The following is an opinion piece by Gregory C. Pappas, publisher of The Pappas Post.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ visit to Washington DC couldn’t have come at a more critical time for Greece— and more specifically, for Greek-U.S. relations.
Greece was coming off years of economic turmoil and the country had been portrayed as a basket-case that almost got kicked out of the Eurozone.
A belligerent neighbor and a massive refugee crisis has contributed to a perceived instability that was always on the Washington’s mind.
Add to that a disastrous visit by the country’s previous prime minister, Alexis Tsipras in October of 2017, who was barely able to complete a sentence in English— while an interpreter would have been a more viable option— in official remarks.
Greece needed a statesman in America to push its agenda and message— that the country has emerged from its crisis and that it was a stable and critical player in the region and that the country was open for business. Greece got that in the visit of Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Mitsotakis showed leadership and concern for Greece’s most valuable— yet underused asset outside its borders— the Greek American community, by being present at the 114th annual epiphany celebrations in Tarpon Springs, Florida and during numerous events in Washington DC with AHEPA and other community institutions that are in a strong position to continue pushing Greece’s agenda in the United States.
He secured some important photo ops that sent powerful messages and face to face engagement with representatives of the community and appeared to express his respect for the Church, that despite having its own internal problems, resonates with the vast majority of active, engaged Greek Americans.
Mitsotakis also repeated the invitation to American investors to come to Greece and promised them a stable, welcoming business environment— something the previous government was never able to do.
He made his case impeccably during a Town Hall presentation before the Atlantic Council think tank and thousands of viewers who watched the live stream on YouTube.
He also sent a powerful message in a largely-underreported bit of news after meeting with Kristalina Georgieva, head of the International Monetary Fund in Washington that the IMF’s offices in Athens would be closing— ending a painful chapter in the country’s history when it was the recipient of the largest bailout in history.
But most importantly, the political halls of power in Washington DC is where Mitsotakis’ star shined (shone?) the brightest where he showed a powerful, confident leadership alongside America’s top political leadership.
“In 30 years as an American diplomat I’ve seldom seen such a genuinely warm and enthusiastic welcome for a foreign leader,” said US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt in a Tweet, during a gathering with Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
One American leader after the next welcomed Mitsotakis and treated him with respect and dignity— that both he as the prime minister, but also the nation deserves.
Despite being overshadowed by a vociferous— and sometimes even disinterested— host and a media that was much more concerned about Iran than Greece, in the White House, Mitsotakis was able to get his point across and even outshine Donald Trump— even correcting an erroneous speculation by Trump that Greece wasn’t paying its fair share to NATO.
One journalist even noted that Mitsotakis spoke better English than Trump.
U.S. Ambassador to Athens Geoffrey Pyatt summer up the visit by Mitsotakis in another Tweet, calling the visit “fantastically successful.”
Mitsotakis came to accomplish a lot in Washington DC but nothing more important than asserting Greece’s position and sovereignty against the aggressive actions of Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean and that country’s encroachment on Greek territorial waters.
Although Donald Trump made his closeness and affection for Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan known during his meeting with Mitsotakis, the message was received by those that matter in American foreign policy.
In comments to Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini, Pompeo confirmed plans for a “diplomatic initiative” to help de-escalate tensions between Greece and Turkey.
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