OPINION

New challenges for Europe

The release of the new National Security Strategy (NSS) of the United States of America, in the context of which a US-led attack on Iraq is merely a subordinate issue, has forced Greece and the other European Union countries, apart from Britain, to face a crucial dilemma. The opposition of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and his foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, to American action in Iraq appeased the electorate in the biggest and most powerful country of the European Union, and it underscored the fact that a considerable number of Europe’s citizens have begun to distance themselves from America’s foreign policy. Saying that European citizens are growing more critical of Washington, however, is one thing, while expressing certainty that the EU is gradually weaning itself from Washington, or assuming that Greece could possibly back a purely European security and defense system, is quite another. Regardless of the international situation, it is in Greece’s interest to participate, along with Turkey, in a common and strong security system, as the consequences of unceasing tension in relations between Athens and Ankara, combined with growing antagonism between two rival military alliances, would be dire. NATO may have never intervened in Greece’s favor against Turkish expansionism in the Aegean. However, no one can question that the membership of both states in the trans-Atlantic alliance has headed off a Greek-Turkish war for the past 45 years. In effect, Greece should try to avert the prospect of military competition between the EU and the US, despite the fact that from a cultural, economic and political perspective, it stands closer to the union than to America. The crucial issue, of course, is not whether the US has a right to expand the war on terrorism to Iraq and the Middle East. What really matters is that the US deems that it has the military capability to do so. The expansion of America’s military campaign may lead to the collapse of the US-led anti-terror alliance and generate many insurmountable problems. But the true initiative lies with the US, while the EU is nothing but a protesting bystander that is observing developments on the international arena. For its part, the Greek government, which will soon chair the EU’s rotating presidency, will find itself in the gratifying position of trying to forge a single EU voice rather than shape a genuinely national position – which is something it cannot possibly do anyway.