US set to expand Military Presence in Greece amid tensions with Turkey

US Greece allies

US Greece allies

The U.S. military is planning to expand its presence in Greece as both Washington and Athens' relationship with Turkey deteriorates. The U.S. hopes to closely collaborate with Athens to increase access for their U.S. aircraft and ships, and increase joint exercises in Greece, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford said on Tuesday, during his official two-day visit.

“If you look at geography, and you look at current operations in Libya, and you look at current operation in Syria, you look at potential other operations in the eastern Mediterranean, the geography of Greece and the opportunities here are pretty significant,” Dunford said.

U.S. officials said no specific bases have been identified, but that Supreme Allied Commander Europe Army General Curtis Scaparrotti is evaluating several options for increased U.S. flight training, port calls to do forward-based ship repairs and additional multilateral exercises.

“Those are discussions that General Scap and others are having right now, as they look around the region in terms of where they want to put forces” within the next five to 10 years, one official said.

The expanded U.S. presence comes as Greece also faces increasing uncertainty over its relationships with Russia and Turkey, the official said.

Greece has “been looking around this neighborhood and recognizing the same instability ... that we have" the official said. “They’ve always had a nervousness about their NATO ally Turkey.”

Later this week, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is due to visit an annual trade fair in northern Greece, along with Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who is chairman of the Senate committee of homeland security and subcommittee on European and regional security cooperation.