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Our purpose is to encourage the knowledge and the debate of issues connected with art and military science. Selection of articles attempts to reflect different opinions. Beyond any ideological ascription. In order to impulse critical thought amongst our readers.

miércoles, 1 de julio de 2015

Grecia: algo más que una deuda.

The Greek Crisis Is About More Than Money.


Por Robert D. Kaplan

Geopolitics can be more important than economics. Just look at Greece. On purely economic grounds, Greece should never have been admitted to the European Union in 1981 and might have been ejected from the eurozone months ago.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and
 Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
But what many European policy makers know—even if few articulate it—is that Europe will be increasingly vulnerable to Russian aggression if its links to Greece are substantially loosened. Greece is the only part of the Balkans accessible on several seaboards to the Mediterranean, and thus is a crucial gateway to and from the West.

Given the bellicosity of Russian President Vladimir Putin, it is useful to contemplate what would have happened had Stalin not ceded Greece to the West in return for the rest of the Balkans at the start of the Cold War. With Greece inside the Communist bloc, Italy would have been permanently endangered, to say nothing of the whole eastern Mediterranean and the Levant. Indeed, American bases in Greece were critical to the policy of containment.

But Greece, in terms of its politics and culture, is not fully anchored in the West. Greece is more properly viewed as the child of Byzantine and Ottoman despotism than of Periclean Athens. The mid-19th century revolutions in Europe were often of bourgeois origins with political liberties as their goal. Yet the Greek independence movement was more of an ethnic movement with a religious basis. Greece, by virtue of its Eastern Orthodox Christianity, has an emotional and spiritual bond with Russia. This helps explain why most Greeks sided with Russia in favor of the Serbs and against Europe during the 1999 Kosovo War, even if the Greek government’s position was more equivocal.

Greece never had modern political parties to the degree of Central and Western Europe. Greek parties have been largely paternalistic, coffeehouse fiefs organized around charismatic individuals, featuring a reactionary-style right-wing movement and a radical-style left-wing movement. Andreas Papandreou, Greece’s prime minister for much of the 1980s and ’90s, was never a modern European socialist, as many in the West in the 1980s believed. Rather, as I know from living in Athens during that decade, he is better understood as a Latin-American style populist in the tradition of Juan Perón.

Papandreou is one forerunner to the current Greek disaster, a cynical politician, who, rather than use aid from Brussels to create a more streamlined polity after Greece joined the EU, enlarged the bureaucracy and created an impossible-to-sustain welfare state. Greece today is a badly institutionalized country where too few pay taxes as they should, further burdened by a bloated bureaucracy. Most Greek businesses are family owned, and meritocracy is in short supply. The Greek political culture is not wholly Western, so why should the economy be?

The newspaper with the largest circulation and influence in Greece during the Papandreou era was the left-wing Ethnos (the Nation), which had suspected links to the Soviet intelligence services. The Soviets found it easier to operate in Greece than perhaps in any other NATO country. Greece during the Cold War was never comfortable inside NATO, and instead yearned for a dreamy, nebulous neutrality. NATO and the EU kept Greece free and prosperous, unlike the other states of the Balkans, but Greeks, having never experienced life inside the Warsaw Pact, were never grateful for being kept out of it.

All this is prologue to the rise of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his hard-left Syriza party. Because modern conservatism and modern socialism only arrived in Greece toward the end of the 20th century, they were quickly swept aside for the hard left and fascist right (the Golden Dawn party) once the economy imploded in recent years. Given the Kremlin’s long-standing relationships in Greece, it is conceivable that the Russians now have better ties with—and intelligence on—Syriza and its various factions than the Europeans do.

Russia may be helping to inflame Syriza’s internal divisions in the hope that Greece’s ruling party cannot make the difficult concessions necessary to stay in the eurozone. If Greece does leave the eurozone, the economic aftershocks to the domestic economy could reduce it to a semi-failed state that, along with the dismemberment and weakening of Ukraine, will seriously weaken Europe’s geopolitical position vis-à-vis Russia.

If this happens not only will the Iberian states of Spain and Portugal be more susceptible to euro-debt contagion, but Balkan states with weak institutions and fragile economies like Albania, Bulgaria and Romania will be in a more exposed position. While those states were never part of the eurozone, the spectacle of a major Balkan country pivotally loosening its ties with the West, even as Russia appears momentarily ascendant in the region, will be sobering in the extreme.

Then there is the larger picture. The first post-Cold War decades featured a secure Eurasian maritime sphere from the Mediterranean across the Indian Ocean to the Western Pacific. Thus, the weakening of Greece’s ties with the West in the eastern Mediterranean has to be seen alongside the ascendancy of Iran in the Persian Gulf and the rise of China in the South and East China seas as a singular process in the chipping away at American power.

The EU, as frustrating as its policies can be, represents the ultimate triumph of American power emerging from the bloodshed of World War II. If Greece does leave the eurozone, whatever the country’s sins, it is demonstrably in Europe’s and America’s interest to nurse it back to health to keep, for example, Russian warships away from Greek ports. Greece, whether with the euro or the drachma, is in need of nation-building. Europe, after all, to be true to its own values, must give hope and succor to its periphery.

Mr. Kaplan is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. He is the author of “In Europe’s Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond,” to be published in next February. 

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