Turkey’s antagonism with Greece puts NATO to the test

An analysis on 19FortyFive detailed Turkey’s hostilities against fellow NATO member Greece, which is now putting the Atlantic Alliance to the test as it struggles to balance unity within the organization. , and the belligerence of Ankara.

The article:

The troubling events in Ukraine pose a direct threat to the interests of the United States and its allies, but also an indirect threat by giving capricious Turkey the power to arm the United States and its allies to ignore their relentless abuse just to get Turkey to help Ukraine against Russia.

Turkey’s acquisition of advanced armaments, and more recently its attempts to purchase advanced F-16 fighter jets, is the issue where this dynamic has manifested itself most clearly.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) has just brought this issue to the fore by introducing an amendment that would condition Turkey’s ability to purchase advanced F-16s.

Academics have long pointed to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s “pan-Islamist, neo-Ottoman” ideology as a threat to regional stability. Thus, Turkey was already on a downward slope in its relations with the United States.

After Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 missile from Russia, it became a downward spiral. Turkey was subject to CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) due to its deal with Russia and was removed from the F-35 program.

Rather than backtracking, Ankara has simply modified its request for the purchase of advanced F-16s to modernize its air force.

Ankara’s assumption seemed to be that the United States was forced to kick them out of the F-35 program, but once that was done things would return to normal. They were going to have a rude awakening.

Congressional rejection was immediate, with a pair of bipartisan letters, representing a bipartisan coalition of nearly 60 House members, opposing any sales of advanced F-16s to Turkey.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also opposed the sale, and Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), a ranking member, also balked, saying:

“Until the issues surrounding [the S-400 missile] purchase are resolved, I cannot and will not support arms sales to Turkey.

Equally bad for Ankara: the Biden administration was lukewarm and made no firm commitments. The current US Ambassador to Turkey, Jeff Flake, has promised further CAATSA sanctions if Turkey buys more Russian weapons.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has breathed new life into Erdogan. Now portraying Turkey, falsely, as a staunch ally of NATO‘s position on Ukraine, or alternatively as a useful arbiter between Ukraine and Russia, Erdogan had a new influence.

Senator Risch softened his stance, saying, “The Turks have made a credible case for why they should get the F-16s. I am positively disposed in this direction, but I am not completely there yet.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), usually a Turkey critic, said: “I support the sale. Although we have differences with the Turkish government, Turkey is a NATO ally and we must strengthen this alliance.

This dynamic accelerated after the request of Sweden and Finland to join NATO. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu immediately declared that “countries supporting terrorism should not be allies in NATO”, referring to Sweden and Finland’s support for the oppressed Kurdish minority from Turkey.

Quickly, NATO countries worked to ensure that Turkey would not stop NATO enlargement.

After Turkey acquiesced in Sweden and Finland joining NATO, Biden announced his support for the sale of F-16s. However, Biden personally emphasized that “I need congressional approval to be able to do this.”

During the NDAA’s recent House appearance, Reps. Chris Pappas (D-NH) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ) proposed an amendment that would ban the sale unless certified by the administration that it is necessary for the national security of the United States. and demonstrated the concrete steps taken to ensure that they are not used for repeated unauthorized overflights of Greece.

One would not naturally think that one NATO ally would fly aggressive missions over another’s airspace. But in the past month alone, Turkey has violated Greek airspace 110 times in one single daya question that has become a “source of daily tension” according to the Greek media.

The diplomatic tension between the two is severe. Part of it is the decades-old struggle for the island of Cyprus, but also other elements such as an oil pipeline between Israel and Greece, among others.

Leaked documents suggest that Turkey even has ready-made plans to invade Greece. These are not trivialities.

So when the amendment passed with a comfortable bipartisan majority of 244 to 179, Turkey found itself in a difficult situation.

Çavuşoglu called such “unacceptable” restrictions, a sentiment shared by Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, who nevertheless insisted that the House amendment could be overcome because of the “work to be done both at home Blanche and the Senate.

Erdoğan threatened to buy jets from Russia, the UK or France instead.

However, Senator Menendez is now proposing a similar amendment in the Senate, which is expected to be voted on in the coming weeks. A coalition various ethnic groups and thinkers showed their support.

This amendment will put the issue in the center of attention. Will Turkey follow and refuse to buy F-16s if they cannot use them against Greece?

The position of the Biden administration is nuanced. Given Biden’s insistence on congressional approval, when he has the power to waive it in emergency situations, it’s fair to wonder if his statement is a face-saving device. deny the jets to Turkey, while gaining Turkey’s cooperation over Ukraine.

The logic of the situation is clear: the United States is ready to appease Turkey if it means NATO unity in opposition to Russia’s reckless and criminal attack on Ukraine.

But Turkey cannot credibly claim that the sale will provide that kind of unity if it openly signals that it intends to use American jets to antagonize Greece.

Turkey hopes that the Senate will overcome this contradiction. It shouldn’t. Erdoğan privately disdains NATO and simply uses it as a tool to gain leverage. Erdogan is only too ready to get closer to Russia, Iran and to pamper the most radical Islamist movements.

Turkey must change its behavior, not its demand.

Until then, the United States should reject Turkish requests to be allowed to use American technology to antagonize another NATO member.

Clifford Smith is director of the Middle East Forum’s Washington Project. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

READ MORE: The defense of Greece begins in Armenia.

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