How Nato can help the Greeks

Nato should assist Greece in reducing its military expenditure by guaranteeing its security.

Fifty years ago, the United States and United Kingdom, were so worried about economic and political stability in the eastern Mediterranean they gave massive loans to both Greece and Turkey to strengthen the capital base in both nations. In 1963, America withdrew its anti-Soviet missiles in Turkey and the fledgling European Economic Community offered a future accession partnership to the Turks to anchor the nation firmly within the orbit of western democracy.

In 2012, Europe needs to offer financial help to the Greeks but Washington and Nato can play a part in reducing the Greeks’ paraonoia – oh no not another Greek word! – about their national security. In addition to the well-reported problems of corruption, clientalism and tax cheating Greece faces other difficulties which no other EU member state shares.

The single biggest part of the Greek economy is the shipping industry – representing about seven per cent of the Greek economy. In Britain, the minuscule shipping industry pays 780 million pounds in tax to HMRC. Greek shipping oligarchs pay no tax. The British authorities could help by sending details of Greek oligarchs who have recently purchased Mayfair mansions to get their Euros out of Greece, to the Athens tax authorities.

The biggest land and property owner in Greece is the Orthodox church. It pays no tax and its priests and monks also live tax-free. It is time for the Greek religious community to render unto Ceasar that which is Caesar’s and pay their dime in tax dues.

The other barely known aspect of Greek public spending is the disproportionate amount spent on importing arms from Germany, France and the US. Greece spend 50 per cent more, as a share of its GDP, on arms than Britain, France or Turkey. The reason is the fear that one day there will be conflict with Turkey. Greeks remember, with cause, the Turkish intervention in Cyprus in 1974 when an initial arrival of Turkish soldiers to prevent Greek-Cypriot fascist sympathisants from initiating anti-Turk Srebrenicas turned into a full-scale invasion and annexation of the northern third of the island.

Turkish airplanes regularly over-fly Greek islands and with the lure of under-sea energy sources there is tension enough in the region to justify, in Greek eyes, a very high level of military expenditure. So Washington and Nato should now give Greece an unqualified security guarantee that any assault of Greek territorial integrity will be met with full Nato defence capability.

Paris and Berlin should tell their arms merchants to roll over payment for Greek defence orders. It is not fully understood that most of the EU money going to Greece arrives in Athens and leaves five minutes later for French and German banks to pay off debt. Only about six billion euros has stayed in Greece. Athens should not be required to send billions to northern European arms manufacturers untll the economic story there has calmed down.

Greece also can help with its own regional security. When the Turkish Cypriots voted to accept the UN brokered deal for a settlement for the divided island, Greek Cypriots under the benevolent eye of Athens were whipped up to vote it down. An historic opportunity was lost. Greece could not press for a new settlement on Cyprus based on the Annan plan.

Greece could also help stabilize its northern neighbours in the western Balkans by easing its Swiftian rejection of the right of Macedonia to call itself Macedonia and by rejecting the Moscow led campaign to deny recognition to Kosovo. Nearly 100 nations, including all the major democracies now have diplomatic and trade relations with Kosovo and the fiction that the nation will one day revert to rule by Serbia is just that – a myth that Athens should not encourage.

The reporting on Greece has almost entirely focused on economic, fiscal and Eurozone aspects of the crisis. But security and diplomatic tools can also be used to help bring stability to Greece and the region. For British Europhobes who have invested all their belief in willing the collapse of the single currency, saving Greece is now to be devoutly not wished for.  But wider regional, European and even Atlantic considerations should not want Greece to collapse into the kind of chaos that led to the 1967 military intervention or worse.

Helping the Greeks by saying they can reduce arms spending to Turkish or British level while at the same time getting oligarchs and the orthodox church to pay taxes would be part of the process of helping Greece back onto its feet.

US President Barack Obama meets with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Photograph: Getty Images.
Denis MacShane is MP for Rotherham and was a minister at Foreign and Commonwealth Office
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How Donald Trump is slouching towards the Republican nomination

There was supposed to be a ceiling above which Trump’s popular support could not climb.

In America, you can judge a crowd by its merchandise. Outside the Connecticut Convention Centre in Hartford, frail old men and brawny moms are selling “your Trump 45 football jerseys”, “your hats”, “your campaign buttons”. But the hottest item is a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Hillary sucks . . . but not like Monica!” and, on the back: “Trump that bitch!” Inside, beyond the checkpoint manned by the Transportation Security Administration and the secret service (“Good!” the man next to me says, when he sees the agents), is a family whose three kids, two of them girls, are wearing the Monica shirt.

