In the midst of Mediterranean tensions, the United States and Greece are strengthening their defense ties.
At a time when tensions with Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean are high, Greece expanded a defense agreement with the United States on Thursday, only days after ratifying a separate treaty with France.
Despite President Joe Biden’s administration’s expanding focus on Asia, the pact struck in Washington symbolizes a strengthening of US relations with a longtime European partner.
Greece and the United States agreed to extend the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement for another five years, with the understanding that it will stay in place indefinitely after that unless either country offers a two-year notice.
The extension also continues an increase of access for US forces in Greece, with the NATO facility at Souda Bay serving as a major hub.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who signed the deal, referred to Greece as a “strong and loyal ally” and cited the NATO partner’s help in Afghanistan.
Although neither Blinken nor Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias specifically addressed Turkey, Athens initiated an ambitious military procurement program last year following a maritime confrontation with the NATO ally.
“Greece is facing a casus belli, a danger of war if it uses its sovereign rights in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Dendias added, “and, I have to say, Greece is suffering daily provocation.”
He stated, “Greece is dedicated to resolving issues through diplomacy and always in conformity with international law.”
“We understand that the United States is more busy with issues in other regions of the world,” he said, expressing gratitude for the US commitment.
The Greek parliament had approved a large defense deal with France a week before, with Athens paying three billion euros ($3.5 billion) for three frigates.
The agreement was revealed as France continues to recover from the loss of a major submarine contract to Australia, which stated that it need US nuclear technology due to escalating tensions with China.
The deal with France, according to Dendias, would “help to strengthening NATO’s European pillar” and promote “fairer burden-sharing between the two sides of the Atlantic.”
Last year, tensions rose when Turkey dispatched an exploratory ship and a small navy flotilla to undertake research in areas that Greece claims under treaties.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, has advocated a legal division of Cyprus, which Ankara invaded in 1974 in retaliation for a coup orchestrated by Greece’s military regime.