The bill aims to ensure that Greece remains a “pillar” of stability in the Eastern Mediterranean region and that the United States remain committed to supporting its security and prosperity.

By Vangelis Chorafas

U.S. Senators Bob Menendez, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and Marco Rubio are proposing the introduction of new legislation aimed at bolstering the United States’ defense partnership with Greece.

The proposed bill’s objective is to bolster support for the modernization of the Greek military, authorizing new transfers of US military equipment and promoting increased multilateral engagement between Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and the United States.

The draft bill aims to:

– Ensure that Greece remains a “pillar” of stability in the Eastern Mediterranean region and that the United States remain committed to supporting its security and prosperity.

– Make certain that the US support the sale of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to Greece and include those F-35 aircraft produced for but never delivered to Turkey, as a result of Turkey’s exclusion from the program due to its purchase of the Russian S- 400 anti-aircraft system.

Bolster investments in strategic infrastructure projects, such as shipyards and ports, ramp up investments in the Hellenic armed forces, and promote joint exercises with the US military.

– Acknowledge the importance of Cyprus, Greece and Israel in ensuring regional stability and foster investment in joint maritime security exercises in the Eastern Mediterranean.

These are the main points highlighted by the mainstream media.

THE KEY POINTS

The draft bill’s key points of interest, which demonstrate the great importance of Greece for the USA, are the following:

– The amended Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement provides for increased joint United States-Greece and NATO activities at Greek military bases and facilities in Larissa, Stefanovikeio, Alexandroupolis, and other parts of central and northern Greece, and allows for infrastructure improvements at the United States Naval Support Activity Souda Bay base on Crete.

– The United States Naval Support Activity Souda Bay serves as a critical naval logistics hub for the United States Navy’s 6th Fleet.

– In June 2020, United States Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt characterized the importance of Naval Support Activity Souda Bay as ‘‘our most important platform for the projection of American power into a strategically dynamic Eastern Mediterranean region. From Syria to Libya to the chokepoint of the Black Sea, this is a critically important asset for the United States, as our air force, naval, and other resources are applied to support our Alliance obligations and to help bring peace and stability.’’.

– The United States should support the sale of F–35 Joint Strike Fighters to Greece

The Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement with Greece should be extended and include deepened partnerships at Greek military facilities throughout the country, and, as appropriate and necessary, the United States should partner with Greece in order to increase rotational deployments and presences of forward-based troops at Greek bases.

These are the key points that concern the United States and could scale up its military capabilities. However, these points do not indicate that Greece’s military capabilities will be enhanced as well.

THE NEXT STEPS

As long as this bill remains in the field of good intentions and political verbalism, it is in danger of becoming trapped in those.

Greece’s main points of interest are:

First of all, if the Defense Agreement with the USA is signed, it should be accompanied by high annual financial aid and not only by loans for the purchase of weapons systems. Greece will definitely not ensure the large amounts that Israel and Egypt receive as an annual military aid, but in any case, the government is obliged to negotiate. The annual $ 25 million provided for in the bill for the 2022-2026 period concern the replacement of weapons systems coming from the eastern arsenal and should be included in the total amount that will be negotiated by the government.

Second, if the Hellenic Air Force wants the F-35 aircraft, they have to be new, from Block 4 and onwards. Greece has no reason to accept the former Turkish F-35s that are older.

Third, if Turkey finds points of rapprochement with the US and the S-400 issue is resolved, then they are expected to return to the F-35 program. Thus, a crucial part of the said bill could become inactive.

Bob Menendez is a politician who has been close to Greece for many years. But he is still an American politician. And the bill he introduced promotes American interests in the region. The decisions, however, are made by the American government.

Nevertheless, the American government doesn’t wish to overturn the balances between Greece and Turkey, that is, it will probably not change the power relations in the region, in favor of Greece. It has no reason to do so.