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Guest Viewpoints

On International Affairs Expert Previews U.S.-Greece Relations under Biden

February 17, 2021
By Asher J. Matathias

My regular provider of off-the-beaten road articles of nevertheless enormous potential influence, Dr. T.K., sends me this analysis by a scholar, and member of the Athens-based Council for International Relations; a valiant effort to imitate New York's counterpart of worldwide impact, Council on Foreign Relations under the long stewardship of Dr. Richard N. Haass. The ostensible reason for the article featuring Dr. Aristotle Tziampiris was to begin "a conversation" about prospects for U.S.-Greece relations under President Joe Biden after the Presidency of Donald Trump. He began – the reporter said it was unavoidable – with the aftermath of the January 6 attempted insurrection at the Capitol. Fair enough, but I can't help first reflecting on this commentator’s taciturnity – while he expressed his anxiety for us Americans, he did not feel the compelling need to explain his silence regarding our misinformed, and undereducated Greek-American compatriots who were casting the majority of their ballots for the singularly ignorant-intolerant-bigoted, most repugnant child-man to ever hold the highest office in the apex of political power!

In the main section of the article Tziampiris offers a litany of improved bilateral relations, dragging into the mix the two private American organizations: the Hellenic American Leadership Council, led by Endy Zemenidis, and the much more high-profiled/effective American Jewish Committee, under the long-tenured leadership of David Harris.

However, and off the proverbial bat, with the mercurial Trump impetuously, petulantly directing our foreign policy, only the naïve, or knave could place trust, and confidence in any, and all agreements initialed by his copyrighted signature! And, let us not overlook the embedded askew vision Greeks possess, blinding them to acquire a nativist anti-Americanism, even if my adopted nation literally saved modern Hellas from a terrible fate, via Marshall Plan, and the Truman Doctrine – had the Communists prevailed in the four-year Greek civil war, 1945-49. In 1952, and in order to secure Greek security, and the stability which brought about a modicum of prosperity during that decade, the country entered the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (along with its perennial nemesis Turkey)!

Such good will was repaid by defacing the statue of Truman, the election of a rabidly anti-American Premier Andreas Papandreou, and the temporary expulsion of the Americans from the Souda Bay Naval Base in Crete. A point I wholeheartedly accept is the academic's assertion that the United States cannot be restricted to a bilateral relationship in the southeastern Mediterranean; Greece must be prepared to offer a sophisticated and mature presentation of its interests, in proper understanding of the broader reach of American concerns. In this regard, it's well that he mentions the generally more progressive views of the American-Hellenic Institute, under Nick Larigakis, the oldest Greek-American fraternal association AHEPA, and the lobbying team of father and son Andy and Mike Manatos.

Those lynchpins to energetic, and affirmative policy are well-known to me, as are their leaders, and I have long-urged closer cooperation and collaboration with the Jewish community – much more experienced, and enormously influential in personalities, and organizations – the paradigmatic minority whose skills have been the source of admiration, so far unsuccessful emulation, envy, and, yes, of ongoing dispiriting anti-Semitism among our compatriots; here, and there! With Turkey a wild card, as it continues its lurch to fundamental Islamism, and authoritarianism under President Erdogan, it's reputed that incoming Secretary of State Tony Blinken will not be satisfied with making the Turkish acquisition of the competitive Russian S-400 missile system non-operational; rather, he will insist that Erdogan return the hardware to Moscow!

But, Greece, too, is winking while warming towards Russia, and, eschewing closer ties with fellow members of the European Union, is looking towards the unstable and undemocratic Middle East to salvage its hurt vanity (not receiving unequivocal support against Turkey from the EU). Nor can it be easily forgotten that in the Tsipras administration, there were repeated attempts to weaken the sanctions imposed on Putin's Russia for annexing Crimea and engaging in a low-grade war in Ukraine.

Greece is to be applauded for advancing its contacts with Israel; however, it's one thing to see such inter-governmental improvement and another to witness the aforementioned Greek popular anti-Semitism-Zionism. As we approach the date for Greece's bicentennial in the uprising against Ottoman-Turkish rule, March 25, I again propose a dramatic gesture that will, indeed, be tectonic: let the Mitsotakis government openly declare that it repudiates the UN General Assembly vote on Resolution 181 – instructed by then Premier Themistokli Sofoulis – hideously to oppose the birth of a Jewish State; afterward, to issue an apology to Israel and the Jewish People entire! Our signatories in 10 nations of our Petition of Conscience: Appeal to Correct History and Heal Hearts demands such redress of grievance that has been met with diplomatic hypocrisy, and cynicism from the Greek Consul-General in New York, and the Permanent Representative of Greece at the UNO!  

A forthright resolution of this issue, not unique among great nations but more difficult for smaller polities, will still earn our native land a place of honor in international councils, demonstrating its vaunted, but often inadequate philotimo, decency; while concretely offering salve, through Christian-Orthodox love, for the wounds sustained by our Greek-Jews through the ages! As Mel Allen, the voice of the NY Yankees more than six decades ago would say, "how about that!"

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