Thursday, December 8, 2022

Amid Greece-Turkey Maritime Dispute, US OKs Almost 9.5 Billion Warships Sale, Modernization For Athens

Amid Greece-Turkey tensions, the US Department of State has approved two arms sales for Greece including new warships worth $6.9 billion and a $2.5 billion ship modernization, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said in a press release on Friday

“The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to … Greece of Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC) ships and related equipment for an estimated cost of $6.9 billion,” the agency said. “The DSCA delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale today.”

The sale will include four Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC) ships; five COMBATSS-21 Combat Management Systems; five Vertical Launch Systems (VLS), [and] 200 Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAM),” the DSCA said.

The US government has also approved a Greek request to buy equipment and services to repair, update, and enhance their four existing MEKO Class frigates at a cost of $2.5 billion, the DSCA noted in a second press release.

These upgrades will include eight Close-in Weapon Systems (CIWS) Phalanx upgrade kits; four MK 45, 5-inch 54 caliber gun overhauls; four MK 49 Guided Missile Launcher Systems; four COMBATSS-21 Combat Management Systems; and four AN/SQS-56 Sonar overhauls, the DSCA said.

Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC) | Lockheed Martin
Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC) | Lockheed Martin

Greece is building up its military strength and forming alliances as it is engaged in a bitter dispute with neighbor Turkey.

US-Greece Partnership 

Earlier in November, US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt had said that the US-Greece partnership under the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement (MDCA) poses no threat to Turkey.

On October 14, the United States and Greece signed an amendment to their existing mutual defense agreement that allows US forces to train and operate from additional locations inside Greece.

Under the agreement, Washington gains an extremely important base in Alexandroupolis. Many experts believe the deal to be directed against Russia. In turn, the Greek authorities say US bases will protect the country in case of an attack by Turkey.

Vertical launching system - Wikipedia
Vertical launching system – Wikipedia

“The alliance between the United States and Greece, as manifested in eastern Macedonia and Thrace, is not a threat to Turkey. It is about reinforcing the credibility of our alliance commitments. It is about developing Greece’s strength for NATO’s South Eastern flank and deepening the bilateral military partnership between us, which, as the new MDCA demonstrates, is stronger than it has ever been. Something that is good for Greece, good for the United States, but also good for our alliance,” Pyatt said at the 2021 Thessaloniki Summit, commenting on the concern expressed by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan over the US presence in Greece.

When asked to assess defense cooperation and strategic dialogue between Greece and the US, Pyatt said that bilateral relations are “at a peak, but not at the summit.” Pyatt said. He also announced an upcoming rotation of US troops through the port of Alexandroupolis.

“Our defense relationship, I think everybody agrees, is stronger than it has ever been. We’re going to demonstrate that in the next couple of weeks with a very large rotation of forces through Alexandroupolis,” he had said.

The MDCA became the second renewed agreement for mutual military cooperation for three years – the previous one was signed in October 2019. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece said that the agreement strengthens the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.

US-France Partnership 

Earlier in October, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had stated that the defense agreement between France and Greece can be seen as the first step towards European strategic autonomy.

Greek lawmakers ratified the landmark defense deal with France. Under the agreement, Athens will purchase three French frigates, with an option to buy one more, in 2025-2026. Additionally, the two countries committed to mutual assistance in case of an armed attack on either.

Greece and the Rafale - Press kits
Rafale aircraft for Greece – Dassault Aviation

“This historic text is being brought to the attention of Parliament, making today’s debate historic, as its adoption means shielding the country, strengthening the southern European flank of the agreement, but is also the first effort towards the strategic autonomy for Europe,” Mitsotakis was quoted as saying by the Kathimerini newspaper.

The first frigate will arrive at the Salamis Naval Base in 2025, according to the prime minister. The defense agreement between Greece and France was concluded in Paris on September 28 in the presence of Mitsotakis and French President Emmanuel Macron. The deal was signed by the ministers of defense and foreign affairs of the two countries.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias had asserted that the defense agreement between Greece and France is not directed against other countries and Turkey’s statements criticizing the deal are “completely unacceptable.”

“If Turkey is bothered by these agreements, it can only mean that it sees itself as a potential aggressor,” Dendias was quoted as saying by the Kathimerini newspaper following his meeting with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.

He further stressed that the deal with France was “pur ely defensive” and “not directed against anyone,” as quoted in the report. Dendias also noted that Greece signed a similar agreement with the United Arab Emirates last year and called Turkey’s claims “completely unacceptable.”

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