Greece once more agrees to increase US protection cooperation

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias traveled to Washington October 13-14 to take part in a scheduled session of the US-Greece Strategic Dialogue, the place he met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and different senior US Government leaders and reviewed ongoing regional issues. That in any other case routine and unexciting dialogue, related to people who Washington holds with many different international locations within the “strategic dialogue” format, was dressed up this 12 months (Round #3) with the signing of a brand new US-Greece protection settlement, formally amending earlier bilateral preparations, which was designed to additional improve the excellent protection cooperation each international locations have shared for years. 

A separate letter from Secretary of State Blinken, to this point unreleased, additional warmed the bilateral ambiance as it’s stated to incorporate language which the Mitsotakis authorities is already representing as a type of US assure of Greece’s sovereignty over the Aegean islands and territorial waters, in accordance with the UN Law of the Sea Convention, one thing that Turkey aggressively disputes. 

Defense relationship already high tier, little to enhance

Because the bilateral military-to-military relationship was already excellent for thus lengthy, it was not simple for either side to search out important areas for enchancment and the doc signed October 14 needs to be thought of as a part of an updating and modernization course of, not an precise practical improve as some in Athens are portraying it. 

The new US-Greece settlement — truly an modification to the U.S.-Greece Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement (MDCA) — expands on the one signed in Athens two years in the past by then-Secretary Mike Pompeo and is claimed to offer the United States elevated entry to 2 bases in central Greece and one at Alexandroupolis, near the Greek-Turkish border. None of those would represent new US deployments, and many of the US presence within the area happens on a rotational foundation, akin to use of Greek coaching amenities within the winter when US bases in northern Europe cut back operations. 

Separate and above the operations in northern Greece, the everlasting US naval base at Souda Bay Crete is definitely the important thing to the protection relationship and the US and NATO’s pressure projection functionality throughout the area. The amendments signed in 2019 and this week are supposed to guarantee the US Congress that the long-term nature of the protection relationship will proceed uninterrupted in order that substantial funding for essential base upgrades and different packages could also be safely appropriated. 

There is a few confusion over whether or not the newest settlement formally supplies for the so-called “indefinite” US presence in Greece, as this was claimed to be the case within the 2019 MDCA modification.  

In a separate Blinken-Dendias assembly the identical day, the State Department noticed match to disclose that Blinken had thanked Dendias “for the constructive role Greece has played in supporting regional integration in the Western Balkans,” a sign to the disenchanted EU accession candidates of Albania and North Macedonia that final week’s lackluster Brdo EU Summit consequence was one thing Washington had not forgotten.

Over-inflation is regular

Again this 12 months, the Greek facet is constant its customary apply of over-inflating the significance of latest bilateral agreements with the US at each attainable event, generally executed to help within the home ratification processes however not wanted this 12 months in view of the present authorities’s parliamentary majority. The ratification vote needs to be scheduled throughout the subsequent two weeks. And as normal, most opposition events are working laborious to dig up “problems” with the settlement, some noting that it doesn’t present true safety ensures in opposition to Turkey in change for Athens’ agreeing to an almost “indefinite presence” of US forces in Greece, which most believed had been authorised within the earlier settlement signed in October 2019. 

Strategic concerns 

For the vast majority of the Greek inhabitants, the up to date settlement that FM Dendias simply signed will likely be seen as a vastly improved defensive hyperlink to Washington in case of hassle with Turkey, Greece’s major potential opponent, in addition to an American “vote of confidence” in Greece as a trusted ally and pole of regional stability. Greek media sources can solely quote native authorities officers, not the US Pentagon, concerning the alleged US curiosity in a longer-term presence since present US technique at present depends on short-term troop rotations as an alternative of everlasting bases. Washington has turned down a number of presents from the Greek facet through the years to station items on Aegean islands near Turkey.

Taken along with the Mitsotakis authorities’s latest and considerably controversial protection settlement with France, it may be argued that PM Mitsotakis has executed extra to enhance Greece’s alliance community and its navy capabilities than any chief in latest a long time. That shouldn’t be an insignificant accomplishment however must seen within the context of a possible arms race with Turkey, one thing neither nation can afford. Nor ought to Russia’s extra aggressive naval diplomacy, focusing for now on the waters round Syria, be written off.