Thursday, June 20, 2024
 
 

Greece ratifies new defence deal with Washington

Greek Leftist parties opposed deal as expected

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Late on January 30, the Greek parliament voted to ratify Greece’s new defence agreement signed with the US last October during the visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Athens. While this ratification vote was never in question since the ruling party led by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had an absolute majority in parliament, the leftist parties against the deal served to remind all that anti-Americanism in Greece, thought dead by many during the Greek crisis when Germany became the primary target of public ire, has not been extinguished.
Scaling up US defence presence across Greece
Back in October, both sides signed the Protocol of Amendment to the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement (MDCA). The MDCA itself dates from 1990. The new protocol will allow American military personnel to return to Greece in numbers not seen since the end of the cold war, although most of this increase will happen through temporary rotations.
Perhaps most important is the provision included in the new protocol that keeps the MDCA in force until one side formally requests termination. Currently, annual extensions are required, which are routinely handled through diplomatic channels. The US has long been reluctant to invest in costly upgrades, specifically at the Souda Bay facility (i.e. major port and runway expansions) without the longer timeframe the new agreement provides.
The new protocol resolves that issue and also lays out an operational framework of the US presence at the northern Greek port of Alexandroupolis on the border with Turkey, where operations are to focus on logistical support for American troops deployed across the region, principally in Romania and Bulgaria. In addition, Greek facilities in central Greece will expand temporary basing of US forces, including some winter period training assignments, that have been ongoing in recent years
Tsipras’ “Kolotoumba” makes a minor comeback
The late evening vote was 175 FOR/33 AGAINST with 80 (SYRIZA) voting simply as “present,” out of a total of 300 MPs. Because the ultimate result was never in question, some Greek politicians felt free to play to their leftist and anti-American voter bases. Voting with the government was the Movement for Change (KINAL is formerly known as the PASOK party). Those who opposed the deal focused on the fact that the deal did not provide Greece with explicit protection against Turkish aggression, an ongoing and urgent concern, but that matter was something Washington could never accept for inclusion.
The term “Kolotoumba” is Greek for somersault and refers to the total shift in position of former Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras when he capitulated to Greece’s creditors in all-night negotiations in Brussels back in 2015, formally accepting the creditors’ structural reform demands his SYRIZA party and allies had strongly opposed, in order to obtain further financial support. In this case, Tsipras’ party did not support the deal his government had largely negotiated before its July 2019 election defeat, although it did not vote against the deal.
Partnering with Greece’s Communists and another small nationalist party to vote against the deal, Yanis Varoufakis, leader of the minuscule Mera25 Party and an insignificant factor in Greek politics, also opposed the deal despite his past record of quietly asking Washington for favours and White House meetings while serving as Finance Minister under Tsipras.
Tsipras’ failure to support the deal formally was seen by many observers as an insult to the current US Ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey Pyatt, who spent years working to improve Tsipras’ firebrand leftist image in the US, to encourage lacklustre US investment, and to get him to Washington for White House meetings. Nonetheless, the US State Department had a tweet from Secretary Pompeo, in nearby Kyiv, ready to send immediately after the vote:

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CEO/Editor-in-Chief.  Former US diplomat with previous assignments in Eastern Europe, the UN, SE Asia, Greece, across the Balkans, as well as Washington DC.

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