With relations between the United States and Greece said the best ever – ironically under the Radical Left SYRIZA – the US Air Force said expanding joint military training between the countries is likely in the works.
The Air Force Times reported on the growing closeness that comes as relations between the US and Turkey were deteriorating but as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to go ahead with plans to buy a Russian S-400 missile defense system but still get Washington’s OK to buy US-made F-35 fighter jets.
Greek-American and Diaspora groups are anxious that Turkey could use both against Greece as tensions between high between the NATO allies over Turkey continuing to send fighter jets and warships to violate Greek airspace and waters.
There’s also anxiety that the S-400 Russian system could compromise NATO aircraft, essentially allowing Turkey to have equipment that could be used against its own allies in the defense organization.
The US and Greece have been discussing expanded operations at Larissa Air Base, in central Greece, which includes potentially stationing KC-135 tankers and unmanned aerial vehicles there, as well as expanding training operations, said Kathimerini.
U.S. Air Forces Europe would not comment on future basing or force structure changes, but expanding training with the Greeks appears to be in the works regarding INIOHOS, an air exercise between NATO allies and partner nations, the Air Force Times said.
“They have expressed desires to increase the scope and stature of the exercise, and we are happy to support them as we can on their efforts,” said a U.S. Air Forces Europe official. “The U.S. Air Force is preparing for Stolen Cerberus, a routine exercise between the Hellenic air force and U.S. Air Forces in Europe. As INIOHOS is a Hellenic air force-led exercise, we defer to them on plans for future iterations,” the report added.
Unarmed reconnaissance MQ-9 Reapers are flying from Larissa Air Base until August, Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said but he wouldn’t elaborate on talks taking place that could expand the US military presence in Greece with the agreement of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who reversed his previously strong anti-American, anti-NATO stance.