Washington, Athens seek to further deepen defense cooperation

Washington, Athens seek to further deepen defense cooperation

Athens and Washington are reportedly exploring ‘“flexible” options to further consolidate the presence of American weapons systems in Greece, Kathimerini understands.

These options include stationing more drones or flying tankers at the military air base in Larissa in central Greece.

Moreover, the US appears prepared to increase its participation in Greek military exercises and to expand their scope. Among these are the Iniohos exercise, which Athens and Washington plan to upgrade to a large-scale drill from a mid-range one that it is now.

Given this ever closer military cooperation between the two countries, Greece now also expects American ships to dock more frequently at Aegean Sea ports.

The strengthening of relations has also coincided with increased strain in the alliance between Washington and Ankara, with Athens standing to gain geopolitically from the apparent shift in the balance of power in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Last week, Washington strongly urged Turkey not to acquire the Russian S-400 air-defense system while, at almost the same time, the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act was submitted to US Congress aiming to boost Greece and Cyprus, both militarily and diplomatically.

For the time being, discussions between Athens and Washington revolve around the Larissa military air base, where two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), MQ-9 Reaper-type drones, are currently stationed. With the contract for their stay at the Larissa base expiring in August, two options are currently under discussion. The first concerns the possibility of stationing KC-135 tankers there, while the second, albeit least likely, scenario, suggests the replacement of the MQ-9 Reapers with other UAVs, namely Global Hawk RQ-4.

Moreover, the use of the Stefanovikeio air base in central Greece by US helicopters is also expected to continue, with the ports of Alexandroupoli or Thessaloniki serving as stopovers for flights to eastern Europe.

Although Athens has welcomed the new phase that its military ties with Washington have entered, it wants, at all costs, to avoid being caught in the middle of recent US-Turkish frictions.

Greece is also concerned with the way Turkey has reacted to its increasing cooperation with North Macedonia. Ankara has already informed Greece that it considers the rhetoric calling for the imposition of obstacles to Turkey’s influence in the Western Balkans as extremely hostile.

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