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“Plastiras or Papagos”? Does it Make Any Difference?

Trump's ousting allows us the (reasonable) hope that our interlocutors on the other side of the Atlantic will now know what they are talking about, when it comes to, among other things, the dramatic – for the world over – situation in the Aegean and the Mediterranean

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Pepi Rigopoulou

Perhaps the most dramatic showdown for the presidency of the United States up to now came to an end with the victory of Joe Biden, despite Trump’s persistent attachment to the White House. In Greece, the reactions are ranging from optimism, as it is said that Biden is a philhellene and has spoken out in the past against Erdoğan, to sheer indifference, which stems from the belief that the general stance of the United States towards our country – and not only our country – is dictated by cruel interests alone. In between these two reactions, there are a number of other attitudes that are not necessarily just “somewhere in between”, but differ substantially from the dipole I mentioned.

The first thing we need, to have a sober view of what is happening in our relations with other countries, is to get rid of the dipole philhellenism / mishellenism. Individuals might indeed be philhellenes or mishellelenes but not the states and those who determine their policy.

Lord Byron and Charles Nicolas Fabvier were indeed philhellenes. These vultures from the City of London, who “helped” Greece by imposing the usurious first loan of the Revolution in 1824, and King George IV, who after 1827 sabotaged the first steps of the emerging state, were merely motivated by their own economic and political interests. And time after time, other powers have supported us, because this is what their own interest dictated.

The same applies to Greece’s relations with the United States. The National Liberation Front (EAM), perhaps a prisoner of its own idea of philhellenism, protested during the liberation in 1944 carrying Greek, Russian and American flags. But this did not prevent the imposition of the Truman Doctrine and the transformation of the fighters of the Democratic Army of Greece (DAG) into sitting ducks for the napalm bombs at the Grammos mountains. President Johnson was a Democrat, but he strongly supported the military junta since 1967, Bill Clinton later apologised to the Greek people for this. Then the Turkish invasion and occupation of Cyprus took place in 1974 during the presidency of the Republican Nixon.

We can not forget these facts, which, however, do not justify the attitude – catastrophic even when it was first uttered – “Plastiras or Papagos there’s no difference” [editor’s note: a catchphrase used during the prelection campaign in 1952 against two candidates who were former military men, Nikolaos Plastiras and Alexandros Papagos]. Trump’s ousting allows us the (reasonable) hope that our interlocutors on the other side of the Atlantic will now know what they are talking about, when it comes to, among many others, the dramatic – for the world over – situation in the Aegean and the Mediterranean. Greece’s role should not be to be passively pushed into any new developments, but to try to influence them. Politics is not just about the size of a country, but about the creativity, courage and moral quality of its policies.

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