Ge­orge H.W. Bush and his ap­proach to Greece

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY TOM EL­LIS

US pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush, who passed away last Satur­day, left a rather pos­i­tive mark on Amer­ica’s re­la­tions with Greece, thanks to the way he ap­proached the ma­jor is­sues that con­cern this coun­try. There was, of course, the some­what neg­a­tive taste left by the pres­i­den­tial elec­tions of 1988, when Bush’s cam­paign went all out against his Demo­cratic ri­val, Greek Amer­i­can Michael Dukakis, with mud­sling­ing and false ac­cu­sa­tions. From im­ages of an os­ten­si­bly pol­luted Bos­ton Har­bor to those of con­victed rapist and mur­derer Wil­lie Hor­ton leav­ing prison on fur­lough – when he com­mit­ted new crimes – Bush’s po­lit­i­cal ads marred the im­age of his ri­val, who was in­deed a moral politi­cian and a suc­cess­ful gover­nor, shifted the tide of pub­lic opin­ion, and put the pres­i­dency out of Dukakis’s reach. Just two months be­fore the elec­tions, Dukakis had a 17-point lead over his Repub­li­can op­po­nent but ended up los­ing by a dif­fer­ence of eight per­cent. The apol­ogy made to Dukakis by the man be­hind Bush’s dirty cam­paign, Lee At­wa­ter, shortly be­fore the lat­ter died of can­cer, may have granted him some moral sat­is­fac­tion, but it did not re­verse the dam­age. Nev­er­the­less, be­sides the bit­ter­ness gen­er­ated as a re­sult of this cam­paign, as pres­i­dent, Ge­orge H.W. Bush showed a great deal of in­ter­est in is­sues re­lated to Greece. He de­vel­oped a close per­sonal re­la­tion­ship with the then prime min­is­ter of Greece, Con­stan­tine Mit­so­takis, and also with Arch­bishop of North and South Amer­ica Iakovos, who kept the lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion open with Bush thanks to his de­ci­sion to ap­pear and pray at the Repub­li­can con­ven­tion that nom­i­nated the late pres­i­dent. Bush vis­ited Greece, sup­ported the coun­try’s sov­er­eign rights in the Aegean, pushed for a so­lu­tion to the Cyprus is­sue and re­fused to rec­og­nize Skopje as the “Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia.” On the Cyprus is­sue, he took ad­van­tage of the pres­ence of Mit­so­takis and Gior­gos Vas­sileiou at the helm of Greece and Cyprus to pres­sure Ankara for a so­lu­tion, but the ef­fort fell apart af­ter the then Turk­ish prime min­is­ter, Me­sut Yil­maz, did not prove up to the task. On the is­sue of FYROM, the per­sonal re­la­tion­ship be­tween Mit­sko­takis and Iakovos with the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent was suc­cess­fully mo­bi­lized in De­cem­ber 1992 dur­ing the tran­si­tion to the Bill Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion to stop recog­ni­tion of Skopje by the US. All in all, in terms of deal­ing with the is­sues that were, and still are, im­por­tant to Greece, Ge­orge H.W. Bush’s ap­proach can be char­ac­ter­ized as rather pos­i­tive.

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