The once sleepy port of Alexandroupolis, in extreme northeast Greece, figures prominently in a major US-led multi-national exercise throughout Europe this month, with the US Military Sealift Command transporting resources – including attack helicopters – for a division-sized deployment.
The port authority of Alexandroupolis, which is up for privatization, has over the past few years found itself directly on natural gas routes, with a floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) coming on-line in the near future off the coast.
The use of the port by US and NATO allies for the Defender-Europe 21 exercise comes on the heels of standing attention by American investors in the privatization. Hardware was shown stored and parked at the port, which lies only a few kilometers west of Greece’s land border with Turkey in the Thrace province, and with the river Evros (Maritsa) separating the two countries.
The multinational exercise and Alexandroupolis’ role brought both Greece’s defense minister, Nikos Panagiotopoulos, and the US ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey Pyatt, to the country’s northeast tip.
In statements to the press, port authority president Kostas Hatzimichail said the facility is one of the points in the country where mutually beneficial Greece-US are taking place.
“The port, with the presence and contribution of the United States, is rapidly capitalizing on its geostrategic and commercial character, assuming a primary role in regional developments, such as the creation of new trade and energy routes,” Hatzimichail said.
Exercise Defender-Europe 21 will include nearly simultaneous operations across more than 30 training areas in a dozen countries across the continent.