Greece and US ink new defence deal and extend strategic dialogue


Taking a welcome break from his involvement in the Trump-Ukraine concern, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo completed his brief Balkan swing on six October immediately after signing an critical agreement in Athens to update US-Greece defence arrangements and expand US military presence in the area.

Turkey’s current provocative behavior in regard to power exploration in Cyprus and the Aegean featured prominently in Pompeo’s Athens discussions.  The pay a visit to was also substantial in that it broke the common pattern in current years of senior US diplomats going to each Athens and Ankara for “balance.”

Beyond blasting Turkey, only two phrases are necessary to impress any Greek audience and these themes have been clearly referenced by the American side, the mention of any kind of “upgraded strategic role” for Greece, as properly as the omnipresent expectation for enhanced American investment.

Mitsotakis focuses on Turkey

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told Pompeo on five October that Turkish moves south of the island in current days have been a “flagrant violation” of Cyprus’ sovereign rights.  Arguing for the application of accepted norms of international relations in regard to Cyprus, Mitsotakis mentioned: “I anticipate the optimistic contribution of the United States to lead to the creation ultimately of a additional constructive and fruitful climate of cooperation in the area.”

Pompeo delivered a clear message to Ankara in a joint press conference with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, later on five October, “we have told the Turks that illegal drilling is unacceptable and we’ll continue to take diplomatic actions to make certain that we do, as we do normally, make certain that lawful activity requires spot.”

The Turks are identified to be closely following each detail of Pompeo’s Athens pay a visit to, and he amplified on his earlier remarks, noting, “we want to make certain that guidelines govern international exploration in the Mediterranean Sea’s power sources and that no nation can hold Europe hostage.”

Defence deal will drastically scale up US presence across Greece

Pompeo and FM Dendias signed the Protocol of Amendment to the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement (MDCA), at that point not released to the Greek public. The MDCA itself dates from 1990. In total, the new protocol makes it possible for American military personnel to return to Greece in numbers not noticed considering that the finish of the cold war, though most of this raise will be accomplished by way of short-term rotations.

Maybe most critical is the provision incorporated in the new protocol that keeps the MDCA in force till one particular side formally requests termination. At present, annual extensions are necessary, which are routinely handled by way of diplomatic channels. The US has been reluctant to invest in expensive upgrades, especially at the Souda Bay facility (i.e. big port and runway expansions) without the need of the longer timeframe the new agreement supplies.  The new protocol resolves that concern if any provision becomes controversial for the duration of the ratification process, this will be it.

The protocol also lays out the operational framework of the US presence at the northern Greek port of Alexandroupolis on the border with Turkey. This city is a hugely strategic pipeline transit point and drastically closer than other US facilities to the vitally critical Bosporus Strait, which separates Europe from the Asia Minor. Even though the principal objective of the new facilities will be logistical help for US forces deployed in the area, inclusion of this provision to the MDCA sends a clear message to each Ankara and Moscow.

The protocol also regulates the establishment of “high-technologies installations” on Greek soil and inside Greek bases and camps in and about mainland Greece. This refers to the extended-term installation and expansion of US drone facilities that initially came to Greece although other operational bases have been beneath repair, as properly as a helicopter instruction facility at Stefanovikeio close to the port city of Volos, in central Greece, which has been employed by American forces on a rotating seasonal basis up to now.

For more background article/white-home-and-athens-agree-on-new-defence-agreement/

Setting a precedent, Pompeo, himself a former army officer, visited the Greek Ministry of Defence and met with Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos just just before the MDCA protocol was signed at the Foreign Ministry.

Not to be forgotten, a tiny quantity of demonstrators have been noticed in central Athens October five protesting Pompeo’s pay a visit to and the new protocol. The police had to use force at least as soon as to handle the circumstance. The demonstrators have been primarily the now-faded remnants of the Greek Left – a hardcore cadre of anti-American/anti-NATO Communists and Anarchists.

A new era in bilateral relations?

