Recent Greece-US summit was ‘an affirmation of partnership’

An interesting thing happened in Washington last Friday between Greece and America. Prime Minister Karamanlis and President Bush sat down for the second time in a year to discuss world affairs. They talked. They listened. But nothing dramatic actually happened. Some might call this a disappointment. I call it an affirmation. With this meeting, President Bush and Prime Minister Karamanlis confirmed what Secretary of State Rice and Foreign Minister Molyviatis recognized two months ago: The status of the relationship between Greece and America is excellent. Our two countries are strategic partners with a global agenda. In my view, a strategic partner is one with whom you can share perspectives on broader challenges. You discuss your interests and concerns. You hear your partner’s ideas and worries. Together you talk about ways to promote your common goals and mutual interests. No promises of new revelations were made before this recent meeting, and none were needed. Rather, it was a meeting of two world leaders, discussing global problems, seeking mutual understanding and a way forward to confront the issues of the day. A strategic partner is also one whose judgment is trusted. We’ve seen Greece’s good judgment as it directed the world safely through the first post-9/11 Olympic Games, guided the EU during a turbulent period in 2003, and discussed, frankly, its post-Olympic deficit with the EU. As an ally and strategic partner, the United States counts on Greece to approach today’s challenges with the same good judgment it exhibited in each of these instances. Strategic partners often have parallel interests that result in action helpful to both partners. Our countries share a strategic interest in stability and economic prosperity in the Balkans. Greece’s steps in this area – particularly as the leading investor in the region – coincide with the United States’ vision of more stability and security in the region. Greece and the United States are working to transfer our security cooperation during the Olympics to the global war against terror. Greece displayed long-term strategic vision when it supported Turkey’s bid for the EU, a decision the United States supported. So what has led to the public acknowledgement that our countries are aligned in this strategic way? For the United States, it is that Greece’s actions support freedom, safety and stability in the world. As a member of NATO, Greece is present in Afghanistan. In the coming months it will assume the critical role of directing the operations of the international airport in Kabul, and will also provide a medical unit for NATO soldiers. It has provided money for the training of Iraqi soldiers working hard and risking their lives to assume control over the security of their nation. It is encouraging development, investment and stability in the Balkans. It is leading important UN Security Council discussions on how to end the killing in Darfur. When President Bush says America and Greece have a strategic partnership, he sees Greece as a partner willing to look beyond its borders to take on an important role in the world. Partnerships are not without problems. In the days and years ahead, our countries will undoubtedly approach some issues in different ways. As strong relationships are forged, so are they tested. Being strategic partners and key allies means these tests will be approached in a positive manner, with a willingness to listen and understand each other’s point of view. Mutual understanding and willingness to listen despite disagreement are the foundations of an excellent bilateral relationship. (1) Charles P. Ries is the US ambassador to Greece.