Fluidity and confusion are in abundance these days in international relations. It is a revisionary era, and for many a foundational one, with the great powers in a process of repositioning themselves and small countries in a state of waiting, and with great reservations about the future.
Old alliances are disrupted, the postwar period’s stable values are being challenged, and the grand circle of globalisation and free trade that was predominant over the last 20 years is being tested in many ways.
US President Donald Trump, overtaken by the dogma of “America first”, is seeking better terms for trade for the US from China and Europe. He seems to be attracted to protectionism. He is demanding more funding for the defence of the West from his Nato partners.
He attacks the Germans, and at the same time is charmed by authoritarian leaders like Putin, Kim, and Erdogan, but US diplomacy and policy are not abandoning the strategic objectives of bolstering influence in the Balkans, the Middle East, and elsewhere. The vacillation is obvious, exacerbating an atmosphere of unrest on the global geopolitical scene.
At the same time, Europe, without strong leadership, and with Britain injured after Brexit, is trying to confront the challenges of unification in divisive conditions, under the influence and pressure of the continuing wave of migration, which strengthens anti-unification forces, and fuels nationalist tendencies in Europe.
In this unstable international environment, a Greece rocked by the economic crisis is facing great challenges, major dilemmas and multiple threats, both from its hostile and unpredictable eastern neighbours, and from the continued tension in the broader region of the Southeastern Mediterranean.
The Tsipras government, in its nearly four years in power, operated with old and new allies, acted without measure and planning between East and West, and switched its strategy and camp, according to circumstance. At the beginning of its term, it sought assistance from Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran. Then it kowtowed to Washington, and finally surrendered to Berlin and Paris.
All these years, Greek diplomacy was unsteady, and moved as the wind blew.
Recently, foreign minister Kotzias, with the Bonapartism and grandiose ideas that characterise him, is acting like a latter day Kissinger. He feels almost as if he is moving history, and that beyond local problems, he can play a role in solving broader international problems. That explains the outbursts and leaps between Prespes [where the Greece-FYROM accord was signed] to Moscow and back.
The unfortunate thing is that both Mr. Kotzias and his boss, in a very unstable period, face complex issues of national strategy and national interests all alone, without the necessary understandings and briefings.
That multiplies their responsibility.
At this point, Greece must carve out paths, make major national choices, and decide with whom it will align and whom it will set aside.
It must first define its direction, determine its objectives, highlight its priorities, evaluate the dangers, and thus choose and rank allies, friends, enemies, and of course fronts.
This task cannot be managed by one or two people.
Because the conditions are extraordinary and much is at stake, it is mandatory that Mr. Tsipras and Mr. Kotzias immediately establish a Council on Foreign Policy, in which at the highest political level, one can at least carve out a national strategy.
Already, the most recent events, with the tensions prevailing in Greek-Russian relations, demonstrate that the country is like a feather in the wind, navigating through a rock and a hard place.
For this reason, the country must immediately adopt a foreign policy that is in accord with its national interests, as long as those interests are defined in advance.