Obama visit to support Greece, defend legacy
Preparations are in full swing ahead of US President Barack Obama’s trip to Athens on November 15, in a visit aimed at supporting NATO ally Greece’s status in an increasingly volatile region, as well as securing his foreign policy legacy in the wake of the US elections.
American security personnel are already in the Greek capital to arrange the logistics of the visit, and more staff are expected to arrive in the next couple of weeks.
On top of his bilateral talks with the country’s President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Obama is expected to deliver a parting speech heavy in symbolism, including the country’s status as the cradle of Western civilization.
The address will be delivered from an emblematic location, most likely with the Parthenon in the background.
“In the birthplace of democracy, the President will… reaffirm the resilience of democratic values, which have done so much to deliver peace and prosperity to Europe and the wider world,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said last week.
Obama’s message will be directed at America’s allies as well as foes.
His working visit will also focus on migration, regional stability and Greece’s troubled economy.
It has not been confirmed whether he will visit Lesvos, the Aegean island on the front line of the migration crisis, to demonstrate his opposition to border closures and call for a coordinated international response to the problem.
Immigration has featured heavily in the US election campaign, with Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton coming out in defense of assimilation policies.
For its part, Greece wants to cement its role as a pillar of stability in a volatile region, particularly in light of developments in Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. This perception is strengthened by Greece’s warming ties with Israel – a trend that has continued under the SYRIZA-led administration – and the increasingly unpredictable factor that is Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Although the White House has said that the president would not intervene for a new agreement between the European Union and Greece, Athens is eyeing Washington support on the issue of debt relief.
Speaking to Kathimerini a few weeks ago, US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew underlined the need for Greece’s debt to be restructured as soon as possible.