Enriching Greece’s Foreign Policy Objectives

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a NATO summit at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels last year. [Reuters]

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will meet US President Joe Biden on May 16 and speak in Congress the following day. The visit highlights the dynamism of Greek-American relations. Timing is also crucial. As long as the war in Ukraine persists, serious dilemmas arise and difficult policies are implemented by NATO, and the West in general. Greece’s strategic choices were clear from the start in close coordination with the United States.

Despite the new challenge of war in Europe’s backyard, a diachronic paradox remains unchanged. This is the problematic status of NATO’s southeastern flank. It is somewhat bizarre to talk about the unity of the Alliance against an external threat and simultaneously ignore the internal reality that finds one member state, Greece, continually threatened by another, Turkey. This is an abnormal situation that should be seriously considered by the US administration, especially in times of crisis such as the period that began after February 24, 2022. The March meeting between Prime Minister Mitsotakis and the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul only temporarily interrupted Greek-Turkish tensions, which have intensified in recent days. Ironically, renewed tensions are the expected result of Ankara’s standard foreign policy goals in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean.

Greece needs to position itself better for the NATO summit in Madrid in June. The Greek government can raise the issue of the cohesion of NATO’s southeastern flank in the hope of receiving clear and precise answers. Complicated as it is, the optimal scenario will include the provision of American security guarantees along these lines. Moreover, it might be prudent for Athens to link the potential NATO membership of Finland and Sweden to that of Cyprus. The latter is not even a member of the Partnership for Peace program because of Turkish objections. In recent years, however, the United States has expanded its collaboration with Cyprus, including partially lifting the arms embargo.

Greece has become an important US ally in a turbulent neighborhood in which Turkey routinely acts autonomously. In strategic language, Greece could thus try to persuade Washington that the consequences of a policy of non-mediation and non-solution of the outstanding problems in this neighborhood will be detrimental to its geopolitical interests and to NATO. Recontextualizing the debate will put the ball in the US court.

Dr. George N. Tzogopoulos is a lecturer at the European Institute of Nice (CIFE) and a senior researcher at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) and the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.