OPINION

Country bumpkin diplomacy

Greek journalists who live or travel abroad are often embarrassed by Greek politicians traveling abroad, who behave like poor country cousins who have just arrived in the big city or like know-it-all nouveau riche. A former defense minister once showed up two hours late at a dinner organized in his honor. Looking a bit tipsy, he used his hands to explain that «when you have money you buy Patriot missiles which… whoosh… they fly so well!» «When you don’t have money,» he went on, «you buy S-300 which… whoosh» and pointed his finger at the ground, before adding, «They don’t really work, you see, but they are good value!» The guests giggled at the show, some asking themselves if this man could really represent a serious nation. Or the story of a former public order minister who, while visiting Washington, was asked by a CNN journalist about a recent string of blasts in Athens. «Oh, this kind of bombs explode all the time. It’s no big deal,» he replied. The journalist insisted: «How can you possibly not do anything about this?» To which the Greek official replied: «I’m telling you, these are just homemade bombs. I know how to make them, you know how to make them. In fact, I sometimes detonated them myself when I was young.» To which the dumbfounded journalist said, «You may know how to do this, but I don’t want to know.» The problem is the average Greek politician believes he is the center of the world and everyone else is intellectually challenged. When his foreign peers talk about Iran or nuclear weapons, he responds with that trademark Mediterranean bully posturing: «What about Turkey?» But a global player must speak the language of his peers and then, deftly, press his own agenda. Unfortunately, the average Greek politician believes he can get away with acting the way he did on the farm.