ATHENΑ 21: US Ambassador talks Greece, Defence and Security Relations at Hellenic Air Force Academy

ATHENΑ 21: US Ambassador talks Greece, Defence and Security Relations at Hellenic Air Force Academy 1

The US Ambassador to Greece Mr Geoffrey Pyatt visited yesterday  the Hellenic Air Force Academy, where he spoke at the “ATHENA 21” Crisis Management Conference, organised by the General Staff of National Defence under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of National Defence.

On the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, I was honored to join @nhardalias @ChiefHNDGS & reaffirm the US commitment to our alliance w/Greece as we advance our shared vision for peace & prosperity in the East Med, Black Sea & beyond. ” wrote Pyatt on his twitter account.

In his speech, the US ambassador referred to the ongoing talks between Greece and the United States regarding the supply of F-35s by the Air Force.

“The United States and Greece also continue discussions for the procurement of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Greece’s future F-35 program. While the Greek government controls the timing of these procurements, the United States, at the highest levels, has welcomed Greece’s plan to acquire the F-35 for the Hellenic Air Force which would enhance Greece’s defense capabilities, ensure interoperability with U.S. Armed Forces and improve regional stability.”

Ambassador Pyatt concluded his speech by referring to the “deepening bilateral cooperation with Greece which is making NATO stronger. It strengthens transatlantic institutions and the rules-based international order upon which our collective prosperity and security depend. And I know that our countries, the region, and the wider international community will be safer, more secure and prosperous thanks to this enduring alliance and partnership.”

 

Following are is the full speech by Ambassador Pyatt at the Hellenic Air Force Academy:

Καλημέρα σας. It’s great to be back here at the Hellenic Air Force Academy to join you for this important discussion on how we can work together to strengthening stability, security and prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean and beyond.

And I want to start this morning by thanking our outstanding allies from the Ministry of Defense, of course Deputy Minister Chardalias, General Floros, all the Chiefs, General Lalousis, General Blioumis, Admiral Petrakis for your partnership.

I was in Naples yesterday with our U.S. Navy leadership, and had the opportunity again to hear directly from Admiral Black in the United States 6th Fleet just how much value they place on the extraordinarily strong relationship with our Greek Allies.

It is also a great honor to be here with Parliament President Tasoulas, Metropolitan Athenagoras, Minister Syrigos, and of course my good friend EU Vice President Schinas.

I always enjoy hearing from President Tasoulas and his encyclopedic knowledge of Greek political history, including the story he told today about Greece’s NATO application.

And in that spirit, I will point out that 80 years ago today, the foundations of democracy were shaken when the Imperial Japanese Navy audaciously attacked America at Pearl Harbor and other locations in Hawaii. 2,403 American service members and civilians were killed that day. Our Pacific Fleet was devastated. It was, by any measure, a horrific day, and one that justifiably continues to live in infamy.

So today we honor the patriots who perished in that attack. And we should remember the courageous work and sacrifices that our Greatest Generation who helped lead not just our country but the whole world through some of its darkest hours, as we rose together, in testament to America’s — and to the world’s — resilience, working with our partners and allies, including Greece, to defeat the Axis powers and lay the foundations for an international system based on shared democratic values that we all enjoy and continue to prosper from today.

Global challenges to that rules-based international order that our nations fought so hard to build – whether that’s recovering from the pandemic, confronting the climate crisis, or dealing with anti-democratic regimes that threaten peace – make the United States’ alliance with Greece — and our continued innovation and resilience in the face of such challenges — more important now than ever before.

And as ongoing events just north of us in the Black Sea region remind, Greece lives in a rough neighborhood.

As my boss, Secretary of State Blinken, and Foreign Minister Dendias underscored in Washington when they met for our countries’ third Strategic Dialogue, the U.S.-Greece relationship is at an all-time high. And I’m proud to say that we’re growing stronger together each day.

President Biden has made clear his personal commitment to take this relationship to even greater heights. The entire U.S. government shares that objective. And, as the U.S. Ambassador to Greece, this is a commitment that I, along with my team, work daily to realize and to advance.

Our relationship with Greece today spans the full range of geopolitical, security, economic, cultural and educational cooperation, all of which is anchored in our Strategic Dialogue, our recently updated Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement, and our shared commitment to the transatlantic relationship.

The MDCA framework has strengthened and advanced our common defense and strategic interests for more than three decades. It enshrines our countries’ commitment to address the security challenges of today and tomorrow through that strategic relationship, while deepening and expanding our partnership to maintain strong, capable, and interoperable forces. Our alliance strengthens NATO and coalition operations, making this region safer and more secure.

Long before our countries were united in the Second World War, American philhellenes fought shoulder to shoulder with Greece in its struggle for independence and to protect the birthplace of democracy. This year, we’re celebrating together 200 years of friendship and the shared passion for these democratic values that have united our countries ever since.

As this year comes to a close, it’s a good moment to reflect on everything that the United States and Greece have achieved working together to advance our shared vision for peace, stability, and prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean, Western Balkans, the Black Sea and beyond.

