The long journey and the background of a successful visit to the White House

The long journey and the background of a successful visit to the White House

To say the least, it is a great honour and a success for a Prime Minister of an admittedly small country, like Greece, to meet officially with both the outgoing and the new president of the U.S.A. within less than a year.

People say that fortune favours the brave but in Alexis Tsipras’ case it is not a matter of fortune or the good timing. Instead, it is all about his capability to make these visits come true.

When a leader follows a multidimensional and active foreign policy, nothing is being left to chance. And the Greek government practiced exactly such a policy.

Suppose Obama’s visit to Greece was his initiative in order to conclude his second term in office with a move of semantic importance, Tsipras visit to the White House was a result of the realisation of the Greek premier’s planning.

In, not that distant, September of 2016, on the sidelines of the UN National Assembly in New York, and during the American pre-election time, Nikos Kotzias agrees with the Greek PM to meet with the staff of the presidential elections’ candidate, Donald Trump.

Avoiding to make any announcements, the Greek FM met with Trump’s higher staff, among them many Greek Americans. To a great extent, this first contact paved the way for the nature of the future bilateral relations. So, there was the necessary direct contact at the right time, only weeks before (last) November’s presidential elections.

Although the result of “anti-systemic” Donald Trump’s election might have shocked many on an international level, the Greek government had achieved its goal, which was nothing less than being in a position to speak straight with the American new leadership.

In January 2017, shortly before the talks on Cyprus kicked off in Geneva, Nikos Kotzias travelled to New York to inform the new Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Guterres, about the Cyprus issue. Apart from meeting with Guterres, however, he also saw Michael Flynn, the then National Security Counsellor of the new president, his right – hand person Kathleen McFarland and the former Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, who is of Greek origin. And all of the above just two weeks before Trump’s swearing-in.

During the meeting, both sides were fully briefed on bilateral and regional matters, thus sealing the straight – contact – route between the Greek government and the new leadership at the White House.

In March 2017, Nikos Kotzias travels to the States again on a two-day visit. A trip of particular meaning since he met with his American counterpart, Rex Tillerson, the newly appointed National Security Councillor H.R. McMaster and many more political figures. That was when the (present) visit of Tsipras to the U.S. was first discussed.

According to IBNA sources, although the Greek side agreed to a formal invitation to Alexis Tsipras to visit the White House in the summer of 2017, the invite was never sent. The reason was the involvement of a Greek American who used to hold a high position in the White House back then. After he was moved from his post, and with the contact channels between Maximos Mansion and the White House open, the visit of the Greek premier to Washington was formalised and arranged for October, 2017.

The exact date of the Greek PM’s visit to the U.S. of A. was finalised in September 2017, to a great extent, thanks to the help and (personal) efforts of the American ambassador to Athens, Geoffrey Pyatt…/IBNA