Greece is interested in letting the US deploy new military facilities within its territory, Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said during a meeting with his American counterpart James Mattis, Kathimerini reports.
“It is very important for Greece that the US deploy its military facilities in Greece on a more permanent basis,” he said.
The US would be able to set up its own infrastructure not only in the Port of Souda, but also near the Greek cities of Larissa, Volos and Alexandroupoli, Kammenos noted, calling Washington his country’s “sole strategic partner and ally”.
Souda is the only port in the region capable of taking aircraft carriers, and was visited in May by the USS Harry S. Truman. The base is on the verge of usability, sources recently told The Wall Street Journal. The US has been expanding its usage of the Air Force base in Larissa, deploying unarmed MQ-9 Reaper reconnaissance drones there this spring.
Mattis in turn thanked Kammenos for Greece letting the US use the base in Souda on the Crete island. He also praised Athens for its efforts to comply with NATO’s demands, which stipulate that member-states must spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense. Mattis thanked Athens for their “recent actions as part of the fight against Russia’s hostile actions in the regions”, according to the Pentagon’s statement on the meeting.
In July, Greece expelled two Russian diplomats and banned another two Russian citizens from entering the country, Kathimerini notes. Athens accused the Russians of attempting to bribe officials and supporting opponents of a referendum to rename Macedonia. On July 13 in an interview for BuzzFeed News, Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said that his government had received numerous reports of “Greek businessmen sympathetic to Russia” paying Macedonians between $13,000 and $21,000 to organize “acts of violence” against the referendum. Zaev did not mention any particular names. However, according to investigation materials published by the Center for Investigating Corruption and Organized Crime show that the businessman Ivan Savvidi is suspected of financing Macedonian protests. Savvidi and the Russian government deny the allegations.
In recent months, American politicians have frequently expressed the desire to increase the level of cooperation with Greece. “We consider Greece an island of stability in the Western Balkans,” said US Assistant State Secretary Wess Mitchell in June. “Greece’s location, and the possibilities it opens up, are extremely significant,” remarked Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a visit to Greece in September, drawing attention to Greece’s proximity to Libya and Syria. During the visit, he also mentioned that the US wants to establish permanent bases in the country.