Greece-USA co­op­er­a­tion clos­est it has been for a long time

Amer­i­can Am­bas­sador Ge­of­frey Py­att gives up­beat as­sess­ment of re­la­tion­ship be­tween two coun­tries, stresses re­gional fac­tors

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY TOM EL­LIS

Let me just start by say­ing, I think it was very ex­cit­ing for ev­ery­body at the Mis­sion, the whole team, to be part of what was, clearly, a his­toric visit. A visit that set a new high-wa­ter mark in terms of our bi­lat­eral en­gage­ment, in terms of our part­ner­ship. I think Pres­i­dent Obama was very grat­i­fied by the re­cep­tion he re­ceived and, not just the strong part­ner­ship with Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras, but what he heard across the board.

The sin­gle most im­por­tant mes­sage of the visit, I think you heard in the speech at the Niar­chos Cen­ter, [is] that the United States is com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing Greece; that the United States is in­vested in see­ing a suc­cess­ful Greece, which over­comes the eco­nomic cri­sis, which is not left alone to deal with the mi­gra­tion cri­sis, and which con­sol­i­dates its role as a key NATO ally and a pil­lar of sta­bil­ity in a very chal­leng­ing re­gion.

So, I think I was struck, as the fly on the wall in a lot of the con­ver­sa­tions be­tween the lead­ers, by both the de­gree of can­dor – I mean this is a very, very com­fort­able re­la­tion­ship for both sides and I have seen a lot of these leader-level en­coun­ters – but also by the clear un­der­stand­ing that we are at a mo­ment where there is a great deal that we can do to­gether – both in the short term – the debt is­sue for in­stance – but also in the longer term. How we con­tinue to work to­gether in NATO; how we think about the growth of our trade and in­vest­ment re­la­tion­ship – which is one of the is­sues where I would like to be able to make some progress over the next cou­ple of years; how we think about the next gen­er­a­tion. There was a con­sid­ered de­ci­sion to skew the au­di­ence at the Niar­chos Cen­ter to­wards young peo­ple. And I think that re­flects both this pres­i­dent’s bias but also our judg­ment. So that was part of it. I think an­other as­pect that I’d like to high­light – one of the is seen dur­ing a visit to the Stoa of At­ta­los in the An­cient Agora next to the Acrop­o­lis in Athens. In an in­ter­view with Kathimerini, Py­att de­scribed Greece as a pil­lar of sta­bil­ity in a re­gion that is fac­ing a se­ries of chal­lenges. things that struck me in my first two months in Greece – is there’s a lot more to be hope­ful about here than of­ten comes through in the con­ven­tional con­ver­sa­tion in Wash­ing­ton or New York and, I would guess, in Berlin and Brus­sels as well.

I was very glad that we were able to have this event with the Hel­lenic Ini­tia­tive fo­cused on en­trepreneur­ship. We had about 40 young star­tups, all of whom are smart, they’re en­tre­pre­neur­ial, they are cre­at­ing value in a Greek econ­omy that hasn’t had a lot to be en­thu­si­as­tic about in re­cent years. And I think the visit was very im­por­tant for Greece from that per­spec­tive in terms of set­ting a pos­i­tive nar­ra­tive. In his in­ter­view with Kathimerini, Pres­i­dent Obama had said Greece needs hope or Greeks need hope. And I think that’s one of the things that the visit cer­tainly helped to ac­com­plish glob­ally, in the United States, part of the mes­sage back home, and some­thing that I think all of us at the em­bassy are now com­mit­ted to build­ing on.

Mar­kets are cer­tainly about psy­chol­ogy. So, ob­vi­ously, it’s a huge honor to be able to host one of these vis­its any time. But, I think in par­tic­u­lar, to do so as part of Pres­i­dent Obama’s fi­nal in­ter­na­tional trip, for my em­bassy team to be part of that. I think all of us who were in­volved re­al­ized that we were watch­ing a lit­tle bit of his­tory un­fold. And, I think very im­por­tant for Greece as well, that the pres­i­dent chose to come to Greece at this time, to de­liver his vale­dic­tory ad­dress to the world from Athens, from the birth­place of our demo­cratic val­ues, and to speak the way he did in de­fense of demo­cratic prin­ci­ples and demo­cratic gov­er­nance.

I think one of the prin­ci­ples I felt very strongly about is the idea that we can­not take for granted our demo­cratic val­ues. We need an as­sertive ef­fort by the West, by the USA, by our key in­ter­na­tional part­ners, to stand up for those val­ues.

They’re be­ing chal­lenged for the rea­sons the pres­i­dent talked about in his speech at the Niar­chos Cen­ter: glob­al­iza­tion; the sense of peo­ple feel­ing like they don’t have con­trol of their fu­tures in the way they once did; the whole phe­nom­e­non of so­cial me­dia – I was fas­ci­nated to see Pres­i­dent Obama talk­ing about that as well – we’re sort of bom­barded with both in­for­ma­tion and mis­in­for­ma­tion, but also the sin­gle big­gest change that’s hap­pened in the busi­ness that I’m in. I mean, I look back on my now 27 years of For­eign Ser­vice ca­reer. The big­gest sin­gle change that’s hap­pened is right there [points] – an iPhone. It’s the in­stan­ta­neous, global avail­abil­ity of in­for­ma­tion. So that some Afghan sit­ting in a dusty vil­lage some­where is able to look and say: “Hey, look how they’re liv­ing in Europe. I want to be part of that. I’ve got some cousin who made his way to Ham­burg. I need to pick up and move.” And that, I think the idea of hav­ing this sort of in­stan­ta­neous, global avail­abil­ity of in­for­ma­tion has pro­duced a dra­matic change.