And, as we showed during World War II, and so many times before and since, I’m confident that there is no limit to what the United States, Greece, and our European partners and Allies can achieve when we work together, ever deepening and strengthening our transatlantic partnership.

To advance our shared strategic goals, the United States and Greece are deepening cooperation across multiple pillars of collaboration as enshrined in our Strategic Dialogue, including: defense and security; law enforcement and counterterrorism; regional cooperation; trade and investment; and energy and climate.

And in the spirt of this year in review, I’d like to share with you some of the highlights of this cooperation.

Defense and Security

The standout, of course, is defense and security. The United States’ defense and security relationship with Greece has grown dramatically over the last several years. And I’m very proud and honored to have had the opportunity during my tenure as U.S. Ambassador to work closely with so many of you in this room to advance that extraordinary growth.

The United States views Greece as a key partner in achieving U.S. and NATO security priorities in the Eastern Mediterranean and southeastern Europe.

Our defense and security relationship enjoys strong bipartisan support across the U.S. government in Washington as most recently demonstrated by the introduction of the Menendez-Rubio U.S.-Greece Defense and Interparliamentary Partnership Act of 2021, and of course our updated MDCA.

The volume of our bilateral and multinational exercises with Greece is growing by the day. It has rapidly expanded in both scope and size, and now includes participation in 15 major annual named exercises.

Just last week, I was able to join Minister Panagiotopoulos, General Floros, General Lalousis, and many others at the Port of Alexandroupoli to highlight all of the great work we’re doing there and to welcome the next Combat Aviation Brigade from the U.S. Army’s 1st Cavalry Division rotating into Greece in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

We made history there again with the largest transfer of U.S. military equipment through that port ever, underscoring Alexandroupoli’s ever expanding strategic role and the importance for the United States and the region.

In 2021 alone, Alexandroupoli has welcomed nine major vessels, which have supported the deployment and redeployment of 165 tracked vehicles, 135 helicopters and over 2,500 pieces of cargo. The development of this port provides our alliance with a key gateway to the Western Balkans, Eastern Europe, and Black Sea while strengthening NATO’s efforts to deter and defend.

Through Atlantic Resolve, the recent Joint Combined Exercise Training (JCET) between our countries’ Special Forces, the Hellenic TANK CHALLENGE with our Armies, the collaboration of our Air Forces in CASTLE FORGE and INIOCHOS, and so many others, we are showing the world that the United States and Greece stand together in support of regional peace and stability, while underscoring our iron-clad commitment to NATO.

And I know there is much more that we can do together. As I like to say, we’ve reached a peak, but we are not yet at the summit.

While Alexandroupoli has attracted significant attention, Souda Bay continues to serve as a lynchpin of our air and sea operations. From Syria to Libya and the Black Sea, this critically important asset helps us leverage our air force, naval, and other resources to support the Alliance obligations while advancing our shared goals for peace and stability.

Souda, for instance, supported the JCET training I just mentioned, showcasing the MK-V Special Operations Craft the Hellenic Navy acquired last year through our Excess Defense Article program.

Thanks to the MDCA upgrade, we’ve been able to home port at Souda the USS Herschel “Woody” Williams expeditionary platform ship. Taking advantage of Souda’s strategic location, the Herschel “Woody” Williams can conduct AFRICOM missions in the Mediterranean and the waters around East, South, and West Africa.

The daily cooperation of American and Greek forces at Souda Bay, which supports more than 800 active duty and civilian U.S. Navy personnel, is a force multiplier throughout the region, strengthening operational readiness, logistics, and training while helping to project American power.

Investments also play a critical role advancing the U.S.-Greece defense relationship. The United States welcomes the fact that Greece continues to surpass its Wales Pledges in terms of spending 2 percent of its GDP on defense expenditures and 20 percent of its defense budget on major equipment acquisitions.

Just last week, the day before we traveled together to Alexandroupoli, I was honored to join Minister Panagiotopoulos and General Floros to welcome the arrival of the first 44 of 1,200 M1117 Armored Security Vehicles the United States is providing to Greece under our Excess Defense Article program.

When completed, this transfer of 1,200 vehicles will reflect a total acquisition cost of USD 970 million which Greece is receiving at no cost. This underscores the unwavering commitment of the U.S. government to our alliance with the Hellenic Republic and our commitment to strengthening the interoperability and capability of our forces, in turn empowering NATO.

The United States continues to work closely with Greece on major defense program investments, including the upgrade of F-16s to the VIPER configuration, P-3B and S-70B aircraft modernization, and the purchase of seven MH-60 Romeo maritime surveillance helicopters.

The United States and Greece also continue discussions for the procurement of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Greece’s future F-35 program. While the Greek government controls the timing of these procurements, the United States, at the highest levels, has welcomed Greece’s plan to acquire the F-35 for the Hellenic Air Force which would enhance Greece’s defense capabilities, ensure interoperability with U.S. Armed Forces and improve regional stability.

Regional Cooperation

Speaking of regional stability, let me turn for a minute from our defense relationship to regional cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean and beyond. In this, I want to underline, in particular, the United States’ strong support for Greece’s increasingly ambitious foreign policy agenda.

