The deepening of the US-Greek bilateral defense relations as a springboard for the upgrade of Greece’s strategic role in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans was front and center at the meeting between US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis Monday.
There was special emphasis on the energy sector and Greece’s upgraded role after the war started on February 24 and the EU decided to gradually end its dependence on Russian natural gas. Biden and Mitsotakis discussed the latest developments in the war and Greece’s contribution to Ukraine’s defense.
In opening statements before the meeting got underway, Biden praised Mitsotakis and spoke about how the democratic ideals that were developed in Ancient Greece inspired the US’ founding fathers, who were steeped in the classical tradition.
“Sadly, Russia’s brutal attack on Ukraine is also a threat to democracy from autocrats who want to bear down on the rules-tested orders and rules-based orders,” Biden added.
The US President praised Greece’s stance against the aggression on Ukraine. “I want to thank you Mr Prime Minister for Greece’s moral leadership. It’s not easy, I know,” he said. He also noted how friendship and cooperation between the two countries is more important than ever.
“Our two countries were always on the right side of history,” Mitsotakis replied. “We are now facing united the challenge of Russian aggression… our relationship is at an all time high,” he added.
The Prime Minister noted that Greece, which recovered from a long financial crisis is a “reliable partner in the Eastern Mediterranean” and a “pillar of stability in the Balkans and the wider area.”
During the talks, in which Mitsotakis was joined by Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos and Education Minister Niki Kerameus, the Greek side referred to Turkey’s destabilizing behavior in the area. But, although Biden has strong ties to the Greek-American community, it is clear that his administration, as well as US diplomacy, do not want to “lose” Turkey. Thus, his decision to ask Congress to approve the upgrade of Turkey’s F-16 fighters.
After the talks, Biden hosted a reception at the White House. The reception was attended by about 200 guests, including Archbishop Eklpidophoros, the head of the Orthodox Church in the Americas, the Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Reelations Committee Bob Menendez.
In short speeches at the banquet, Elpidophoros condemned Russian aggression in the Ukraine. “Freedom and democracy are worth fighting for,” Biden said in response. On a lighter note, he told Mitsotakis that “really, Jill and I are looking forward to seeing you in Greece.” On his part, Mitsotakis said that Greece plans to play an important role as a gateway for energy in Europe and also asked Biden to put negotiations for the reunification of Cyprus back on track. He also mentioned that Greece will acquire the advanced F-35 fighter.
On Tuesday, Mitsotakis will meet Pelosi and will address a joint session of Congress. He will then meet with Vice President Kamala Harris and be honored at a luncheon hosted by Pelosi and will meet with members of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues and members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The prime minister will conclude his visit in Washington with a dinner with representatives of Greek-American organizations. During the dinner, he will present awards to several outstanding members of the community, including Endy Zemenides, Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council, Father Alex Karloutsos, the recently retired Vicar General of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and businessmen George Marcus and Angelo Tsakopoulos.