Senator Misses Special Session & Part Of Budget Session For Greek Foreign Relations Work

in News/Legislature

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily 

A state senator who missed last fall’s special legislative session and two days of this year’s budget session was in Greece attending to his official duties as a U.S. representative in a Greek foreign relations group.

Sen. Stephan Pappas, R-Cheyenne, joined the World Hellenistic Interparliamentary Association in 2017, a little more than two years after he became a state senator.    

The retired U.S. Air Force General with 100% Greek heritage is now the treasurer for the organization, which was created in 1996 and counts among its members legislators of Greek descent from about 20 countries.

The organization is designed to improve foreign relations with other republics and expand global trade prospects for Greece and Cyprus.  

Cyprus is an island country nestled between the coasts of Syria and Turkey.   

“I go to Greece a lot and work with the Greek government on issues of trade, military significance,” Pappas told Cowboy State Daily on Monday in a phone interview.   

Of particular concern to Pappas is WHIA’s work to encourage American investors or investors from other democratic countries to buy publicly-owned Eastern Mediterranean ports to prevent Russian and China from winning them.   

Ports For Sale  

The European Union ordered Greece to privatize much of its publicly-held air and sea infrastructure as part of a 2010 bailout plan agreed to after the country’s 2008 economic collapse.   

A Chinese company in 2009 bought the controlling interest for Port of Piraeus near Athens. Then last year, a Russian oligarch purchased controlling stock in the Port at Thessaloniki.   

Two strategic ports still are up for grabs: Alexandropouli and Kavala in northern Greece.   

Pappas wrote to Wyoming’s congressional delegation in 2020, asking the delegates to assist and encourage Kentucky-based Black Summit Financial Group to place a bid for Alexandropouli, to prevent another Russian purchase of a key military and energy conduit.   

“We cannot have another port in Greece fall into the hands of the Russians, especially at this very strategic location,” wrote Pappas.  

Alexandropouli could be crucial to the unfolding of world events.   

The U.S. military uses the port for transporting personnel and equipment. American officials also see the port as a natural gas conduit for U.S. energy marketing in Europe, according a report by security company Trident Group America, which Pappas attached to his letter.   

By gaining control of the port, “Russia (would) not only be in a position to undermine the United States’ use of the port for military exercises, but also control whose (natural) gas is stemmed into the network, thereby negating America’s ongoing effort to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian energy supplies,” the study states.   

Pappas said he also is working with Black Summit and the other WHIA delegates, looking for things “that (can help) them get an edge.” He added that he didn’t know the bidding deadlines for the two ports but may learn them soon.   

Tinderbox  

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has intensified efforts to calm Turkey’s military ambitions.   

A longtime NATO member, Turkey in 2019 purchased an S-400 missile defense system from Russia, which Pappas said, “sent everyone in the EU and NATO into a tizzy,” as a signal of increasing cooperation between the two countries.   

As a result, Turkey was booted out of a nine-country collaborative to build and purchase stealth fighter jets as the U.S. deemed the possibility of a technology leak to Russia a security threat.   

WHIA backed Congress’ move to block Turkish involvement in the aircraft program as well as an ongoing bid by Turkey to buy F16s.   

The F16 debate continues, but Pappas said it’s a “touchy situation – when you can’t give (Turkish leaders) what they want but you don’t want to push them away either” into the arms of Russia and China.   

“We (at WHIA) think that selling them more aircraft is a bad idea at this time,” said Pappas. “So we have been asking Congress to block the sale.”   

Turkish plans to buy another Russian S-400 merely add “insult to injury,” said Pappas.   

‘Excused’  

Pappas missed the Legislature’s special session in October so he could attend the Oxi Day Parade in Thessaloniki, an event to which he was invited by Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou.

According to his travel itinerary, Pappas visited with the press, the National Bank of Greece, Greek Secretary General John Chrysoulakis, power company Eunice Energy and other dignitaries.   

That week, the Legislature had called a special session outside its normal lawmaking schedule in an attempt to combat federal COVID vaccine mandates. The session resulted in a $4 million appropriation to the Wyoming attorney general’s office for future anti-mandate litigation.   

“Almost every one of those (special session) bills were, in my mind, something I would have voted no on,” said Pappas, noting that if he hadn’t already accepted the president’s invitation, he would have attended the special session, though he found it a “waste of taxpayers’ money.”   

“Most of (the bills) were punitive against Wyoming businesses – I certainly wouldn’t want to go there,” Pappas said. 

He added that the anti-mandate battleground at that time was not ripe for legislation anyway, because the state’s court case against the enforcing agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, was ongoing.   

“Again, that could have waited” for the February budget session, said Pappas.  

The senator also missed the final two days of the budget session, but he told Senate leaders he’d be available by Zoom if needed.   

The session’s final day, March 11, saw a last-minute change to the state’s redistricting – or voter apportionment – update that added three legislators to the body while allowing some counties a slightly larger voter impact than others, to keep like-minded regions intact.    

“Those (changes) didn’t affect anything here in Laramie County, for sure,” said Pappas, who left the state March 10 for celebrations of the 75th Anniversary of the Truman Doctrine in Greece – again at the invitation of the Greek government.   

Pappas said Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, has encouraged his involvement in foreign relations. He also said he looks for ways to benefit both Greece and Wyoming.

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