, Egypt and Cyprus. The corporate interest is significant and many of the players are his acquaintances.

For the time being, part of Greek public opinion is imaging what it would be like to have a prime minister like Trump. And, part of the Greek establishment is imagining deals and geopolitical action with him. The first dream is understandable, the second is, for the time being, dangerous.

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