Putting the old days aside when Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called Donald Trump’s ways “evil,” the two leaders sat face to face in what were called “highly productive meetings,” seeking to strengthen already close ties between two nation’s whose connections run deep to each one’s founding.
In remarks to reporters, U.S. President Donald Trump shared stories from American founding fathers who found wisdom in Ancient Greece, enough to help guide them to the creation of the American nation, while Alexis Tsipras responded that his own country’s quest for independence from the Ottoman Turks was inspired by American independence from England.
It was a tit for tat of compliments between the two leaders who come from the oil and vinegar of political worlds— Tsipras from the far left who once protested against the “imperialist Americans” when Bill Clinton visited his native Athens and Donald Trump, whose base is populated with various far-right groups who despise the left.
But times have changed for both leaders, as Trump set aside campaign beliefs that Greece should leave the euro and Tsipras has inched closer and closer to the center following years of realizations that his own party’s left-wing policies would never fly with either Europe, or much of the West, with whom Greece is strongly aligned.
Besides— there’s also that whole country called Turkey. And as the ancient saying goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend and although “enemy” might be too harsh of a word to describe Greek and Americans relations with Erdogan’s Turkey, things certainly aren’t going well with either country and both Trump and Tsipras knew that Turkish president Erdogan would be watching.
“The American people stand with the Greek people as they recover from the economic crisis that recently afflicted their nation,” Trump said alongside Tsipras in the Rose Garden, adding that “A strong and flourishing Greece provides immense opportunity for American trade, investment and job creation.”
During the joint news conference flanked by Greek and U.S. flags, Tsipras was asked about his criticism of Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, when warned in a speech that Trump represented an “evil” set of ideas.
Trump jokingly interrupted the answer before Tsipras could respond stating, “I wish I knew that before my speech.” Tsipras went on to respond that the two leaders had a productive exchange, and “not a moment did I feel threatened at any time” during their encounter.
The talks focused heavily on economic ties, energy and defense and Tsipras announced that the United States would be the featured nation at the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair in 2018, an important event that attracts Greek and international business leaders to the country.
Trump complimented Greece’s defense spending numbers as required by membership the NATO alliance and cited a potential $2.4 billion sale of aircraft to Greece to upgrade its F-16 fighters, which he said would generate thousands of U.S. jobs.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2017
After the meeting, Trump Tweeted that it was his “great honor” to host Tsipras at the White House.