Economic globalization, in other words the total dependence of nation states and big corporations on international credit rating agencies and the financial markets, has ushered in a new weapon for political compliance, the effectiveness of which is currently being tested on allies as well as foes by US President Donald Trump, made up of sanctions, tariffs and other protectionist measures.
These measures have always been at the disposal of the big powers. Economic blockades were in the past imposed when seen fit. But the market system back then did not possess the monstrous power it does today. Nor was it independent from political power as it is now. However, even small states would utilize that weapon against their weaker rivals.
A very bad example of these punitive measures was Greece’s trade embargo on the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia decided by the government of late Socialist leader Andreas Papandreou in the 1990s. Instead of weakening Skopje, the Greek move led to the so-called interim accord and the adoption of a provisional name that included the word “Macedonia.”
At the beginning of the 19th century, Prussian general and military theorist Carl von Clausewitz delivered his famous aphorism that “War is the continuation of politics by other means.” These days, trade war, sanctions and other forms of trade protectionism seem to occupy the space between politics and armed warfare. This type of warfare comes at a smaller economic cost for the side which declares it, does not entail loss of life, does not produce imagery of disaster, and does not spark an immediate public backlash. Of course, if these measures fail to produce the anticipated results, then military engagement becomes unavoidable.
Britain, Germany, France and the European Union have reacted to Trump’s decision to impose sanctions on Tehran after Washington withdrew from an international deal that sought to limit Iran’s nuclear program. But the EU did not do enough to protect European businesses from Trump’s sanctions.
We are not that far from Iran, but we are closer to Turkey. And if the war between Ankara and Washington is to continue, then the collateral damage on Greece will be unavoidable and certainly devastating.
As if Greece’s own troubles were not enough, we now have to deal with those of our neighbors.