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Five Questions Trump and Biden Should Have to Answer

By on July 12, 2020
Endy Zemenides

by Endy Zemenides

As the 2020 Presidential election approaches, both campaigns have tried to establish outreach mechanisms to the Greek American community.  The Trump campaign has rolled out “Greek Voices for Trump” and the DNC has a “Greek Americans for Biden” sub-group.  Similar groups have been rolled out every four years.  But the last time that there was success in getting both candidates to make declarations on Hellenic issues was in 2008, when both parties committed to resolving the Cyprus issue in the party platform and the Obama-Biden ticket issued a policy paper covering Cyprus, the Macedonian issue, and the religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

That must be the standard for any Greek affinity group in 2020 as well.  In fact, it should be easier to elicit such positions than it was 12 years ago.  The Eastern Mediterranean has become more important for the U.S. – both geopolitically and economically (because of energy).  Both Athens and Nicosia enjoy more friendly and more bipartisan relations with Washington than they did then.  Trump and Biden represent the two U.S. presidential administrations that oversaw the best bilateral relations with Greece since the Truman years.  On many fronts, Hellenic issues are synonymous with pro-Israel issues, or with U.S. policy on Libya, or Egyptian issues.  And finally, Turkey is no longer considered a reliable ally and anchor of U.S. strategy in the region.

We have arrived at a point that strong positions on Hellenic issues are far more than a way to make Greek Americans happy; they are a way to make the U.S. – which needs allies that share both strategic interests and core values more than ever – safer and more able to lead globally.  Both campaigns, and their validators in the community, should therefore provide answers to the following questions:

  1. Turkey’s latest move to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque is not an aberration. It is part of a consistent attack on Christianity in Turkey.  The last two Administrations have used rhetoric urging Turkey to respect Christian minorities, open Halki Seminary, and not convert Hagia Sophia.  But the only time there were consequences for Turkey’s oppression of Christianity was in the Pastor Brunson case.  What consequences would Turkey face under you for its continued attacks on Christianity?
  2. Over the last ten years, the Eastern Mediterranean has come together as a political and economic region. The cooperation between key US partners – Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt – is of note.  The establishment of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum also increases the chances of stability.
    Turkey, however, stands opposed to all these developments and continues to treat the Eastern Mediterranean as its own South China Sea.  The State Department has criticized Turkey’s actions and rhetoric as “unhelpful” and “provocative” but not only refuses to impose any consequence but has lobbied against consequences being imposed by the European Union.
    If Turkey continues its belligerence in the region, what political or economic consequences will Turkey face from your Administration?
  3. Why hasn’t CAATSA yet been imposed on Turkey for its purchase of S400s? What is your deadline for the imposition of CAATSA sanctions?
  4. Turkey has successfully infiltrated the U.S. foreign policy establishment, employing multiple officials (Michael Flynn being the most prominent) and think tank analysts as both registered and unregistered foreign agents. Will you commit to excluding anyone who has been an agent of Erdogan’s Turkey from your Administration?
  5. With Turkey proving itself an unreliable ally at best, do you consider Greece the key US ally in southeast Europe? What direct investments will your Administration make in Greece to enable Athens to play this role?

These are not under the radar screen issues.  Every single on of these questions has made the front pages of major newspapers, think tank analyses, television reports and has been the subject of Congressional hearings.  We should expect that the next Administration have a clear position on all of these issues.  Most importantly, “Greek Voices for Trump” and “Greek Americans for Biden” should realize that approaching the community without answers to these questions is dishonest and even fraudulent.  It is time to get clear answers on issues that concern all Greek Americans.

About Endy Zemenides

Endy Zemenides is the Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), a national advocacy organization for the Greek American community. To learn more about HALC, visit www.hellenicleaders.com