Greece, a place with a very long memory, hasn’t had a very happy past hundred years or so. Their independence from the Ottoman Empire was originally touted by enlightened Europe as the rebirth of the birthplace of democracy, but Europeans quickly turned their backs on Greece as soon as they had a few growing pains.
Left to their own devices, they quickly sank back into totalitarianism and backwardness, until the Italians strolled through Albania and tried to take out Metaxas and his government early on in WWII. The Greeks responded by countering the Italian invasion and threatening to expel the Italians from that end of the Adriatic entirely.
This forced the Germans to divert fourteen much needed divisions away from its planned invasion of Russia in order to subdue Greece and the Balkans. Britain responded by committing (Australian and New Zealander) ground forces to Greece, made the country a battleground, and promptly evacuated in the face of superior German generalship.
Needless to say, the Greeks expected a little better support than they had received, particularly since one can make a Slippery-Rock-Rockets type of argument that Greece actually won WWII for the Allies.
At the close of the war, Greece once again was wracked by insurrection. Britain once again supplied troops to try to iron the measure out, discovered they didn’t have the money to sustain the effort, and pulled out yet again.
The solution that the West came up with was to more-or-less forcibly induct Greece into NATO, along with Turkey, whom Greece was having a territorial dispute with over Cyprus. The Cyprus Question was then deftly batted about by NATO, the UN, and other bodies other than Greece, who seemed to want to just fight and get it over with.
Recently, the newly sort-of-independent state of Macedonia arose from the ashes of Yugoslavia. While Greek issues with the name, which the State shares with a province in northern Greece were at least paid valuable lip service to this time, Greece is clearly dissatisfied at having a neighbor that may try to snap up their territory. Once again world government prevaricates while doing little to give the proud nation satisfaction.
Greeks I know view the past century as example after example of other nations, and particularly those of Europe and America, treating Greece as a second-class nation. There is no question that the Greek people are fiercely proud of their independence and resent the constant affronts to their nation’s sovereignty. Throughout the cold war they were a less than willing partner in NATO with the threat of occupation being the primary motivational factor. Add to that persistent rumors that the CIA has been instrumental in keeping the Greek government in line with NATO, and you’ve got some pretty resentful folks over there.
So having the President drop in to moon in front of the international press might not be viewed with the same enthusiasm as if he were visiting, say, uh… New York. Contrary to persistent rumor, Greeks don’t like to get poked in the rear any more than anyone else does, so why would they want to shake hands with the guy they see as the first in the line?