George Tsunis is President Biden’s top choice as the new ambassador to Greece as of Friday afternoon. Tsunis is a personal friend of the US President.
Once proposed by former President Obama to be an ambassador to Norway, the businessman, whose family is from Nafpaktos, is said to be a personal choice of powerful Democratic philhellene senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey.
His appointment is expected to be approved in November, according to reports.
Tsunis is the son of immigrants from Greece, James and Eleni Tsunis. He earned a BA at New York University in 1989 and a JD at St. John’s University School of Law in 1992.
As a practicing attorney, Tsunis was a partner at the law firm of Rivkin Radler LLP. He married Olga J. Antzoulis in November 2004. They live in Lloyd Harbor, Long Island, with their three children. He has two sisters.
His first nomination to an ambassadorship hit the rocks after his nod for the post in Norway fell apart. After he was nominated as Ambassador to Norway on September 10, 2013, his nomination process lagged for many months.
His nomination was part of a tremendous backlog of nominees for ambassadorial positions across the world as Obama battled Congress regarding many of his nominations to a variety of posts. Norway, an important fellow member of the NATO alliance, had never before been without a US ambassador for that many months.
Tsunis’ nomination hearing generated some controversy, both in Norway and in the US, after he confessed to never having been to Norway and showing his apparent ignorance of current Norwegian political issues. He clearly did not impress at his confirmation hearings, and Senator John McCain took a stand against his appointment.
According to some sources, the U.S. Embassy even apologized for some statements that Tsunis had made to the Norwegian government and other involved parties in Norway.
In statements to the press in December of 2014, Tsunis indicated that he was no longer seeking the nomination as ambassador to the Scandinavian nation.
Tsunis, a hotel executive, is a major donor to the Democratic Party. If approved, Tsunis will have some enormous shoes to fill, as current ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt has thrown himself wholeheartedly into the position, becoming a cheerleader for Greek business and for increased defense ties between the US and Greece.
Greek foreign minister Nikos Dendias will be arriving in Washington on October 14 to sign a renewal of the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement which will bolster the U.S. Navy’s already sizable presence in Souda Bay.
Tsunis, who was born in Queens, spoke only Greek until he went to kindergarten.
He has served as the vice chairman of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) in the past.