Talking to the organ grinder

I don’t feel that I suffer from (politically correct) anti-Americanism. Quite the contrary; I believe anti-Americanism is one of the greatest problems facing Greece since the end of the dictatorship. It is an easy balsam to help us forget our own mistakes. On the other hand I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I see the lamentable manner in which Greek media and even our politicians deal with American officials. I see television news reports saying that an important statement by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza is coming up and I wonder what the same report would be like on CBS. Bryza is a young, ambitious and likable official, but in practice he is the counterpart of our own minister’s general secretary. Why should anyone believe that, together with Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried and US Ambassador to NATO Victoria Nuland, he will be able to get Skopje to «think straight»? It is obvious that the Macedonia name dispute is being handled by a group of mid- or low-ranking American officials. And this is wrong. We should be talking to the president himself and to his White House aides, or to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. I don’t know how this ever happened, considering the close relations that apparently exist, behind-the-scenes negotiations that were supposed to have happened or with some powerful Greek-American who is supposed to have picked up the phone and spoken to George W. Bush himself. But, if we wait for this group of Fried, Bryza and Nuland to come up with an acceptable solution to the name dispute, we will be disappointed once more, just as we were with the last proposal tabled by Matthew Nimetz. Recent statements, moreover, show that Fried has some sort of hidden agenda of «revenge» against Athens. The Greek premier and the foreign minister scored important points in Bucharest with the veto, but also with their statements. But now is when the going will get tough. If Athens becomes involved in mediation at the level of aides, it will lose. Some will argue that in the past it had negotiated with Richard Holbrooke and George Ball. The difference is that Holbrooke was who he was and he had a direct line to then President Bill Clinton. And let us also not forget that the current Greek president and then foreign minister, Karolos Papoulias, threw Holbrooke out of the suite in the Plaza hotel where talks were being held when he started making threats. Everyone is judged by the result they achieve. When and if a good solution is found all of this will be a footnote in history. But I do hope that Athens will choose to talk to «real players» because only they can bring results.

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