Apart from its historic significance, the Greek prime minister’s address to a Joint Meeting of the US Congress on Tuesday was also very effective in terms of promoting Greece’s image to the world.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis did not mince his words about the overflights by Turkish fighter jets, about Ankara’s revisionist policies or the Cyprus issue. And he asked the members of Congress to stand up to any new Turkish arms orders.
He did all that while at the same time wedding the concerns of Hellenism with global issues and American interests. The large majority of Congress members and senators do not close follow developments in the Aegean or Cyprus. However, they can comprehend what is at stake when someone explains these issues to them in relation to what is happening in Ukraine, underscoring the need for a strong reaction to revisionism and to the forceful challenge of international treaties and national borders. This is what Mitsotakis was able to achieve on Tuesday.
However, the prime minister’s speech and the visit accomplished one more thing. They finally mobilized the most vital parts of the Greek diaspora, the people who have the capacity to influence decision-making centers in the US and the Greek Americans who were were looking for an opportunity to feel proud about their country of origin. This should not be underestimated. Greece’s diaspora, particularly in the US, is a superweapon.
To be sure, Mitsotakis’ return to Greece will spark political confrontation about what he gave away, what he got back in return, and what we should expect. This is all to be expected. After all, nothing is decided in a single visit; diplomacy is a marathon race which will last a long time after the prime minister’s aircraft takes off from Washington.
There could be turbulence ahead as the reception and the speech will certainly spark reactions, especially from Ankara. It will take time before we can take stock of the visit with a cool head. Tuesday’s speech was certainly historic, one that bolstered the country’s influence and status. Perhaps we need to take a short break from our habitual discontent to admit that, yes, it was a great speech, regardless whether one is a fan of the prime minister or not. It was a very good moment for the country.