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24 March, 2019
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First contacts with candidates for the US presidency

Tsipras met former US vice president Joe Biden on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference

Athanasios Ellis

Athanasios Ellis

As America enters its lengthy campaign period for the 2020 presidential election, officials in Greece’s two main parties should start preparing accordingly.

Certainly Athens’s attention is not confined to the United States, as demonstrated by the fact that the country’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and main opposition chief Kyriakos Mitsotakis have recently held meetings with political leaders in Europe and beyond (the New Democracy leader is expected to visit Moscow late February).

But Washington is still the dominant force on a number of key and sensitive issues that impact on Greece, and handling these issues comes with the usual risks.

Most diplomatic attention has in recent months been naturally channeled into Greece’s name dispute with its small northerly neighbor. However, the coming months are likely to see developments related to our neighbor across the Aegean, which has traditionally been more unpredictable and dangerous.

The occasional formal meetings between the Greek prime minister and his ministers, as well as the opposition leader and his shadow ministers, with US government officials will obviously continue. However, as the US pre-election landscape begins to take shape, Greek officials would be advised to reach out to the main rivals of Donald Trump who will compete to become his opponent in the general election.

Tsipras’s meeting with former US vice president Joe Biden on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference should probably be read in this context.

Meanwhile, Mitsotakis and his diplomatic team have to make their own similar moves on the basis of their calculations.

History teaches us that there’s a better chance of reaching out to and, by extension, influencing a candidate in the pre-election period for they are more accessible during that time.

While a candidate’s staffers have not yet come up with full-fledged positions on all issues on the international agenda – including those pertaining to Greek interests – but are still in the preparation stage, outsiders like Athens have greater chances of exerting influence on these positions. And when the time comes for the party’s foreign policy establishment to draft the presidential candidate’s formal strategy, it will not be easy to completely disregard these earlier already formed positions.

In light of this, the coming period, which will see more announcements by Democratic candidates for the presidency, is quite receptive for some early contacts. This is a lengthy process; but it starts in these coming months.

Greece  |  Tsipras  |  Biden  |  US  |  United States

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