Mike Pompeo, on the steps of George Bush Sr.

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis

On June 1991, George Bush Sr., along with his wife Barbara, experienced the Cretan hospitality of then-Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis and his wife Marika (the culinary part of which is saved in her book “Recipes of Love”; lunch consisted of lobster, dough-and-cheese patties – τηγανόψωμο – and stuffed zucchini). President Bush had paid a visit to the Souda Bay naval base of which he extolled the strategic importance; speaking of the overall regional role that Greece could assume – back in the Early Nineties, when the fall of the Berlin Wall had rushed the Balkans in a totally new era – he had outlined both an economic and a geopolitical leadership function. Antonis Samaras, Foreign Minister back then, was attending both official and the more relaxed functions; the positions he advocated on the rising Macedonian issue were to sink any such expectations for Greece within the next two years.

President Bush carried along to the States in his luggage a gift of two containers of Cretan oil; entry to American soil was forbidden by the US Customs who took exception to the label “virgin oil” – and he could taste his gift only once it was marked “external use only”.

Much of the conviviality may not be present when U.S. Foreign Secretary Mike Pompeo will be visiting Chania in Crete on Tuesday, enjoying the Mitsotakis hospitality one generation later. Pompeo’s visit is awaited with some measure of trepidation by his Greek hosts, since he will meet with his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias in Thessaloniki (where he will visit the Pfizer Research Centre, created in the wake of the US being Honoured Country of the Thessaloniki Fair in 2018, as well as Anatolia College and the Holocaust Museum of the city), and then visit the Souda Bay Naval base which is currently gaining in importance in the Eastern Mediterranean. The fact that M. Pompeo is on-record stating his “deep concern” over Ankara’s actions in the region makes his presence in Greece quite welcome; still, his alleged support to lessening the military footprint of the Aegean islands at a point in time that Turkey raises the issue of demilitarization of these islands adds some concern to the positive feelings. To follow closely.