- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2017

President Trump acknowledged Tuesday that some countries were “a little bit nervous” when he took office, but they are now accepting his leadership in foreign affairs.

“A number of countries were a little bit nervous at the beginning,” Mr. Trump said in a news conference with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

“The reason they were concerned was because I will not allow our country, the United States of America, to be taken advantage of by so many other countries all over the world. I can understand how certain countries and the leaders of certain countries may feel,” he explained.

Now that he’s been in office for nine months, Mr. Trump said, he’s making it clear that he wants fair trade and security agreements with other countries.

“I have very good relationships with the leaders of virtually every country I’ve dealt with,” he said. “But we’re just not going to allow the United States to be taken advantage of by other countries any more.”

Mr. Tsipras, who had referred to Mr. Trump as “evil” before his election, said he has changed his mind after meetings with the president at the White House.

“I want to confirm that the meeting that we had was very productive,” the prime minister said. “Not a moment did I feel threatened at any time. I saw that there is a very fertile outlook here. We have common values.”

The prime minister said, “I think our collaboration will be very substantial, and I’m very optimistic after our meeting that we had today. The U.S. is a very strong power. Their ability to intervene for good is very, very important.”

Mr. Tsipras made his comment about the “evil” Mr. Trump in March 2016.

The president said of that comment Tuesday, “I wish I knew that before my speech” about improving U.S.-Greek relations.

Briefing reporters later Tuesday at the Blair House on his Washington visit, Mr. Tsipras, who began his political career in the Communist Youth of Greece and first won election as a leftist fighting the policies of economic austerity, seemed almost surprised at how cordial his first meeting with the billionaire U.S. president had been.

He called the bilateral meeting “fruitful and productive” and said U.S. officials and investors were getting the message that “Greece is coming back” after a devastating seven-year economic downturn and numerous cliffhangers over the state of the country’s finances.

He said Mr. Trump was receptive to his message that Greece’s economy was on the mend, with 2 percent growth predicted for this year and 2.6 percent for 2018. He also highlighted what he said was Athens’ crucial role as a “pillar of stability” in a region that has seen political upheaval in countries such as Turkey, Iraq and Syria.

“I was very happy that President Trump supported Greece as one of the more reliable allies of the U.S. in our region,” he said.

Sources close to the prime minister said the Greek delegation was heartened to see that “the picture of Mr. Trump is very different from what he is in reality. It was a more realistic approach than we were led to expect.”

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