The United States applauds Greece’s leadership and stabilizing role in the Western Balkans. The Thessaloniki Vision is more real today than ever before thanks in large part to the courage that the governments of Greece and North Macedonia have showed in pursuing the Prespes Agreement.

Greece has become a major champion for North Macedonia and Albania’s EU accession. Greece, like the United States, knows that EU accession is the key to guarantee a stable, more secure and prosperous region. And its advocacy will help ensure that all the Balkan countries advance on the Euro-Atlantic path.

We also support Greece’s efforts to chart a new geography of cooperation between NATO, the EU, and key regional partners to help them advance our shared security, energy and economic goals.

Greece reopened its Embassy in Tripoli and was the first European country to open a consulate in Benghazi last July. It has also pledged to help Libya stabilize and, like the United States, supports the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Libya and elections at the end of this month.

Greece is deploying a Patriot air defense system to Saudi Arabia to protect energy facilities. And the visit of Indian External Affairs Minister Jaishankar to Athens in June was the first such visit in 18 years, furthering Greece’s strategy of strengthening ties beyond its immediate neighborhood, into the Indo-Pacific.

The United States also welcomes Greece’s efforts to bolster cooperation across a range of key sectors like energy diversification, climate and counterterrorism through the 3+1 format between Greece, Cyprus, Israel and the United States.

Climate and Energy

And speaking of climate, as my former boss and current Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, Secretary John Kerry, underscored with world leaders at Glasgow for COP 26, climate change is the great challenge of our age and needs to be a factor in our national security compass. But it’s also an opportunity for us to make historic advancements in global prosperity and improve the quality of life.

I’m confident that the very close alignment between the Biden-Harris administration and Prime Minister Mitsotakis’s government on our climate and green economy goals will create many more opportunities for us to advance U.S.-Greece collaboration, just as our countries have joined forces in the past to confront other global challenges.

We applaud Prime Minister Mitsotakis’s leadership on climate. And I’m proud to note that Greece has one of the most ambitious climate change agendas in the EU, including Prime Minister Mitsotakis’s plan to phase out all coal-powered electricity by 2028 at the latest.

We all must be ambitious and concerted in our actions, because we are all in this together. When Greece, and especially Deputy Minister Chardalias, faced catastrophic wildfires in August, the United States was proud to join several other countries in providing assistance. A U.S. Navy P-8 reconnaissance aircraft provided timely and detailed updates on the severity and nature of the fires, helping the Hellenic Fire Service to save lives.

We’ve also worked closely with the Greek Fire Brigade, Ministry of Environment, and the U.S. Forest Service to identify needs for technical assistance and training in areas such as reforestation and proactive defense of fires to help Greece recover and to strengthen our countries’ preparedness for the future.

Our work on climate, of course, is integrally related to our countries’ collaboration on energy. And I’m proud to say that energy cooperation continues to be a guiding star of the U.S.-Greece relationship.

Working with the United States, Greece is redrawing the energy map of southeast Europe, advancing our shared national security interests and regional energy diversification goals while reducing dependence on Russian gas.

The Trans-Adriatic Pipeline began operating in 2020. The Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria is targeted for operation in mid-2022. And planning is underway for a new gas interconnector between Greece and North Macedonia. The U.S.-invested Floating Storage Regasification Unit in Alexandroupoli, targeted for completion in 2023, will create even more opportunities for alternative suppliers of energy.

Trade and Investment

Then on trade and investment. Whether through expanding defense investments, fueling growth in the energy sector or driving Greece’s digital revolution, the United States is proudly working with Greece to strengthen and open economic opportunities for both of our countries while helping to accelerate brain gain and make Greece an attractive destination for international investment.

Greece’s reform progress has led to a surge in U.S. investment in Greece’s tech sector. Just a week ago, Amazon Web Services selected Greece as one of 21 countries to launch what they call Local Zones in 2022, another big step in our thriving tech relationship. Microsoft’s decision to invest hundreds of millions in a series of data centers around Attica is another marquee investment by U.S. firms that have warmly welcomed Greece’s policy approach.

Other leading American companies like Pfizer, Cisco, Digital Realty, Google, Deloitte, and Applied Materials are all expanding their footprint in Greece, reflecting significant confidence in the future of Greece’s economic recovery and encouraging American industry leaders in other sectors to do the same.

Conclusion

Finally, I want to say a word about our remarkable people-to-people ties, forged over two centuries of shared commitment to defend and advance democratic values.

Whether in our common struggle for independence, our fight against the forces that have threatened the values we hold most dear, standing together in every major conflict of the 20th century, or partnering to innovate and emerge even stronger from the assaults of a global pandemic — when the United States and Greece work together, there is little that we cannot accomplish.

In sum, our deepening bilateral cooperation with Greece is making NATO stronger. It strengthens transatlantic institutions and the rules-based international order upon which our collective prosperity and security depend. And I know that our countries, the region, and the wider international community will be safer, more secure and prosperous thanks to this enduring alliance and partnership.

Zito i Ellada! Zito i Ameriki! Efcharisto poli.

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