ATHENS – With Greek and Turkish warships shadowing each other off the island of Kastellorizo where Turkey wants to hunt for oil and gas, the United States sent the giant warship the USS Hershel Woody Williams off Crete, where the US Navy has a base on Souda Bay.
Its mission, said the Voice of America (VOA) in a report, is to monitor the developments between the two NATO allies because the defense alliance has refused to intervene to stop repeated Turkish provocations.
The US vessel joins others from the European Union as well as Russia – a country NATO is supposed to deter but from whom Turkey bought an S-400 missile defense system that could be used against Greece and the alliance.
The American vessel, named for the last surviving Medal of Honor winner from the Pacific Theater, a hero at the Battle of Iwo Jima, is described as a floating base the second of a new class of massive ships as fast transport and support centers for military operations.
The ship is 784 feet long and had been in Naples, Italy, for a routine logistics stop before it was sent to Crete, its exact orders unclear or how long it will remain off the island.
France earlier sent pair of frigates to the eastern Mediterranean, leading Russia to send one to the region as well amid fears there could be an accidental conflict between Greece and Turkey.
The US and Greece renewed a military cooperation deal and have an annual strategic dialogue session but there's concern which way President Donald Trump would tilt in a conflict as he's a friend of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has stepped up tension in the seas.
Cyprus' Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulidis said forces from other EU nations and countries in the region will likely come as Turkey has been drilling off the island where it has occupied the northern third since a 1974 invasion.
Kostas Ifandis, a Professor of Military Studies and Diplomatic Relations at Bogazici University in Constantinople told VOA he doesn't think Turkey's show of strength will amount to anything.
He said it could backfire if Egypt, which signed a maritime deal with Greece setting Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ's) in response to Turkey making a similar agreement with Libya, could be drawn in to also support Greece.
There's another dimension: trade. The European Union has refused to issue sanctions against Turkey, its biggest trading partner, giving Erdogan another hand to play and it has been backed by Germany, which doesn't want penalties although advising Erdogan to back off Kastellorizo.