Real-estate developer Donald Trump’s election victory in the United States sent shock-ripples around the world, showing how interconnected we all are. With Trump’s victory just days ahead of an official visit to Athens by U.S. President Barack Obama, plans that Obama’s legacy would be continued have been frustrated, downgrading the upcoming talks on Greek debt, the refugee crisis and regional stability (including the Cyprus issue).
In a White House meeting between Obama and Trump, Greece and other matters were discussed so that the “transfer of power between the two presidencies will be smooth.” It is uncertain, however, whether the new unpredictable head of the superpower nation will comply with Washington’s guidelines, leaving Greece – and the world – in unchartered political waters.
Here are what his views on Greece appear to be so far:
1. On Greek debt
Trump’s pre-election comments indicated a desire to disentangle the United States from the European debt crisis. He has said that the United States should not get “too involved” in the issue of Greek debt. “I’d stay back a little bit; I wouldn’t get too involved,” he said in an interview with Fox Business’ presenter Maria Bartiromo. “Don’t forget the whole euro situation was created to compete against the United States. They put together a group of countries to beat the United States. Now Germany’s very powerful, very strong. I’d let Germany handle it.”
“We have enough problems, let Germany handle it,” he said. “(Russian President) Vladimir Putin comes in to save the day if Germany doesn’t.” He added that “Greece is going to be in better shape than people think.” In the past, he has stated that Greece should have returned to its nation currency and used it as an example to avoid.
2. On Turkey
United States Vice President-elect Michael Pence told Turkish newspaper Hurriyet on November 9 that the Trump administration desires to improve relations with Ankara. Pence said that Turkey is the most important ally that the U.S. has in the area. “We will bring our relations with Turkey to a better stance just like in the old days,” said Pence. This comment, in the wake of Trump’s victory, caused concern to Athens, especially bearing in mind Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rhetoric questioning of peace treaties that outline Greek-Turkish borders and the decision to host military exercises around Greece’s easternmost island, Kastellorizo, on the day of Obama’s visit to Greece.
Trump also has investments in Turkey that he is likely to want to protect. Dogan Sirketler Grubu Holding AS, a company with stakes in many industries owns two towers bearing Trump’s name in Istanbul. the company, owned by Turkish billionaire Aydin Dogan saw its shares surge 16 percent on Wednesday.
3. On the Refugee Crisis
The United Nations has urged the United States to expand its refugee program, however Trump has compared the potential threat of terrorists entering the country under the guise of refugees to a “Trojan Horse”. He points to terror attacks allegedly committed by refugees in Europe. Trump’s trump card is that there actually are ISIS members among refugees – the number may be small but it is still a risk. This means that Trump is unlikely to lift a finger to ease the burden on Greece.
4. On ISIS
Trump has confirmed that he will abandon the Obama administration’s policy on Syria. Following his election, he told the Wall Street Journal that Obama’s foreign policy has been focused on the support and training of so-called moderate rebel groups to defeat ISIS terrorists and eventually overthrow Assad. Now, Trump comes with a different approach. “My attitude was you’re fighting Syria, Syria is fighting ISIS, and you have to get rid of ISIS. Russia is now totally aligned with Syria, and now you have Iran, which is becoming powerful, because of us, is aligned with syria… Now we’re backing rebels against Syria, and we have no idea who these people are,” he said, citing documentation that reports that American weapons supplied to moderate rebels often end up in the hands of extremists. If Trump is right, then strengthening Syria would mean weakening ISIS and strengthening Russia resulting in less refugees coming to Greece and fewer terrorist threats in the region.
5. On Cyprus
Cyprus is a strong U.S. ally and the only western democracy, other than Israel, virtually within sight of Middle Eastern shores.Ending the division of Cyprus will be crucial to America’s security interests, and the U.S. side has already stressed that the American stand on the Cyprus issue will continue along the same lines. If Cyprus’ division ends, a new geopolitical triangle of America’s western democratic allies in the Eastern Mediterannean (Israel, Greece and Cyprus) will be strengthened. Trump’s Greek-Cypriot Foreign Advisor George Papadopoulos will help in this direction.
6. On FYROM
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is counting on Donald Trump’s support in the election, stating that the small Balkan country is counting on US help to join NATO and the European Union. US President Gjorge Ivanov believes that Trump could overlook Greece’s side regarding its name dispute with FYROM. The truth of the matter is that Trump has not expressed a viewpoint regarding this issue one way or another.
Will Trump fire Tsipras?