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13° Nicosia,
18 February, 2019
 

Should we listen to President Trump or the diplomats?

Athanasios Ellis

Athanasios Ellis

As Greece finds itself faced with a wide range of challenges – from Turkey and the Eastern Mediterranean to its relationship with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and developments on the Balkan peninsula – it would be useful to have a clear idea of Washington’s strategic objectives regarding these issues. This is regrettably not an easy task considering that what President Donald Trump says does not necessarily reflect official US policy.

During his meeting with Vladimir Putin, Trump suggested he trusts the Russian president more than US intelligence agencies that have found evidence Moscow meddled in the last presidential election. Meanwhile, the State Department and officials of both parties in the Congress have called upon America’s allies to join efforts in dealing with the Russian threat.

America’s bipolar governing disorder is surely first of all its own problem. But given its global superpower status, it is everyone’s problem as well.

Lacking a clear idea of what your strongest ally – the one who will in theory step in to protect you if something bad happens – is up to can be dangerously confusing.

Until not long ago, we all knew what Washington’s desires were regarding Greece’s wider neighborhood. Whether we liked it or not, the equation was clear – and it allowed Athens to exploit its possible advantages, to identify any overlapping interests, to draw its red lines where possible.

Greece’s handling of the name dispute with FYROM could be affected by the knowledge that any concessions on the issue would increase its diplomatic capital in Washington, which could be tapped to exercise its influence on more important issues for Greece in the future.

Regarding the expulsion of the two Russian diplomats, Greece, being a sovereign state, will obviously react when it deems that third countries are meddling in domestic affairs. However, it is useful to know to what extent a move of this sort is in line with Washington’s geopolitical interests or not.

Listening to Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell or the Ambassador to Athens Geoffrey Pyatt, one senses strong skepticism toward Russia. But you cannot be sure Trump feels the same way. And this is definitely not helpful.

Confusion also exists over another major issue for Greece, the most important and sensitive one: its relations with Turkey. Does the clash between Trump and Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan also reflect American diplomacy or does the State Department’ bureaucracy still view Turkey as a major regional player?

That kind of uncertainty is of no service to America or its allies.

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Diplomacy  |  Defense  |  Politics  |  Knews

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