Rumors surfaced October 18th in Washington that U.S. President Barack Obama may visit Athens around November 14-15. There has been no official announcement. Most observers of the Greek situation immediately saw the visit as perilously close to the anniversary of the November 17th 1973, Polytechnic uprising against the Greek junta. President Bill Clinton’s 1999 trip, heavily overshadowed with security issues and almost cancelled, was originally scheduled on that day but dates were altered to avoid the problem.
One open question is why this visit has leaked now just after Greek opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis (New Democracy party) visited the U.S. and more broadly why the U.S. President apparently decided to visibly extend a show of support for Greek PM Alexis Tsipras, widely trailing Mitsotakis in most recent polls and dragging his feet on critical economic reforms. As visit details are confirmed we will be able to better evaluate the utility of the Greece stop in the context of Obama’s planned meetings in Germany, and whether Eurozone austerity policies, the refugee crisis and the Greek debt issue will be raised in Obama’s talks there. Obama has discussed these matters regularly in phone conversations with key European leaders, so this is not really unexpected.
President Obama has bypassed Greece during his two terms in office too frequently to recount, stopping in Italy, Turkey and Egypt on more than one occasion and elsewhere. A trip to Greece, even by a “lame duck” U.S. President, would have the political benefit to the Democratic Party across the ballot in the November 8th elections as long as it is confirmed before Election Day.