Ambassador’s Remarks at EXPOSEC-DefenseWorld Conference
May 3, 2017
Thank you very much, Simos, for that warm welcome. Let me say, I consider the American Hellenic Chamber of Commerce to be one of my strongest force multipliers and partners here so I really appreciate both the comments but also the invitation to speak today and your initiative in organizing this event. Minister Kammenos, Admiral Apostolakis, Minister Toskas, other friends, colleagues from Greek political life and from the government, it is a tremendous honor for me to be with you here today.
This year’s EXPOSEC comes at a particularly important moment as we are starting, at the Embassy, the celebration of the legacies of President Harry Truman and Secretary of State George Marshall and the lasting impact of their actions in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. Their legacy, of 70 years ago, lives on here in Greece, a country that, like much of Europe, was on the brink of collapse in 1947. Through the Marshall Plan and other programs, the United States, after considerable debate in the U.S., spent billions of dollars rebuilding Europe.
Greece received massive amounts of U.S. economic, military, and diplomatic assistance under the Marshall Plan umbrella. That U.S. support amounted to about two billion U.S. dollars, or 21 billion U.S. dollars today. This assistance that helped Greek citizens recover and thrive after the devastation of war. The relationship between the United States and Greece and our strong defense ties that were forged during this period also firmly secured Greece’s place in the West.
We have several events coming up at the Embassy to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Marshall Plan and, also, the 70th anniversary of our Office of Defense Cooperation, which carries out our security cooperation with the government of Greece. These anniversaries are an important touchstone as we think about the future of our transatlantic alliances – especially here in Greece. The United States and Modern Greece have long been allies. Americans supported, and fought in, the Greek War of Independence, which was, in turn, inspired by America’s revolution. And the modern chapter of our defense cooperation now dates back 70 years, and continues to expand.
Greece’s geographic location puts it on the front lines of some of our most pressing global security issues. I think of the security challenges in the region as a set of three overlapping rings. There is one circle for ISIS and the pressing security challenges coming out of Syria, Iraq, and the Eastern Mediterranean. There is a second circle around the militarization of the Black Sea, extending to Russia and the Western Balkans. And there is a third ring covering challenges emanating from North Africa. Greece sits at the epicenter of these complex regional issues. This makes Greece the vanguard of Europe and a pillar of stability in dealing with the issues that emanate from these regions.
Greece faces a number of security challenges, as both of the Ministers described – migration, trafficking in persons, smuggling, monitoring of foreign fighter movements, and combatting terrorism and other illicit activity. But, with its strategic position and leadership, Greece has the unique capacity to build bridges between regional partners and to strengthen our collective defense. And I won’t speak today to the energy security issues, since that was the focus of my remarks last week when I was in Istanbul, but I was very glad to hear Minister Kammenos’ emphasis on Greece’s role as a European energy hub.
We saw Greece carrying out this role, unifying and connecting countries in the region, during the recent INIOHOS exercise – with Greece, Israel, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States all participating together. This was a terrific example of cooperation among NATO Allies and partner nations.
And within the framework of our NATO alliance, the United States and Greece have already accomplished great things together. Minister Kammenos, when you visited Washington last month, Secretary Mattis praised Greek military leadership and your continued efforts to maintain stability in this critically important region. Secretary Mattis emphasized that “the unity of the NATO alliance is absolutely critical to maintain the security for all the nations in Europe.” He said, quite simply, “we’ve got to stick together”, and face the “clear and present danger on the Southern Flank”, and that Greece is at the front line, especially in combatting terrorism and the challenge from increasing Russian influence – not always for the good – in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Secretary Mattis also stressed the critical role of Souda Bay for NATO and bilateral military operations. Souda Bay is a concrete manifestation of the defense bonds between the United States and Greece – bonds that I am committed to strengthening and deepening. There is no better symbol of our two countries’ strategic relationship and we are deeply grateful for that.
Recently, the George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier was able to dock at Souda Bay. During the first day of her deployment to support Operation Inherent Resolve, the carrier encountered a technical problem. But, rather than turning around to its home port of Norfolk, Virginia, the U.S. Navy was able to perform the necessary repairs right here in Souda, the only deep-water port between Norfolk and Dubai capable of such a feat. I had the honor of visiting the crew while they were in Souda and the ship’s captain told me how much he valued the support he had received from his Greek counterparts, Souda Bay’s unique strategic location, and the warm welcome they had received from the people of Crete. This combination allowed the carrier to make a port stop without compromising any of her operational activities against ISIS.
There are so many other recent successes stemming from our countries’ defense cooperation as NATO Allies. For example, NATO’s Aegean activity supports international efforts to reduce the flow of illegal trafficking and migration. Or Operation Sea Guardian, where NATO helps maintain a secure and safe maritime environment on the Southern Flank by countering weapons proliferation, protecting critical infrastructure, and supporting counterterrorism efforts at sea. And the NATO Maritime Interdiction Training Center at Souda Bay, where Greek, U.S., and partner forces advance our capabilities and further the joint understanding of maritime challenges. Simply put, these important regional security missions in the Mediterranean and Aegean would simply not be possible without the leadership, support, and cooperation of our Greek defense partners.
