OPINION

Last line of defense

The new US president’s visit to Turkey and his statements there came as something of a shock to Greece. Naturally, President Barack Obama was not showing any special preference for Turkey or particular dislike for Greece, as he has greater reason to cultivate good relations with the former than his predecessor George W. Bush did. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in turn, is taking deft advantage of his country’s elevated status in order to reap the rewards on every front. America’s emphasis on Turkey’s importance could not have been prevented, neither by Greek diplomacy nor the Greek lobby in Washington. Athens’s responsibilities lie elsewhere and, in light of the unfortunate developments from Obama’s Turkey visit, its reaction has been a knee-jerk one. It used up a good deal of political capital to ensure an invitation for Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis by the US State Department and for a brief meeting between Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Obama. The former may have served Bakoyannis’s political aspirations, but does little to further national interests. The same can be said of the latter, where the only demand was a more balanced opinion of America’s foreign policy. The problem here is that foreign relations are not being dictated by any strategic dogma, but rather defined by convenient ideologies with which the ruling elite shirks its duty to defend national interest. Instead of trying to influence the atmosphere of negotiations by taking initiatives of its own, Greek diplomacy is acting as if it were down to its last line of defense. Greece may not be as important to the USA as Turkey, but it still has a few strong cards in its hand and many governments have left these cards unplayed simply not to upset Washington. Athens has the opportunity to cultivate closer ties with countries like France and Russia in order to counterbalance the US-Turkish rapprochement. Karamanlis’s efforts in that direction, however, have not come to fruition.