When Greece is sizing itself up in an international/European setting

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis

Last year Greece has faced challenges that were above the normal capacity of a medium-size regional player, anchored to the larger club of the EU but operating under threats both at a defense and an economic stability level. As a country celebrating its Bicentenary in 2021, it had the opportunity to sift through its experiences in engaging allies and adversaries alike in its national quest – with a measure of success ranging from satisfactory to disappointing.

This time around, Greece starts in the regional balance-and-stability context with the acute need to face Turkish revisionism (if not outright aggressivity), its latest manifestation being the issue of Greek islands demilitarisation.

To that effect Greece has set in motion three sets of levers. The first consists in getting closer to U.S. interests, since Washington seems estranged with Ankara to the point of shifting military assets away from Turkey and towards Greece – both concerning the procurement of weapons systems and the operating of regional-range military facilities. The second has to do with building closer ties with France, a European power trying to pitch rather above its own weight, but also endeavouring to draw a hesitant EU towards something called “strategic autonomy”. The ongoing discussion over an EU Strategic Compass, providing the Union with “more rapidity, robustness and flexibility”, is set to progress under the French EU Presidency during the first semester of 2022. The third lever – last but by no means least – consists in activating trilateral and/or quadrilateral enhanced-impact coalitions; such coalitions have an increasing range, engaging alongside Cyprus and Israel (under the benevolent gaze of Washington) regional players like Egypt or the UAE.

On all these fronts, 2021 came close at the step of a turbulent 2020 and has been quite demanding for Greek foreign policy; 2022 may well prove even more demanding since implementation of agreements and understandings will take the place of just planning ahead. Athens has already duly noted the fact that Ankara is gearing up its own efforts at bringing back better relations with Israel, while also building some sort of permanent consultation/tension-deflection mechanism with the U.S. Greek foreign-policy making has a tradition of being shaped with eyes firmly fixed on internal politics; in 2022 this has to change – radically.