ATHENS – Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will have his hands full and his feet on a tightrope when meets US President Joe Biden and speaks to the United States Congress during a time when Greece is to sign military cooperation deals, but complained that President Joe Biden’s administration wants to sell more F-16 fighter jets for Turkey.
The trip was designed to give the Greek premier a chance to shine after the US praised Greece’s role in NATO during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but Washington has shown it won’t tilt away from interests in Turkey either.
After US Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland said Turkey should stop sending fighter jets into Greek airspace the Biden administration announced the F-16 upgrade hopes that would, ironically, see improved US fighter jets being used against Greece, an ally of the US.
Mitsotakis, said Kathimerini, is expected to skirt the issue diplomatically and talk instead about Ukraine and the invasion’s effect of spiking energy costs and inflation and try to avoid any kind of confrontation.
But he’s still expected to broach the subject of Turkish aggression after Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias complained about the US wanting to help Turkey, which was barred from getting US-made F-35 fighter jets after buying a Russian-made S-400 missile defense system.
That could be used against Greece in a conflict – along with upgraded US F-16’s – and undermines the security of NATO, the defense alliance to which all three countries belong.’
Because of its geopolitical interests to the US, Turkey has been given extraordinary leeway and avoided even a reprimand from NATO for violating Greek airspace and waters and Biden – believed a friend of Greece – has been leaning more toward Turkey at the same time.
Mitsotakis will head a large delegation of ministers and other government officials to the US and will meet Biden on May 16, followed by his address to a joint session of Congress, at the invitation of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Mitsotakis’ speech, noted Kathimerini, is a rare chance for a foreign leader to speak directly to US lawmakers and provide a showcase for Greece’s role in the region and American ally.
It comes as the two countries have gotten closer with military agreements, the US wanting to add bases in northern Greece and have a bigger role in the major port of Alexandroupolis.
It will also be up to Congress to approve or reject the sale of F-16 fighters to Turkey and Mitsotakis is expected to emphasize Turkish provocations against Greece that also hurt NATO, which wants no part of their troubles.
Mitsotakis’ visit to the US will take place days after the expected approval by the Greek Parliament, of the five-year extension of the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement (MDCA) with the US.
He had insisted on the vote taking place before his trip. The MDCA confirmed the unprecedented usage of military bases by US forces in Greece at a critical time.
The US approved an appropriation of $50 million to be used to upgrade infrastructure at the US Navy NATO naval base in Souda, on the island of Crete that is critical to American military interests.