Truth is fun­gi­ble. You know, I lived through this for three years in Ukraine where you had the weaponiza­tion of in­for­ma­tion. And I al­ways made the point in that con­text that when the Krem­lin threw up some false nar­ra­tive, it wasn’t to win an ar­gu­ment, it was as part of cre­at­ing doubt. And I think that’s the chal­lenge be­cause we’re used to think­ing of fact as grounded in re­al­ity and some­thing that you can sci­en­tif­i­cally find through de­bate and elim­i­na­tion. Sud­denly that’s not so easy.

Very. First, and most im­por­tantly, it’s a long­stand­ing NATO ally, long­stand­ing mem­ber of the Euro­pean Union, a pil­lar of sta­bil­ity, demo­cratic val­ues in a re­gion that is fac­ing chal­lenges. Souda Bay is an im­por­tant part of that, as Pres­i­dent Obama dis­cussed while he was here. One of the very first things I did af­ter com­ing to Greece was fly down to Souda to meet with our sailors there, un­der­stand con­cretely how we are work­ing with our Greek coun­ter­parts. And I came away very im­pressed by the qual­ity of the pro­fes­sional in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the US air­men and sailors and marines at Souda and their Greek coun­ter­parts.

So, that’s a re­la­tion­ship that will be of en­dur­ing im­por­tance at the strate­gic level. The point that I would make is, first of all, that the United States needs a suc­cess­ful Greece, for all the rea­sons I just talked about, but also be­cause we are in­ter­ested in hav­ing a suc­cess­ful Europe. And I think, de­spite all the rhetoric of the cam­paign and ev­ery­thing else, even­tu­ally the sta­ble core of Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy for many decades now has been our transat­lantic re­la­tion­ships. It is that pil­lar, that foun­da­tion, that al­lows us to do ev­ery­thing else that we do to­gether around the world. And I don’t an­tic­i­pate that will change.

In that con­text, in that larger Euro­pean con­text and, again, I’ve lived this up close and per­sonal for three years in Kiev as well, it is our unity that serves us best; it is our agree­ment on prin­ci­ples and val­ues that serves us best. And the vi­a­bil­ity, the vi­tal­ity of the Euro­pean project is chal­lenged to­day by two is­sues that come right through the mid­dle of Athens: One is the mi­grant chal­lenge, and an is­sue that has to be dealt with col­lec­tively as Pres­i­dent Obama em­pha­sized while he was here, it can’t be on the shoul­ders of two or three coun­tries – Greece, Ger­many, Italy, Swe­den; and the other is the eco­nomic chal­lenge, how to re­store and ac­cel­er­ate growth, and this is an is­sue.

I think one of the hope­ful things that I find ar­riv­ing in Greece is the sense that the eco­nomic nar­ra­tive here has be­gun to turn up­wards. But, Europe writ large is clearly not out of the woods and you only have to look across the sea to Italy to see the kind of chal­lenges and stresses that con­tinue to be part of the eco­nomic story here. So I think a strong and vi­brant Europe, which is im­por­tant to the United States, de­pends on a strong and vi­brant Greece. And so that’s why the in­vest­ment we make in our re­la­tion­ship here is so im­por­tant.

As you know, my mil­i­tary col­leagues, they love Pow­erPoint. And they love Venn di­a­grams. And I al­ways talk about a three cir­cle Venn di­a­gram that has, in one cir­cle, North Africa and the Maghreb, in an­other cir­cle the Eastern Mediter­ranean, Syria, and then, in a third cir­cle, the Black Sea re­gion, a more ag­gres­sive and ex­pan­sive Rus­sia. The place where that Venn di­a­gram comes to­gether is in Greece. So, that sort of strate­gic el­e­ment of the re­la­tion­ship will re­main im­por­tant.

Right now, the most chal­leng­ing of those three cir­cles is the one that over­lays Syria. The thread of transna­tional ter­ror­ism is a key man­i­fes­ta­tion of that. Also the con­se­quences for Greece from con­tin­ued hu­man­i­tar­ian catas­tro­phe in Syria, in terms of refugee flows.

On those is­sues the good news is that we have an out­stand­ing coun­tert­er­ror­ism re­la­tion­ship here. I’ve been re­ally im­pressed as I’ve started work and also in my brief­ings back in Wash­ing­ton – FBI, Home­land Se­cu­rity, De­part­ment of State. There’s first a very high level of pro­fes­sion­al­ism in the re­la­tion­ship but a high level of can­dor. We took that an­other step for­ward week be­fore last with the sig­na­ture of this doc­u­ment, this aw­ful acro­nym that we signed, the doc­u­ment that we signed with the Hel­lenic Po­lice for a se­cure real-time plat­form which, in plain English, means a soft­ware which al­lows for the rapid and real-time ex­change of in­for­ma­tion be­tween our coun­tries about in­di­vid­u­als who may be a threat.

US Am­bas­sador Ge­of­frey Py­att

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Greece

© PressReader. All rights reserved.