Cablegate: Scenesetter for General Grapsas' Visit to D.C.
OO RUEHAG RUEHROV
DE RUEHTH #1294/01 2551427
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 111427Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY ATHENS
TO RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2481
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHMFISS/DHS IP BP WASH DC IMMEDIATE
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNDT/US MISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 ATHENS 001294
CJCS FOR THE CHAIRMAN, STATE FOR P&EURSE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/10/2018
TAGS: GR PGOV PREL
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR GENERAL GRAPSAS' VISIT TO D.C.
Classified By: AMB DANIEL SPECKHARD. REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D).
1. (C) The visit of General Demetrius Grapsas, Chief of the
Hellenic National Defense General Staff, to Washington is an
important opportunity to recognize Greece's support of
multiple U.S. Navy and Air Force operations in the Eastern
Mediterranean and the Middle East, including Iraq through
overflights and transmissions through Souda Bay, as well as
its ongoing contributions to Afghanistan and Kosovo. A
pragmatic and apolitical officer, Grapsas will be receptive
to our suggestions of ways Greece can further contribute. He
is keenly interested in maintaining strong U.S.-Greek
mil-to-mil relations as we continue to have differences with
the GOG over Macedonia and a "business as usual" approach to
Russia. Greece is a key buyer of U.S. military equipment,
though recent procurement decisions tend to be based on
political and seek a balance with the U.S., the EU, and
Russia. END SUMMARY.
2. (S) U.S.-Greece defense cooperation has a long history
rooted in the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine.
Currently, some of Greece's key current contributions in the
military sphere include:
-- Souda Bay: Souda Bay is the U.S. Navy's most important
strategic location in the Eastern Mediterranean. A large
number of U.S. and NATO operations in the Middle East and the
Mediterranean depend on this facility in Crete. The Greeks
do not place any restrictions on access, overflight, or
deployment of even the most sensitive military assets at
-- Flight Clearances/OEF and OIF Support: Since 9/11, the
Greek Ministry of Defense granted blanket overflight
clearances for all U.S. military aircraft that pass through
Greek airspace in support of operations in Afghanistan and
--KFOR: Greek military forces are important contributors to
maintaining stability in Kosovo with approximately 600
personnel deployed in NATO's KFOR mission.
--OAE: Greece is one of the top three contributors to
Operation Active Endeavor (OAE) - NATO's Article V
counter-terrorist operation in the Mediterranean.
--Ship visits: The GOG has supported fully a robust
ship-visit program allowing close to 300 U.S. naval vessels
to visit 12 Greek ports over the last two years.
3. (S/NF) General Grapsas is open, but a staunch defender of
Greece's interests. He is positively disposed towards the
U.S., and he has pressed the Greek military to emulate
American planning, transformation, training, and procurement.
He is suspicious of Russia and resisted efforts to procure
Russian defense articles. He told the U.S. Defense Attach
that he regrets Greece's recent purchase of Russian BMP-3's.
Similarly, he has said he would support providing Greek
forces for Iraq and increase Greek forces in Afghanistan, to
include lifting the regional caveat restricting Greek
personnel to the Kabul region. However, General Grapsas has
little influence on defense policy and procurement decisions.
The Greek constitution places strong restrictions on the
role of military officers in participating in policy
4. (SBU) Greece has had plenty of high-level NATO visits.
Recently, General Craddock (20-22 July), Admiral Fitzgerald
(2-3 April), Lt Gen McFann (2 July), and LTG Eikenberry (3
July) visited Athens and met with Grapsas. Although the
discussions have been frank, all four visits were cordial
resulting in agreement to continue cooperative dialogue on
NATO issues. Additionally, the Joint Staff Talks and the
U.S./Greece High Level Consultative Committee (HLCC) will
meet in D.C. October 22 and October 24.
5. (C) Although the broader U.S./Greece relationship is not
always smooth, the U.S.-Greece military-to-military
relationship is strong, and we believe it pays important
strategic dividends to the national security of the United
ATHENS 00001294 002.2 OF 003
States. We can advance our security agenda wit Greece
through General Grapsas' visit and upcoming bilateral
6. (C) Among the key issues likely to come up are the
-- Macedonia: At the April NATO Summit, Greece blocked the
invitation of Macedonia into the Alliance -- a top U.S.
priority because of a lack of agreement on changing the
country's name. We continue to urge both Athens and Skopje
to work rapidly for a solution. Greek/Macedonian relations
have been soured by a recent tart exchange of letters between
Macedonian PM Gruevski and Greek PM Karamanlis on questions
related to the "Macedonian minority" in Greece. Ultimately
Athens is insisting on a solution that would:
-- indicate that "Macedonia" is a broader region than the
country in question (hence Greece's support for a geographic
qualifier such as "Northern" or "Upper" before Macedonia),
-- be used broadly for all international use.
-- Greece-Turkey: The Greek/Turkish bilateral relationship
has improved in recent years. The GOG remains supportive of
Turkey's EU accession. There has, however, been no angibe
progress on long-standing diputes over ontinental shelf and
the tatus of islands n the Aegean. The Greeks are plased
with he momentum on Cyprus, sending psitive signals about
the September 3 start of UN-brokered talks, but strongly
question Ankara's commitment to -- and potential to spoil --
progress on reaching a negotiated solution on Cyprus.
-- Aegean Exercises: The Greeks were deeply disappointed by
the NATO decision not to support NOBLE ARCHER 2008. General
Grapsas will want to discuss how NATO might craft an exercise
in the future that would overfly Agios Efstratios, an island
whose status as "demilitarize" is disputed between Greece and
Turkey. General Grapsas feels that NATO's invocation of
"neutrality" -- which results in a decision not/not to
overfly any area under dispute -- always favors Turkish
interests. The Greeks argue that the Turkish claim that
Agios Efstratios is demilitarized is specious and not a valid
justification for excluding the island from NATO exercises.
Unlike many of his predecessors, General Grapsas has not gone
to the press.
-- Russia/Georgia: PM Karamanlis has expanded Greece's
relationship with Russia. This is in no small measure due to
historical and religious ties and strong domestic political
support for strengthening relations. The Russia/Georgia
crisis is a challenge for Greece. The GOG supports Sarkozy's
efforts, and FM Bakoyannis has said the right things on
Georgian territory integrity and the withdrawal of Russian
troops. PM Karamanlis has also publicly stated that violence
is not the appropriate response and has emphasized
"territorial integrity." Greece has pledged two monitors for
the initial OSCE mission in Georgia and already pledged or
delivered well over 469,500 Euros worth of in-kind and
financial humanitarian assistance to Georgia.
At the same time, Greece has pursued "business as usual" with
Russia, with meetings with Russian defense industry officials
and Parliamentary ratification in September of the
Southstream gas pipeline agreement. The Embassy has pushed
the GoG hard to cancel or delay these ill-advised moves.
Grapsas' visit will provide another opportunity to pass the
message to the Karamanlis government that they need to
actively support Georgia and avoid business as usual with
-- Kosovo: Greece does not appear likely to recognize Kosovo
in the immediate future, but is playing a reasonably
constructive role behind the scenes. Beyond its over 600
forces in KFOR, the Greeks are providing personnel to the EU
Rule of Law Mission (EULEX), the OSCE Mission, and the
International Civilian Office (ICO) in Kosovo. It has also
been among the most active players in the EU in engaging with
Serbia post-Kosovo independence and in encouraging Serbia's
European and Euro-Atlantic perspective.
ATHENS 00001294 003.2 OF 003