A stagnant country with a sick neighbor

A stagnant country with a sick neighbor

It’s often been said that Greece, being a small country, ought to move in a way that leaves it unaffected by international developments. As if there was some magical place in which space and time stood still.

The problem is not that arguments of this kind are being put forward. Rather, the problem lies with the inability or mere unwillingness of pundits, politicians, journalists and so-called influencers to understand and analyze the situation before holding a meaningful conversation.

Things are pretty simple. Greece is still mired in a crisis which is above all due to the inability of a clientelist state to adapt to the 21st century.

Responsibility for this lies with PASOK and New Democracy and, more recently, SYRIZA, a party which has largely proven to be a poor socialist replica straight out of the 1980s. Responsibility also lies with the evident failure of Greece’s foreign lenders to realize that strict and prolonged austerity will only postpone bankruptcy while at the same time feeding instability in Southeast Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean – areas that have traditionally been in the European Union’s sphere of interest.

Meanwhile, there are other factors which, as illustrated in recent days, can make the leftist government’s rhetoric about Greece’s bailout exit sound like a very bad joke. Worse, they could lead to prolonged instability. A future Greek crisis, whatever form it may take, will most probably involve Turkey one way or another. Turkey’s economic woes have already had an impact on Greece’s vulnerable bonds, shattering the dream of a clean exit. Greek exports are also set to take a hit from the meltdown of the Turkish lira.

It is too early to say what impact the turbulence in Turkey will have on the global economy; however, the effect on its smaller neighbor, Greece, is already evident. Ankara’s distancing itself from the Western alliance system is causing cracks in Greece’s relations with countries such as Russia. Meanwhile, it is also shifting the burden onto the countries that surround Turkey – with its geography, population and military size.

A normalization of the West’s ties with Turkey would not be a more welcome scenario as it would once again turn Greece into the annoying partner which is constantly bringing up issues about its bigger neighbor. Turkey’s relations with the Western world are unlikely to stay the same. Standing on the Western frontier, Greece cannot afford to oscillate between pseudo-nationalist posturing and inertia.

There are no more optimistic scenarios. We need to adjust to the worst-case scenario and just hope for the best. Time will show if it works.

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