US in talks to expand military bases in Greece, amid rising tensions with Turkey

The talks are at a preliminary stage, US officials said

The U.S. military is in talks to expand its operations in Greece, including using more air and naval bases here, signaling a potential move toward the eastern Mediterranean amid growing tensions with Turkey, officials said.

There are both geopolitical and geographical factors that make Greece an appealing site for the U.S. military, the officials said. Politically, U.S.-Greek relations are at an apex and both nations have concerns about their North Atlantic Treaty Organization partner, Turkey, U.S. officials said. Geographically, Greece has ideal weather for year-round flight training, and is home to both Greek and NATO bases.

Perhaps most importantly for the U.S., both the current Greek government as well as its leading opposition are receptive, U.S. officials said during a visit in recent days. Officials said they see an opportunity for increased use of Greek facilities and for staging more troops here on a temporary basis.

“The geography of Greece and the opportunities here are pretty significant,” Marine Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters traveling with him, citing Greece’s proximity to U.S. operations in Syria and North Africa.

The U.S. has begun expanding its use of Greek bases. This spring, unarmed MQ-9 Reaper drones began operating out of Greece’s Larisa Air Force Base.

Officials stressed that the talks, led by Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the supreme allied commander for Europe, are preliminary and don’t include proposals for permanently stationing troops or equipment. While Greece offers a number of advantages, the increased use of Greek resources isn’t intended to replace—or hedge against—the future of U.S. operations at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.