When George H.W. Bush Visited Greece

George H.W. Bush, who as the 41st president shepherded the US through a turbulent period in global relations that included the breakup of the Soviet Union and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, has died. He was 94.

Bush served a single term in the Oval Office from 1989 through 1993. During that time he forged a strong relationship with the then Greek premier Konstantinos Mitsotakis.

In June 1990, Mitsotakis was the first Greek leader to visit the White House since Georgios Papandreou in 1964. July 1991, Bush became the first U.S. president to visit Greece in 32 years.

Bush’s visit included a speech to Greek-American businessmen, a visit to the Acropolis followed by a visit to Crete, where he addressed U.S. forces at the Souda military base.

Bush praised the U.S. support team and members of the Greek armed forces for their part in the Gulf War. “Souda has run round the clock at breakneck pace,” Bush said. “Day after day, Souda was called on to keep the supply lines moving, and day after day Souda Bay did its duty with distinction.”

During the visit, Bush announced plans to strengthen Greece’s security by leasing two Knox-class frigates and accelerating delivery of 10 F-4E aircraft that summer, with an additional 18 to follow in the autumn.

It was on that day that Bush tasted traditional Greek cuisine as a guest in the Mitsotakis family villa at Chania, Crete.

Bush and First Lady Barbara (who died in April this year) were said to have been really impressed by the cooking skills of Mitsotakis’ wife, Marika, who made a dish of stuffed vine leaves called dolmades.

The American president was also taken aback by the Cretan olive oil. Mitsotakis gave him as a present two large containers of olive oil to take back to Washington D.C.

When Mitsotakis died on May 29, 2017, Bush issued a statement expressing his profound respect for the late Greek prime minister, whom he called Constantine. He said “my friend Constantine was solid as a rock”.

“Barbara joins me in saluting his lifetime of public service to his beloved Greece, and in extending our sincere condolences to his family,” Bush had said.