While the world feels numb from the ramifications of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, all eyes are turning to the United States for today’s 58th presidential election, probably the most important in the post-war years.
What is certain is that the 45th US President, Donald Trump, has been the most controversial regarding his relationship with the rest of the world, and especially Europe. No other president has been so indifferent to America’s largest ally, the European Union, about which he has even spoken in contempt a few times.
In regards to Greece, other than the annual March 25th celebration for Greece’s Independence in the White House that are dictated by protocol and a few diplomatic cliches, Trump has not shown any kind of affinity for the country.
On the contrary, he has been extremely lenient — if not openly friendly — towards the Eastern Mediterranean’s bully, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. No other US president would have been so indifferent to Turkey’s purchasing the S-400 missile system from Russia. Yet, other than some lukewarm comments Trump did not even slap Erdogan’s hand.
Also, US prosecutors quietly dropped charges against 11 of the 15 members of Erdogan’s security detail who were criminally indicted in an assault on protesters during his visit to the White House in 2017.
It is known that Trump has substantial real estate property in Istanbul, so he is partial to Erdogan. So for Greece, four more years with an Erdogan sympathizer in the White House would be very uncomfortable, to say the least.
“The Trump administration has continuously paid lip service to Greece while warmly embracing Erdogan. Prime Minister Mitsotakis paid an official visit to the US in January and came back empty-handed while the current US President lauded the Turkish leader,” said Stacey Harris-Papaioannou, Chair of Democrats Abroad Greece, in an interview with Greek Reporter in October.
While this is a partisan view, it is very difficult to find a flaw in the argument.
On the other hand, Joe Biden, the Democrat candidate, has often spoken in favor of Greece and has criticized Turkey’s illegal acts in the Eastern Mediterranean, its involvement in wars in the Middle East, or for turning Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO monument, into a mosque.
But what would he do as a US president if elected? What would Greece expect from him in regards to Turkey’s aggressive behavior?
Nicholas Burns, a Harvard professor and a former US ambassador to Greece, who endorses Biden, spoke to Kathimerini newspaper about the election:
“Vice President Biden is a longtime friend of Greece and of Cyprus. Just in the last few months, he has spoken out in opposition to the transformation of Hagia Sophia, against Turkish aggression in the Eastern Mediterranean, and about the future of Cyprus. If he is elected, I expect he will continue to be a close supporter of our alliance with Greece and of Cyprus during these difficult times.”
Pre-election promises abound from both sides. While Biden’s declarations of friendship with Greece and the pledge to take its side sound great in Greek ears, there is a long way between talk and action.
In the past, Greece has been betrayed by its allies, most recently by NATO. Trump’s stance towards Greece is known. While Biden has stated that he will side with Greece in the friction with Turkey, the Democrat candidate is still a mystery in regards to the overall US stance in the geopolitical chess game played in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East at the moment.