Greek expectations of the United States

The Greek political system has, by and large, hailed Joe Biden’s victory and hopes that the new American president will take an active role in curbing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s expansionist ambitions. Their optimism will hopefully hold true, though such hopes have been dashed in the past.

To begin with, even if Biden is officially confirmed as the victor, Donald Trump will continue to serve as president of the United States until January 21, exercising all the powers of his office. Until the new president is sworn in, moreover, the US will be in a state of near paralysis as Trump plans to challenge the count in four states all the way to the Supreme Court, claiming oversights and fraud in the mail-in voting process. 

What is most important to Greece, however, is that Trump is the only leader right now who is able to check his Turkish counterpart. We have seen him do this in the context of American foreign policy, albeit not to the satisfaction of the Greek side.

The situation will change dramatically if Biden – as expected – moves into the White House. This assumption is obviously not based on his pro-Greek pre-election statements, but on the disclosure in August of a discussion he had several months ago with members of the press in which he expressed support for Erdogan’s ouster, though clearly not by a coup as had been attempted in 2016 but by the ballot box.

Given these developments and Erdogan’s overall manner, it can be expected that under a Biden presidency, the United States will no longer be an “honest broker” and a facilitator of a Greek-Turkish rapprochement.

There are those who argue that the rivalry between Biden and Erdogan may push the Turkish president to ramp up the provocations against Greece, possibly prompting a military response from Athens, before the new American president is sworn into office.

While we should not be pessimistic, it is worth bearing in mind that the more leaders turn against Erdogan, the more aggressive Turkey will become toward Greece.

Greece needs honest brokers to avert a Greek-Turkish crisis, not leaders who oppose Erdogan on a personal and ideological level, because the ephemeral problems our allies may have with the Turkish president are entirely different to the enduring problems Greece has with Turkey.

The article was first published in the Kathimerini and reprinted with permission.