US Marines and sailors ate all the food in the Greek port of Alexandroupoli

  • US sailors and Marines aboard the USS Arlington visited the Greek port of Alexandroupoli in late May.
  • They appeared to be enjoying their stay – local media reported they had overwhelmed many restaurants.
  • The visit reflects the US military’s growing interest in Greece amid growing tension in the region.

In late May, the US Navy amphibious transport dock USS Arlington arrived in the Greek city of Alexandroupoli for a port visit.

The 1,500 officers and enlisted Marines aboard the ship spent three days in the northeastern Greek city, and during their stay they are said to have eaten all the eggs in Alexandroupoli.

Giorgos Alavantas, a restaurant owner, said 6,000 to 7,000 eggs were eaten during a day of visiting the United States. “In other words, we don’t have any eggs,” Alavantas said, according to local media.

“I serve 16 different types of meat in my restaurant, and they’ve tried them all,” Georgios Davis, former president of the Alexandroupoli hotel association, told Greek newspaper Kathimerini.

The visit by sailors and Marines is part of growing cooperation between the U.S. and Greek militaries, and underscores the growing importance of the southeastern corner of Europe to the United States and the alliance of NATO.

A safety knot in the Aegean Sea

US Army M1A2 tank in the port of Alexandroupoli, Greece

A U.S. Army M1A2 tank is unloaded in Alexandroupoli, July 20, 2021.

US Army/Andre Cameron

Alexandroupoli is close to Greece’s border with Bulgaria and Turkey and about 60 miles from the Dardanelles, the maritime entrance to the Black Sea.

The city’s location and its expanding road and rail network provide an overland route around the Bosphorus and allow quick access to the Black Sea, the Balkans, and other destinations around NATO’s southeastern flank.

The importance of Alexandroupoli was cemented in the updated Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement signed between Greece and the United States in October. Under the agreement, the United States received priority access to the port, which was especially valuable amid the war in Ukraine.

“This access allows us to continue to provide military assistance to Ukraine and counter malicious actors and to exercise and operate in the Balkans, Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea region,” the Defense Secretary said. Lloyd Austin during a recent visit by the Greek Defense Minister. in Washington DC.

American Sailors Alexandroupolis Greece

Sailors from the USS Arlington present a plaque to John Bogdis, clerk of the municipality of Alexandroupoli, during a community relations project, May 23, 2022.

US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Cameron Ross

The increased US presence is intended to support NATO allies in the region and counter Russian influence in a part of Europe where Moscow has traditionally dominated due to its ethnic and economic ties.

“Greece is a key hub to support and … project the Allied presence in a region facing various forms of revisionism,” Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said in Washington.

Since October 2021, the United States has landed equipment and troops at Alexandroupoli on numerous occasions, including what were its two largest ever landing operations in Greece.

The port was also used for exercises and supported the regular rotation of American troops and equipment to Europe as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

On August 3, the president of the Port Authority of Alexandroupoli announcement that the Italian army will use the port to transport equipment to Europe. Britain is also considering doing the same.

Cut off Russian gas

Alexandroupolis Alexandroupoli Greece

Alexandroupoli in July 2016.

Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Alexandroupoli also plays a role in European energy security, with plans to build a floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) for offshore liquefied natural gas a few kilometers south of the city.

The regional FSRU project will begin operations by the end of 2023 and will be a focal point for regional gas pipeline networks from Italy and Bulgaria to Turkey and Georgia.

The city’s FSRU facility will be part of the EU’s Southern Energy Corridor, an initiative to bring Azeri gas through Turkey to Europe and help the continent decouple from Russian natural gas.

“As Europe now moves quickly to reduce its vulnerability to Russian energy blackmail and move away from Russian gas, the FSRU in Alexandroupoli is becoming increasingly important,” Geoffrey Pyatt, then US ambassador to Greece, said in May. .

Not everyone is happy with the growing geostrategic importance of Alexandroupoli.

A pressure point

erdogan putin

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Saint Petersburg in August 2016.

REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhine

Both Russia and Turkey have expressed dissatisfaction with the increased US presence in Alexandroupoli.

In December, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov told Greek media that “the problem is very simple. More and more NATO and US troops are gathering on your territory. Hundreds, thousands of units of military equipment are transported via Alexandroupoli”.

“It worries us, you have to understand us,” he added.

Greece had maintained a working relationship with Russia, but Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and Athens’ support for Kyiv led to their relationship souring. Each expelled some of the other’s diplomats, and Russia recently declared Greece a hostile state.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also expressed his opposition to the American presence. “Establishing a base there bothers us and our people,” Erdogan reportedly told President Joe Biden in October, shortly before the United States and Greece signed the defense cooperation agreement set. up to date.

Greece and Turkey are both NATO allies but have differences over a number of issues. Their relations have deteriorated further in recent months, following Turkey’s challenge to the sovereignty of a number of Greek islands.

In June, Erdogan reiterated his opposition to US bases in Greece. “Against whom were they established? The answer they give is ‘against Russia’. We are not buying it,” Erdogan said.

The US military is currently using a Greek army base near Alexandroupoli and has yet to establish its own base in the city. However, as Alexandroupoli’s infrastructure grows and tensions in the region escalate, its importance will only increase.


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