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Politics

US Wants More Military Bases in Greece as Turkish Ties Weaken

ATHENS – After renewing a military co-operation agreement, the United States wants to step up its presence further in Greece, which welcomes American interests as it tries to fend off growing provocations from Turkey.

The US will increase its military footprint in Greece, including on a permanent basis and has informed its allies, said Kathimerini, although it wasn't said if that includes Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has also been trying to build a further international firewall against Turkey which is seeing its influence in the US decrease under President Joe Biden after Erdogan had the ear of former president Donald Trump, who did favors for him.

Sources not identified told the paper that while the US has said the move to step up military pacts is routine to help a NATO ally – Turkey belongs to the alliance which has done nothing about Turkey violating Greek airspace and waters – that what's behind it is US anxiety over whether Erdogan can be trusted.

The US still has a military presence at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey as well as Izmir on the west coast but barred Turkey from getting F-35 fighter jets – which could be used against Greece in a conflict – after Erdogan purchased S-400 missile defense systems from Russia, a technical enemy of NATO.

The US has a Naval base at Souda Bay on Crete as well as air bases in Larissa and Stefanovikeio, central Greece, and the port of Alexandroupoli in northern Greece and at least four more will be added, the paper said.

The Greek Defense Ministry prepared a list of 22 locations for the Americans to choose from, the report added, with a favorite the base of the 117th Combat Wing in Andravida, western Greece, where the Iniochos air exercise was conducted.

That geopolitical presence allows a rapid response from a Western Europe site, especially Italy and the US has recently deployed F-15 and F-16 fighters, KC-135 tankers and MQ-9 Reaper drones.

Also quite likely is the island of Skyros, which provides the advantage of being in the Aegean without being too close to Turkey and having both air and naval bases, said the paper's report.

Special Forces will also be included to buttress those now permanently at Souda and on rotation in Rentina, northern Greece and the US is also advising the Greek General Staff on setting up its new Special Warfare Command. 

That came after the US provided Greek Special Forces with advanced wireless devices with encrypted communication, worth $9 million, as well as Mark V Special Operations Craft, the report said.

The moves come under a US-friendly New Democracy government although even the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA and former premier Alexis Tsipras, who said he would end an American military presence and take Greece out of NATO made deals with the Americans after saying he wouldn't.

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