Greece’s transatlantic expectations

Greece’s transatlantic expectations

It has always been useful to check the Greek-American print media as an alternative insight into U.S. and Greek relations. Some with a publishing life more than a century old, have enough professional aptitude, giving us useful information to complete the puzzle.

That was the case of an exclusive interview published last Saturday by the Ethnikos Kyrix (National Herald, New York), a historical newspaper of the Greek-American community, which retains its prominent position 102 years since its foundation.

The interview with the new U.S. Ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey Pyatt, was given to the paper’s publisher/editor, Antonis H. Damaris, “at the café of a hotel in Midtown Manhattan.”

I picked up some interesting points. One was Pyatt’s specific reference to the importance of the Souda Bay in Crete (the NATO and Greek Air Force military base) for both the U.S. and Greece. “For us, it is more important than ever before because of what is happening in the Eastern Mediterranean,” he said.

Another point is the positive light under which Ambassador Pyatt and presumably the American administration view the work of the Syriza-led government of Alexis Tsipras. They seem to think it has made real “progress” in trying to “get Greece out of the woods.”

Ambassador Pyatt, who assumed office in September 2016, had emphasized the importance of economic stability and growth in Greece as he had claimed the target of his country’s strategy concerning Greece is to see this Mediterranean nation as “a pillar of stability after economic recovery.”

The Californian born ambassador whose previous post was in Ukraine, was in New York last week to try to promote Greece to American investors as a country on the way to a speedy economic recovery.

Interestingly, and using almost identical language, Dimitris Papadimitriou, a professor of economics was appointed to Tsipras’s government last November in order to draft a new economic strategy for Greece in order to attract foreign capital.

“I was in London, for a purpose, I was in New York for a purpose, I was in Washington for a purpose, I was in Boston for a purpose,” he said in an exclusive interview with BBC’s Stephen Sackur. “Investing has dramatically changed. Significant investments have been taking place in Greece, and therefore, Greece is on the road to recovery,” he claimed, although he had difficulty naming any other investor than the Chinese at the Piraeus Port.

It is no secret the Greek government has been actively promoting closer cooperation with the U.S. in the field of economy since last year. Mr. Papadimitriou as president of the Levy Economics Institute was already advising the Greek government of ways to boost the country’s economy until him and his wife were asked to join the government in last autumn’s government reshuffle.

The lean towards the U.S. could be expected since Europeans see Greece as more of a problem than an opportunity. And, besides, the election of Donald Trump was an opportunity for increasing ties with the U.S. After all, the overwhelming majority of Greek-Americans voted in favor of Trump, especially the Greek-American businessmen.

However, the view of Greece by the Greeks themselves is not as Papadimitriou sees it or as Ambassador Pyatt would like to see it. The people are suffering under the recent additional austerity measures. The political atmosphere is quite shaky, center and center-left parties are talking about creating a new anti-government front, seeing their prospects rise while Tsipras’s popularity is falling. They think early elections in September after the German elections might be on the table and they interpret Tsipras’s call for unity of the progressive forces as an early sign of him planning to break ranks with his nationalist-conservative partner, Independent Greeks.

Their leader, though, Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, (who is often the target of harsh criticism by Turkey), loses no opportunity to praise the U.S. and condemn the Europeans.

“The Greek people are well aware the United States has been the country’s only genuine ally. The others are allies, but they are [allies] only in the form of creditors, without [any sense of] respect. This is because some of them will never forget they lost World War II to this country,” he stated.