There is a Greek song that says “love is for two”. It could have been written about Greek-American relations, except that there always – but always – seems to be a third wheel somewhere. Not just today, but for about 65 years. No US official, not even the President, wants it that way, but here it is: the Greece-US-Turkey triangle, dubbed by US diplomatic circles the “Bermuda Triangle”, because Cypriot and Greco-Turkish manifest themselves. like problems that cannot be solved. No experienced diplomat wants them to land on his plate. One of these veterans was so capricious about them that whenever a Greek or Turkish journalist asked him to comment, he replied: “The only way to enter the Aegean Sea or the Eastern Mediterranean is in a bathing suit.
Here in Greece, we approach relations with the United States through the prism of relations with Turkey. We believe – reasonably – that the result of any negotiation with the United States will be an exchange that will protect us against Turkey. That hasn’t changed; it is deeply rooted. Generations of diplomats – from Dimitrios Bitsios to Vyron Theodoropolos to the managers of these portfolios today – seek to establish such a link.
But there is also a lot of passion and tension in this triangle. Euphoria can turn into disaster or disappointment, even a feeling of betrayal, within weeks or days. Much public opinion remains suspicious of the United States and its intentions with Ankara. A “wrong move” that looks like indifference or an unfortunate statement can trigger a major political upheaval. High expectations can quickly turn into pitfalls. Yet there is no doubt that the moment of truth in Greek-American relations will come if and when tensions with Turkey rise dangerously.
Many powerful circles in Washington continue to insist that the US government be careful not to alienate Turkey. This was evident in efforts by senior National Security Council and State Department officials to downplay the Greek prime minister’s recent visit to Washington. Their main argument is that “the United States cannot lose Turkey”. It’s impressive that they actually believe they still ‘have’ Turkey – but also overlook how easily they could also ‘lose’ Greece.