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Pompeo inks new defense pact with Greece, criticizes Russia, Iran, China

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo participates in the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Rovaniemi, Finland, on May 7, 2019. (Ron Przysucha/U.S. State Department)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United States and Greece have signed an updated defense-cooperation pact, a move Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said was not aimed against any one nation in the region, including Turkey.

Nevertheless, in remarks made during his visit to Athens on October 5. Pompeo cited “malign” Russian influence on NATO ally Greece and its neighbors and criticized Iran and China.

The accord announced by Pompeo provides for increasing joint U.S.-Greece and NATO activity at Larissa, Stefanovikio, and Alexandroupoli as well as infrastructure and other improvements at the Souda Bay naval base.

Pompeo denied that the heightened defense ties were linked to increased tensions between the United States and Turkey — also a NATO ally but one that has angered Washington by recent actions, including its threats against U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters in Syria.

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Greece and Turkey are also traditional bitter rivals.

“They [updated military ties] are not connected,” Pompeo said, adding that the moves were focused solely on the best interests of Greece and the United States.

Pompeo said some reports indicated the deal was only about rights to use Greek bases, but that did not “fundamentally capture what it is our two countries actually achieved in this new agreement.”

“It’s much deeper than that, it’s much more strategic than that; it will have a much greater impact on the capacity for the United States and Greece to work together militarily, and to be supportive of NATO,” he said.

“There was no other country that drove this other than our knowledge that two countries working together with this amended agreement will lead to better outcomes for each of us,” he added.

Pompeo said the “renewal” of relations with Athens arrived at “this important moment,” citing key regions and countries of interest and concern.

“Take the Balkans, which remain an area of strategic competition.

“Take Russia, which undermines the sovereignty of your neighbors. It tries to stifle religious freedom for many Orthodox believers.

“Take the Islamic Republic of Iran, whose terrorist proxies have destabilized the Middle East, turned Lebanon into a client state, and helped create a refugee crisis that continues to impact Greece to this day.”

And, he added, “Take China…which is using economic means to coerce countries into lopsided deals that benefit Beijing and leave its clients mired in debt.”

He stressed the need to “continue our work to stop malign Russian influence, both within Greece, and within your neighbors’ borders.”

In addition, he said ,”Let’s continue to exert pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, until that regime becomes a normal nation.”

He also backed calls by the European Union to label China a “systemic rival.”