On Tuesday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis delivered a historic address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, the first ever by a Greek leader.
Senators and Representatives offered multiple standing ovations for a speech that had it all: Russia’s aggression, Turkey’s overflights, the Parthenon Marbles, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Mitsotakis highlighted democratic values as NATO allies confront Russian aggression in Ukraine. “Our shared values are once again being tested,” Mitsotakis emphasized.
The Greek leader said one should replace the name Greece today for the war of independence with Ukraine, where defenders of the city of Mariupol defended their city like the fighters of Missolonghi in 1826, preferring death over the loss of freedom.
He received applause for his references to “our shared belief in freedom over tyranny, in democracy over authoritarianism, in the fundamental importance of respect for the rule of law over war and anarchy.”
He stressed that Greece has no conflicts with the Russian people with whom it shares historic and faith bonds. “But we cannot be indifferent to a struggle that reminds us so much of our own…We stand by Ukraine against Putin’s aggression,” he said to thunderous applause.
Putin must not succeed not only because of Ukraine but so that all authoritarian leaders may receive a clear message that “Historical revisionism and open acts of aggression that violate international law will not be tolerated,” Mitsotakis said.
He then asked the members of Congress not to forget “the open wound that has caused Hellenism unending pain: the invasion and subsequent division of Cyprus.”
Without mentioning Turkey, Mitsotakis highlighted the security challenges facing Greece, including overflights over its territory.
Mitsotakis amongst few that have addressed a joint meeting of Congress
Mitsotakis has joined only eight other world leaders who have addressed a joint session of Congress since 2015. They include Pope Francis, the Prime Ministers of India, Japan, and Israel, and the Presidents of Afghanistan, France, and Ukraine, as well as the NATO Secretary-General.
Mitsotakis was invited by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, along with the bi-partisan leadership of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
Pelosi welcomed Mitsotakis and said that Greece has been a source of democratic principles since antiquity and inspiration for America’s founders.
Pelosi also expressed her appreciation for the US-Greece friendship through NATO and said the United States recognizes Greece’s role in helping Ukrainian refugees, fighting the coronavirus pandemic, and acting on climate change.
“As I always like to say, we learned from the Greeks and the Greeks learned from us, and now we stand together as democratic nations,” it was said.
Mitsotakis-Biden meeting at the White House
On Monday, Mitsotakis and President Joe Biden affirmed that the U.S. – Greece relationship is “stronger than ever” during their meeting at the White House.
Biden congratulated Mitsotakis on 201 years of Greek independence.
The leaders underscored the relationship between the United States and Greece which is currently stronger than ever and noted the enduring people-to-people bonds that have helped define bilateral ties for more than two centuries.
The U.S. President referred to the personal friendship with Mitsotakis and to the democratic ideals born in Greece that inspired the United States and which are sadly being tried by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a democracy threatened by autocrats.