Greece and the US are set to increase military cooperation in southeastern Europe as tensions rise in the region as a result of amendments made to the Mutual Defence Cooperation Agreement (MDCA) last month.
A”Business Insider”article stated that the growing cooperation followed the October meeting between Greek minister of foreign affairs Nikos Dendias and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken which will result, among other things, with more and longer joint exercises in Greece.
The amended MDCA also paves the way for a greater American presence and the expansion of existing facilities in Greece with particular focus on Alexandroupoli in Thrace which holds a strategic position close to Greece’s borders with Turkey and Bulgaria, and has important transport links to ports on the Black Sea.
The city is also becoming an important energy hub with the development of a natural gas facility.
The developing of the port’s facilities in general will also allow the US to quickly deploy troops to the southwestern and western coasts on the Black Sea and will help regional allies. The facilities would also increase NATO’s effectiveness in dealing with Russian ambitions in the Black Sea and the Balkans.
In October, the US conducted its largest ever disembarkation exercise in Greece at Alexandroupoli and an even larger one currently under way this week.
The Tharcian capital was also central to the Defender Europe 2021 multinational exercise led by the US in March. In July the port was included in the the rotation of US troops under Operation Atlantic Resolve.
Alexandroupoli “plays a leading role in our countries’ shared goals of increasing European energy security and regional stability” US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt said in May.
Andrew Novo a non-resident fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis s told “Business Insider” that Greece had an important role to play in contributing to stability in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean.
Russia expressed concern over the growing US presence and foreign minister Sergey Lavrov raised the matter in a recent meeting with Mr Dendias.
The use of Alexandroupoli by the US was also a matter of concern for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who told the media he had spoken President Joe Biden telling him that the US “establishing a base there (at Alexandroupoli) bothers us and our people”.
Turkey’s more belligerent stance towards NATO allies, particularly with France which had recently signed a defence agreement with Greece, as well as its growing ties to Russia were a matter of concern for NATO.
Mr Novo said that although the MDCA was not directed against a particular country, it would offer “certain comfort for Greece in its disputes with Turkey.”
The MDCA is in place for five years and may remain in place after as long as both partners wish to maintain it.