US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that the US Navy will transfer its giant ship USS Herschel “Woody” Williams to the Souda Bay military base in Greece.
Speaking from Al Qaeda in the Greek island of Crete, Pompeo assured Athens of strong defense ties with the United States at a time when Greece confronts Turkey.
“Today, USS Herschel ‘Woody Williams’, the newest naval expeditionary base of the US Navy, will move to its home in Souda Bay,” Pompeo said. Experts describe it as a floating base.
“It is the perfect choice given the strategic location of Al Qaeda, and it is a symbol of a defense partnership that will continue to expand and prosper,” Pompeo added.
A senior US official said the move was a long-term investment in the US military in the Mediterranean.
Pompeo also said that Souda Bay would be used “as a fuel station, refurbishment site, and crew swap place while preserving the operational effectiveness of our military assets.”
Mike Pompeo’s visit to Greece underscores the renewed strategic relationship between the United States and Greece and the geostrategic role of Greece as a factor for stability and security in the region.
But experts considered this move as an expansion of the United States’ regional presence and reduced dependence on the Incirlik Air Base.
“Incirlik does not have any permanent US aircraft stationed there,” said Aaron Stein, of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. “It is a political base in the sense that it is a physical thing linking Turkey and the United States. It also hosts US nuclear weapons so it will not be closed at all. Incirlik stores 50 US tactical nuclear weapons under US control.”
Stein said the move was only due to the deterioration in US-Turkish relations and was not actually directed at Ankara.