ATHENS – Greece’s move to make drones – including those with combat capability – comes as the United States has already MQ-9 Reaper drones at the Larissa Base in expanding American military influence in the country.
That began in 2022, during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, seen as a bulwark in the Balkans against any idea of further Russian influence taking and after the US and Greece renewed a military cooperation deal.
For security reasons, the US Air Force did not disclosed how many Reapers were deployed to the base, but local media has reported eight drones are now operating there or what their use would be.
That was written for Insider by Constantine Atlamazoglou, a specialist on Transatlantic and European security and has Master’s Degree in Security Studies and European affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University near Boston.
The Reaper, which can be piloted remotely or fly autonomously, has a maximum endurance of 27 hours and can reach altitudes of 50,000 feet and has a “unique capability” to perform strike missions, gather information, and track “high value” targets, the US Air Force said.
Larissa Air Base, located in central Greece within easy reach of the Aegean Sea, “is a strategic location” and the base, which was recently upgraded to accommodate the Reapers, will allow the drones “to easily support both the eastern and southern flanks of NATO,” a spokesman for US Air Forces in Europe told Defense News.
The deployment was not in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the spokesman added, but their placement there “does support deterring and avoiding conflict with Russia,” it was said.
Their placement came as Turkey has cranked up threats against Greece, including warning of an invasion, and with Turkish drones in use by Ukraine against Russia and by Azerbaijian in defeating Armenia in a conflict playing a pivotal role.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has demanded that Greece take troops off Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast and it would be a cause for war if Greece doubles its maritime boundaries to 12 miles, further shutting off Turkey from the seas.
He’s also complained about the growing US military presence in Greece, especially since there are American troops in Turkey, the US trying to keep a political balance between Greece and Turkey, if it can.
“The American military bases in Greece are so many that they cannot be counted,” Erdogan said a month after the US and Greece signed their updated cooperation agreement, adding that, “Greece has practically become an outpost of America.”
The US’ “both-siderism” is a delicate walk of the line between the two NATO allies and Washington will have a tough time keeping them apart and out of a potential conflict, Ryan Gingeras, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, wrote.
“For Washington, maintaining peace may come down to two unfavorable choices,” Gingeras said, adding that the US could pressure Greece to “cede aspects of its sovereignty” and even abandon their mutual defense cooperation agreement.
Or, he said, the US could offer to be the “de facto guarantor” of Greece’s sovereignty, which could entail planning for a conflict with Turkey and raise questions about the integrity of NATO.