Greece is an important partner in many of today’s highest U.S. policy priorities. As a leader in the region, Greece has also been an ally to the U.S. in promoting Balkan stability and economic development, supporting Turkey’s bid for accession to the European Union, and supporting the diversification of Europe’s energy supplies. Greece’s geostrategic position also makes it an important ally in engagement and dialogue with the Muslim world. As an entry point into the Schengen visa area for migrants from the Middle East, North Africa, and Southwest Asia, Greece shares an interest both in humanitarian treatment of migrants and in supporting the development of conditions in their home countries that would ease the pressures for migration.
Extremism in Greece is mostly homegrown, and to a great extent derives from events unique to Greeks. In 1968 a military junta overthrew the Greek Goverment in a move that is still widely (if wrongly) held here to have been at the behest, or with the connivance, of the U.S. Government. The Turkish invasion of northern Cyprus in 1974 is also chalked up to American hegemonist planning. Since then, a perceived bias in U.S. policy toward Turkey (and Greece's own identity problems vis-a-vis 400 years of Ottoman rule) has further skewed public opinion against the United States. In recent history, the Kosovo air campaign and Operation Iraqi Freedom have both been used to keep public hostility toward the U.S. at a peak.
Serving in the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2009, Greece navigated these problems and assisted in mediations following the conflict between Russia and Georgia. Greece has recently confronted an upsurge in domestic terrorism after successfully dismantling groups that had been active from the 1970s to the early 2000s. In the summer of 2002, Greek authorities captured numerous suspected members of the terrorist group "November 17." In 2003, 15 members of the terrorist organization, which since 1975 had killed many prominent Greeks and five U.S. mission employees, were found guilty and convicted of a number of crimes, including homicide. In 2007, an appellate court acquitted two of the defendants, but otherwise largely upheld the results of the initial trial, leaving the leadership of the defunct group serving multiple life sentences and others serving long prison terms.
On January 12, 2007, terrorists fired a rocket-propelled grenade which struck the U.S. Embassy. The terrorist group Revolutionary Struggle later claimed responsibility for the act. Revolutionary Struggle also claimed responsibility for attempting to assassinate the Minister of Culture and former Minister of Public Order Georgos Voulgarakis in a bomb blast in May 2006. In April 2010, police arrested over a dozen individuals with suspected ties to Revolutionary Struggle, which they hope could be a major blow to the group. An additional new group, Sect of Revolutionaries, has claimed responsibility for a recent spate of shooting attacks on police. In June 2009 an anti-terrorist unit officer was murdered while on duty guarding a witness in a trial relating to a 1990s-era terrorist attack, in an attack which is widely believed to have been committed by Sect of Revolutionaries.
There is good cooperation between U.S. and Greek counterterrorism officials. Greek and American diplomatic, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies worked closely together in the build-up to and throughout the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens. In January 2006, the United States and Greece signed protocols updating treaties covering extradition and mutual legal assistance, which further strengthened this cooperation.
An estimated three million Americans resident in the United States claim Greek descent. This large, well-organized community cultivates close political and cultural ties with Greece. There are approximately 90,000 to 100,000 American citizens resident in Greece. Greece has the seventh-largest population of U.S. Social Security beneficiaries in the world.
In 1953, the first defense cooperation agreement between Greece and the United States was signed, providing for the establishment and operation of American military installations on Greek territory. The United States closed three of its four main bases in the 1990s. The current mutual defense cooperation agreement provides for the continued operation by the United States of a naval support facility at the strategically located deep-water port and airfield at Souda Bay in Crete.