By Tom Ellis
Opposition leader Alexis Tsipras’ critical stance toward the extension of the defense cooperation agreement between Greece and the United States is a sign of inconsistency, as he is refusing to vote in favor of an agreement that he is effectively responsible for after negotiating its parameters when he was prime minister.
His stance also contravenes the spirit of national consensus that is so necessary at this particular juncture for Greece.
That said, the former premier’s stance can be used by the government in the sense that it helps illustrate to the Americans the complex web of expectations and concerns in Greece regarding the role of the US. This comes at a time when Greek-American relations are – by common consent – at an all-time high and the strengthening of these ties is being continued at a rapid case by the present government, on the solid foundations built – perhaps unexpectedly – by its predecessor.
The reaction of the chief of Greece’s main opposition party is, he has said, a reflection of the concern felt by the country’s entire population over US President Donald Trump’s “deafening silence” during Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ recent visit to Washington with regard to the most serious escalation of Turkish aggression in 20 years.
The prime minister can use his rival’s opposition to underscore the need for consistent and clear support for Greece.
Everyone admits that the Eastern Mediterranean is in trouble as a result of Turkey’s unpredictable and revisionist behavior. Given that American interests are also on the line (with Greece as a real and tangible pillar of stability and a close ally of the United States), the Trump administration is being called on to step in and help de-escalate the tension.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently expressed, in very broad terms, the need to avoid further provocations and tensions, but for any American intervention to really work, it needs to be much clearer and also to come from Trump himself.
Greece is indeed a reliable ally that is making an important contribution in the areas of defense and security.
Trump indeed spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about this ussue in his recent phone call to his Turkish counterpart. But the approach should not be based on keeping “equal distances.”
It is Turkey that has to terminate its provocative actions and change its expansionist behavior. If it does, differences with Greece could be solved.