Donald Trump’s departure from the helm of the United States removes a negative piece from the puzzle of Greek-Turkish relations. The outgoing president often flaunted his friendship with his Turkish counterpart, and many say it was a quid pro quo relationship based on business interests. Regardless, Recep Tayyip Erdogan always found a receptive ear at Trump’s White House.
Moreover, on a political and personal level, the American president never showed particular respect for or interest in Greece. There are a couple of very telling scenes from his poor treatment of two Greek prime ministers.
The first is the nasty look he gave Alexis Tsipras in October 2017 during a press conference at the White House when a journalist asked the Greek prime minister whether he still stood by a comment made before Trump was elected, saying “I hope we will not face this evil.” “I wish I knew that before my speech,” Trump said, turning toward Tsipras in an almost threatening way. “Thankfully,” they had just previously agreed on a $1.5-billion upgrade of 84 Greek F-16 fighter jets.
The second scene was during Trump’s meeting with Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Oval Office in January 2020, where the American president had the tactlessness to talk with pride about his “good friend” Erdogan in front of the Greek prime minister who just moments earlier had spoken about the Turkish president’s threats against Greece.
At least Trump didn’t push them aside, as he did so rudely to the prime minister of Montenegro at a NATO summit.
On the upside, two positive developments took place during Trump’s presidency. The first was the fact that a leftist government in Athens was able to set its ideological fixations aside and manage to work closely with a very right-wing American administration. It was an important precedent and demonstrates how Greek-American relations have truly matured.
The second has to do with the personal relationship formed by Mitsotakis, and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The latter may one day run for the Senate or even the presidency. The top American diplomat of the last three years came to Greece twice – he visited the prime minister at his home in Hania, Crete – and saw and understood a lot about Greece’s concerns, opening a channel of communication that may prove useful again in the future.
However, these developments have nothing to do with Trump, whose personal admiration and friendship for Erdogan skewed his view of the issues involving Turkey. In this regard, his departure is a good thing.