Nikolaos Stelgias

Nikolaos Stelgias

Greece hopes for change of government in Ankara

Greek columnists support US Congress in blocking F-16 sales to Turkey, caution that Erdogan must not be underestimated as he is a “competent player.”

Washington and Athens agree that as long as Ankara's aggressive rhetoric in the Aegean continues, Turkey should not gain new military technologies. The latest information from Athens shows that the Greek lobby in Washington is making behind-the-scenes moves in consultation with key American politicians to block the sale of new fighter jets to Turkey.

The latest statements by American politicians show the strong US annoyance at the escalation of tension in the Aegean. US congressional and parliamentarian representatives blame Turkey for the escalation of tension.

Greek analysts following the developments from the perspective of the Athens-Washington front imply that the US veto on the reinforcement of the Turkish Armed Forces will continue as long as the aggressive rhetoric of Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government prevails in Ankara. A turning of the page in Greek-Turkish relations and in Turkey's relations with the United States could come after the elections and a change of power in Turkey.

“A reliable ally does not threaten other NATO members”

“In Washington, a consensus has been formed regarding to Turkey. American politicians are complaining about Ankara's attitude in the Eastern Mediterranean. And they are not willing to contribute to the strengthening of Turkey's aggressive rhetoric,” Greek sources who do not wish to be named pointed out to our website in the past few days. According to them, behind the scenes, the "defenders of Greek positions in the American capital" (i.e. the Greek lobby and its interlocutors) are currently attempting to block the sale of F-16 fighter aircraft and upgrade parts for the existing aircraft of the Turkish fleet.

What the American politician Chris Pappas recently pointed out in an interview with the Greek press adds to the above point. “My amendment prohibits the United States from selling and upgrading F-16s to Turkey. The sell will proceed only if the President provides a certification to Congress that describes in detail  the specific measures taken to ensure that such F-16s are not used by Turkey to violate Greece's sovereignty and that the sale is in the national interest of the United States” states the American politician who adds this: “The United States can and should deny the requests until Turkey stops violating U.S. law and proves that it is the reliable NATO ally it claims to be. Turkey's purchase and activation of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system in 2019 violated United States law, resulting in its rejection from the F-35 program and imposing sanctions to counter America's adversaries (CAATSA). Turkey was warned many times about the consequences of violating CAATSA and was given ample opportunities to pursue alternatives. Turkey's increasingly bellicose rhetoric and aggression towards Greece, a reliable democratic NATO ally, cannot be ignored either. Turkish F-16s are flying over Greek islands and are violating (Greek) airspace. This has happened hundreds of times in recent months and Turkey has launched a baseless campaign challenging Greece's sovereignty over its islands in the eastern Aegean. With no substantive change on Turkey's part, I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to prevent the sale of F-16s or other American-made weapons (to Turkey).”

According to Pappas, “Erdogan has repeatedly chosen to undermine NATO with inflammatory rhetoric and destabilizing actions as part of his selfish narrow-minded strategy. A truly reliable U.S. and NATO ally does not threaten other NATO members like Greece with war, does not buy Russian S-400 missile systems that threaten our security architecture, and does not exploit NATO solidarity in Ukraine. I am deeply concerned about Turkey's threats to Greece and the possibility of conflict.”

In the previous days, similar views were expressed by other American politicians, whose remarks were published in the Greek diaspora newspaper Ethnikos Kirikas (National Herald) of the US.

The congresswoman Carolyn Maloney underlines that “she is deeply disappointed with the emerging plan to move forward on modernizing Turkey's F-16s. We should not forget that Turkey is using its current air fleet to violate the integrity of a reliable ally and NATO member, Greece, and this modernized force could support the illegal occupation of Northern Cyprus. Turkey is still in possession of Russian S-400 systems, which led to Turkey’s exit from the F-35 program and the imposing CAATSA sanctions. We must continue to hold Erdogan accountable for his violations of U.S. law, human rights, and the security of our ally Greece - not reward him.”

For another congresswoman, Nicole Malliotakis “It is shocking that President Biden would advocate for the sale of U.S. F-16s to Turkey after hearing the concerns about Turkish aggression directly from Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, during his visit to Washington last month. Any sale to Turkey could continue to bully other smaller countries in the Eastern Mediterranean, such as Greece, Cyprus and Israel.”

The congressman Gus Bilirakis adds to the above stating that “Turkey has repeatedly showed a total inconsistency in complying with international law. Erdogan has repeatedly acted against U.S. interests with his dangerous behavior, contributing to instability in the region. For all these reasons, under no circumstances should we sell F-16s to Turkey.”

“Turkey will turn to the West but without Erdogan”

Most Greek analysts and writers share the views of American politicians on developments in their countries' relations with Turkey. Greek analysts complain about the escalation of tensions in the Aegean and put forward the idea that de-escalation will come after the elections in Turkey.

“Turkey, with its opportunistic and provocative stance has now distanced itself from Washington. Turkey will turn to the West but without Erdogan,” stresses the Greek scholar in geopolitics, George Filis. According to the scholar, the scenery in Greek-Turkish relations could be different after the change of power in Ankara, and the formation of a new government, which will focus on repairing Turkey's relations with Western allies.

In addition to the above views, Filis adds that “the qualitative and quantitative upgrade of Hellenic Air Force with twelve French Rafales and a squadron of American F-16 Vipers has resulted in Turkey's irritation.” Moreover, according to the scholar, Turkey's frustration is magnified by the blockade placed by US lawmakers on the Turkish Air Force upgrade plan.

“Erdogan is a competent player”

Another Greek analyst, Dimitris Papaconstantinou, is of the opinion that Greece cannot afford to downplay Turkey's frustration. “I think that the first thing to do should be to keep calm. And turn to sanity without hasty populist positions,” stresses the columnist.

Papaconstantinou adds that “There is no need to engage in the extremism of ‘clownish’ characterizations used by Erdogan. Let us not underestimate our intelligence. There is nothing to be gained from underestimating a competent player as is, unfortunately for us, the Turkish President, whom we cannot deal with successfully if we do not respect him to the right extent as a potential opponent.”

*Dr Nikolaos Stelgias was born in Istanbul. He is an independent researcher, writer, historian and journalist. His doctorate is in the field of the modern Turkish political system (Panteion University, 2011). His latest book “The Ailing Turkish Democracy” was published by the Cambridge Scholars Publication in 2020. Dr. Stelgias was a correspondent of the newspaper "Kathimerini (Cyprus edition)" for Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot community from 2009 to 2021. Currently, Dr. Stelgias works at the Cyprus News Agency. Dr. Stelgias publishes in Turkish news articles and analyses on Cyprus and Greece on the news website 'Duvar". 

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