May 6, 2019, Pentagon, Athens, Greece
On May 6, 2019, the Greek Minister of National Defense, Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, awarded President Larigakis Medal of Honor and Valour for his work to strengthen US-Greek defense cooperation. The ceremony took place at the Pentagon in Athens in the presence of the Alternate Minister of National Defence Panos Rigas, the Chief of Hellenic National Defense General Staff, General Christos Christodoulou, the Chief of Hellenic Navy General Staff, Vice Admiral Nikolaos Tsounis, the Chief of Hellenic Army General Staff, Lt General Georgios Kampas, the Chief of Hellenic Air Force General Staff Lt General Georgios Blioumis, AHI Board Members, Dr. Athina Balta, Kostas Alexakis and Leon Andris, AHI Athens Chapter President George Economou, Vice President Vasilis Kyriazis, George Mermelas, and Katerina Papathanasiou.
“This award, has special importance for me because of where it came from,” said President Larigakis. “It was awarded by an exceptional and inspired leader, Minister Apostolakis, in the presence of the Hellenic Armed Forces Leadership, constituted by individuals of unique talent, effectiveness and determination, ready, willing and able, under the guidance of General Christodoulou, to maintain and strengthen Greece’s leadership in preserving peace, security and stability in the Balkans and wider Mediterranean region, a vital US foreign policy and security interest.”
During his 30 years of service at AHI, Larigakis has maintained close personal contact with key Greek Defense officials including past and present Ministers of Defense, the Leadership of the Hellenic Armed Forces, the Defense Attache Mission in the United States, Ambassador of Greece to the United States, Haris Lalacos and his predecessors as well as key US policy makers, enabling him to receive high level briefings during officials’ visits to the Hellenic House and Larigakis’ multiple annual trips to Greece. During the past year Minister Apostolakis, Lt. General Nikolaos Manouris, Deputy Chief of the Hellenic Army General Staff (HAGS), and former Minister of Defense Panos Kammenos, visited the Hellenic House in Washington, DC, commending AHI initiatives under Larigakis’ leadership.
Larigakis’ key contacts have enabled him not only to have an in-depth knowledge of the defense capabilities and activities of the two countries and potentials for US-Greek Defense Cooperation, but to also organize strategic private meetings and defense events in Washington and Athens for high-ranking Greek and U.S. government officials. Many of these events have brought together Greece’s top military officials with key representatives of the defense industry and think tanks such as the private roundtable discussion AHI facilitated for Admiral Apostolakis at the Atlantic Council in October of 2018.
Fundamental in AHI’s strategy for raising awareness of Greece’s importance for US strategic interests was the release of two white papers. “U.S. Policy and the Strategic Relationship of Greece, Cyprus, and Israel: Power Shifts in the Eastern Mediterranean” written in cooperation with Hudson Institute, was fundamental for drawing the attention of US policy makers and the Greek-American Lobby on Greece’s role within the context of the value the eastern Mediterranean possesses to energy security. “Souda Bay: NATO’s Military Gem in the Eastern Mediterranean,” which provided an in depth understanding of the Strategic importance of Souda Bay for the US and NATO, was presented on Capitol Hill in cooperation with Lexington Institute in February of 2016, in the presence of the Greek Minister of Defense at the time, Panos Kammenos.
AHI regularly publishes updated fact sheets of Greece’s Contributions to joint U.S./NATO missions, the latest of which was released in March 14, 2019. Furthermore, President Larigakis’ contribution to the annual Hellenic Armed Forces Day Celebration in Washington, DC (for which he was honored ) has enabled the Hellenic Armed Forces to create an additional platform raising awareness of Greece’s strategic importance to other NATO and US friends and allies.
