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The Influence Game and the Hungry Dog: The Greek Case

02/17/2015 10:51 am ET | Updated Apr 19, 2015

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President Barack Obama's open support for Greece's newly-elected government was one of the most pleasant surprises linked to the left-wing Syriza's victory.

This support was expressed in a television interview on CNN during which he said, among other things, that "you cannot keep on squeezing countries that are in the midst of depression... When you have an economy that is in freefall there has to be a growth strategy and not simply an effort to squeeze more and more out of a population that is hurting worse and worse."

President Obama has shown to date that he has a completely different approach to foreign policy and this use of milder methods than his predecessors has often had impressive results.
Unfortunately, a few days later, he moderated his statement, essentially urging the Greek government to meet its obligations to its European partners.

Why did the U.S. president backpedal on his remarks? Was it to keep the balance with America's strong partner in Europe, Chancellor Angela Merkel, particularly at a time when a united front against Putin's Russia is forming as a result of the crisis in Crimea?

The question is where do U.S. interests lie in the area? Could Greece be an important ally for U.S.? The fact is that this small country, where democracy was born, has become an Eris's apple of sorts since the recent political shift. It's not coincidental that Russian President Vladimir Putin rushed to congratulate the new Greek prime minister and express his support. Nor is it coincidental that there have been a stream of official and unofficial statements by Russian officials hinting at economic support for Greece if this is requested. Let me add that just a few days after Syriza's rise to power, Greece differentiated its position on the issue of European Union sanctions against Russia.

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Let's also not forget that a series of energy-related issues in the area remain unresolved, and that the scenario of Greece coming under Russian influence could be disastrous for the U.S. and the rest of the European Union.

Are the relations between Russia and Greece the only issue that must make U.S. feeling uneasy?
In his book The Next 100 Years, the respected political scientist George Friedman identifies Turkey as a future enemy of American interests. He argues that Turkey, which is rapidly developing economically and militarily, will emerge as a leader of the Muslim world as a result of upheavals in the broader region. This will give it a feeling of dominance and self-sufficiency. Year by year, this becomes increasingly clear through the statements and actions of Turkish President Tayip Erdogan, who has now become a replica of Putin. A modern, populist dictator-emperor who invests in the superiority of the race he leads.

Is Turkey a potential enemy of American interests? Could Greece be a counterweight to such an eventuality? This certainly won't happen if U.S. influence among the Greek people is negligible.
One fact remains. Greece cannot pay the bill presented by Germany, which is behind the EU wheel. The Europeans don't seem to understand this. Or perhaps they don't care. But why does this have anything to do with the U.S.?

Greece is the birthplace of democracy. Theater. Philosophy. It is the cradle of all Western civilization. Today is a country that has been pushed into a corner. Or rather, it is a starving dog waiting for someone to feed it. And a hungry dog will follow the hand that feeds it. And certainly no thinking American would want that hand that feeds Greece to be Putin's hand.