According to historians, American involvement in Greek affairs dates back to 1824, with the adoption of the Monroe Doctrine, which declared the United States’ opposition to the possible intervention of European monarchies on the American continent, and in the Western Hemisphere more broadly.
Historians have concluded that the support of the US president for Greek independence from Ottoman rule, invigorated the Revolution of 1821, and offered an impetus to the revolting independence fighters.
Since then, there have been vicissitudes in Greece-US relations and at times they were determined by the enhanced international role of America, and the expansion of its interests in the world.
The presence of the US in Greek affairs was decisively bolstered after World War II, especially after the letting up of the role of the British Empire and the direct involvement of the US military during the Greek Civil War.
After 1948, the Greek Army was placed under the guidance of the American military administration in the war against left-wing guerrillas.
At that time, in the framework of the implementation of the Truman Doctrine, General Van Fleet came to Greece as head of the Joint US Military Advisory Group, with 250 military advisors, who played a decisive role in the defeat of the guerrillas at Grammos and Vitsi.
The words of then Defence Minister Panagiotis Kanellopoulos have been recorded by history. Addressing Van Fleet during an inspection of the Greek armed forces, he declared, “General, behold your army.”
American influence in Greece was bolstered even more after the end of the Civil War, when the US financed and essentially undertook the post-war reconstruction of Greece with the Marshall Plan.
During all those difficult years, the Greek Left was opposed to American domination, viewed it as the source of all national ills, and steadily propagandised the liberation of the country from the US.
Especially after 1967, when the colonels’ coup was deemed to have been US-inspired, the Left played a leading role in shaping an anti-American climate in Greece. That was all the more true after 1974, when the American involvement in and toleration of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus was proven.
One recalls the post-dictatorship period’s prevalent anti-American slogans and sentiments, which some believe triggered terrorist attacks against American targets, including members of the US diplomatic mission in our country.
Especially SYRIZA, which is now in power, was known for its anti-American rhetoric and demonstrations. One recalls its intensely aggressive posture during US President Bill Clinton’s visit to Athens in 1999.
Today, we have reached the other extreme. The embrace of the left-wing government with the US is unique. Not even during the prime ministership of General Alexandros Papagos was there such an identification and such a direct relationship, largely characterised by dependency.
The prime minister, hand-in-hand with the US ambassador, went to the Thessaloniki International Fair, where they listened to an American military band, in the shadow of the flagship of the US Sixth Fleet, which has anchored in the Thermaic Gulf.
The tumultuous times in which we are living, the prevailing instability in the Southeastern Mediterranean, the national threats that Greece faces, and the dangers deriving from of a possible disorganisation of Europe may possibly mandate a tightening of Greece-US relations.
Still, it is paradoxical, and a demonstration of the inconsistency and confusion within the ranks of the ruling party.
Certainly, it bolsters everyone’s perception that opportunism, with all that it entails, defined and still motivates SYRIZA’s policy.