Tac­ti­cal si­lence

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

When it comes to is­sues of na­tional sig­nif­i­cance, how they are pre­sented and by whom is al­ways im­por­tant, par­tic­u­larly if that per­son is in a re­spon­si­ble po­si­tion. Nat­u­rally such is­sues are rich fod­der for the me­dia and are prop­a­gated with alarm­ing speed, usu­ally un­der catchy ti­tles, but this serves no pur­pose in solv­ing the real prob­lem. Greece has of­ten paid a high toll when na­tional sen­ti­ment has been pushed too far. In one case, the Turks reached all the way to Domokos be­cause an elite had stirred pub­lic sen­ti­ment into a frenzy with­out first con­sid­er­ing the over­all sit­u­a­tion. We also have a ter­ri­ble record in al­low­ing such is­sues to di­vide us into those who think Greece needs to take back Con­stantino­ple and those who con­fuse re­alpoli­tik with find­ing any so­lu­tion to what­ever prob­lem, re­gard­less of the con­se­quences. Di­plo­macy is an art that re­quires con­sen­sus, a cool head and well-cal­cu­lated moves. Thank­fully, Greece has good peo­ple in key po­si­tions who com­bine pro­fes­sion­al­ism with gump­tion. You may ask what should Greece do about Turkey right now. If we take a more care­ful look, we will see that we of­ten al­low our­selves to be caught up in a vi­cious cy­cle, for­get­ting that the Greek state is able to re­spond to any provo­ca­tions in an in­sti­tu­tional man­ner by ex­press­ing its con­cerns to the United Na­tions, NATO, the Euro­pean Union and any other in­sti­tu­tion that counts. When it needs, it can also re­spond more dy­nam­i­cally be­hind the scenes by warn­ing friends of the coun­try’s red lines. What cer­tainly doesn’t serve any pur­pose in di­plo­macy is ver­bal­iz­ing these is­sues for pub­lic con­sump­tion. The sit­u­a­tion could get dan­ger­ous. Turk­ish gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials are dis­play­ing child­ish be­hav­ior such as lash­ing out at the Greek pres­i­dent by name, but thank­fully the adults both in Athens and Ankara are still keep­ing things un­der con­trol. I’ll go back sev­eral years to il­lus­trate my point. I was a cor­re­spon­dent at a US State Depart­ment brief­ing along with other Greek col­leagues. One of them asked the spokesman whether the US recog- nized six or 10 miles as the bound­ary of Greece’s air space. The Amer­i­can of­fi­cial said that he would have to look into the mat­ter be­fore giv­ing an answer and told the cor­re­spon­dents that they should not per­sist with the sub­ject un­til the le­gal depart­ment was con­sulted. Nev­er­the­less, one of my col­leagues asked the same ques­tion again and again, four of five times. Two months later, we got an answer that ba­si­cally said the is­sue is dis­puted and should be re­solved. So my col­league asked the State Depart­ment spokesman: “Why did you give such an answer know­ing the ten­sion there is over the Aegean right now?” And the Amer­i­can of­fi­cial an­swered: “Be­cause you asked me five times.”

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