Plotting a course with a changing map


Nothing is simple or black-and-white in the global arena. This is a time of increasingly profound tectonic changes, where anti-systemic forces have become the new normal, where the unexpected has become the expected.

Let us say, for example, that you are the prime minister of Greece and believe that you have made huge concessions so that the country can remain in the euro area. You visit the White House for talks with the leader of the Western world, expecting to be congratulated for your bold decisions, as it were. Instead, you get all sorts of questions that lead up to the main one: “So why didn’t you leave the euro?” Before you get a chance to respond, your interlocutor goes on: “Staying in the eurozone was a bad business decision, it makes no sense.” A conversation like this can be really confusing and leaves you guessing whether he meant what he said, whether his comments echo the official policy line and so on.

Or, let’s say that you are the prime minister of Greece and trying to make sense of political developments in the European Union. The German chancellor is seeking help from European governments ahead of state elections in Bavaria in October. Powerful leaders are openly questioning the authority of Brussels and the way the EU conducts its business. You realize that as the bloc finds itself under growing strain, there is very little in the form of a European leadership.

On one hand there are threats such as the huge wave of immigration – which has not fully unfolded – and the EU’s dwindling economic and strategic leverage. On the other, there is the rise of populism, nationalism and insolent leaders who question everything. The reasonable and serious America is still there, but it is losing ground; and so is the European center.

You then take part at a global forum organized in China and come across that clear vision and – above all – that incredible energy and force.

At the same time you know that there is always going to be a Putin somewhere in the game. The Russian strongman has managed to turn the West upside down in what can be described as an unorthodox war of influence – and that at the price of a single F-35.

So far, Greek leaders knew the facts and went through the motions. Now I fear that even Greece’s most talented minds will find it hard to map out a course for the future – and even more so in five or 10 years from now – because the map itself is constantly changing.