US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin thanked many countries including Greece for sending new military packages of assistance to Ukraine, causing political chaos in Athens where last month government officials said there would be no more military equipment shipments to Kiev.
During a press briefing in Washington this week, Austin praised dozens of ministers and chiefs of defense who met as part of a Ukraine Defense Contact Group.
According to the secretary, some 20 countries announced Monday that they would send new packages of security assistance to Ukraine, including Greece.
“And today, several countries announced new donations of critically needed artillery systems and ammunition, including Italy, Greece, Norway and Poland,” Austin told Pentagon reporters.
We have been informed by a third country that our country has announced it would send new heavier weapons to Ukraine, but there is no information for the Greek parliament and the Greek people
Following Austin’s statements, political opposition in Athens criticized the Greek government for keeping parties in the dark.
“We have been informed by the minister of a third country that our country has announced it would send new heavier weapons to Ukraine, something for which there is no information in Greece regarding parliament and the Greek people,” a joint statement said.
Opposition politicians went on to accuse Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of a quid pro quo last week. The premier had delivered a well-received speech where he called on US congress not to send military equipment to Greece’s rival Turkey.
“He already had the commitment to send new weapons packed in his suitcase for the trip to Washington in exchange of getting a warm welcome in Washington,” the statement said.
Last month Athens signaled there would be no more weapons shipments to Ukraine amid reports that Moscow had also warned Washington that US and NATO weaponry sent to Kiev could bring “unpredictable consequences.”
Greek Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos publicly rejected a call for more military gear for Ukraine, citing Greece’s defense needs and reassuring members of a House committee “we are not going to weaken our country.”
“We demand that parties and parliament be briefed immediately by Defense Minister Panagiotopoulos himself on the weapons shipments to Ukraine along with what appears to have been an already-taken decision,” the statement added.
Washington has shown interest in Russia-made military equipment in Greece and the Republic of Cyprus, with both capitals pledging to help and not ruling out a deal for new armaments.
Athens has large quantities of BMP-1 tracked infantry fighting vehicles, 9K33 Osa and Tor-M1 short-range, all of which require no further and could be used by the Ukrainian army.
Cyprus in the mix
According to Kathimerini Cyprus, Washington has also been sounding Nicosia out over possible shipments of the island's anti-aircraft umbrella including Tor M1 and Buk-M1-2 arrays as well as T-80U and BMP-3 tanks.
But the Cypriot Defense Ministry never ruled out shipments that could possibly include S-300 Russian long-range air defense missile systems.
Nicosia bought and stationed the S-300 on Crete after Turkey opposed their installation directly on the divided island.
Russian forces in Ukraine have been targeting weaponry supplied by NATO and other countries to Kiev, with recent reports saying shipments were being taken out by air strikes either in transit inside the war-torn country or while being stored in various locations.
On Monday former secretary of state Henry Kissinger told the World Economic Forum in Davos that the West should seek to negotiate peace with Russia.
The longtime advocate of realpolitik urged Western forces not to attempt a military escalation in Ukraine.