The indications that Turkey activated the radars of its Russian-made S-400 anti-aircraft systems in order to detect US-made Greek F-16 fighter jets on their return from the Eunomia exercise on August 27 off Cyprus apparently sounded the alarm in Washington about the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and reportedly prompted the visits by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Cyprus on September 12 and Greece on September 27-29.
The visits highlight how Ankara’s procurement of the S-400s is irking Washington, which has threatened to impose sanctions if the Russian system is activated. According to reports from a section of the Turkish opposition media, a general test of the S-400 systems is planned by Ankara near Sinop on the Black Sea.
Regardless of the decisions that Ankara will take regarding its air defense, last week’s three-day visit by Pompeo, which took him to Thessaloniki and the Souda base on Crete, was seen as very significant.
The permanent mooring of the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams at the Souda facility is a strong indication of the US intent to substantially strengthen its presence on the island. The support of a 106,000-ton displacement ship capable of carrying helicopters, UAVs and other systems requires significant changes to the base.
The US has been supporting Greece in an ongoing effort since 2016 to further bolster the capabilities of the navy base on Souda.
Crete, in general, seems to be becoming a hub for concentrating military power with infrastructure that can host not only Greek and American forces, but also units from Arab countries, as was the case in recent weeks with jets from the United Arab Emirates.