ATHENS – With anti-nationalist Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras having backed away from pledges to take Greece out of NATO and not allow an American military presence in the country, the US wants more use of military bases and ports in the country.
That was the message from the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford on Sept. 4 during a visit to Greece, media reports said.
“If you look at geography, and you look at current operations in Libya, and you look at current operations in Syria, you look at potential other operations in the eastern Mediterranean, the geography of Greece and the opportunities here are pretty significant,” Dunford was quoted as saying by the Military Times website.
He was speaking during a visit to the Ministry of Defense in Athens during which he met with the Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (GEETHA), Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, whose tenure was renewed the same day.
No specific bases have as of yet been identified, according to the report, but, several options are being evaluated by General Curtis Scaparrotti, head of US European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander.
“Those are discussions that Gen. Scap and others are having right now, as they look around the region in terms of where they want to put forces within the next five to 10 years,” Military Times quoted an unnamed official as saying to reporters.
The US Navy has a base on Souda Bay on Crete, a key strategic position in the Mediterranean between Europe, the Middle East and Africa and Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, head of SYRIZA’s junior coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) earlier was said to be wooing the US to open another base.
The US wants to increase trade and military cooperation with Greece with Turkey increasing provocations in the Aegean and as relations between Washington and Ankara are tense.
According to the report, Dunford said American interest in Greek bases was not related to the US-Turkey standoff, however, adding he expected that the US would continue to make use of Incirlik Air Force Base in Turkey to keep its hand and military interests in both countries.