OPINION

Economic might

In the old days, foreign policy was based on countries’ military, rather than economic, might. But over the last few decades, economic power has trumped the former – hence the peaceful and bloodless nature of foreign-policy successes. In our era, heads of state and prime ministers have become glorified traveling salesmen promoting their country’s products, which has turned into the primary purpose of official visits. As an inducement, the prospective buyer is offered international support for various foreign-policy issues. Those who might query the predominance of the economy in international relations might compare the reactions sparked by the unacceptable US decision to recognize the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as the «Republic of Macedonia.» On the Greek side, there was indignation and anger. Logically, the people of FYROM should then have reacted with joy and enthusiasm. Instead, they responded with doubt and unease – for the simple reason that both their economy and their accession to the EU and NATO depend more on Greece than on the USA. With unemployment at over 40 percent and average wages of just 190 euros a month, FYROM’s people are well aware that the 200 Greek enterprises, both large and small, that operate within their country’s borders are a basic pillar of their economy. Equally, they have realized Greece is a natural, indispensable bridge to Europe and the Atlantic alliance. They thus do not regard their US baptisal as the «Republic of Macedonia» as non-negotiable; quite the contrary. But as in every conflict, it is not enough for one side to realize it is at a disadvantage. The other side must also realize that it is in a position of strength, and avoid knee-jerk, fear-fueled overreactions which prevent it from utilizing its own advantages to serve the long-term national interest.