Fake reboot

After years of deteriorating relations between the United States and Turkey, a concerted effort is underway at the White House to promote a new narrative about the US-Turkish relationship.

This narrative focuses primarily on how the war in Ukraine offers a chance to reset relations between Washington and Ankara and reverse Turkey’s recent bias towards Russia.

The biggest shock to US-Turkish relations was Ankara’s acquisition of Russian S-400s. The Erdogan regime clearly believed that Washington’s insistence on this issue was half-hearted and that Congress was bluffing. Turkey’s exclusion from the F-35 program and the imposition of CAATSA sanctions should have been a wake-up call for Ankara.

Today, the “reset” narrative is centered on Turkey’s request to buy new and upgraded F-16s from the US. The State Department, which understandably wants everyone to forget that its longstanding practice of “private” pressure on Ankara has failed in the case of the S-400 (as, indeed, in the case of human rights, religious freedom, respect for international law and etc.), tried to put forward various justifications and topics for discussion in order to distinguish the F-16 case from the F-35 case.

There is an issue that is conspicuously absent from any discussion of the US-Turkish “reset” narrative: Turkey’s escalating aggressive behavior towards Greece and Cyprus. The Biden administration’s failure to publicly link the “reset” to an end to Turkey’s destabilizing behavior in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean undermines US policy on several fronts.

During her most recent trip to Turkey, Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland introduced a new feature of the US-Turkish reset – the so-called. “strategic mechanism”. Having received this encouragement “for good behavior”, Ankara responded with actions that justify this new diplomatic initiative? Not at all. The Erdogan regime could not even wait for Nuland to leave the region before stepping up its aggressive overflights of the Greek islands and violations of Greek airspace. In response, Nuland appeared on the Greek state television channel ERT and told Lena Argiri that the airspace violations and overflights of the Greek islands were “provocative”, stating that “we [США] we don’t support them.”

Responding to members of the House of Representatives who have openly expressed their opposition to the F-16 sale to Turkey, the State Department said there are “compelling long-term [интересы] unity of the Alliance, which are supported by relevant US defense trade ties with Turkey.” Turkey is undermining this cause by using US-made F-16s against NATO ally Greece. With alarming regularity, Turkey is challenging Greek sovereignty with US-made F-16s, including 168 airspace violations and 42 illegal overflights of the Greek islands in a single day on April 27 — less than two weeks after Under Secretary Nuland’s warning.

Contrary to the arguments of the State Department, Turkey undermines the interests of the unity of the Alliance and the interests of US national security almost daily, creating a flashpoint within NATO. Greece does not violate Turkish airspace, but is forced to take its aircraft into the air and engage in “battle” with Turkish ones to protect its airspace and territory. Former US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt expressed concern about [возможного] “terrible incident” between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean Sea, where “deadly and complex military systems” confront each other. Since then, Turkey has not only increased its airspace and flight violations, but has taken steps, including through official diplomatic correspondence at the UN, to challenge Greek sovereignty over the inhabited Greek islands.

Ankara is trying to confuse the situation by insisting that it only flies over international waters, pointing out that Greek airspace extends 10 miles and Greek territorial waters only extend 6 miles. This is hypocrisy laced with lies. Let’s start with the fact that the increased aggressiveness of Turkey is manifested in armed overflights over the inhabited Greek islands. Also, Turkey does not mention that Greece refrains from exercising its rights to expand territorial waters under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, because Turkey supports the casus belli, if Greece does this, it is in fact a preliminary declaration of war.

By any definition, Turkey behaves like an aggressor in the Aegean. It is particularly ironic that these constant overflights and airspace violations are perpetrated by the state that shot down the Russian jet over a 17-second incursion into Turkish airspace.

The threat to the civilian population was also ignored in discussions about this militancy. Turkish airspace violations have repeatedly put civil aviation at risk, especially in the summer when the area is crowded with commercial flights. Turkey is ignoring all Greek air traffic authorities that are trying to secure civilian aircraft by trying to guess the flight plan of naughty, unresponsive Turkish aircraft that often violate even the security zones of the Greek islands.

Minimizing this militancy and hoping that the problem will resolve itself cannot be the US approach here. By continuing to refer to the discrepancy between 10-mile airspace and 6-mile territorial waters, we are actually pushing Greece to expose Turkey’s bluff about a casus belli and draw attention to the fact that a NATO member is using the threat of force to violate international law. . The US cannot just worry about Turkey buying arms from Russia. They should equally emphasize the fact that Turkey is acting like Russia – in terms of autocracy, human rights, respect for international law, and especially in terms of militancy directed against Western allies and partners.

Turkey has not addressed the shortcomings that led to its removal from the F-35 program and the imposition of CAATSA sanctions. If anything, her behavior worsened. Ankara is recklessly risking war within NATO. Providing Turkey with new and upgraded F-16s would be equally reckless. Any U.S. arms sales to Ankara should at the very least be restricted to prevent their use in a way that could lead to conflict with Greece. Perhaps with legislation requiring confirmation that US-made weapons are not being used by Turkey in Greek airspace or over Greek territory. If the State Department does not have the wisdom and fortitude to publicly link the F-16 sale to Turkey with an end to its revisionism and provocative behavior towards Greece, President Biden should do so in his May 16 meeting with Prime Minister Mitsotakis.


Andy Zemenides is Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council.

The opinion of the author may not reflect the opinion of the editors.



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