On October 17th, PM Alexis Tsipras is meeting US President Donald Trump in Washington. Constantinos Filis, Research Director of the Athens-based Institute of International Relations and Head of its Russia-Eurasia & SE Europe Centre, talked about the importance of this meeting for Greece, the country’s enhanced geopolitical position, its role as an energy hub and its position in the US strategic planning. Here are selected parts of his interview with Ioanna Drossou for the Epohi weekly newspaper:

What is the meaning of this meeting for Greece?

Our country is looking forward to the USA’s support on a number of issues. First, their support regarding Greece’s financial assistance programme is important, since they have an influence on IMF. Also, the US is a country of potential investors, if, of course, their internal distortions are corrected. There is also the Greek diaspora, although not particularly strong during the last years, that could help attract investment with the aim of boosting Greek economy. There are also the alarming developments in the Western Balkans and, since Greece plays a role in the region, it wants to have a discussion with the US on what follows. Almost the same goes about the developments on North Africa, mostly Libya, Egypt and the Middle East. And of course, there is Turkey, which worries both sides for different reasons and I guess it will be pretty top on the agenda.

Energy security is among the issues to be discussed. What is the importance of this issue for our country?

The US considers Greece as a potential transit energy hub, allowing the transportation, through its territory, of natural gas and liquefied natural gas from the Caspian and the Eastern Mediterranean. Our country is important for the US since natural gas can be transferred, through Greece, to the European market bypassing Russia. There has already been a discussion with the US side concerning the exploitation of the FLNG, i.e. the floating reception unit of liquefied natural gas in Alexandroupolis that will be completed in the following years.

I can assume from our discussion that Greece is gaining an enhanced geopolitical leverage in these circumstances. 

Greece is really obtaining a remarkable position within the US strategic planning, especially at a time when they have lost their confidence towards other traditional partners in the region, such as Turkey. Nevertheless, let’s keep in mind that the current US leadership is behaving – and mainly regarding foreign policy issues – in a not particularly consistent and structured manner. This means that there are no guarantees, without saying that we shouldn’t reconsider our relation-ship with the US, taking in to account the situation in the region and the self-evident added value that this situation offer to our country, in relation to Washington’s ambitions. 

Watch Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras discussing the state of cooperation between Greece and United States on economic and security issues in Southeast Europe at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (16.10.2017): 

Read more: PM Tsipras: Greece has returned to growth (ANA-MPA news, 16.10.2017)

I.E., I.K. & N.N.