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FACTDROP: Who Lost Greece? The Geopolitical Consequences of the Greek Crisis


Who Lost Greece? The Geopolitical Consequences of the Greek Crisis

By Thanos Dokos
Policy Paper N. 18, Feb. 2012

Executive Summary

In the maelstrom of the European economic crisis, the geopolitical consequences of Greece‘s
weakening and [at least theoretically] possible collapse have been largely ignored by analysts and decisionmakers. This paper is making no effort to absolve Greece of its substantial responsibility. It will argue that Greece‘s (and Europe‘s) crisis is mainly  –but not exclusively- economic in nature, but the geopolitical dimensions should not be underestimated. If Greece fails to recover, it may well be forced to leave the Eurozone and, according to most experts, there will be a huge economic and political impact for the Euro and the EU.

In addition, there will be severe repercussions for regional stability in Southeastern Europe and the
Eastern Mediterranean, as well as the EU‘s and NATO‘s ability to play a substantial role in those regions.
Allowing Greece to become a weak or even a semi-failed state will have an impact well beyond its
immediate borders. Greece is –or has the potential to become once more- a quite useful player in a number of foreign and security policy areas, including EU relations with Turkey, the Cyprus problem, EU enlargement in the Western Balkans, EU and NATO policies in the Eastern Mediterranean, energy security, and migration management. On all of those issues, the ability of Greece to make a positive contribution should no longer be taken for granted.

Three archetypal, rather simplified scenarios are outlined in an effort to predict the potential evolution of Greece‘s foreign policy.

Without underestimating Greece‘s own substantial responsibility, at the global level it was the EU‘s
inability to successfully manage the crisis that has been perceived by competitors and friends alike as a signal of weakness and has hurt he image of the Union as an important strategic actor. Completely ignoring the
geopolitical consequences of the Greek crisis is yet another symptom of the European foreign policy malaise.
Europe is sliding into strategic insignificance, losing its global role and influence as it is becoming more and
more introvert as a result of its own economic and political crisis.

If one agrees that geo-economics are increasingly important but nevertheless geopolitics still matter,
then one cannot afford anymore to manage the Greek crisis without due consideration of its geopolitical
consequences. No one is seriously arguing for giving Greece another free lunch (and obviously no one would be willing to). Instead, the EU should be looking for a highly pragmatic policy which would be reasonably effective in achieving Europe‘s geopolitical and geo-economic objectives and promoting its interests. A policy seeking to support and engage a country in deep trouble is much more likely to succeed than policies intended to ―punish‘ such a country, as students of German history may remember from the periods after the two World Wars. What is needed is a policy that goes beyond ‗bean-counting‖ and tackles the Greek problem in the context of the EU‘s regional and global role, not merely its economic policies.

Admittedly, the ―stormy scenario outlined in the paper is the least probable among the three
presented (although several of its ―predictions‖ may materialize in one form or another). But considering the potential costs of Greece becoming a weak state in terms of foreign and domestic policy and being a consumer rather than a producer of security, is it a risk worth taking for the EU (and also the US)?
Furthermore, given the extremely unstable and fluid situation in Europe‘s periphery, including the
Arab uprisings, the tension with Iran, the uncertainties regarding EU-Turkish relations and the direction of 6
Russian foreign policy in the new Putin era, can Europe afford the creation of a security vacuum and a ―black hole in this critical region? Even if the EU could live with Greece‘s economic collapse (although even that hypothesis is challenged by experts, not because of the size of the Greek economy but due to the highly symbolic, but very tangible damage to the Eurozone‘s credibility), one should ask whether a country with Greece‘s geopolitical location and its ―special relationship‖ with countries such as Russia, Israel, much of the Arab world, and even Iran, would constitute an acceptable loss for an EU with any ambitions to play a meaningful global and regional role? And even if Berlin has slow reflexes and limited experience, and probably interest, in issues related to EU‘s foreign and security policy, what about Paris and other European capitals and EU institutions?

In addition to an objective analysis (although admittedly this author is probably not a completely
objective observer), this study is a desperate plea for rational thinking by all actors involved, both inside and
outside Greece. A ―new Greece‖ could certainly be a useful instrument for European foreign and security policy in regions of critical importance for European security and interests. Just as Greeks should be asking the question ―who among us is endangering Greece‘s European perspective and, indeed the country‘s future, are Europeans prepared to contemplate the answer to the question [placed in a wider geopolitical contest, not just a narrow economic one] ―who lost Greece?

Who Lost Greece

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