Greece a commercial, energy hub

US Ambassador George Tunis stresses country’s role in facing regional challenges

Greece a commercial, energy hub

It would be an “unfortunate by-product” if Russia and China became closer as a result of the war, United States Ambassador to Greece George Tsunis said of the Russian invasion of Ukraine during a conversation with the editor of Kathimerini English Edition, Tom Ellis, on the second day of the Delphi Economic Forum, during which he also stressed the country’s significance to the US and NATO.

Tsunis stated that it was the intention of Russian President Vladimir Putin not to compromise, despite many approaches made by the West.

“This is the defining moment that policy makers and world leaders have encountered in the last 20 years. I do not exaggerate,” he said, stating that there is a dimension to the war beyond the strict confines of Ukraine. “We cannot let an autocrat change boundaries by force,” because the world is looking and if Putin succeeds somebody else could try, he said.

Tsunis also praised Greece’s response to the invasion of Ukraine, “Where else would the United States turn to in order to solve challenges in the region than Greece?” he said, highlighting Greece’s important role in US strategic planning and also its role as a NATO military logistics hub. He even predicted the future growth of Greece as a civilian logistics hub. “We will have to rebuild Ukraine, and a lot of this will come through Greece,” he said.

He talked about Europe’s energy dependence on Russia and the opportunity for Greece to become an energy hub, offering a solution for the wider region. “There was an opportunity to send [natural gas] north, Greece could be a solution to a real problem,” he emphasized. “Bulgaria would have had substantial challenges keeping the lights on if it was not for Greece,” he expanded. He highlighted the Revithoussa LNG Terminal as well as several energy infrastructure developments, including the EuroAfrica Interconnector. “Greece will become the energy supplier for Southeast Europe,” he said. “By 2026, the United States will be the energy supplier to Greece and that is good for our relationship,” he said.

Turning to Greece, “there was a healing that needed to take place,” he said of a prevalent feeling of anti-Americanism in Greece in decades past. “We have made mistakes. We made mistakes in 1967,” but “this is not where the relationship is today.” He stated that the Greek-American defense relationship is on par with Australia and Canada. FDI is reaching record levels, and there will be 11,000 Pfizer employees in Thessaloniki. “US investment is coming in, and it is significant.” International education is also a sign of how the two countries are coming closer together. “Over a decade, over four Greek administrations and three US administrations, the relationship has been very close, a high degree of cooperation, and it is only getting stronger.” “There will be no change, no matter what happens in any elections. This is enduring.”

“Greece will get the F-35s” in 2028, said Tsunis, citing the importance of the fifth-generation fighter jet in continued participation in NATO military exercises.

“It is in everyone’s interest here to work towards peace,” said Tsunis on Greece’s relationship with Turkey. “This is not Israel and Palestine where the problems are much more significant.” The ambassador believes that there has been a lack of communication between the two countries. “[The US] can play a role [in Greek-Turkish relations] if asked,” he said, adding that this has to be done with respect as the countries “are perfectly capable of solving some challenges in the relationship.”

“We can choose this greater depth and breadth, but at the end of the day actions have not followed election-year rhetoric. There is a desire on both sides of the Aegean to seek peace and compromise,” the ambassador emphasized, stating that the United States will support this process if asked and without dictating any agreement. Tsunis believes that following the elections in Greece and Turkey there will be a genuine effort to get rid of the irritants in the relationship.

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