Besides the traditional and quite forgettable exchange of diplomatic pleasantries during the first meeting between President Trump and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday, there were two remarkable highlights.
The first was that Trump said his administration had informed Congress of a potential arms sale to update Greece’s F-16 aircrafts. “This agreement to strengthen the Hellenic Air Force is worth up to 2.4 billion U.S. dollars and would generate thousands of American jobs,” Trump said during his joint press conference with visiting Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, whose nation just two years ago was bailed out for the third time. The unspoken question, of course, is where would the insolvent Greek nation, which lacks the funds for basic social services and struggles under Troika-imposed austerity, obtain the $2.4 billion needed to feed its people buy US F-16 jets.
The second moment was more memorable, not to mention awkward.
Speaking to reporters, Tsipras said that he and Donald Trump had a “productive” meeting on Tuesday and that he didn’t feel threatened by the U.S. “I want to confirm that the meeting we had was very productive, and not a moment did I feel threatened any time” Tsipras said through a translator at the White House, with Trump standing at his side. “I saw that there is a fertile outlook here in order to set aside any differences that we may have and find common ground.”
It’s what prompted the response, however, that was the punchline: a reporter casually asked Tsipras, “You said of a Trump presidency ‘I hope we will not face this evil‘ and I’m wondering if after spending time with the president you had changed your mind.
Before Tsipras could respond, a smirking Trump interjected. “I wish I knew that before my speech.” And just like that the price on those F-16 doubled in price.
Reporter to Greece PM: You said of a Trump presidency, “I hope we will not face this evil.”
Trump: “I wish I knew that before my speech.” pic.twitter.com/hm3yU6zaDY
— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 17, 2017
Trump refused to hold a grudge, and after Tsipras answered, added that “a number of countries were a little bit nervous at the beginning, and I have very good relations with the leaders of virtually every nation I’ve dealt with. The reason they were concerned is because I will not allow our country, the United States of America, to be taken advantage of by countries all over the world.”
Then again, Trump had already managed to pour some salt into Tsipras wounds with his very first words in the presser, when instead of addressing Tsipras, Greece or the meeting, Trump instead pointed out that the Dow Jones had just crossed 23,000, and then trolled the Greek PM, telling him he hopes Greece could soon also enjoy all time highs in its stock market. Which, as shown below, is hardly imminent…