A very im­por­tant guest

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY PANTELIS BOUKALAS

He may be at the end of his sec­ond term and his party may have ex­pe­ri­enced a crush­ing de­feat at the polls just a week ago – a de­feat that he has been blamed for to a great ex­tent – but he is still the pres­i­dent of the United States. More im­por­tantly, he is still Barack Obama: a well-cul­ti­vated politi­cian with in­cred­i­ble in­sight and tact, whose name will for­ever re­main a tremen­dously im­por­tant sym­bol in the his­tory both of the US and of hu­man­ity in gen­eral. Obama is the sym­bol of a rad­i­cal shift, fore­most cul­tural and intellectual, and then po­lit­i­cal, even though the ac­com­plish­ments of his eight-year ad­min­is­tra­tion are far greater than his claims. Some of these, such as Oba­macare, his stance as re­gards the im­mi­gra­tion is­sue and his as­sump­tion of re­spon­si­bil­ity for Amer­ica’s part in cli­mate change, are now at risk of be­ing dis­man­tled by the un­re­strained pop­ulist Don­ald Trump, whose elec­tion to the White House risks turn­ing it into a Bleak House, to draw on Charles Dick­ens. Only a whin­ing op­po­si­tion pan­der­ing to pop­ulist sen­ti­ment, there­fore, would try to play down the im­por­tance of Obama’s visit to Athens. After all, he is not com­ing to meet with just any old of­fi­cial; he will be vis­it­ing with the Greek pres­i­dent and the prime min­is­ter. His visit also comes at a time of great in­sta­bil­ity in the broader re­gion around Greece, where war is rag­ing on dif­fer­ent fronts and be­ing stoked by many dif­fer­ent con­flict­ing in­ter­ests that are ca­pa­ble of cre­at­ing a rift be­tween old al­lies, such as the USA and Turkey, for ex­am­ple. Of course Obama is not com­ing with a bag­ful of gifts for the Greeks like an early Santa Claus. His first con­cern, nat­u­rally, is safe­guard­ing the in­ter­ests of his own coun­try. Nev­er­the­less, his word re­mains the word of the US pres­i­dent and his sup­port for Greece on the is­sues of debt and the mi­grant cri­sis car­ries a lot of weight. This sup­port was ex­pressed in his in­ter­view with Kathimerini’s Sunday edi­tion [read the full in­ter­view on Page 2]. His praise for the “com­pas­sion and gen­eros­ity that the Greek peo­ple have dis­played in the face” of the mi­grant cri­sis reads like so much more than typ­i­cal diplo­matic flat­tery. It sounds heart­felt and comes from a man who knows his stuff. Obama was also sin­cere in his com­ments about Greek-NATO re­la­tions, say­ing that “Greece is one of five NATO Al­lies that spend 2 per­cent of GDP on de­fense.” He stresses that among 28 NATO mem­ber-states, only five have such high de­fense spend­ing, and Greece is among them, with suc­ces­sive (un­nec­es­sary, openly ex­ag­ger­ated and even scan­dalous) pur­chases.

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