Panelists Affirm Greece’s Strategic Importance to U.S.
AHI Policy Seminar Examines Geopolitical, Energy, and Defense Industry Sectors
WASHINGTON, DC —The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) hosted the policy seminar “Greece’s Strategic Importance to the United States” featuring two panels of experts who examined the topic on May 3, 2011 at the Capital Hilton, Washington, DC.
“Given recent events that have transpired in North Africa and the Middle East, we believe that this is an important and timely topic to examine,” said AHI President Nick Larigakis. “We contend Greece is undervalued as a reliable ally and strategic partner of the United States. Our expert panelists provided us with their insights and analyses in a variety of sectors in which Greece has proven its strategic importance to the United States.”
The first panel featured: Dr. Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president, Defense and Foreign Policy Studies, Cato Institute; Dennys S. Plessas, vice president, Business Development Initiatives for Europe, Middle East, Africa, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co./Lockheed Martin International S.A.; and Capt. J. Stephen Hoefel, U.S. Navy (ret.). John Sitilides, principal, Trilogy Advisors LLC, moderated the panel.
Each of the three panelists brought their unique, personal perspective to the topic.
Speaking on the topic “Greece: Washington’s Quiet, Under-Rated Partner,” Dr. Carpenter presented his criteria for determining if a country is a strategic partner of the United States: 1) substantial overlapping interest (not identical), 2) supportive of Washington’s goals wherever possible, 3) takes initiative whenever the U.S. is preoccupied or unwilling to take the lead, and 4) as a good friend, willing to tell Washington that it is wrong in certain instances and offer advice to an alternative course of action. According to Dr. Carpenter, by these criteria, Greece is a strategic partner. “Greece has been more consistent than other NATO allies, especially Turkey,” he said, citing Turkey’s increasingly independent foreign policy that is at odds with the United States’ goals. Dr. Carpenter cited examples where Greece has fulfilled each of the four criteria. He described as “most disturbing” Washington’s lack of gratitude toward Greece for the latter being a consistent strategic partner. “Washington tramples on Greece’s sensitivities,” he concluded, going as far as to say that Greece needs to be a little less accommodating to the United States.
Plessas provided an overview of Lockheed Martin’s global presence and its partnership with the Hellenic defense industry, which he described as a “mutually beneficial relationship.” He added, “The Hellenic defense industry is one of our valued allies around the world.” Plessas cited as an example $3 billion in offset credits that have been presented to Greece through F-16 programs to date. Greece’s purchase of 90 F-16s since 2000 has led to additional Lockheed Martin sales around the world. He added that Hellenic Airspace Industry (HAI) provides key components to build Lockheed Martin aircraft, and as part of the cooperation, Lockheed Martin has built Hellenic Air Force infrastructure in the form of buildings and hangars. Moreover, Plessas cited Lockheed Martin’s non-defense contributions to the partnership, including biomedical research.
In his remarks on the topic, “The Reluctant Pearls: Greece and NSA Souda Bay,” Capt. Hoefel, who was the Commanding Officer at NSA Souda Bay from 2000 to 2003, made his thoughts about Greece’s strategic importance to the United States very clear. “I feel strongly about the strategic value of Greece today and in the future,” he said, citing Greece’s geostrategic location with proximity and access to the Balkans, Middle East, and Northern Africa. “Greece is the finest strategic partner the U.S. could ever have.” He added that NSA Souda Bay is often overlooked when it comes to importance, but cited its importance post-September 11 to provide security and its ability to “morph into the lion” that supports strategic operations. Hoefel provided examples that included: 1) allowing U.S. military to arm themselves at the military complex at Marathi, 2) a joint compliance security arrangement with Greece and NSA Souda Bay, 3) providing an “air bridge” during Operation Enduring Freedom that allowed for refueling of combat aircraft (Afghanistan), and 4) the refueling of ships without incident during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“Greece stands beside it [the United States] even when it hurts,” Hoefel said, pointing to the NATO-led Kosovo conflict. Hoefel concluded his presentation by unequivocally stating that the U.S. Navy in Europe takes Greece for granted. Hoefel’s statement was in response to a question posed by AHI President Nick Larigakis during a Q&A that followed.
