The Pentagon said reports by Russia that the United States is conducting a military buildup at Greek ports are wrong and that the activities are just part of regular exercises with a NATO ally although the Greek government is looking at increasing an American military presence in the country.
“We regularly conduct these kinds of operations with partner nations and NATO Allies to enhance interoperability and strengthen relationships and the Greek port is a key route of entry to the Balkan and southern European countries where the nine exercises will be held,” agency spokesperson Eric Pahon said in a statement.
“Russian propaganda claims that the U.S. is conducting a ‘buildup’ in Greece are completely false and are designed to drive a wedge between the U.S., Turkey and Greece,” the Turkish Anadolu News Agency reported.
That comes as tension is rising between Greece and Turkey over Turkish provocations in the Aegean and East Mediterranean, and between the US and Turkey, which wants to buy both Russian S-400 missile defense systems that could compromise NATO defenses, and US-made F-35 fighter jets that could be used against Greece.
Turkey regularly violates Greek airspace and waters with fighter jets and warships and has sent two energy research vessels and a warship into Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) where foreign companies were licensed to drill for oil and gas, including the US’ ExxonMobil, which reported a big gas find field.
Despite the Pentagon’s denial, US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford said last September the U.S. was looking to boost its military presence in Greece by increasing the number of bases and ports.
Turkey and Greece both belong to NATO but the defense alliance said it wants no part of the tangling between the countries over sovereignty disputes of waters and islands and borders either.
A Turkish defense delegation went to Athens earlier for a technical meeting with Greek officials meant to enhance cooperation in confidence-building measures and the code of conduct in the Aegean Sea but that led to no resolution of the dispute.
The Pentagon said the Russians were trying to impose a campaign to divide NATO allies and will remain on alert to seek any other attempts, said Anadolu.
“We are clear-eyed and aware the Russians seek to use lies and disinformation to fracture relationships between Allies, and we will remain vigilant in pointing out these falsehoods as they occur,” Pahon said.