After meeting U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis at the Pentagon, Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said he wants more American military bases, urging they be situated in Volos, Alexandroupoli near Turkey and Larissa.
“I want to affirm that Greece considers the United States a strategic partner and ally, the only one I dare to say,” Kammenos said after the meeting, reported Kathimerini.
“It is very important for Greece that the United States deploy military assets in Greece on a more permanent basis not only in Souda Bay but also in Larissa, in Volos, in Alexnadroupoli,” he said, referring to a U.S. Navy base on Crete as Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, who said he would end any American military presence in the country, has now become a key ally of Washington after also reneging on anti-austerity promises to satisfy international creditors providing bailouts.
According to a statement from the Pentagon, Mattis thanked Kammenos for Greece’s continued support for U.S. basing at Souda Bay on Crete island, a critical logistics hub and also praised Greece for spending 2 percent of its budget on defense. Greece is one of the few countries to also meet commitments for NATO.
Tsipras also had pledged to remove Greece from the defense alliance but broke his word on that too and instead is aiding NATO, sending Greek troops to Afghanistan after saying he wouldn’t put Greek forces in other countries, and moving to end a name feud with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) so it can also joint NATO as a bulwark against Russian interests in the Balkans, a key part of U.S. strategy.
Greece also has signed a deal to pay $1.5 billion to upgrade its aging F-16 fighter jet defense force at the same time the U.S. wants to sell more advanced F-35’s to Turkey, where it also has a key base, keeping a foot in both countries.
“He also thanked the Greek defense minister for his country’s recent actions to combat Russian malign activities in the region, and the two agreed to continue to hold Russia accountable,” the Pentagon said.