Let's not take Greece for granted
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As a Greek-American, I paid close attention to events in the eastern Mediterranean during my years in Congress. Of particular interest to me was the correlation of these events to U.S. national security interests. Of late, the financial crisis in Greece has brought the news of my ancestral home into the living rooms of nearly every American. Unfortunately, there is very little reported amid this barrage of media regarding the long-term geopolitical ramifications of this crisis. And that which has been reported tends toward oversimplification or exaggeration.


Let me be clear: The West has not "lost" nor is it in the process of "losing" Greece, sensationalist stories notwithstanding. Greece has been, and remains, a key partner in the Western alliance and has stood steadfast by its allies in the U.S. and Europe. From the Iraq War onward, U.S. naval activity at Greece's Souda Bay has increased. At the beginning of its economic crisis, Greece halted the provocative Flotilla II aimed at Israel. Greece has stood steadfastly with the West over sanctions on Iran and Russia, and has borne a disproportionate cost from the Mediterranean migrant crisis. (Indeed, sharp contrast can be drawn between Greece's long-term and consistent partnership on crucial geopolitical matters with the sporadic — and often disappointing lack of — expressions of support from Greece's neighbor, Turkey.)

In short, Greece and the U.S have long seen one another as important allies. But we should not take the Greeks' steadfast support for granted. Too many frontline issues are at stake for us to continue to pay so little attention to potential adverse geopolitical effects of the Greek economic crisis.

The recent deal between Greece and its creditors may have temporarily mollified markets and decreased the chance of a "Grexit," but it has increased political instability in an already politically unstable Greece and seriously undermined political solidarity in Europe.

As economic suffering increases on the ground in Greece and vitriolic rhetoric continues out of Europe, we run the risk of creating an angry and dispirited (if not humiliated) veto-wielding member of both NATO and the EU. This could lead to serious repercussions for American foreign policy interests. Consider the following:

• Russia may not be able to offer Greece cash, but how about energy? At this point, Greece is entirely energy dependent, and its most expensive imports are oil and natural gas. What if Russian President Vladimir Putin were to offer to ease Greece's energy crunch in exchange for a veto of European sanctions?

• What if "snap back" sanctions are needed for Iran? Years ago, Iran allowed Greece to purchase oil on credit. That Greece cut this off (even before the rest of Europe) in the middle of an economic crisis was a big deal and signaled that Iran could not break the Western consensus on sanctions. Will a more desperate and politically unstable Greece be able to resist Tehran's offer next time?

• Greece has already been asked to bear the brunt of the Mediterranean migrant crisis (along with Italy) for the sake of its European partners. It is spending 20 times more than its northern European partners on border control — and Greece is not the ultimate destination for the most of the incoming migrants. Whether intentional, or simply because it cannot afford this enforcement responsibility, if the burden that Greece is bearing in the crisis is shifted to Albania, Bulgaria, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or further onto Italy, there will be destabilizing political and economic effects. Ripple effects into central Europe — including the potential rise of the far right — will become much more likely.

• With Turkey going through its own political crisis (and perhaps on the verge of its own economic crisis), the southeastern flank of NATO suddenly becomes a real flashpoint. That Turkish jets have been consistently violating Greek airspace in the last few weeks should be of major concern.

To Greece's credit, none of the three governments that have been elected during the country's economic crisis have attempted to blackmail its NATO/EU partners over any of the above. The U.S. should be working to maintain the political consensus that keeps Greece on the same page as its Western partners. After World War II and a brutal Civil War, it was U.S. strategy — through the Truman Doctrine — that kept Greece a key part of the Western security structure. Obviously, our European allies are only thinking in terms of being Greece's creditors and not about security implications. It may be time for a 21st century version of the Truman Doctrine.

Space is a former member of Congress from Ohio who currently serves as principal for Vorys Advisors, LLC. He is a member of the advisory board for the Hellenic American Leadership Council.