Ambassador’s Remarks: USS Harry S. Truman, June 22, 2016

Admiral Howard with Archbishop Dimitrios and Admiral Apostolakis during a reception aboard USS Harry S. Truman (Photo Courtesy: USS Harry S. Truman)
Admiral Howard with Archbishop Dimitrios and Admiral Apostolakis during a reception aboard USS Harry S. Truman (Photo Courtesy: USS Harry S. Truman)

NSA Souda Bay, Crete

June 22, 2016

Good afternoon and welcome, everybody.  ADM Howard, RADM Batchelder, Captain Scholl.  Thank you to you, and all hands on this great ship, for visiting us.

Your Excellencies the Minister Kouroumplis and Minister Kammenos, Admiral Apostolakis, Vice Admiral Giagkoumakis, Ambassador Bondy, members of Parliament, your Eminence Archbishop Dimitrios and Bishop Damaskinos and other distinguished Greek guests, thank you for coming today.  We are all grateful for the hospitality the Greek government has shown to the officers and sailors aboard this carrier.  We are delighted you could join us here tonight.

This is Admiral Howard’s first visit to Greece since taking command of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe and in Africa.  She is based in Naples, where she heads NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command.

Admiral, thank you for coming here today.  It is a real honor for all of us to meet someone who represents so many breakthroughs.  Admiral Howard was the first African-American woman to command a ship, the first woman to rise to four-star admiral, and has now become the first female four-star admiral to command operational forces.  Her career has too many highlights to mention, but I will single out one: she was instrumental in rescuing Captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates in 2009, a feat depicted in the film Captain Phillips.

Since then, her work, and that of forces from the U.S. and other NATO member states, has become even tougher.  We all now face the devastation caused by the Islamic State, or ISIL, in Syria and Iraq.  Greece has been a valuable partner in the anti-ISIL coalition, and the ship we are now on has been a key part of the coalition’s campaign against the Islamic State.  The Truman’s capacity and the hard work of its crew over the past 7 months as it has sailed the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf, has dealt ISIL significant setbacks.

That kind of success is only possible when allies work together toward common goals.  I think it’s especially appropriate that the carrier we are on today bears the name of a U.S. president, probably the U.S. president most associated with Greece.  President Truman was, of course, the U.S. president from 1945 to 1953, and he presided over the first stage of the Cold War.  Greece was a front line in that war, and President Truman stepped in to help at a key moment.  Greece received massive amounts of military, economic, and diplomatic assistance that kept it in the West–the first application of the famous “Truman Doctrine.”

President Truman also oversaw the Marshall Plan, an enormous aid package that jumpstarted the recovery of a continent devastated by war.  The amount of money the U.S. government allotted for Europe was staggering: the equivalent today would be over 120 billion dollars, or 107 billion euros.  U.S. support to Greece, both through the Marshall Plan and other programs, amounted to over two billion dollars, or over 21 billion in today’s dollars.  That support helped restore stability, and accelerated the country’s economic recovery in the Fifties and Sixties.

Today the U.S. continues to support Greece as a bulwark of stability in a tense region.  We continue to support Greece as it struggles to recover from what is now a seven-year long economic depression that has pushed many out of work and into poverty.  We believe Greece can become a strong economy inside the Eurozone.  To do so, it must make serious structural reforms and get significant relief from its now very heavy debt burden.

This recovery work is just as essential as the recovery work President Truman, the namesake of this ship, helped set in motion seventy years ago, and I am confident that Greece, with U.S. support, will again meet the challenge.

Thank you.

And now it is my great pleasure to turn the podium over to Greece’s Minister of Defense, Panos Kammenos.