Sailors and Marines from USS Arlington and the twenty second Marine Expeditionary Unit prepare with the Greek army on Could 17, 2022.US Navy picture

  • US sailors and Marines aboard USS Arlington visited the Greek port of Alexandroupoli in late Could.

  • They appeared to get pleasure from their keep — native media reported that they overwhelmed many eating places.

  • The go to displays the US army’s growing curiosity in Greece amid rising stress within the area.

On the finish of Could, US Navy amphibious transport dock USS Arlington arrived within the Greek metropolis of Alexandroupoli for a port name.

The 1,500 officers and enlisted Marines aboard the ship spent three days within the northeastern Greek metropolis, and through their keep they reportedly ate all of Alexandroupoli’s eggs.

Giorgos Alavantas, a restaurant proprietor, stated 6,000 to 7,000 eggs had been eaten throughout sooner or later of the US go to. “In different phrases, we do not have eggs,” Alavantas stated, based on native media.

“I serve 16 various kinds of meat at my restaurant, they usually tried all of them,” Georgios Davis, a former president of the Alexandroupoli hospitality affiliation, instructed Greek newspaper Kathimerini.

The go to by sailors and Marines comes amid increasing cooperation between the US and Greek militaries, and it highlights the growing significance of Europe’s southeastern nook to the US and to the NATO alliance.

A safety node within the Aegean

US Army M1A2 tank in port at Alexandroupoli, Greece

A US Military M1A2 tank is unloaded in Alexandroupoli, July 20, 2021.US Military/Andre Cameron

Alexandroupoli is near Greece’s border with Bulgaria and Turkey and about 60 miles from the Dardanelles, the maritime entryway to the Black Sea.

Town’s location and its increasing street and railroad community present a land route across the Bosporus and permit fast entry to the Black Sea, the Balkans, and different locations round NATO’s southeastern flank.

The importance of Alexandroupoli was cemented within the up to date Mutual Protection Cooperation Settlement signed between Greece and the US in October. Beneath the settlement, the US acquired precedence entry to the port, which has been particularly useful amid the struggle in Ukraine.

“That entry permits us to proceed to offer army help to Ukraine and to counter malign actors and train and function within the Balkans and Japanese Mediterranean and the Black Sea area,” Secretary of Protection Lloyd Austin stated throughout a current go to by the Greek protection minister to Washington DC.

US sailors Alexandroupolis Greece

Sailors from USS Arlington current a plaque to John Bogdis, basic secretary for the municipality of Alexandroupoli, throughout a community-relations venture, Could 23, 2022.US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Cameron Ross

The elevated US presence is supposed to assist NATO allies within the area and to counter Russia’s affect in part of Europe the place Moscow has historically held sway due to ethnic and financial ties.

“Greece is a key hub for supporting and … projecting allied presence in a area dealing with varied types of revisionism,” Greek Protection Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos stated whereas in Washington.

Since October 2021, the US has disembarked tools and troops in Alexandroupoli quite a few occasions, together with what had been its two largest disembarkation operations in Greece ever.

The port was has additionally been used for workouts and has supported the common rotation of US troops and tools in Europe by Operation Atlantic Resolve.

On August 3, Alexandroupoli’s port authority chairman introduced that the Italian military will use the port to maneuver tools to Europe. Britain can also be planning on doing the identical.

Shutting off Russian fuel

Alexandroupolis Alexandroupoli Greece

Alexandroupoli in July 2016.Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto through Getty Pictures

Alexandroupoli additionally has a task in European power safety, with plans to construct a Floating Storage and Regasification Unit (FSRU) for liquefied pure fuel within the sea a number of miles south of the town.

The regional FSRU venture will start operations by the tip 2023 and be a convergence level for regional fuel pipeline networks operating from Italy and Bulgaria to Turkey and Georgia.

Town’s FSRU facility might be a part of the EU’s Southern Power Hall, an initiative to convey Azeri fuel by Turkey to Europe and assist the continent decouple itself from Russian pure fuel.

“As Europe is now shifting quickly to scale back its vulnerability to Russian power blackmail and get away from Russian fuel, the Alexandroupoli FSRU turns into increasingly more vital,” Geoffrey Pyatt, then the US ambassador to Greece, stated in Could.

Not everyone seems to be pleased with Alexandroupoli’s rising geostrategic significance.

A strain level

erdogan putin

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg in August 2016.REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Russia and Turkey have each expressed dissatisfaction on the enhanced US presence in Alexandroupoli.

In December, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov instructed Greek media that “the issue may be very easy. Increasingly NATO and US troops are gathering in your territory. A whole bunch, 1000’s of models of army tools are transported by Alexandroupoli.”

“This worries us, you must perceive us,” he added.

Greece had maintained a working relationship with Russia, however Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and Athens’s assist for Kyiv have led their relationship to deteriorate. Every has expelled a few of the different’s diplomats, and Russia not too long ago declared Greece an unfriendly state.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has additionally expressed his opposition to the US presence. “Establishing a base there bothers us and our individuals,” Erdogan reportedly instructed President Joe Biden in October, shortly earlier than the US and Greece signed the up to date defense-cooperation settlement.

Greece and Turkey are each NATO allies however have disputes over quite a few points. Their relationship has deteriorated additional in current months, following Turkey’s problem of the sovereignty of quite a few Greek islands.

In June, Erdogan reiterated his opposition to US bases in Greece. “Towards whom had been they established? The reply they offer is ‘towards Russia.’ We do not purchase it,” Erdogan stated.

The US army presently makes use of a Greek military base close to Alexandroupoli and has not but established its personal base within the metropolis. Nonetheless, as Alexandroupoli’s infrastructure expands and tensions within the area deepen, its significance will maintain growing.

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