On the Hill, AHI’s strong advocacy is reflected in President Larigakis’ annual Congressional Testimony to the Appropriations Committee. In 2018 AHI’s advocacy efforts for NSA Souda Bay’s geostrategic importance to the national security interests of the United States came to fruition with the enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019 (NDAA). The Act authorized $47.85 million in military construction funding for NSA Souda Bay. Due to AHI’s efforts, Congress appropriated a significant increase to Greece’s IMET expenditures (Military education for the Hellenic Armed Forces), the main program the State Department finances for Greece. For FY18, Congress provided $1 million for the program. Recognizing AHI’s successful advocacy on the Hill the Co-chairs of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), and Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) recently stated: “From the hands of legendary Gene Rossides to Nick Larigakis’ leadership today, AHI continues to set the standard of passionate, reasoned education and advocacy. For the 20-plus years of our Caucus’ existence, AHI has been a principal contributor and advisor that has significantly helped shape the Eastern Mediterranean geopolitical landscape.”
The Medal awarded today well reflects President Larigakis’ decades of hard work which has contributed to increased engagement between the US and Greek military, higher US investment for continued modernization of the Hellenic Armed Forces and improved US access to bases and facilities in order to enhance interoperability with the US/NATO. On the private sector side, President Larigakis has facilitated market access opportunities for the US defense industry in Greece as well as opportunities for Greek companies interested in sourcing US products or services.
In the words of Geoffrey Pyatt, US Ambassador to Greece: “I want to recognize in particular AHI’s and Nick’s leadership in highlighting the defense and security aspects of our relationship, including their essential advocacy to support our IMET and security assistance programs, and the open door that AHI has offered to Greek military leaders visiting Washington.” “Nick and the team put together tremendous programs for Admiral Apostolakis, General Stefanis, Admiral Tsounis, all of our key partners… But these are examples of AHI’s truly unique role as a facilitator of the strategic relationship between the United States and Greece.” “Congrats to Nick Larigakis on the award from the Hellenic MOD recognizing his leadership in supporting our defense ties.”
Recent AHI Initiatives under Leadership of President Larigakis Strengthening US-Greek Defense Cooperation
AHI Lobbying the US Government: Advocacy Objectives Achieved
No Foreign Aid to Turkey says AHI to Senate Appropriations Subcommittee| April 11th, 2019
Government Funding Act Contains AHI Policy Objectives| February 18th, 2019
Larigakis: Joint Chiefs Chairman’s Statements Reaffirm AHI’s Policy Positions| September 20th, 2018
AHI Submits Testimony to House Appropriators on FY2019 Foreign Aid to Eastern Mediterranean| Testimony submitted on April 20, 2018, Press Release published on April 20, 2018
Letter to NATO Secretary General to Address Turkey’s Behavior| March 23, 2018
Letter to President Trump to Condemn Turkish Aggression| February 27th, 2018
AHI White Papers and Reports Promoting Strategic Importance of Greece
Strengthening US-Greek Defense Cooperation Efforts at the Hellenic House
AHI Welcomes Chief of the Hellenic Armed Forces to Hellenic House| Event took place on May 2nd, 2018, Press Release published on May 7, 2018
Greece's Defense Minister Commends AHI During Visit to Hellenic House| Event took place on Oct. 10th, 2018, press release published on Oct. 11th, 2018
Military Chiefs of Greece, Cyprus Hosted by AHI| Events took place on Oct. 17, 2018, press release published on Oct. 22nd, 2018
Deputy Chief of the Hellenic Army Visits Hellenic House |Event took place on Nov. 6th, 2018, press release published on Nov. 13th, 2018
State Department Officials Visit AHI’s Hellenic House|Events took place on Oct. 3rd & Oct. 6th, 2018, Press Release published on Oct. 19th, 2018
AHI Meetings with key Defense Officials in Greece
Joint Three-Country Leadership Mission: Jan. 14 to 19, 2018 |January 11, 2018
AHI Conducts Annual Trip to Greece, Cyprus| June 5, 2018
Landmark Tenth Annual AHIF Foreign Policy Trip to Greece, Cyprus a Success| September 12, 2018
AHI End Year Trip| December 21, 2018
AHI January Oversees Trip| February 8, 2019