US sailors and Marines aboard the USS Arlington visited the Greek port of Alexandroupoli in late May.
They seemed to enjoy their stay. Local media reported that they had overwhelmed many restaurants.
The visit reflects the US military’s growing interest in Greece amid growing tension in the region.
In late May, the US Navy amphibious transport dock USS Arlington arrived in the Greek city of Alexandroupoli for a port visit.
The 1,500 officers and enlisted marines aboard the ship spent three days in the northeastern Greek city, and during their stay they are said to have eaten all the eggs of Alexandroupoli.
Giorgos Alavantas, a restaurant owner, said 6,000 to 7,000 eggs were eaten during a day of visiting the United States. “In other words, we don’t have eggs,” Alavantas said, according to local media.
“I serve 16 different types of meat in my restaurant, and they have tried them all,” Georgios Davis, former president of the Alexandroupoli hotel association, told the Greek newspaper. Kathimerini.
The visit by Sailors and Marines comes amid expanding cooperation between the U.S. and Greek militaries, and it highlights the growing importance of the southeastern corner of Europe in the United States and the NATO alliance.
A safety knot in the Aegean Sea
Alexandroupoli is close to Greece’s border with Bulgaria and Turkey and about 60 miles from the Dardanelles, the maritime entrance to the Black Sea.
The city’s location and its expanding road and rail network provide an overland route around the Bosphorus and allow quick access to the Black Sea, the Balkans, and other destinations. around NATO’s southeast flank.
Alexandroupoli’s importance cemented in updated Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement signed between Greece and the United States in October. Under the agreement, the United States received priority access to the port, which was especially valuable amid the war in Ukraine.
“This access allows us to continue to provide military assistance to Ukraine and counter malicious actors and to exercise and operate in the Balkans, Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea region,” the Defense Secretary said. Lloyd Austin. said during a recent visit by the Greek Minister of Defense to Washington DC.
Increased US presence aims to support NATO allies in the region and counter Russian influence in part of Europe where Moscow traditionally dominates because of ethnic and economic ties.
“Greece is a key hub to sustain and…project the Allied presence in a region facing various forms of revisionism,” Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said. said while he was in Washington.
Since October 2021, the United States has landed equipment and troops at Alexandroupoli on numerous occasions, including what were its two largest landing operations in Greece ever.
The port was also used for exercises and supported the regular rotation of American troops and equipment in Europe as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
On August 3, the president of the Port Authority of Alexandroupoli announcement that the Italian army will use the port to transport equipment to Europe. Britain is also considering doing the same.
Cut off Russian gas
Alexandroupoli also plays a role in European energy security, with plans to build a floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) for offshore liquefied natural gas a few kilometers south of the city.
The city’s FSRU facility will be part of the EU’s Southern Energy Corridor, an initiative to bring Azeri gas through Turkey to Europe and help the continent decouple from Russian natural gas.
“As Europe now moves quickly to reduce its vulnerability to Russian energy blackmail and move away from Russian gas, the FSRU in Alexandroupoli is becoming increasingly important,” said Geoffrey Pyatt, then U.S. Ambassador to Russia. Greece. said in May.
Not everyone is happy with the growing geostrategic importance of Alexandroupoli.
A pressure point
Both Russia and Turkey have expressed dissatisfaction with the increased US presence in Alexandroupoli.
In December, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov Told Greek media said that “the problem is very simple. More and more NATO and US troops are gathering in your territory. Hundreds, thousands of units of military equipment are being transported through Alexandroupoli” .
“It worries us, you have to understand us,” he added.
Greece had maintained a working relationship with Russia, but Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and Athens’ support for Kyiv led to their relationship souring. Each expelled some of the others diplomatsand Russia Greece recently declared a hostile state.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also expressed his opposition to the American presence. “Establishing a base there bothers us and our people,” Erdogan reportedly said told President Joe Biden in October, shortly before the United States and Greece signed the updated Defense Cooperation Agreement.
Greece and Turkey are both NATO allies but have differences over a number of issues. Their relationship has deteriorated further in recent months, following the challenge from Turkey of the sovereignty of a number of Greek islands.
In June, Erdogan reiterated his opposition to US bases in Greece. “Against whom were they established? The answer they give is ‘against Russia’. We don’t buy it”, Erdoğan said.
The US military is currently using a Greek army base near Alexandroupoli and has yet to establish its own base in the city. However, as Alexandroupoli’s infrastructure grows and tensions in the region escalate, its importance will only increase.
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