The sight of a radical-left political leader of an Eastern-Mediterranean Southern-European country visiting Washington and meeting with President Trump, carrying along the memories of throngs of demonstrators crowding (even in the near past) the streets of Athens to ritually shout invective in front of the American Embassy has a peculiar flavour, indeed.
Still, in the end-run of his encounter with reality (and of his party’s meeting with the necessities of exercising power) Alexis Tsipras – having in tow ex-Marxist academic Nikos Kotzias as Foreign Minister, staunch nationalist right-winger Panos Kammenos as Defense Minister – is in Washington D.C. to talk business while Greece finds itself in the middle of converging storms.
“Geopolitical unrest” is too tame a description for the North-East of the Mediterranean, with Turkey cutting loose its ties with the West, flirting closely with Russian (and arming accordingly), invading patches in the North of Syria (where local insurgents fight with US-provided weaponry) and hosting millions of refugees it is threatening to turn loose toward Europe – through the nearby Greek island. The US are thinking of replacing the giant facilities they have been using for decades at Incirlik, Turkey with wider access to Greece’s Souda Bay, in Crete.
“Geoeconomic opportunities” may sound rather exoctic, but if explained as luring U.S. Exxon Mobil (along side French Total and Italian ENI) to look for hydrocarbons in Greek waters once they have done so at the adjoining Cyprus and Israeli exclusive economic zone/EEZ, then it gets tangible content. (All the while, projects for carrying natural gas from Israel and Cyprus through Greece to Italy in the East-Med pipeline set-up are nearing feasibility).
It may well take years and years for us to get a real picture of what the Tsipras-Trump (and Pence, and Lagarde, and soon…) meetings will bring about. Nonetheless, things are moving; question is: to what direction.