What was absent from last Thursday’s televised debate between the two U.S. presidential candidates was the foreign policy discussion.
The references made to Russia, China, and Iran were made in the context of the influence that these countries have on the elections, and not in the context of foreign policy.
This is, in part, the result of the isolationism – ‘America first’ – that President Trump proclaimed regarding the United States’ role on the international stage, where its presence in international organizations is shrinking steadily.
There were only a few observers that noted the omission(s) and pointed out the 'hot' issues in the world that the two candidates should have addressed. One of these few was Roger Cohen, a leading New York Times commentator who usually writes from Europe. In his column a few days ago, he listed 25 areas of crisis around the world and some keywords that were not mentioned in the discussion, from Syria to the word ‘alliance.’
However, there was one critical point that was missing from Cohen’s list: the Greek-Turkish crisis - the almost daily provocation of the encroachment on the national sovereignty of one NATO member state by another, which can lead to a military clash between the two countries.
This is disturbing for us Greek-Americans.
Once upon a time, for example, when the Skopje conflict had reached a critical point and its entry into the EU was being discussed, then-Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, in the government of Costas Karamanlis, had undertaken an international information campaign that included full-page ads in major foreign newspapers and other media outlets to persuade public opinion and policy makers. At the same time, she had activated Hellenes abroad, leading personalities and Diaspora organizations, to put pressure on their local governments.
Let no one underestimate the influence they have.
This crisis with Turkey is the biggest crisis that Greece has faced since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. And yet, it is restricted to small print and the back pages – with the exception of a few newspapers in the EU – in the international and American press.
The internationalization of the crisis is primarily a matter for the Foreign Ministry, which, speaking objectively, has always been at the forefront of these issues.
It can – and must – undertake, even now, an information campaign for international public opinion.