ATHENS – The American Hellenic Institute, in cooperation with the AHI-Athens Chapter presented on December 8 a panel discussion titled ‘A New Focal Point for U.S.-Greece Relations: Alexandroupolis, A Hub for Energy, Commerce & Defense’ at the Grande Bretagne hotel in Athens.
The guests who packed the ballroom were introduced by the president of the Athens chapter Vasileios Kyriazis, Vice Admiral (ret.). The moderator was Apostolos Mangridiadis, ERT-TV news anchor, and closing remarks and thanks to the participants, guests, and especially the event’s sponsors, were presented by AHI president and CEO Nicholas Larigakis, who expressed his gratitude for the present of most of the Greek General Staff, including General Konstantinos Floros.
The distinguished panel, which offered valuable background and insights and later responded to questions from the audience, consisted of Dr. Athanasios Platias, professor of Strategy at the University of Piraeus, Dr. Yannis Maniatis, past Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, and Admiral (ret.) Panagiotis Chinofotis.
The panelists emphasized that the Russia-Ukraine war boosted Alexandroupolis’ military and economic value. Energy developments – the Greece-Bulgaria gas interconnector began operating on October 1 – are accelerating as the war has revived talk of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis natural gas pipeline project and the East Med pipeline project.
The speakers emphasized the importance of cooperation among political parties on the energy and security fronts. Maniatis said, “governments will come and go, but the important thing is for us to work together to advance the interests of the country.”
The Admiral and Platias addressed the geostrategic role and potential of Alexandroupolis. Platias pulled back from regional map and spoke about Alexandroupolis’ place in global geostrategy, noting China has ambitions to control all Eurasia by working with Iran, Russia… and Turkey. An opposed group of sea powers led by the United States is trying to build a security ring around them, and that even after the Ukraine war, that alliance will remain, along with the strategic role of Alexandroupolis connecting north-south and east west axes of power, energy, and interests.
Platias noted that, “if Turkey were a credible ally and friend, the U.S. would not need Alexandroupolis,” words also echoed by Larigakis. Addressing the perception that Washington seems to always be hoping for improved relations with Ankara, he said he tells U.S. officials, “if they are not there for you when you need them they are useless.” Platias believes that the United States is exploring some kind of neutrality for Turkey that would not let it be a link between China and Europe. Larigakis joined the others in acknowledging that the improving reputation of Greece and its armed forces makes it easier for AHI to support Greece in Washington.