WASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute’s (AHI) policy positions on United States – Greece defense cooperation were reaffirmed during the visit of Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Athens, Greece, this week. Gen. Dunford met with Adm. Evangelos Apostolakis, chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff, at the Ministry of Defense, Sept. 4.
“It is refreshing to hear the United States’ top military official state that he welcomed seeing the Eastern Mediterranean region ‘through a Greek lens,’ gaining great benefit from the Greek perspective,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said, alluding to a Department of Defense report about the visit. “We laud the importance General Dunford placed on NSA Souda Bay and the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program’s contribution toward a deepening relationship between the United States and Greece.”
Larigakis added, “For General Dunford to gain a firsthand understanding of the regional challenges posed to Greece while stating clearly how the United States has taken advantage of Souda Bay and the base is a critical piece of the regional infrastructure – these are significant statements coming from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”
AHI has championed Greece’s strategic importance to the United States, and advocated for a strengthening of U.S.-Greece defense cooperation, with high-profile events in Washington and Athens that featured high-ranking Greek and U.S. government officials. These events also have brought together Greece’s top military officials with key representatives of the defense sector. In addition, Greece’s importance to the United States’ security interests, and NSA Souda Bay’s critical role to project those interests, are presented annually to congressional appropriators in written testimony submitted by AHI.
AHI worked with Congress to secure a much-needed boost for Greece’s International Military Education and Training (IMET) program. AHI’s written testimony to congressional appropriators supported increased investment in the program. For Fiscal Year 2018, Congress appropriated $1 million for Greece’s IMET program, the largest investment in the program. Among the many program benefits, IMET allows Greek military students to experience American culture, and IMET encourages the development of relationships with their peers (classmates) in the U.S. military. As confirmed in the Department of Defense piece, Adm. Apostolakis is an IMET “success story.”
Specific to NSA Souda Bay, AHI and Lexington Institute co-hosted a presentation on Capitol Hill that announced the release of a white paper, “Souda Bay: NATO’s Military Gem in the Eastern Mediterranean” in 2016. The rollout featured remarks by Greece’s Minister of Defense Panos Kammenos.
Greece is a frontline state in the fight against terrorism. Despite its economic difficulties, Greece continues to be of vital importance for the projection of U.S. strategic interests by its geographic location and its strong, unwavering support for NATO. Greece is home to the most important naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea, Naval Support Activity (NSA) Souda Bay, Crete—a key military facility in the Eastern Mediterranean.
“The U.S. enjoys a strong defense relationship with Greece,” Larigakis said. “Greece has been critical to the delivery of U.S. troops, cargo, and supplies, providing access and extending the U.S. and NATO's reach into the Middle East and North Africa. General Dunford’s statements underscore Souda Bay as a critical piece to the infrastructure of the region.”