We often talk about the Rafale jets, submarines, F-16s and other assets of the Greek arsenal, but overlook the greatest weapon we have – and one that Turkey can never obtain, no matter what it does. It is the Greek diaspora across the globe, and especially the Greek-American lobby.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ speech at the US Congress and his reception at the White House were, to a significant degree, the result of relationships and initiatives that took decades to develop. Important Greek Americans, in cooperation with Greek diplomats, activated their contacts and made it happen. As the system in America is based on personal relationships, many people picked up their phones and spoke to key players. In some cases, they had to overcome the objections of the National Security Council or other services that were concerned about Ankara’s reaction to the visit.
The Greek-American lobby is not at its best right now; there are many reasons why. But we are lucky that key people like the president, the vice president and the speaker of the House – the top echelons of the American hierarchy, that is – have tried and true relationships with important Greek Americans.
It is sad to see the bitter attacks and comments launched against some of them. There are obviously certain Greek Americans who have a great deal of contacts but couldn’t care less about Greece or Cyprus. They are more interested in self-promotion and a good deal. They live in the past and forget that the days of the “uncle from America” model are over. But there are also those who do everything in their power to forward Greek interests. They did this with former prime minister Alexis Tsipras too, prompting reactions from certain quarters. They are interested in the national team colors, not in who’s wearing them. If, of course, the country is being represented by someone who can convincingly speak to the American decision-making centers and shares similar values, this obviously makes them proud and also goes a long way toward promoting Greek positions. This was more than apparent in Washington last week.
So, Greece has an absolutely incredible weapon at its disposal. It is vital that the prime minister – whoever that may be – knows that when the crucial moment arrives, there are people who can pick up the phone and speak to the president and other important US officials. The Greek state and the private sector need to invest seriously in this important asset and ensure that the next generations of Greek Americans also love the country of their ancestors. This requires a system, hard work and commitment – not platitudes. The recipe for a successful lobby is already there; we can be taught it by the original masters, to whom we have become closer these past few years.