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The Premier’s Visit to Washington: A Chance to Recover Greece’s Philotimo

The fighting in Ukraine seems increasingly like an eerie preview of World War III. On the one hand, U.S. policymakers seem intent on turning Ukraine into a Russian ‘Vietnam’, no matter the cost for Europe.

On the other hand, as the world focuses on the main theater of operations, rogue states like Turkey are free to capitalize on the situation, as always.

During WWI, Turkey committed genocide against the Christian peoples (indigenous Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians) in its realm.

In the aftermath of WWII, Ankara targeted the remaining Greeks of Constantinople and Hellenism in Cyprus. Following the Cold War, it embarked on a campaign to eradicate the Kurds both domestically and abroad.

Its current encroachment into Syria and Northern Iraq continues its legacy of destruction. Naturally, its appetites continue to grow as the global state of affairs enters into further disarray.

In the face of these daunting developments, Hellenes worldwide must ask themselves a burning question: what is Greece’s strategy?

Years of appeasement have plunged Greece into a vicious cycle, where the demands of foreign entities continually increase, while the trade-offs are virtually non-existent.

Greece is already facing the consequences of the ill-conceived Prespa Agreement. Skopje continues to flaunt the pact with every opportunity, while there are already municipalities in Greece’s onomastically challenged northern neighbor choosing to display the Star of Vergina on their flag.

Had the previous government not been in such a rush to reverse decades of Greek policy in exchange for next to nothing, current international affairs would have compelled Skopje to abandon its unprincipled positions and adopt more realistic ones to secure admission into NATO. Otherwise, they would risk destabilization from Russia.

Unfortunately, Greece caved to Western pressure and granted Skopje an unexpected diplomatic victory. The question is in exchange for what? In terms of national interest, Greece gained nothing from the previous government’s accommodation or the adherence to this agreement by the current administration.

Turkish provocations grow bolder by the day, while the U.S., NATO, and the Brussels maintain a hypocritical double standard, which favors Ankara. Greece’s geopolitical value remains unutilized, while the EU seems to be coming apart at the seams.

To make matters worse, now Sweden and Finland reportedly wish to join NATO. Their admission – especially Finland’s – into NATO will only exacerbate things. Only now, if Russia intervenes, the greater part of Europe – including Greece – will be plunged into war.

It should be noted that Stockholm and Helsinki have systematically blocked EU sanctions against Turkey for its acts of piracy and hostility against their fellow European partners Greece and Cyprus. The time has come for Greece to compel these two nations to adjust their foreign policy before accommodating their request to joint NATO.

Likewise, Greece should insist that any NATO expansion include Cyprus, as Professor Ioannis Mazis proposed some months earlier. Cyprus’ admission into NATO holds far fewer dangers than Finland’s, which may incite war with Russia. Besides, if NATO truly has an open-door policy, then blocking Cyprus from joining constitutes a double-standard and smacks of hypocrisy.

Greek politicians must cast away the notion that if they try to negotiate with their allies and seek concessions for their alignment with Western positions (not necessarily in Greece’s national interest) they risk being labeled uncooperative. Negotiations are part of diplomacy, and, if anything, it is Greece’s propensity to fully accommodate its allies’ whims in exchange for nothing that seems odd. Instead of gaining the West’s appreciation and the rewards that come with it, this appeasement sets a negative precedent and creates a situation where Greece always comes out on the losing end of any conflicts that may arise.

The difficult region in which Greece is located doesn’t forgive such carelessness. Turkey doesn’t offer its allies so much as a glass of water without concessions, and it usually maximizes its gains. During the Russo-Ukrainian crisis, Ankara has remained cunningly neutral, playing both sides against each other, yet somehow securing the appreciation of both rival camps.

The great misfortune is that many Greek politicians seem to be negotiating for their personal self-interest, instead of the national interest. It is obvious that by appeasing foreign powers in all things, they hope to be labeled cooperative and secure their endorsement, thus allowing them to remain in power and enjoy the privileges of their office. Over time, this has made Greece the most accommodating, yet also most self-destructive partner in the Western alliance.

With the Greek Prime Minister coming to the United States to meet with President Biden and address Congress, he has a unique opportunity to defend Greece’s national interest. Whatever the demands made of him, it is important that his interlocutors hear him unequivocally state that Greece cannot offer any more weapons to Ukraine, because it is facing escalating threats from Turkey that could result in war.

He must emphasize that Ankara is committing precisely the same crimes as Russia, which is being so vilified at present, through its occupation of Cyprus and other reprehensible actions, like the incursion into Northern Iraq and the promotion of terrorism. This is a truth that must be spoken, no matter how unpleasant it is for the United States to hear, because cognitive dissonance remains a key element of persuasion.

Irrespective of any concessions Premier Mitsotakis may leave Washington DC with, he can surely help Greece regain some of its lost ‘philotimo’ (dignity). No matter what the United States offers, the morale of the Greek people remains low because they keep witnessing their leaders cynically accept the triumph of injustice over justice over and over again.

At least if Greece’s leaders speak plainly to the international community, Hellas could regain some of its storied philotimo, which is far more important than ‘carrots’ President Biden may choose to dangle.

Historically, philotimo has been Greece’s surest catalyst for real change, epic struggles, and lasting success. Without it, nothing of the sort can be achieved.

 

Follow me on Twitter @CTripoulas

 

 

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