Adapting to the times

The meeting between Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow and the signing of the South Stream pipeline deal was hailed as a Greek success. Greece gives the Russians a European footing while receiving some energy and political benefits in return. The United States is clearly displeased by Russia’s growing role in European affairs and will continue to push their own interests from the Urals to the Balkans and Western Europe. So is Greece, a longstanding US ally, ignoring the pressures and charting an independent course? Yes. Is Greece being punished for it? No, it seems. The shifting geostrategic mosaic of the post-Cold War era is testing the beliefs and obsessions of the Atlanticists – at least those who insist on perceiving present-day reality through Cold War-tinted glasses. Karamanlis, a conservative politician who is anything but anti-American, is taking systematic eastward steps. He is not motivated by ideology but by pragmatism, seeking to ensure autonomy and long-term gains for his country. And he is not alone. Following the breakup of Yugoslavia and the Iraq war, other Western European leaders have come to see that blindly falling behind their transatlantic ally has not done their countries any good. This does not mean that they have forgotten their historical ties with the American people, or the US role in postwar reconstruction. But they do see that the world is changing, sometimes unexpectedly. Even small states such as Greece see some room for maneuver. Some defiance here and a little maneuvering there will not spell disaster. The rejection of the UN Cyprus plan didn’t, the FYROM veto didn’t. And now this deal with Russia won’t.