Greece is back. For those familiar with how things are assessed in Washington, the change in the image and the general mood toward Greece in Washington’s centers of power is clear. The country today stands out as a reliable partner and effective ally in a tense region, which does not just make demands but also offers assistance. It is no longer part of the problems, as in the past, but of the solutions.
This is the feeling that prevails among government officials, as well as in the corridors of the Congress where, as a result of the methodical work of the Greek Embassy in Washington and a number of influential Greek Americans, many lawmakers and their staff assistants – often more important as they work on the details of positions, resolutions and bills – have formed a very positive image of the geopolitical value and regional role of Greece.
The game changers were the Prespes agreement with North Macedonia, which restored Greece’s leading role in the Balkans, and the huge upgrade of the northern port city of Alexandroupoli, which is a new geostrategic gateway for armed forces, equipment, but also energy sources to the Balkans and Europe in general. And this is happening at a historical juncture while the war in Ukraine is in progress. The implementation of the EU decision to achieve independence from Russian gas passes to a certain extent through Greece too.
Stereotypes and past beliefs are overturned and the country is – in terms of values, diplomacy and geography – at the center of change. Americans seek stability, consistency, and predictability. This is extremely important for a serious country, let alone a superpower, that forms long-term strategies.
In Washington, as in all major capitals, the focus is not only on governments, but on other political forces that could regain power in any specific country. Here, too, they believe that despite the domestic confrontation, Greece’s two largest opposition parties, even if they do not completely agree on the politics, are moving in the same strategic direction. And this evaluation facilitates the drawing up of long-term plans today. This is confirmed by the upgrade of Souda Bay in Crete and the process for the supply of F-35 fighter jets which will proceed.
Greece’s cooperation with Israel is another important parameter that has changed its image. In this policy, the element of continuity is valued: From former premiers George Papandreou, Antonis Samaras and Alexis Tsipras, to the current one, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greece has proven over the last 12 years in practice that it has made a long-term, ideologically clear, strategic choice.
A very important parameter is the role of the Greek-American community. Many question the extent to which it is effective. Knowing most leading players personally, I can attest that despite the shortcomings, and unfortunately often internal divisions, the community has a strong presence – in votes, political influence and financial power – that no politician or even bureaucrat should ignore.
As for how the US political system works, the good thing is that, albeit belatedly, Athens is beginning to realize the autonomy of the US Congress and the power and influence of the House and the Senate in adopting policies and passing laws.
In this context, it is extremely positive that both Democrats and Republicans share the same positive outlook for Greece. A potential change in the parliamentary majority in one or both houses of Congress will not threaten the established strategic relationship between the two countries.
Finally, one last note. It is wrong to see Greece’s upgrade as one side of a coin where the other is Turkey’s downgrade. This is not the case. There is friction between Washington and Ankara over the Russian S-400s, as well as Turkey’s objections to Finland and Sweden joining NATO, but the decades-long strategic assessment in the State Department and Pentagon bureaucracies – though less among think tanks these days – remains that Turkey plays a key role in the region and in any case “should not be lost.” As a top US diplomat recently noted, “we want Turkey tied to the West. No one wants it to develop into a new Pakistan, neither you nor us.”