Other people are content with the shirts they arrived in (“Waterboarding – baptising terrorists with freedom” and “If you don’t BLEED red, white and blue, take your bitch ass home!”). There are 80 chairs penned off for the elderly but everyone else is standing: guys in motorcycle and military gear, their arms folded; aspiring deal-makers, suited, on cellphones; giggling high-school fatsos, dressed fresh from the couch, grabbing M&M’s and Doritos from the movie-theatre-style concession stands. So many baseball hats; deep, bellicose chants of “Build the wall!” and “USA!”. (And, to the same rhythm, “Don-ald J!”)

A grizzled man in camouflage pants and combat boots, whose T-shirt – “Connecticut Militia III%” – confirms him as a member of the “patriot” movement, is talking to a zealous young girl in a short skirt, who came in dancing to “Uptown Girl”.

“Yeah, we were there for Operation American Spring,” he says. “Louis Farrakhan’s rally of hate . . .”

“And you’re a veteran?” she asks. “Thank you so much!”

Three hours will pass. A retired US marine will take the rostrum to growl, “God bless America – hoo-rah!”; “Uptown Girl” will play many more times (much like his speeches, Donald J’s playlist consists of a few items, repeated endlessly), before Trump finally looms in and asks the crowd: “Is this the greatest place on Earth?”

There was supposed to be a ceiling above which Trump’s popular support could not climb. Only a minority within a minority of Americans, it was assumed, could possibly be stupid enough to think a Trump presidency was a good idea. He won New Hampshire and South Carolina with over 30 per cent of the Republican vote, then took almost 46 per cent in Nevada. When he cleaned up on Super Tuesday in March, he was just shy of 50 per cent in Massachusetts; a week later, he took 47 per cent of the votes in Mississippi.

His rivals, who are useless individually, were meant to co-operate with each other and the national party to deny him the nomination. But Trump won four out of the five key states being contested on “Super-Duper Tuesday” on 15 March. Then, as talk turned to persuading and co-opting his delegates behind the scenes, Trump won New York with 60 per cent.

Now, the campaign is trying to present Trump as more “presidential”. According to his new manager, Paul Manafort, this requires him to appear in “more formal settings” – without, of course, diluting “the unique magic of Trump”. But whether or not he can resist denouncing the GOP and the “corrupt” primary system, and alluding to violence if he is baulked at at the convention, the new Trump will be much the same as the old.

Back in Hartford: “The Republicans wanna play cute with us, right? If I don’t make it, you’re gonna have millions of people that don’t vote for a Republican. They’re not gonna vote at all,” says Trump. “Hopefully that’s all, OK? Hopefully that’s all, but they’re very, very angry.”

This anger, which can supposedly be turned on anyone who gets in the way, has mainly been vented, so far, on the protesters who disrupt Trump’s rallies. “We’re not gonna be the dummies that lose all of our jobs now. We’re gonna be the smart ones. Oh, do you have one over there? There’s one of the dummies . . .”

There is a frenzied fluttering of Trump placards, off to his right. “Get ’em out! . . . Don’t hurt ’em – see how nice I am? . . . They really impede freedom of speech and it’s a disgrace. But the good news is, folks, it won’t be long. We’re just not taking it and it won’t be long.”

It is their removal by police, at Trump’s ostentatious behest, that causes the disruption, rather than the scarcely audible protesters. He seems to realise this, suddenly: “We should just let ’em . . . I’ll talk right over them, there’s no problem!” But it’s impossible to leave the protesters where they are, because it would not be safe. His crowd is too vicious.

Exit Trump, after exactly half an hour, inclusive of the many interruptions. His people seem uplifted but, out on the street, they are ambushed by a large counter-demonstration, with a booming drum and warlike banners and standards (“Black Lives Matter”; an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, holding aloft Trump’s severed head). Here is the rest of the world, the real American world: young people, beautiful people, more female than male, every shade of skin colour. “F*** Donald Trump!” they chant.

After a horrified split-second, the Trump crowd, massively more numerous, rallies with “USA!” and – perplexingly, since one of the main themes of the speech it has just heard was the lack of jobs in Connecticut – “Get a job!” The two sides then mingle, unobstructed by police. Slanging matches break out that seem in every instance to humiliate the Trump supporter. “Go to college!” one demands. “Man, I am in college, I’m doin’ lovely!”

There is no violence, only this: some black boys are dancing, with liquid moves, to the sound of the drum. Four young Trump guys counter by stripping to their waists and jouncing around madly, their skin greenish-yellow under the street lights, screaming about the building of the wall. There was no alcohol inside; they’re drunk on whatever it is – the elixir of fascism, the unique magic of Trump. It’s a hyper but not at all happy drunk.

As with every other moment of the Trump campaign so far, it would have been merely some grade of the cringeworthy – the embarrassing, the revolting, the pitiful – were Trump not slouching closer and closer, with each of these moments, to his nomination. 

This article first appeared in the 28 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The new fascism