Greece, Turkey and the unpredictable President Trump

Greece, Turkey and the unpredictable President Trump

There is widespread satisfaction – even enthusiasm – over the support for Greece being expressed by American officials both privately and publicly, as well as over the exceptionally fruitful tripartite partnership between Greece, Cyprus and Israel.

Expectations are justifiably high from this deepening of Greek-American ties, and especially so with regard to defense. And the fact that this strengthening of ties is taking place under a leftist-led administration in Greece, in combination with the commitment of most of the opposition (New Democracy, Movement for Change and To Potami) to Euro-Atlantic institutions, ensures that this is a policy that will continue into the future.

In a similar vein – and despite SYRIZA’s once-critical stance toward Israel – Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras continues to build on the close connection with Jerusalem forged by his predecessors George Papandreou and Antonis Samaras. This policy is also useful and has obvious benefits for Greece and Cyprus in terms of the political, military and energy puzzle of the Eastern Mediterranean.

These two developments may explain, in part at least, the terser tone toward Turkey adopted recently by leading officials on the Greek side, including the usually moderate, low-key chief of the armed forces, Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis.

Restraint, however, would be advisable. The reason is that Greece relies on Washington’s support in its tug-of-war with Turkey and while this is the first time that we are seeing some consistency among rival Greek parties and politicians on some basic parameters of foreign policy, it is the administration of US President Donald Trump that is becoming increasingly inconsistent.

The recent resignation of Secretary of Defense James Mattis confirms that the “adults” in the Trump administration are dropping out one after another as they can no longer keep up with their president’s erratic behavior. His abrupt decision to pull out of Syria, essentially elevating Turkey’s role in the region, is causing widespread concern and increased skepticism.

The formation of a comprehensive and far-reaching foreign policy that can transcend party lines and politicians in Greece is a welcome development that offers positive prospects. However, it would be a mistake, given Trump’s unpredictable behavior, to believe that these rational and mature moves by Athens will ensure actual American support in the event of a further escalation of tensions with Turkey.

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