We need our allies – today more than ever – to face new and emerging threats. The fact that Greece has been stalwart in meeting its NATO expenditure obligations, even through challenging economic times, speaks volumes about this country’s strong commitment to our alliance. President Trump reiterated a short while ago that we support NATO, “an alliance forged through the bonds of two world wars that dethroned fascism, and a Cold War, and defeated communism.” It’s clear that NATO’s mission remains important and must be preserved.
We are grateful for the strong defense relationship between the U.S. and Greece – within the NATO framework and bilaterally. For decades, the U.S. has actively supported Greece in building capacity to meet asymmetric threats through extensive advising and training with special security force units from the U.S. military and Coast Guard. But, of course, we have also benefitted from the support of our partners in the Greek military. For example, the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade deployment recently brought eight helicopters and dozens of containers of equipment through the Port of Thessaloniki in February as part of EUCOM’s Operation Atlantic Resolve in Romania. With the help of our Greek military partners, we were able to enhance the aviation capabilities of the U.S. Army in Europe and US and EUCOM Commanders who train with our Allies and partners to better respond to crises and contingencies.
In short, the bilateral, defense relationship between our two governments is strong. But, of course, U.S.-Greece security cooperation also includes our private sector. Defense industry partnerships enhance our collective security and create opportunities for economic growth and foreign direct investment. The United States and Greece have a long history of successful defense industry cooperation. Investments and contracts from American defense companies continue to support hundreds of Greek jobs through local manufacturing and exports. And I look forward to traveling to New York and Washington next month as part of a trade mission to encourage even more U.S. investment here in Greece and deeper trade ties between our countries. U.S. companies are already here, contributing and the defense sector is a perfect example of the U.S. investment we want to grow in Greece.
Let me give you a few examples of the current defense industry cooperation between our two countries. Greece, for instance, has the seventh largest F-16 fleet in the world. And American defense giant Lockheed Martin is working on an F-16 upgrade with the Hellenic Air Force – a tremendous undertaking which will sustain this proven airframe in the region for years to come. Lockheed and Hellenic Aerospace Industry are also co-producing high quality F-16 and C-130 components – some of our most sensitive and important technologies – for the global supply chain. They are also collaborating on a P-3 midlife upgrade for these “workhorse” aircraft, which will then be used for maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare.
Raytheon, another major American defense firm, and Intracom are producing subsystems for Patriot missile defense systems. The U.S. company Alliant Techsystems, Inc., or ATK, is producing ammunition with Hellenic Defense Systems. American manufacturers, AM General and OSHKOSH, [have in the past coproduced]* HMMWVs and multipurpose trucks with ELVO – a Greek vehicle manufacturer based in Thessaloniki.
These are just a few examples of U.S. and Greek companies working together to advance the interoperability of our military forces and shared regional objectives. Defense industry partnerships show the deep trust the United States has in Greece – as our NATO ally that shares our strategic outlook – and our trust in Greek technical expertise.
Cooperation between and among government agencies is equally important. In Greece, as in the United States, law enforcement, civil protection, coast guard, military, and the private sector must all work together to guard against security risks. So it’s critical that the new systems we build and implement are equipped to facilitate communication between and among different government agencies, for us, and for our partners and allies. I know, from my own time on the National Security Council staff, how complicated these interagency cooperation issues can be. But I’ve also seen how important technology can be to facilitating this cooperation.
Companies like Raytheon, Lockheed, Aurora Flight Sciences, American Science & Engineering, and S2 Global offer state-of-the-art technology and systems. If used within a framework of inter-ministerial cooperation and shared strategic vision, these technology platforms can help Greece secure its borders and advance its security objectives.
The U.S. Government and the Embassy here in Athens will continue to assist our Greek defense partners by offering competitive, proven American defense solutions so that Greece’s military remains modernized and capable – ready to support Greece’s role as a stabilizing force in this region. By building on and expanding these defense industry partnerships, Greece will further bolster its military, solidify its stabilizing role in this part of the world and, more importantly, help to simultaneously grow its economy.
With recent progress on the second review, I am hopeful that this summer will mark a turning point for Greece in attracting U.S. investor interest, including from the defense sector. The U.S. will continue to encourage defense industry cooperation because expanding Greek military capability is good for Greece, it’s good for the United States, and it’s good for all of our NATO and regional allies defending the Southern Flank from shared threats.
This kind of cooperation between allies is essential to navigating the complex global and regional security challenges we face now and will face in the future. Security is the essential prerequisite to lasting peace and prosperity, grounded on freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. These are the values that brought us together after the devastation of war 70 years ago, and will continue to unite us in the years to come.
I am committed to working with our Greek defense partners as we advance our common security goals and capitalize on this moment of expanded possibilities in our alliance relationship. Thank you very much. Ευχαριστώ πολύ.