Peace and diplomacy deserve a chance. A generalized war in Europe is unthinkable. Therefore, the European Union, using its full diplomatic means, should actively contribute to the de-escalation of tension.
The Russian invasion in Ukraine blatantly violates international law and must end immediately. From the very beginning SYRIZA-PA has condemned the invasion and expressed solidarity to the Ukrainian people, stressing also that the war could have been prevented if we had achieved in the first decade of this century a new architecture of security in Europe, which would also include Russia, in full respect of international law. We have indicated the waste of progress made in the 1990s, when the "Charter of Istanbul" (agreed in 1999 within the OSCE) defined the general principles of such system of European Security. It would guarantee arms control, the right of each state to ensure its own defense, but also the need for all countries to work together for the indivisibility of European security: “states will not enhance their security to the detriment of the security of any other state" and "no state or group of states can have a greater responsibility to maintain peace and security in Europe". The next decade has reversed this progress. Under the Bush administration the United States have ignored the Russian concerns over the danger of encirclement, a fear that has historically defined its foreign policy.
In a recent article in New York Times Milton Friedman (This Is Putin’s War. But America and NATO Aren’t Innocent Bystanders, Feb. 21, 2022) has referred to the opinions of politicians, diplomats and pundits, stressing this historical mistake. According to Clinton’s defense secretary, Bill Perry, who spoke in 2016 at a conference of The Guardian newspaper: “In the last few years, most of the blame can be pointed at the actions that Putin has taken. But in the early years I have to say that the United States deserves much of the blame. Our first action that really set us off in a bad direction was when NATO started to expand, bringing in Eastern European nations, some of them bordering Russia. At that time, we were working closely with Russia and they were beginning to get used to the idea that NATO could be a friend rather than an enemy … but they were very uncomfortable about having NATO right up on their border and they made a strong appeal for us not to go ahead with that.”
George Kennan, the theoretician of the Soviet containment during the Cold War, writing some years before Perry, was even more critical regarding NATO enlargement: «I think it is the beginning of a new cold war. I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. This expansion would make the founding fathers of this country turn over in their graves. (…) Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are — but this is just wrong.”
But this is history. The question, from now on, for the political forces of Greece, but also of Europe, is how to end the war. A diplomatic solution is the only way for that. SYRIZA-PA, insists on the fact that our country should act as an agent of peace, projecting soft power. Mr. Mitsotakis' opposite choice to send lethal weapons to Ukraine is a reversal of the Greek constant foreign policy doctrine. It is true that other EU countries - but not all - have taken a similar decision, but there was no binding EU decision on this, as the government misleadingly said. Nor is the argument that we will thus secure greater support by our allies towards Turkey a valid one. Ankara is pursuing a largely ambivalent stance on Ukraine. Not only it is facing no consequences for that, but instead, it is generally accepted as a broker and a mediator. Greece may receive praise from the US for sending military equipment, but it is its neighbor who became more important to Washington after the Ukrainian crisis.
History has shown that NATO can not protect Greece from threats coming from another member state, as Turkey. On the contrary, a European Union, with an autonomous European defense, would better guarantee Greek security. But here too there is a critical question: will European defense and foreign policy really be strategically autonomous, or just a "mirror" of NATO? More importantly, will the EU be able to be an autonomous balancing pole on the international stage, next to the USA, China and Russia? To put it even more simply: will the French proposal for "European sovereignty" prevail, or the pro-Atlantic voices of Poland and the Baltic states, which do not want to cut the umbilical cord with the USA? If the latter happens, it is likely that the future hides a return of the Cold War, with a Russia-China rapprochement and dramatic intensification of international rivalries.
In the "good" scenario, where Europe finally acquires the status of a great international player, with strategic autonomy vis-à-vis NATO and the USA, the added value of our country would be to act as the bridge between our political, common European home and the other great powers, such as China, Russia, the Arab world. The opposite logic of the “advanced outpost”, promoted recently by K. Mitsotakis, as well as that of the new "iron curtain", stated by a ND Rapporteur in a recent ratification of a treaty in Parliament, is the wrong answer, both for Greece and for Europe.
Peace and diplomacy deserve a chance. A generalized war in Europe is unthinkable. Therefore, the European Union, using its full diplomatic means, should actively contribute to the de-escalation of tension. And, obviously, the strategic goal should remain Russia's integration into a new European system of security and arms control, no matter how difficult it may seem today. Our country must always be a voice that upholds peace and international law - together - on the world stage. To act as a "bridge" between our political home, the European Union, and the other great powers.
Professor of Public Law
Shadow Foreign Minister of SYRIZA-PA