Wednesday, April 28, 2021
Kalimera! Let me start by saying what a great honor it is for me to welcome the U.S. Coast Guard Fast Response Cutters Robert Goldman and Charles Moulthrope to the port of Piraeus.
These two cutters have just completed a historic transatlantic voyage that I think would have made the founder of the U.S. Coast Guard, Alexander Hamilton, very proud, as they proceeded en route to their new homeport in Bahrain where they will operate with the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.
I want to thank my friend Minister Plakiotakis and Vice Admiral Kliaris for joining me to welcome these U.S. Coast Guard cutters to Greece.
For 200 years, the United States and Greece have stood shoulder-to-shoulder to uphold our shared democratic values and to promote peace and stability in the region. Maritime ties have been central to this relationship from the first days of the Hellenic Republic, including the relief ships that sailed from the east coast to support the Greek freedom fighters.
This U.S. Coast Guard Fast Response Cutters’ visit and our two cutters’ combined exercises with the Hellenic Coast Guard this week highlight the strong tradition of U.S.-Greece maritime collaboration. This deployment demonstrates how the U.S. is strengthening national security by extending the U.S. Coast Guard’s global reach, and reaffirming our commitment to each other as NATO Allies.
The interoperability exercises conducted this week in the Aegean Sea between the USCGC Hamilton and Sixth Fleet help build and demonstrate all-domain naval power. U.S. Coast Guard operations in the Mediterranean and in the Aegean show how far we have come in integrating capabilities across the United States’ maritime services with Allied and partner nations like Greece to jointly address shared security concerns.
But this integration is not only happening between our militaries. At the Embassy, our team is working to build bridges with all of Greece’s relevant ministries to develop interagency cooperation and shared security.
If we are routinely and robustly communicating at all levels of government, we are better prepared to respond to maritime threats when they emerge.
The Hellenic Coast Guard has been a terrific partner in this effort, along with Greece’s National Security Council, the Ministry of Citizen Protection, the Ministry of National Defense, the Hellenic National Defense General Staff, and the Ministries of Migration and Foreign Affairs.
In this regard, I particularly want to congratulate the Hellenic Coast Guard on its seizure this week of 46.7 kilos of cocaine on a ship in Corinth, with information provided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Athens. This seizure highlights our longstanding law enforcement partnership with the Hellenic Coast Guard, including the Coast Guard’s Underwater Operations Unit.
I also want to highlight how Greece has embraced the U.S. Coast Guard’s AMVER program. For those of you who are not familiar with AMVER, this is a remarkable global initiative sponsored by the U.S. Coast Guard to support search and rescue authorities in arranging for assistance to those in distress at sea.
For two years in a row, Greece has distinguished itself as the first country to earn more than 2,000 AMVER Awards. The rescue operations that these Greek ships perform every year are truly inspiring. And it is no exaggeration to say that Greek merchant shipping leads the world in helping to keep our waters and commerce safe.
Our maritime relationship has important implications for both national security and economic prosperity. That’s why I’m also thrilled to see two strong U.S. bidders in the upcoming Alexandroupoli and Kavala port privatizations.
Likewise, the Syros shipyard is now certified by the U.S. Navy to conduct maintenance of U.S. military vessels, and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation is looking to expand the scope of energy-related maritime projects in Greece.
As you can tell from the many joint exercises and ship visits that we have seen in recent weeks—like the INIOCHOS Air Force exercise, the USS Eisenhower’s visit to Souda Bay, the Atlantic Resolve rotations ongoing through Alexandroupoli, and Defender-Europe 21 starting next month—our defense and security relationship is stronger than ever, anchored in our shared interests and our recently updated Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement.
The United States sees Greece as a long-term strategic partner in this region, and these engagements between our forces send a powerful message that our countries are truly united as friends and NATO Allies.
Our updated MDCA benefits both countries, deepening our bilateral relationship, strengthening NATO, and reinforcing transatlantic security and stability.
As we celebrate this year the Greek bicentennial, I know I speak for President Biden and the whole Biden-Harris administration in underlining our enduring commitment to the U.S.-Greece alliance and our determination to elevate our relationship to even greater heights.
I want to conclude by expressing my thanks to Lieutenant Commander Blase, Lieutenant Commander Hulse, and the officers and crew of the U.S. Coast Guard vessels who have made a very long journey from friends and family in service to your country in order to develop opportunities like the ones that we are pursuing this week here in Piraeus.
And thank you finally to the Hellenic Coast Guard and everyone joining us here today for giving these crews such a truly warm welcome here in Greece.