U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's visit to a country is an important event – especially if it takes place only 36 days before the country’s elections.
Dozens of countries crave his presence, his cooperation, his help on the issues that concern them.
So, the fact that he is visiting Greece – after going to Cyprus, but not Turkey – is an important event in and of itself. But is there something bigger and of greater importance hiding here? A new triumph for Trump after the agreements between Israel and two Arab countries?
The fact that he began his visit in Thessaloniki is also extremely important. This is the first time a U.S. Secretary of State has visited the Queen City of the North. And for the record, Pompeo’s visit should not be considered unrelated to Putin's aggressive activity as of late.
The purpose of Mike Pompeo's trip seems to be twofold: on the one hand, it is related to military facilities – the U.S. seeks an increased and deeper cooperation with Greece. On the other hand, he seems to be seeking an immediate settlement of the Greek-Turkish crisis. Could this be an October Surprise that will help Trump on Election Day?
Pompeo’s two goals are interdependent but also, complementary.
It has been clear for a long time that the United States is in the process of shifting its confidence from Turkey to Greece. This is a major event in U.S. foreign policy and for the security of Greece.
For decades now, Washington has swallowed Turkey’s Middle Eastern wiles and behavior. The United States ignored violations of international law and sacrificed every notion of the rule of law on the altar of Turkey's geostrategic importance, as was the case, for example, with the invasion of Cyprus. After all these years, the permanent and repeated response of American officials has been, “yes, you Greeks are right, yes, Turkey has always been an ‘evasive neutral,’ but we have no choice but to deal with it – because of its military importance.” As Henry Kissinger used to say to Greek-American leaders: “look at the map.” And, of course, the strong anti-Americanism in Greece at times made our goals even more difficult.
Today, the terms have been reversed. Erdogan's behavior has convinced America’s foreign policy establishment that Turkey is no longer a reliable ally. The distrust has reached such a level that even the "freezing" of its NATO membership is being discussed. Of course, President Trump remains a staunch supporter of Erdogan, which leads them to take very cautious steps – at least until the election.
On the other hand, the political climate in Greece and the perceptions of the major parties on this issue – a major historical change – is a guarantee that the United States will seek closer and longer-term cooperation.
Pompeo has taken advantage of this climate in Greece, since it is a win-win situation.
Of course, everything will be judged by the result of the visit and the discussions with Turkey, which are expected to follow.