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Greece, Turkey vie for US items — on the different’s expense – POLITICO

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ATHENS — Greece and Turkey’s competing bids to win U.S. consideration, cash and weapons are roiling the area, with struggle already raging subsequent door.

The longtime Mediterranean rivals have instantly discovered themselves in a outstanding place because the U.S. and its Western allies reorient their navy forces to constrain Russia’s march into Ukraine, which sits simply throughout the Black Sea from Turkey and northeast of Greece. And each international locations are taking part in totally different playing cards to argue that it — and never the opposite — is crucial close by ally for the U.S. and NATO. 

Greece needs to be recognized because the “dependable and predictable ally,” whereas Turkey is providing a prepared navy and connections past the West.

Already an EU and NATO ally, Greece has granted the U.S. navy open-ended entry to pivotal navy bases and is now taking in U.S. liquefied pure fuel. Notably, Greece additionally isn’t run by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has irked U.S. officers with Russian weapons purchases and anti-democratic habits.

“Greece is projecting its usefulness in distinction to Turkey, and the position it might play for the U.S., along with a gaggle of different allies, as a substitute, since they can’t belief Erdoğan,” mentioned Constantinos Filis, director of the Institute of International Affairs and a professor of worldwide relations on the American Faculty of Greece.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis talks to U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris (L) and Speaker of the Home Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) after he addressed a joint session of Congress, within the Home Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on Might 17, 2022 in Washington, DC | Win McNamee/Getty Photos

However Athens can’t change some details, Filis famous: “The West sees Turkey as an important ally for them, a political hinge within the area, a really giant market and a military prepared to go on varied missions.” 

Certainly, Turkey is portraying itself as uniquely suited to facilitate between Russia and Ukraine. The nation has tried to dealer talks to restart Ukrainian grain exports, welcomed each Russian exiles and Ukrainian refugees, and equipped Kyiv with drones, even because it dodges becoming a member of Western sanctions in opposition to Moscow.

“Turkey is attempting to place itself diplomatically to leverage the affect it has achieved through the struggle in Ukraine,” mentioned Sinan Ülgen, a former Turkish diplomat who’s now a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe in Brussels.

The dueling pitches are driving native instability.

Erdoğan reduce off all bilateral talks with Greece after Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis urged U.S. lawmakers in particular person to dam Turkish arms gross sales. Army provocations quickly soared, creating probably the most risky state of affairs because the two sides nearly got here to blows in 2020.

With elections on the horizon in each Greece and Turkey — and highly effective U.S. provides at stake — deescalation just isn’t anticipated any time quickly.

“The posturing has extra to do with broader geopolitical positioning amid shifting balances than home politics,” mentioned Emre Peker, a Turkey and EU skilled in danger evaluation agency Eurasia Group. “So, the structural tensions are right here to remain.”

The simmer begins to boil

Greece and Turkey’s shifting relationships with the U.S. had already created low-simmering tensions between the 2 international locations even earlier than Russia launched its struggle in Ukraine.

Lately, Greece has grown tighter than ever with the U.S. as historic skepticism towards the worldwide superpower thawed and Turkey grew to become a daily irritant to the Western alliance. American company cash began flowing into Greece. Athens welcomed the U.S. navy into new bases all through Greece.

Inevitably, nevertheless, the developments spilled into the Greece-Turkey relationship.

“The Greek authorities portrays the U.S. bases as a deterrent to Turkey, however in actuality, their presence has nothing to do with Turkey,” mentioned Ülgen, the previous Turkish diplomat. 

“This political communication technique has been adopted by the nationalists in Turkey, who repeat the identical argument,” he added. “They are saying, ‘Look what the U.S. and Greece are doing in opposition to us,’ and this additional escalates the state of affairs between the 2 international locations.”

After the Ukraine struggle broke out in February, Greece and Turkey each took steps that bolstered their standing in Washington’s eyes.

