According to Leonidas Raptakis, it is “difficult” to predict the outcome of the American elections.
Speaking to To Vima, the Greek-American Rhode Island Senator, explains what a possible Biden election to the White House means for Greece and how much Greek expatriates can influence the elections.
At the same time, he comments on what is happening in Turkey, his perspective of Greek-American relations and areas that can be further developed.
According to the state senator, if Turkey continues to provoke in the Eastern Mediterranean, it is not excluded that this will have an impact on the American elections, and on how the Greek expatriates will vote.
“The 50 states are like 50 different states. In each state they vote differently. Putting aside Democratic and Republican states, you have to look at the swing states,” he said, identifying Maine, Arizona and North Carolina as most important.
In addition to the presidency, he stressed, it is important for Democrats and the Senate to win – they now control the House of Representatives.
“If we win the Senate, Trump will have a hard time on all issues: the economy, Turkey, the Middle East,” he said.
What does a Joe Biden election mean for Greece?
“Biden has been vice president for eight years. He does not have good relations with the Turkish government and Erdoğan. Turkey will have a big problem if the Democrats are elected. Erdoğan insulted Biden, Pelosi, Menendez.”
“There are many issues that the new administration has to deal with: the coronavirus, the economy, protests and incidents in states. Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean will be high in the top 10 issues of the Biden government,” he added.
He further added that on issues concerning Greece, Cyprus, Israel and the wider Eastern Mediterranean, Republicans and Democrats are not voting as well as those related to the economy and education.
According to Raptakis, the political world in the US perceives “loud and clear” the Turkish actions in the Eastern Mediterranean.
“If they had not understood them, they would not have excluded Turkey from the F-35 program. Turkey has not shown any spirit of cooperation with America,” he said.
The age-old question is how much Greek expatriates are influencing political developments in the US and in particular how much they will influence the upcoming elections.
“There are 10 state senators, about 30 state deputies and two deputy state governors. We are in 17 states,” he underlined, while referring to the presence and the sympathy for Armenian expatriates.
“There are Greeks who will vote for Trump and Greeks who will vote for Biden. I estimate that Trump will lose the vote of the Armenians, as he did not talk about the events in Nagorno-Karabakh, while Biden referred to them,” he said, adding “I hope there is no episode in the Eastern Mediterranean. But if Turkey rages by November 3, Trump may lose the votes of the Greeks.”
After all, as he says, in states with a significant Greek presence (Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio) Trump prevailed marginally in 2016.
“If the Greeks in those states reject Trump and vote for Biden, the current President will have a problem,” he said.
Visit of Pompeo
As for the recent visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Greece, he is clear.
“Pompeo does not know if he will be a secretary in four weeks. If he remains Secretary of State, things can become even better for Greece. A man who does not know if he will have a job after January 20, does not put things he cannot do,” he noted.
“You may be worried that Mike Pompeo should have been stricter with Turkey, but in one month he came to Greece twice, while he also visited Cyprus. This has never been done by a US Secretary of State,” he highlighted.
For the state senator, Greece and the US have come closer in recent years, and their relations are at their best since World War II.
“Greece is a pillar of stability in the region. Greek-American relations have moved in a good direction and with serious foundations. Greece went closer to America and offered many things. Relationships must be reciprocal. The USA must respect Greece and Greece must respect the USA. That way we will have good results,” he said.
At the same time, he speaks in the best words for the US Ambassador to Athens, Jeffrey Pyatt.
“It simply came to our notice then. I’m proud of him. The man pushed mountains. I hope there is one more year left, with the new government, whatever it is.”
At the same time, it describes the importance of investing in consolidating bilateral relations.
“Americans come to Greece for tourism and then invest. Investments are a good opportunity to develop relationships,” he claimed.
Being a member of the World Inter-Parliamentary Union of Hellenism, Raptakis “runs” for Greek issues.
“We work hard for Hellenism. Not only on political issues. We try to build many bridges in economy, tourism, education. There are thousands of Greeks in America who are trying to bring Greece and the United States closer.”
In this regard, he clarifies that the Greek community does not have party barriers.
“We have a good relationship with all Greek parties. We work with everyone and we respect everyone,” he said.
The proposal for the interparliamentary approach
In this context, it submits a proposal in order to achieve greater Greek-American convergence.
“I think that in 2021 the Speaker of the Greek Parliament, Costas Tassoulas, should visit the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and the Speaker of the Senate, in order to have a good contact,” he suggested.
He also considers it useful to launch a program through which Greek and American MPs will have one-on-one personal contact, in the form of inter-parliamentary cooperation.
“I want MPs from Greece to meet with MPs from America. Start a program, one by one. Develop relationships. This is a nice idea,” he said.
“Our roots are from Greece and we are fighting for them,” he concluded.