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A Century Later, Can Greece Seize an Historic Opportunity?

By some twist of fate, during the very same year Hellenism commemorates the centennial of the Asia Minor Catastrophe, an historic opportunity presents itself. For some years now, there has been talk of enormous hydrocarbon deposits located in Greece’s rightful Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Although it appeared that the prospect of exploiting them would be lost due to conflicting international interests and the characteristic procrastination typical of successive Greek Governments, the new Cold War between the West and Russia has changed the situation.

European energy needs and the geopolitical architecture being drawn up by the United States seem to finally aligned with Hellenic national interests, presenting a unique window of opportunity for Greece. The question now remains whether it can avoid shooting itself in the foot by repeating the tragic errors of the past. Its actions could affect the country for decades to come and shape its course for the remainder of the 21st century.

With the loss of Ionia, Pontus, and the rest of Asia Minor, Greece was cut off not only geographically, but also spiritually. As a result, the petty politics and yokelishness of the Bavarian-made state apparatus imposed on the Greek people in the absence of some other applicable alternative prevailed – despite the immense positive contribution of the ‘Generation of the 1930s’ and the heroism of 1940. The decades that passed bore the heavy imprint of political provincialism, which impeded the proper development of the state and adversely influenced society, leading to contemporary phenomena of decadence like cynical ‘oh-brotherism’ and ethno-nihilism.

The absence of a large population of Hellenes grafted with the cosmopolitanism and resourcefulness of the past, yet unfettered by the crooked and degenerative practices of partisanship and cronyism, deprived Greek society of an effective counterweight and timeless cultural example that could safeguard it from many ills.

For a century now, Turkey has not ceased capitalizing upon the inherent vulnerabilities that resulted from the loss of Hellenism in the Near East. It mercilessly continued persecuting the remaining Greeks of Constantinople, Imvros, Tenedos, etc. It Turkified nearly half of Cyprus following the invasion of 1974, and it continues challenging Greece’s sovereign and territorial rights in the Aegean. Meanwhile, through its unabashed partnership with human traffickers, Turkey is now trying to alter the population of Greece and Cyprus via a tsunami of illegal migration, while exercising ‘soft power’ through its TV programming aired on Greek TV and the tragic positions of some Greek (in name only) politicians for the purpose of turning Greece into a satellite nation.

However, with the current energy crisis threatening to destabilize the entire region, the prospect of Greece attaining energy autonomy and even becoming an energy exporter suddenly seems possible. The Government appears to have realized the magnitude of the opportunity presenting itself, because it has abandoned – in part at least – its fixation with renewable energy – as if Greece was the world’s carbon culprit. It is speeding up hydrocarbon exploration in its waters and trying to continue delineation of its EEZ. At the same time, promising discussions regarding the materialization of the EastMed pipeline, which will carry natural gas from Israel and Cyprus to Europe via Greece, are ongoing.

These prospects are beneficial for not only Greece, but other countries and large corporations as well.

Usually, that’s how grand visions and major projects move forward – when there is a win-win situation for everyone. The advantages of energy autonomy and lucrative revenue streams from gas exports would be real game-changers.

With this significant economic boost, Greece could finally escape the jaws of austerity, which has dangerously corroded the national infrastructure. It will be able to invest in vital sectors, provide citizens who were forced to migrate during the economic crisis with tacit incentives to repatriate, and effectively defend itself against growing foreign and domestic threats. The nation’s geostrategic value will skyrocket, as it will serve both as an energy hub and vital component for regional stability.

Turkey understands the enormity of what is at stake perhaps more than anyone else. That’s why it will use every means (legitimate and illegitimate) at its disposal to obstruct Greece from attaining its goal – especially if can manage to usurp the lion’s share of the resources in the process. Aside from traditional Turkish aggression against Greece, Ankara also relies on the precedents of modern history, which have justified its choices over the past century, largely due to Greek politicians’ foolishness.

Bad choices and internal dissention led Greece to painful losses and humbling setbacks. At the same time, Greece was hung out to dry by its allies on several occasions, precisely because Athens’ interests were not fully aligned with those of the Great Powers, and international relations are based primarily on utilitarianism and cynicism.

History seems to be offering Athens a chance to correct the missteps of the past and seize the opportunity that presents itself, 100 years after it failed to capitalize on a previous one and nearly committed national suicide.

Will today’s political leaders be able to see the bigger picture and not sacrifice the future of the nation for the sake of short-sighted gains? Will the people be able to discern their best interests and not fall prey to unconscionable charlatans? Will strategic planning prevail over shallow partisan ideology?

It remains to be seen whether contemporary Hellenism retains its ancestors’ unique ability to survive and ingeniously capitalize upon opportunities that present themselves, as it did for so many centuries throughout its long and illustrious past. Centuries-old pirates, the Turks are certainly betting that they can once again steal away this opportunity from the hands of the Greeks, as is their habit. It’s up to Hellenism to prove them wrong. The challenge is immense and will affect the balance of power in the 21st century – perhaps even the very survival of the Greek state as we know it.

Follow me on Twitter @CTripoulas

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