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Monday, 22 June 2015

Greece’s National Security strategy: Assessing the past, anticipating the future

Stephen Horvath (A-Level Student at Westminster School)

On 18 June, Professor Panayotis Tsakonas, Visiting Fellow at St. Anthony’s and Professor at the University of the Aegean in the Department of Mediterranean Studies, gave the final SEESOX seminar of the Term on “Greece’s National Security Strategy: Assessing the Past, Anticipating the Future.” Dr. Othon Anastasakis, director of SEESOX, was the chair.

Professor Tsakonas took as his starting point that Greece at present had no national security strategy, and addressed the question of how Greece might move towards developing a ‘grand strategy.’ He defined this term as a plan using clearly identified methods to achieve major goals, both in the medium and long term. How to develop a grand strategy is a particularly important question for Greece as it is caught between Europe, a region of stability, and the Middle East, a region of great instability.

Economic crisis, as well as problematic developments in the Balkans, appeared in a difficult context of globalisation, including forced Europeanisation, for Greece. Given this, the question remains: why did Greece fail to develop a strategy to reach beyond its weight, from 1990 onwards?

Tsakonas looked at a variety of different approaches how Greece might develop its future grand strategy, looking at domestic actors as well as new international threats that have not yet been considered. These divergent options were all united by a consideration of the transformations in regional politics caused by EU expansion. This process had an erratic impact on Greek policy over time, and Greece has come to view the EU as an integral part of its security. The fear of Turkey since the 1974 invasion of Cyprus has affected discourse about military expenditure, although Europeanisation encouraged rapprochement with Turkey in the late 1990s.

Extensively assessing his own methodology, Tsakonas commented that he had worked successfully on institutional explanations, and was looking to expand to cultural understandings of foreign policy change. The latter area is especially important given the prominent role of individual personalities in governing institutions in Greece. He explored the dialectic between the culture of the decision makers and the national political consciousness, and how this drove a shift in Greek policy towards Turkey. Tsakonas argued that national culture had a minimal impact on how strategists approached security problems, and that developments in ‘agentic’ culture (a sociological term describing people’s capacity to organise themselves) explain the new means employed in Greek foreign policy in the early 2000s. He surveyed the variety of institutions at play in the field of Greek grand strategy, and concluded that Greece needed a more unified official understanding of its foreign policy priorities across all relevant government institutions.

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