Washington, DC – The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) and Lexington Institute, a nonprofit public-policy research organization, co-hosted a presentation on Capitol Hill to announce the release of a Lexington Institute white paper, “Souda Bay: NATO’s Military Gem in the Eastern Mediterranean,” March 21, 2016, Rayburn House Office Building. The presentation featured the white paper’s author, Dr. Daniel Goure, vice president, Lexington Institute; and Greece’s Minister of Defense, Panos Kammenos. AHI President Nick Larigakis moderated.
In his opening remarks President Larigakis, who has visited Souda Bay on several occasions, addressed the importance of Greece as a geopolitical asset to NATO and staunch ally and Souda Bay as a key military facility in the eastern Mediterranean.
In his remarks, Defense Minister Kammenos explained Souda Bay’s importance based upon its reach of operations, including Europe, Africa and the Middle East; and a broad range of missions that it can support such as to combat piracy, terrorism and human trafficking. He emphasized the usefulness of Souda Bay during times of peace as well as crisis. Defense Minister Kammenos also reaffirmed Greece as a consistently reliable ally for NATO and the United States.
In presenting the white paper, Dr. Goure provided context on the reasons Souda Bay should be discussed, mentioning the historical significance of the base and the future geostrategic and potentially stabilizing role it could play in a complex region. The return of a “meddlesome” Russia and the refugee crisis are just a few of the issues complicating the region. He added, the role of Greece is becoming increasingly important because of its access and existing facilities. Dr. Goure described Crete as a permanent aircraft carrier in the middle of the Mediterranean and emphasized that Greece has never restricted access to this base or any other resources they maintain. Greece also remains consistently above the NATO target for GDP spending on defense even amid its economic crisis.
Moreover, Dr. Goure observed that as more non-state actors acquire ballistic missiles that there will be a growing need to advance defense systems. Souda Bay is among the few places that exist that is able to provide such a capability. The base allows for a continuous presence in the region rather than relying on selective deployment, which requires more time to mobilize and higher costs. Finally, Dr. Goure underscored that Souda Bay is vital to the national security of the United States.
A Q&A session followed the presentation during which Dr. Goure mentioned that unlike bases in Turkey, Souda Bay has never been used by Greece as a “bargaining chip.” When asked about Russian naval expansion, Dr. Goure emphasized Greece’s position at the frontlines of what may become considered the “new cold war.” President Larigakis emphasized the importance of Greece, Cyprus and Israel as frontline states in a volatile region. He explained further his perceived notion, after multiple visits to Souda Bay, of the impressive underutilized and underappreciated resources available to allies like the United States.