The United States does not rule out an expanded military presence in Greece, about which Assistant Deputy Pentagon Chief Sasha Baker and Greek Deputy Defense Minister Nikos Hardalias “exchanged views” in Washington.
Greece and the United States are stepping up cooperation amid growing threats from Ankara. Hardalias and Baker’s talks coincided with strained relations between NATO neighbors in the Eastern Mediterranean. GreekReporter.
According to the press service of the US Department of Defense, military officials “exchanged views on the expansion of the US military presence in Souda Bay and other areas in Greece, with the aim of strengthening support for NATO, especially in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Balkans, the Black Sea and the southern flank alliance.” The role of the port in Alexandroupoli was also discussed, “in terms of providing reliable access to the eastern flank of NATO, especially in terms of providing assistance to Ukraine.” Sasha Baker noted the active role of Athens in supporting Kyiv and called for dialogue between the Mediterranean players “to reduce tensions.”
A few days ago, the Nordic Research Monitoring Network (NRMN), a Stockholm-based think tank founded by Turkish dissidents, reported that Turkey was considering sending a secret special forces unit to the disputed Greek islands. According to analysts, the Turkish authorities are considering several options: from military sabotage to landing on uninhabited islands and carrying out a false flag operation to justify the scale of the military scenario against the Greeks.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey, is still exploring alternatives presented by MIT intelligence chief Hakan Fidan. He has not yet decided, NRMN notes, what specific measures he would like to resort to. Returning from Prague on October 7, the head of Turkey said that he had so far decided to deploy attack drones in the TRNC (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus), and answered a question about the possible creation of a military base there:
“New deliveries are possible, this is our right. It is necessary to completely secure the TRNC from all four directions.”
He added that Turkish Air Force aircraft, if necessary, can leave their continental airfields at any time and reach the territory of the TRNC as soon as possible: “We have no problems with this either.”
The diplomatic squabbling between Ankara and Athens has intensified: NATO members openly threaten each other with a harsh culmination of long-standing territorial disputes. However, experts argue that a military conflict still looks like a scenario with dubious real benefits. Tourism revenues on the Aegean coast account for approximately 15% of Turkey’s GDP. For Greece, the corresponding figure reaches 18%. Both states, moreover, are quite heavily dependent on maritime shipping in the economy – before the pandemic, 87% of Turkish trade was carried out through sea routes.
It is noteworthy that almost all major Turkish politicians, including those in the opposition, demonstrate “hawkish” views on this problem. For example, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, head of the Republican People’s Party, has previously reproached Erdogan for empty threats. He noted that the real leader would act in the style of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 and simply take over the Greek islands without any words. The most defiant demonstration of such views belongs to the nationalist leader Devlet Bahceli, who caused a scandal by posing with a map on which part of the Greek islands of the Aegean was designated as Turkish.
But the majority of Turkish voters, oddly enough, believe that Erdogan’s threats and tensions with Greece are just a ruse ahead of the 2023 general election. set the agenda.” And 64% do not see a confrontation between the Turkish and Greek peoples at all. The social survey showed that skepticism about this exists among supporters of all parties, including the ruling Justice and Development Party.
Researchers are concerned about the factor that official Ankara is trying to present the conflict over the Eastern Mediterranean as an element of opposition to American influence. This view is supported by a number of mainstream pro-government publicists who emphasize that Turkey’s enemy is the United States, not Greece. In such a situation, increased assistance to Athens from the Pentagon could be a step closer to escalation. And it is not entirely out of the question that Erdogan sees the risk of severing strategic ties with the US “as an unfortunate but still significant price to be paid in the name of Turkey’s national security,” writes War on the Rocks magazine.