Most countries have struggled to find ways to access the US President given the particularities of Donald Trump’s personality. Despite Trump’s eccentric personality, nobody has the luxury of ignoring a superpower.
Before the US presidential election of 2016, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias met with the teams of both candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
He did so in September of that year, while he was in New York to participate in the United Nations General Assembly.
A couple of months later, following Trump’s victory, Kotzias sought a meeting with Michael Flynn.
The US national security adviser is the official closest to the president. Particularly in the case of Trump, who does not have the geopolitical knowledge and understanding of most of his predecessors, the influence of the national security adviser is even greater.
Flynn was forced to resign early on, and Greece’s attention turned to his replacement, H.R. McMaster, whom Greece’s chief diplomat met with repeatedly. The last time was on the sidelines of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s official visit to Washington DC last October.
While the spotlight was on the premier’s meeting in the US capital, Kotzias had a long meeting with the president’s closest adviser, with whom he discussed Greece’s role in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean in depth. At the time the two sides put an emphasis, among other things, on creating the dynamic for a solution to the name dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The latest changes in the US president’s team – the appointment of John Bolton as his new national security adviser, and Mike Pompeo as secretary of state – require that Athens re-engage with Washington. Despite these new faces and new approaches – and not always in the direction Athens would have liked – the unprecedented uncertainty in Greece’s neighborhood keeps it in the limelight, and so it still has some geopolitical importance and strategic weight.
Greece remains a credible ally in an uncertain and volatile region and that is something the new chiefs of the US National Security Council and the State Department cannot and should not ignore.
After the recent visits by Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Wess Mitchell to Athens, Nicosia and other capitals in the wider region, people at Foggy Bottom have a full sense of developments in the area, as they are in a phase of examining American policy in this part of the world.
In this framework, it is imperative that Athens establish channels of communication with the new powerful officials as regards American foreign policy – Bolton and Pompeo – as soon as possible, possibly with a visit by Kotzias to Washington.