The seminar’s second panel featured: Doug Bandow, senior fellow, Cato Institute; Achilles G. Adamantiades, energy and environment consultant; and Gene Rossides, founder, American Hellenic Institute. Ambassador Patrick N. Theros, principal, Theros & Theros LLP and former American ambassador to Qatar, moderated the panel.
Greece’s strategic importance to the United States in the Balkans was the focus of Doug Bandow’s presentation on the topic “Greece’s Role in Stabilizing the Balkans Imbroglio.” Bandow credited Greece for being a key ally in the Balkans through the Cold War, and with the ongoing transformation in that region, Greece is still relevant today chiefly due the credibility it has in region. For example, with Kosovo, Greece is one of five European Union countries that does not recognize Kosovo. Despite expressing concerns over Kosovo’s legality, Greece maintains a peacekeeping force there. Another example is with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Greece is forthcoming with its objections on that country’s recognized name, yet Greek investment and trade to FYROM help to stabilize the region. He also cited Greece’s engagement of economic development with other nations such as Albania. Bandow also turned his focus to Greece’s foreign policy position toward Turkey. He described Greece as being “very reasonable in exercising restraint” with Turkish overflights in the Aegean Sea and cited Greece’s support of Turkey’s EU orientation.
“Greece does not get much credit for its work in the region,” Bandow concluded. “Greece is the one we turn to and is very important to promoting stability in the Balkans.”
In his presentation, “Greece – Energy Transit to the West,” Adamantiades examined Greece’s role as a transit hub for energy resources such as natural gas and petroleum. For example, Greece is an interconnector between Turkey and Italy for a transit route for natural gas, which is badly needed in Europe. Moreover, Greece is a possible alternative route for petroleum emanating from Russia to the marketplace. He cited the Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipeline project as an example. In addition, Adamantiades discussed the Mediterranean Electricity Loop, a concept to develop an energy grid from where electricity would be directed to Europe from abundant areas. “Greece will be an important transit route for this too,” he said. In sum, Adamantiades believes “Greece is situated on a critical path for energy imports” and can potential serve multiple routes for energy transit.
AHI Founder Rossides concluded the second panel and the seminar with a presentation titled “Greece or Turkey: Does It Make a Difference?” He examined the reliability of Greece and Turkey as allies to the United States throughout the 20th and 21st centuries and concluded that Turkey is an unreliable ally. As a most recent example, Rossides referenced Turkey’s refusal to allow the United States to open second front in Iraq. Turkey stated it required an additional $6 billion to the $26 billion already offered irresponsibly by the Bush administration to open the front, prompting a former Bush administration official to call Turkey’s negotiating tactics as “extortion in the name of alliance.” In addition, Rossides pointed to Turkey’s pro-Iranian policy, which is an antithesis to U.S. policy on Iran; Turkey’s support of the Sudan’s genocide-denying president, who was indicted for crimes against humanity; and Turkey’s public attack on Israel for its actions in Gaza, including the flotilla incident. Finally, Rossides cited examples during the Cold War where Turkey sided with the Soviet Union, including allowing the Soviets to utilize the Dardanelles and Turkish airspace.
Introductory remarks for the policy seminar were provided by Mr. Ioannis Vrailas, deputy chief of mission, Embassy of Greece, who represented Ambassador Vassilis Kaskarelis; and Col. Taxiarchis Sardellis, defense attaché, Embassy of Greece. They both stressed Greece’s strategic importance broadly due to its location, ability to provide peace and security in the region, and for decades of fighting side-by-side with the United States.
Policy Seminar Photos
The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) is a non-profit Greek American think-tank and public policy center that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.
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Panelists Affirm Greece’s Strategic Importance to U.S.