In Athens, Pompeo delivered a speech on Greece-US relations entitled “The United States and Greece: Displaying the Way Forward.” Pompeo had some explaining to do, 1st and foremost to bring clarity to the debate more than the claim by the former SYRIZA government of Alexis Tsipras that relations with Washington hit their higher-water mark beneath his stewardship, a thing the US Embassy in Athens in no way repeated, but also in no way denied.

Clearly American attitudes have changed immediately after the reform-minded, pro-organization Mitsotakis government was elected in July. Pompeo’s media blitz incorporated a press release from the State Division noting that “bilateral relations are at a historic higher point”, an critical signal of help to Mitsotakis and an acknowledgement of the Americans’ help for the Greek population’s choice to reject the leftist populism of Tsipras and SYRIZA.

Although most of Pompeo’s speech focused on the positive aspects of private sector-led financial improvement for Greece and the area, he also issued a warning to the Greeks about the unscrupulous techniques China has employed when investing in strategic infrastructure and telecommunications projects abroad, as properly as Russia’s malign influence in the area, and Iran’s continuing help for terrorism.

Eastern Mediterranean concentrate – essential new evolution

Beyond the expanded bilateral defense partnership, the new element in the US-Greece partnership is Washington’s expanded concentrate on developments in the Eastern Mediterranean region and its choice to engage additional energetically in regional partnerships that Greece is a essential member of.  Bipartisan interest and help in the US Congress is also a big element. The US decided, in 2018, to start participating in different regional meetings as a “Plus A single,” and is specifically prominent in Greece-Cyprus-Israel meetings which concentrate mainly on power improvement and political-military cooperation.  A related Greece-Cyprus-Egypt group is also moving forward energetically.

Trade blues

In the days just before Pompeo arrived, Athens was shaken by news of the Trump administration’s choice to impose tariffs on a wide variety of EU exports in response to the WTO’s ruling that the EU had supplied illegal state help to Airbus.  Greek exports to the US would be impacted, with the exception of olive oil.  Accordingly, the optimism in the trade and investment segment of the bilateral “Strategic Dialogue” has been tempered as trade flows will probably reduce in response to the US tariffs.  On investments, virtually each Greek analyst has taken a “wait and see” attitude toward the most up-to-date optimistic American pronouncements, but there is a sense that the mixture of the new bilateral defence arrangements, ongoing Greek privatization projects as properly as Greek power exploration permits issued to US firms will yield additional US investment and financial engagement than noticed previously.

What is this “Strategic Dialogue” all about?

A strategic dialogue is essentially a day-extended meeting comprised of various higher-level operating groups in separate sectors of the partnership such as military affairs, regional political consultations, industrial/investment developments and cultural/educational concerns.  This year, in addition to Pompeo’s symbolic blessing (he departed Athens just just before the 1st meeting), Washington sent an impressive delegation to this session, mainly at the Assistant Secretary level.

The 1st meeting of the US-Greece Strategic Dialogue was held in Washington in early December 2018 hardly anyone in Washington noticed as Greece sent the then-alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs – SYRIZA’s Giorgos Katrougalos, who later became a complete minister.  Media coverage in Greek pro-government outlets was higher, focusing on the concept that relations had reached their historical zenith.

Of course, then, as now, there was no try produced to inform the Greek audience that the US also has such “strategic dialogues” with a variety of interlocutors such as Pakistan, India, China, Qatar as properly as allies like Italy.

New dynamics are in play now, but in 2018 a quantity of nearby analysts  interpreted the launch of the Strategic Dialogue as some sort of reward/acknowledgement to the former government of Tsipras for signing the Prespes Accord with Skopje in June 2018 and also for designating the US as the “Honored Country” in that year’s Thessaloniki International Fair, bringing the US forward in the typical annual rotation for this distinction amongst Greece’s big industrial partners. However, any payoff to US businesses from the work spent in staging the Thessaloniki Fair although SYRIZA was in energy has been largely negated by the 2019 Greek election final results.


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