ATHENS – The United States is looking to extend an annual Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement to five years and put more military bases in Greece as Turkey is pulling away from Europe and even ready to work with the Taliban after the fall of Afghanistan.
Turkey – a member of NATO as is Greece – had sent troops to fight the terrorists in Afghanistan but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is cozying up more to Russia and away from the western alliance.
Called a “pillar of stability” by the United States when the polar opposite Radical Left SYRIZA – which had been anti-American was in power – and now under the friendlier New Democracy, American interests are getting closer with Greece.
The defense deal extension could be signed in September or October, said the newspaper Kathimerini, after New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez visited Athens to declare ties between the country tightening even more.
The time frame and its extension, which the American side reportedly asked for, had been debated in previous years while both sides were putting up a smiling public front that all was well.
This year Greece has become more eager to stay close with the US, fearing that another wave of Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban will try to get in and join some 40,000 from their country who began leaving in 2015.
The US has been keen to have more bases in Greece besides the US Naval Station in Souda Bay on Crete and even SYRIZA leader and former premier Alexis Tsipras talked about it with American officials, his party's alleged ideological enemy.
Citing sources not named, the newspaper said there have been discussions to expand the Larissa base in central Greece to include MQ-9 drones that were tested there in December, 2019.
The drone can work with the F-16 fighter jet and and can also interconnect with all NATO systems, upgrading the country’s defenses although Turkey has S-400 Russian missile defenses against them, the defense alliance saying nothing.
If US bases are added, one likely would be in Xanthi near the Evros River border with Turkey where Greece has extended a border wall to keep out refugees and migrants, the spot where Erdogan sent 10,000 of them in February, 2020.
The Xanthi base would be modeled on one at Alexandroupolis in the area while another could be in the Aegean on the island of Skyros, nor near the five islands near the coast of Turkey, which allows human traffickers to keep sending refugees and migrants.
Some 23 locations were said to be under consideration though as the US wants to put its imprimatur firmly in Greece while keeping ties with Turkey and commingling American interests.
The upgrade of another port in northern Greece is under consideration, most likely Kavala, where American forces can be stationed, the paper said, adding that the US wants a bigger presence in the Eastern Mediterranean.