Public Papers

Remarks to United States and Greek Armed Forces in Souda Bay, Crete


Warm up here. Take this off -- I will now take off my Air Force jacket, my Navy necktie, and go to work. [Laughter]

Mr. Prime Minister, thank you, sir, for your wonderful words. And may I first salute the visiting dignitaries, members of our Armed Forces, members of the Greek Government, our hosts and hostesses, and especially those who serve in the Armed Forces of Greece and the United States. I'm just delighted to visit this historic island, this land of memory and myth. And I'm deeply honored to meet today the officers and crew of these two proud ships, the Limnos and the U.S.S. De Wert.

Before I go any further, let me also salute the support team right here at Souda Bay. There's at least seven of them here in the front row. [Laughter] Let me put it in perspective. In the months since last August 2d, Souda serviced 97 ships, loaded and unloaded 13,000 tons of cargo, handled 31,000 flights, pumped 4/2\ million pounds of jet fuel. Souda has run round-the-clock at break-neck pace. Operating at 300, 400, and 500 percent above normal, day after day, Souda Bay was called on to keep the supply lines moving, and day after day, Souda Bay did its duty with distinction.

I had the pleasure of touring Limnos a few minutes ago, speaking to some of her sailors. And let me say to all, and to you especially, Mr. Prime Minister: My visit to your great country would not be complete without an opportunity to thank the members of the Greek Armed Forces, a key member of our coalition. Greece stood with us from the very first moments of Desert Shield to the final victory in Desert Storm. And we are very grateful to each and every one of you.

Flying in today, looking down as we came in over Souda Bay put me in mind of my own Navy days many, many years ago. But how things have changed dramatically and, I might add, for the better. I mentioned a moment ago my visit to Limnos. Let me speak to the crew -- officers and crew of the U.S.S. De Wert. Daring, dauntless, defiant. That is your motto the proud legacy of De Wert carries with it wherever she sails. And it's a special pleasure to meet you all here, so far from home and hearth, to bring you on behalf of friends and family, on behalf of all Americans, a nation's heartfelt thanks.

A larger task unites the De Wert and the Limnos and the two nations they represent. And 2,000 years ago, Thucydides wrote: ``Freedom, if we hold fast to it, will ultimately restore our losses. But submission will mean the permanent loss of all that we value. To you who call yourselves men of peace, I say you are not safe unless you have men of action at your side.'' And today, just as these two ships are moored stern to stern, so, too, the key to keeping our nations secure remains the Atlantic alliance.

I am pleased to announce today, during this visit, a series of initiatives designed to strengthen U.S.-Greek security and to help modernize the Greek Armed Forces. First, I have expressed to Prime Minister Mitsotakis our readiness to lease your country two Knox-class frigates for the Hellenic Navy. Secondly, we will accelerate the delivery of 10 F4 - E aircraft to Greece this summer, with an additional 18 to follow in the autumn. And finally, we plan to transfer to Greece, from existing NATO stocks, a large number of tanks and artillery that will measurably increase Greece's defensive capabilities.

Each of these steps reaffirms our close and critical defense relationship with our valued NATO ally, Greece. Our support for Greek security will not waver.

Greece remains a valued ally, and our friendship with Greece remains part of our destiny. The United States remains committed to helping Greece maintain its ability to perform its vital NATO missions. Greece can be certain that U.S. support will remain steadfast and strong.

So, once again, may I thank you for your warm welcome, and for your service to the cause of peace. And, may I say, may God bless the U.S. Navy, the Greek Navy, those who serve aboard Limnos and De Wert. And now I would like to hand the Commanding Officer Nikitiadis of the Limnos a small token: it's the flag of the Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces. And I'm delighted to hand it to you, sir, in commemoration of this visit.

Thank you all very much. Thank you.

A Souda Bay crowd here. I wish I could stay a while.

Note: The President spoke at 12:25 p.m. at the Souda Bay naval facility. In his remarks, he referred to Prime Minister Constantinos Mitsotakis of Greece and Constantinos Nikitiadis, commanding officer of the Greek naval ship ``Limnos.'' A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.