Greece swiftly started delivery weapons to Ukraine regardless of appreciable dissension at residence, ultimately incomes a shoutout from the U.S. Protection Division. Turkey handed alongside the drones that gave Ukraine precision air-strike capabilities, which proved essential to its protection.

Later, Greece even seized an Iranian oil tanker off the Greek coast at Washington’s request, struggling penalties for serving to its ally when Iran grabbed two Greek oil tankers in response.

Initially, it additionally appeared Greece and Turkey could put aside a few of their variations in favor of wartime unity — Mitsotakis and Erdoğan met in March, furthering these hopes. 

But the 2 international locations have been shortly again at odds, with the U.S. often on the middle.

In Might, Mitsotakis flew to Washington and made headlines in Greek and Turkish media when he warned Congress in a high-profile tackle that arms gross sales to Turkey would exacerbate instability within the area.

Turkey has been searching for a reprieve on weapons purchases from the U.S. since being reduce out of the American F-35 fighter jet program over its buy of a Russian air protection system. It’s now searching for F-16 jets as an alternative.

But throughout his journey, not solely did Mitsotakis attempt to tank Ankara’s F-16 buy, however he additionally confirmed Greece now needed to purchase the F-35s Turkey can not entry. 

“There is no such thing as a one named Mitsotakis for me anymore,” Erdoğan fumed in response.

“Mitsotakis taking his gripes with Turkey to Congress actually didn’t go down properly in Ankara,” mentioned Peker, the EU skilled with Eurasia Group. “It’s not solely a private affront to Erdoğan, who places loads of inventory into bilateral relations, but additionally undermines broader Turkish belief in a working mechanism between Ankara and Athens.”

Turkey could now be not directly taking its case to the U.S. by way of NATO, the place Ankara has halted Sweden and Finland’s makes an attempt to affix the navy alliance.

Whereas Turkish officers argue the international locations can’t be admitted till they finish assist for Kurdish teams that Ankara deems to be terrorist organizations, observers say Turkey additionally sees a chance to arm-twist Washington into approving its request to purchase dozens of U.S. F-16 warplanes. 

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan | Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP by way of Getty Photos

“NATO and the U.S. are a degree of reference for each international locations,” mentioned Filis, the Institute of International Affairs director. 

From phrases to actions

Within the meantime, Greece and Turkey’s rhetorical barbs are translating into the bodily realm — and additional reeling within the U.S. 

Every nation has accused the opposite of airspace violations, whereas high-ranking Turkish officers are additionally difficult the sovereignty of Greek islands within the Aegean Sea. Turkey’s nationwide oil firm, in the meantime, is vowing to begin drilling for fuel in disputed waters. 

On the land borders, Greek officers mentioned they’ve deployed extra personnel and despatched water cannons, tear fuel and flash grenades to discourage any doable mass entry of migrants. The purpose is to keep away from a repeat of March 2020, when Erdoğan declared the borders open amid a spat with Athens, letting 1000’s of individuals attempt to cross into Greece.

Inevitably, these bilateral disputes spill over into worldwide arenas — the United Nations, the European Union and, in fact, the U.S., even when it has traditionally tried to remain impartial through the two international locations’ disagreements. 

“Greece’s sovereignty over these islands is unquestionable,” mentioned a U.S. State Division spokesperson, reiterating the same old line from Washington that Greece and Turkey are each necessary U.S. and NATO allies and may work to resolve their variations diplomatically.

However years of failed diplomacy don’t encourage a lot hope that bilateral reconciliation is on the horizon. The 2 international locations can’t even agree on what “bilateral” means, mentioned Filis. 

“For Greece, it means we should always speak to one another,” he mentioned. “For Turkey, it means don’t go to any third events” just like the U.S.

“However,” he added, “is there any probability {that a} Greek PM might significantly go to debate whether or not the Greek islands belong to Greece or whether or not Turkey might fly over Greek territory?”



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