Located at the southern tip of the Balkan Peninsula, Greece is one of the cradles of civilization. Originally settled by the Minoans in Crete, Greece has been a prosperous spot for traders throughout history. It also has been the source of much strategic advantage and conflict. During World War I, Greece fought against Turkey, and during World War II, Greece fought on the side of the Allies. Though 90% of the country’s Jewish population was killed, and its economy demolished by war, Greece was able to recover after WWII with the help of Marshall Plan loans and grants. Greece allied itself with the United States throughout the 1950s, creating tension with its pro-Soviet and communist neighbors. In 1967, a CIA-backed coup helped a Greek military junta come to power, and a secret NATO-sponsored army helped keep them in power. President Bill Clinton later apologized for the US’ role in interfering in Greece’s internal affairs. In 1975, Greece adopted a democratic constitution and elected Andreas Papandreou as prime minister of a center-left government. In the past few decades, Greece has rejoined NATO, joined the European Union, and adopted the euro as its currency.
Lay of the Land: In southeastern Europe, Greece is located at the southern tip of the Balkan Peninsula. The rugged hills of the Peloponnesus in the south are joined to the Greek mainland by the Isthmus of Corinth. The mainland also is mountainous but is relieved by plains in the northeast and fertile valleys between ranges.
Greece was originally settled by the Minoans in Crete from 2700 BC to 1450 BC. The Early Hellenic period, based on the Greek mainland, overlapped with this civilization, lasting from 2800 BC to 2100 BC. The early Greeks were largely traders, using their country’s natural resources, such as timber. Many traders went to Cyprus, Egypt and the Aegean Islands.
(Library of Congress)
The first Greek in America was the sailor Don Teodoro, who sailed with the Spanish explorer Panfilio de Narvaez to America in 1528.
Noted Greek Americans
From 2003 to 2008, US imports from Greece were dominated by drilling and oil field equipment and platforms, which increased from $41.4 million to $267.3 million, but dropped to $227.3 million in 2008. Other imports on the rise included other petroleum products, moving up from $78.6 million to $113 million; dairy products and eggs, rising from $30.3 million to $51.3 million, but falling to $35.3 million in 2008; vegetables and preparations, increasing from $67.5 million to $96.6 million; and tobacco, waxes, and nonfood oils, up from $25.9 million to $32.2 million.
(US Census Bureau)
US Special Forces Troops Sent to Greece
(by Noelle Knox, USA Today)
According to the State Department Report on Human Rights, “human rights abuses were reported in Greece that included numerous reports of abuse by security forces, particularly of illegal immigrants and Roma; overcrowding and harsh conditions in some prisons; detention of undocumented migrants in squalid conditions; restrictions on freedom of speech; restrictions on non-Orthodox religions; detention and deportation of unaccompanied or separated immigrant minors, including asylum seekers; domestic violence against women; trafficking in persons; limits on the ability of ethnic minority groups to self‑identify; and discrimination against and social exclusion of ethnic minorities, particularly Roma. A large number of Roma lacked access to adequate housing, basic medical care, public services, and employment opportunities.”
Note: Not commissioned; nomination withdrawn before the Senate acted upon it.
A career diplomat with more than 35 years’ experience, Vassilis Kaskarelis has served as Greece’s ambassador to the United States since June 2009.
Nominated to be the U.S. ambassador to Greece on June 3, 2010, and confirmed August 5, Daniel Bennett Smith was sworn in on September 7. He is a member of the Senior Foreign Service. Born circa 1955, Smith earned his B.A. in History from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1977, and a Ph.D. in History from Stanford University in 1984 for a dissertation on New Deal foreign economic policy that was published as a book, Toward Internationalism, in 1990.
Daniel V. Speckhard has served as US Ambassador to Greece since November 7, 2007.
Speckhard has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin as well as a master’s degree in public policy and administration and a master’s degree in economics.
From 1981 to 1990, Speckhard’s assignments included positions in the International Affairs Division of the Office of Management and Budget, the US Agency for International Development, staff member in the US Senate, and in state and local government.
From 1990 to 1993, he served as an advisor and then director of policy and resources for the Deputy Secretary of State, coordinating and overseeing foreign aid funding.
From 1993 to 1997, he was a deputy to the Ambassador-at-Large for the New Independent States at the State Department in Washington and was responsible for a broad range of political, security and economic issues facing large parts of the former Soviet Union. As US Ambassador to Belarus from 1997 to 2000, Speckhard worked closely with European officials in promoting democratic reform, human rights and institutional development.
From 2000 to 2003, he was NATO’s Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs, covering political relations with the countries of Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the former Soviet Union, and the Mediterranean.
From 2003 to 2005, Speckhard served as director of policy planning responsible for advising and assisting the secretary general, senior NATO management, and the council in addressing strategic issues facing the alliance. His last posting was as the deputy chief of mission at US Embassy Baghdad, following a year as director of the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office.
Daniel V. Speckhard’s Official Biography