United States forces have been granted access to four additional military bases in Greece under the new expansion of a defense cooperation agreement signed Thursday by the two countries.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias signed the deal in Washington as Greece deals with tensions with its neighbor, Turkey.
The U.S. forces will be able to train and operate “in an expanded capacity” at the additional Greek bases, Dendias said. He told the Associated Press after the signing ceremony that the agreement was not “against anybody else,” although it would put U.S. troops just miles away from Turkey.
“It’s an agreement between Greece and the United States of America, and the purpose of the agreement is the stability and prosperity of both our countries,” Dendias said.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
The deal to allow U.S. Forces to use Greek bases comes amidst rising tensions between Greece and Turkey. Above, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias speaks at the State Department in Washington, D.C., on October 14, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst/Pool/AFP via Getty Images
Greece is pinning much of its defense strategy on close military cooperation with France and the United States as it remains locked in a volatile dispute with Turkey over sea and airspace boundaries. Greek officials also have been actively pursuing other international agreements, with partners in the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere.
Blinken at Thursday’s signing ceremony called the U.S. and Greece “two proud, strong NATO allies, both deeply committed to our alliance.” Thursday’s agreement, building on an existing one, will run for five years with automatic renewal, Greek officials said.
NATO—the North Atlantic defense bloc to which the U.S., Turkey, France and Greece all belong—is built on the idea of collective defense, so that an attack on one member nation is considered an attack at all.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg earlier this month appeared to criticize Greece’s newly ratified mutual defense agreement with France, without naming the two countries. “What I don’t believe in is efforts to try to do something outside the NATO framework, or compete with or duplicate NATO,” Stoltenberg said then.
Dendias, speaking at the residence attached to the Greek Embassy in Washington, said Greece’s mutual defense deal with France “is an agreement that is complementary to NATO.”
“It does not diminish the role of NATO,” he added.
NATO members Greece and Turkey are at odds over sea boundaries and mineral rights in the eastern Mediterranean, spurring Athens to launch a major spending program to modernize its armed forces.
Turkey in turn accuses Greece of overstating its own territorial claims to the Aegean and other waters.
Thursday’s U.S.-Greece agreement builds on one signed in Athens two years ago by Blinken’s predecessor, Mike Pompeo, and will give the United States increased access to two bases in central Greece and one at Alexandroupolis, near the Greek-Turkish border. The U.S. naval base at Souda Bay, in the Greek island of Crete, is also key to the defense relationship.
The Greek push to build alliances comes as the United States tries to turn more of its international focus to competition with China, reducing its military strength in some other parts of the world.
The Greek government understands the United States’ need to pay more attention to China and the Indo-Pacific overall—but argues that Greece’s neighborhood is one American forces shouldn’t leave, Dendias said.
“If the American presence is not manifested, some countries may have clever ideas about their role,” envisioning themselves as “local superpowers,” he said. “I am sometimes afraid that Turkey may be falling under that category.”
The new expansion of a defense agreement between Greece and the U.S. will grant U.S. troops access to four additional Greek bases. Above, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks as Greece Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias looks on at the State Department in Washington, D.C., on October 14, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst/Pool via AP