US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Greek Minister for Development and Investment Adonis Georgiadis touch elbows during an agreement signing ceremony in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, on Monday, September 28. [Reuters]
The presence of the US secretary of state in Greece offers an opportunity to comment on the relationship between the two countries at a time when the superpower is redefining its approach to the region.
Even in the toughest times, Greece has proved that it remains an ally that the United States can trust and depend on. One relatively recent example was the war in Yugoslavia, when the government of Costas Simitis – despite the vehement reactions of the Greek Orthodox populace – upheld the country’s obligations and allowed American forces to use its port of Thessaloniki. Other countries have not done the same under similar circumstances.
The Greek-American community remains a strong bridge between the two countries with an important role in the political system – both on the strength of its votes and its economic influence – that cannot be overlooked by any American politician or administration. The recent meeting between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Archbishop Elpidophoros in Washington is ample confirmation of this.
Greece has forged a multifaceted partnership with Israel that has Washington’s full support. In a similar context, it has also developed another important relationship with Egypt, a close US ally and a country that for religious and geographical reasons has a leading role in any development in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.
Moving to the Balkans, and following the full normalization of ties with North Macedonia, Greece is the most influential country in the region right now. Pompeo’s decision to make the northern port of Thessaloniki his first stop is telling.
On another front, despite the important role of Orthodoxy – Pompeo’s wife is Christian Orthodox, by the way – Greece manages to maintain a delicate balance and keep the right distances, showing geopolitical maturity and seriousness.
On the domestic front, almost every political party – representing 85% of the people – is committed to the country’s Euro-Atlantic course and is in favor of its strategic relationship with the United States. Every government in the past 30 years – including that led by leftist SYRIZA – has demonstrated this commitment. This consensus makes the creation of long-term plans in such a sensitive area much easier for the US.
Pompeo’s visit to Souda Bay on Crete, where Greece has for decades hosted a crucial naval base that may become even more important in the months and years to come, confirms the mutual benefits stemming from a further deepening of the bilateral relationship.
Ranking among the countries that fully comply with their commitments as a member of NATO, Greece has proved in the past 30 years that it is a loyal, dependable and predictable ally, which, together with Cyprus, offers multiple geostrategic advantages that America can rely on as it plans its future approach in the Eastern Mediterranean.