Highlighting Greece’s role as a reliable partner and effective ally in a turbulent region where geopolitical connections and major interests are at stake, as well as the historic ties between Greece – the world’s first democracy – and the United States – at present the world’s most powerful democracy – were the key parameters of Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ recent visit to the Washington, where he met with US President Joe Biden and became the first Greek prime minister to address a Joint Session of the Senate and Congress.
Aware of the importance placed by the members of both legislative bodies and by Biden personally on democratic values – which influence and in some cases shape the president’s foreign policy – Mitsotakis adeptly used every opportunity he could to cast Greece’s indisputable democratic credentials against authoritarian regimes like those of Russia’s Vladimir Putin and, indirectly, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Drawing the connection between the dramatic events in Ukraine and Turkey’s revisionist expansionism was the right way to convince or at least inform and influence American officials and lawmakers who are interested in the war but know little if anything about Greek-Turkish relations and Ankara’s outrageous claims.
Without mentioning Turkey per se, the Greek prime minister clearly talked about its aggressive behavior. Both at the reception at the White House and in his speech in Congress, he tacitly referred to Ankara, stressing that Greece will uphold and defend its sovereign rights and noting that any violations of these rights will meet with a response. He stated that Athens is always open to dialogue, but only within the contours of international law.
In the area of defense, a key pillar of the bilateral partnership, the visit activated the process for Greece’s possible participation via its own defense industry in the co-production of F-35s and for its air force to acquire a squadron of the fifth-generation stealth fighter jets by the end of the decade.
Overall, Mitsotakis’ visit was effective, as it also highlighted Greece’s role as an energy hub for natural gas – American and otherwise – to the Balkans and Europe, something that is evidently even more valuable under the present circumstances.
But what most American officials and lawmakers took home was the prime minister’s successful depiction of Greece’s core principles and geostrategic orientation, against the challenges faced by the democratic system.