Biden hosts Greek PM as Athens looks to deepen transatlantic ties

US-Turkish and Greek-Russian tension has helped forge closer partnership between Washington and Athens

US President Joe Biden meets Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. EPA
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US President Joe Biden hosted Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the White House on Monday and discussed the growing defence and economic ties between the two countries.

The meeting was the first between the two leaders and comes as relations between the US and Greece have grown closer following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and continued tension between Ankara and Washington.

In his opening remarks, Mr Biden referenced the “wonderful friendship” he has forged with Mr Mitsotakis. He referred to Ukraine and said talks with Mr Mitsotakis would discuss the impact of the war, trade, deepening defence ties and climate change.

The visit was planned for last year to mark the bicentennial of Greek independence, but was delayed due to the pandemic.

“Our relationship, I honestly believe, is at an all-time high,” Mr Mitsotakis said.

Mr Mitsotakis is due to address the US Congress on Tuesday, at the invitation of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Russia has previously had warm ties with Greece, but these have loosened in the past two years and grown increasingly strained since President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine.

Greece has granted Washington unfettered access to four of its military bases and has started importing US liquefied gas at a port near Athens.

Nicholas Danforth, a senior fellow at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, said the visit is a harbinger of closer bilateral relations.

“Mr Mitsotakis's meeting with President Biden and [his] speech before Congress represent the culmination of a long-running Greek effort to tighten ties with Washington,” Mr Danforth told The National.

Turkey’s own problems with Washington have played to Athens's advantage, he argued.

“As US-Turkish tension worsened, Athens has been eager to step up and present itself as a reliable replacement, particularly in the defence realm.”

The US and Greece recently ratified the Mutual Defence Co-operation agreement. The Pentagon also agreed to upgrade Greece’s F-16 fighter jet inventory and Greek media reported that Washington is considering the sale of F-35 jets to Athens.

“By offering the US access to air and naval bases while improving relations with other US partners in the region, Athens seeks to show it can be the partner Turkey no longer is,” Mr Danforth added.

Accompanying Mr Mitsotakis on his visit are Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos and other members of the Greek Cabinet.

Updated: May 16, 2022, 9:54 PM