Richard R. Burgess, SEAPOWER
21 March 2016
ARLINGTON, Va. – The air and naval bases on the Greek island of Crete are increasing in their value to the United States and NATO, according to a defense analyst.
Speaking March 21 to an audience on Capitol Hill and a forum jointly sponsored by the Lexington Institute – a think tank based in Arlington, Va. – and the American Hellenic Institute, Dan Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute, said Souda Bay is the most important base in the eastern Mediterranean and is valued for its support of U.S and NATO operations in southern Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Goure, who wrote a new report, “Souda Bay: NATO’s Military Gem in the Eastern Mediterranean,” said the base is used as a logistics support base for U.S. Navy ships in transit through the Mediterranean en route to or from the Persian Gulf as well as U.S. Sixth Fleet ships, including ballistic-missile defense destroyers and submarines operating in the area. The base also serves as a site where security teams board ships for transit though pirate-infested waters off Africa.
Souda Bay also is the site of the NATO Missile Firing Installation and the NATO Maritime Interdiction Training Center, as well as a new NATO special operations training center.
“Crete is NATO’s permanent ‘aircraft carrier’ in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Goure said, speaking of its extensive facilities, including a deep-water harbor, an airfield, communications and other facilities.
He said Souda Bay could serve as a forward-deployment site for such ships as littoral combat ships, and that it was capable of hosting a permanently based aircraft carrier should the Navy decide to base one in the Mediterranean.
Also speaking was the Greek minister of Defense, Panos E. Kammenos, who said that Greece “continues to be there for the United States and NATO.”
Goure seconded that, noting that “no country in the [NATO] alliance has been more stalwart” and that “Greece has never shirked from ensuring that these facilities were maintained and made available,” despite its economic difficulties of late.