Greek PM Mitsotakis to visit US with great expectations

Greek PM Mitsotakis to visit US with great expectations

With the clock ticking away, the prime minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, appears increasingly confident that his official visit to the U.S. on May 16 will boost his profile abroad as being on the “right side of history.” During his meeting with President Joe Biden, according to the White House statement, both leaders will discuss efforts to support Ukraine and impose economic sanctions on Russia, talk about climate and energy security, and take stock of joint efforts to promote global security through NATO, among others.

It will be a visit that will confirm Mitsotakis’ profile as a devoted EU leader, a close friend of the U.S. and a reliable NATO ally who spared no time to condemn the Russian invasion and support Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky even by arms.

Mitsotakis will enjoy a great welcome in the U.S. He will have the unique opportunity to address a Joint Meeting of Congress on May 17, after being invited personally by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “on behalf of the bipartisan Congressional leadership” as she states in her invitation underlining that “the Congress and our country look forward to hearing your message of democratic values.. at a time when our world faces a pivotal moment in the fight between the forces of democracy and autocracy.”

We could be sure that he would give an excellent message. But he would hope also that the American administration, especially the Congress, would continue blocking the sales of F16s to Turkey or any other similar deal against its purchase of the Russian S-400.

He has invested much of his political capital in this trip to the U.S. since the party of New Democracy came to power in July 2019, the relations with the U.S. have become significantly stronger. The wording of the Protocol of the Amendment to the “Mutual Defence Cooperation Agreement with Greece” (MDCA) was signed in October last year, signifying the importance that the two parties attributed to their relations.

“The MDCA is the bedrock of our defense cooperation and has helped strengthen our common defense for more than three decades.

This second amendment to the MDCA in as many years demonstrates the continued ability and resolve of the United States and Greece to address the security challenges of today and tomorrow through our strategic relationship…it has allowed for U.S. forces to train and operate within Greek territory since 1990. Today’s amendment extends the MDCA’s validity, making it consistent with other bilateral defense cooperation agreements between NATO Allies and durable enough to allow for Greece and the United States to advance security and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and beyond…Our defense relationship is rooted in a common history and shared values and interests going back more than two centuries.”

Based on the MDCA, the U.S. was granted access to four military bases in Greece in addition to the large base in Souda Bay in Crete and U.S. forces would be able to train and operate in an “expanded capacity.”

Many in Greece, who has been concerned over the marked increase in tension with Turkey, saw the expansion of U.S. military presence in Greece as a safety net against Turkey. Others have expressed their concern over the implications that such a tight embrace with the Americans would bring to their country.

Few had predicted, though, that the war would take place elsewhere. And that the stakes would be much bigger than the tension between Turkey and Greece.

There are several points that we should make here: The invasion of Russia and the terrible war in Ukraine forced countries to take sides. To be with the West and NATO or to be with the “autocrats.” Even countries, like Greece, which historically maintained a bond with the Russians had to side with the West. At least this is what the present Greek government chose to do, wholeheartedly.

However, the Greek public opinion is divided: In a recent opinion poll, only 29 percent of Greeks approve of the EU’s response to Russia’s war against Ukraine, according to a Eurobarometer survey in all member states published on Thursday.

In a Greek-based poll, although 70 percent of the respondents are against Russia in the war against Ukraine, 15 percent are in favor, 30 percent are against the sanctions on Russia, while 60 percent are in favor. But 66 percent are against the decision by the Greek government to send arms to Ukraine with only 29 percent thinking it was the right thing.

Mitsotakis is on the last leg of his term. His government faced great difficulties in dealing with the pandemic, the ongoing crisis with Turkey, and lately, uncontrolled energy prices. Eventually, the government had to announce (on Wednesday) emergency measures to cap electricity bills. According to official statistics, inflation in March reached a 26-year high of 8.9 percent on the year, which included a 30 percent rise in costs for rent, electricity, heating and gas.

The government’s popularity is falling, popular frustration is increasing. Whether Mitsotakis will manage to reverse the downward trend by abiding by the wishes of the West is debatable.