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Greece, Turkey vie for US goods — at the other’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 conflict already raging subsequent door.

The longtime Mediterranean rivals have immediately discovered themselves in a outstanding place as 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 nations are enjoying completely different playing cards to argue that it — and never the different — is the most necessary close by ally for the U.S. and NATO. 

Greece desires to be known as the “reliable 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 conduct.

“Greece is projecting its usefulness in contrast to Turkey, and the role it could play for the U.S., together with a group of other allies, as an alternative, since they cannot trust Erdoğan,” stated Constantinos Filis, director of the Institute of Global Affairs and a professor of worldwide relations at the American College of Greece.

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

But Athens can’t change some info, Filis famous: “The West sees Turkey as a very important ally for them, a political hinge in the region, a very large market and an army willing to go on various missions.” 

Indeed, 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 provided Kyiv with drones, even because it dodges becoming a member of Western sanctions in opposition to Moscow.

“Turkey is trying to position itself diplomatically to leverage the influence it has achieved during the war in Ukraine,” stated 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 minimize off all bilateral talks with Greece after Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis urged U.S. lawmakers in particular person to dam Turkish arms gross sales. Military provocations quickly soared, creating the most unstable scenario since the two sides almost came to blows in 2020.

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

“The posturing has more to do with broader geopolitical positioning amid shifting balances than domestic politics,” stated Emre Peker, a Turkey and EU knowledgeable at threat evaluation agency Eurasia Group. “So, the structural tensions are here to stay.”

The simmer begins to boil

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

In current years, Greece has grown tighter than ever with the U.S. as historic skepticism towards the international superpower thawed and Turkey turned an everyday 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, nonetheless, the developments spilled into the Greece-Turkey relationship.

“The Greek government portrays the U.S. bases as a deterrent to Turkey, but in reality, their presence has nothing to do with Turkey,” stated Ülgen, the former Turkish diplomat. 

“This political communication strategy has been adopted by the nationalists in Turkey, who repeat the same argument,” he added. “They say, ‘Look what the U.S. and Greece are doing against us,’ and this further escalates the situation between the two countries.”

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

Greece swiftly started transport weapons to Ukraine regardless of appreciable dissension at residence, ultimately incomes a shoutout from the U.S. Defense Department. Turkey handed alongside the drones that gave Ukraine precision air-strike capabilities, which proved important 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 might put aside a few of their variations in favor of wartime unity — Mitsotakis and Erdoğan met in March, furthering these hopes. 

Yet the two nations had been shortly again at odds, with the U.S. sometimes at the heart.

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

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

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

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

“Mitsotakis taking his gripes with Turkey to Congress really did not go down well in Ankara,” stated Peker, the EU knowledgeable with Eurasia Group. “It’s not only a personal affront to Erdoğan, who puts a lot of stock into bilateral relations, but also undermines broader Turkish trust in a working mechanism between Ankara and Athens.”

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

While Turkish officers argue the nations can’t be admitted till they finish assist for Kurdish teams that Ankara deems to be terrorist organizations, observers say Turkey additionally sees a possibility 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 through Getty Images

“NATO and the U.S. are a point of reference for both countries,” stated Filis, the Institute of Global Affairs director. 

From phrases to actions

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

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

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

Inevitably, these bilateral disputes spill over into worldwide arenas — the United Nations, the European Union and, after all, the U.S., even when it has traditionally tried to remain impartial throughout the two nations’ disagreements. 

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

But years of failed diplomacy don’t encourage a lot hope that bilateral reconciliation is on the horizon. The two nations can’t even agree on what “bilateral” means, stated Filis. 

“For Greece, it means we should talk to each other,” he stated. “For Turkey, it means don’t go to any third parties” like the U.S.

“But,” he added, “is there any chance that a Greek PM could seriously go to discuss whether the Greek islands belong to Greece or whether Turkey could fly over Greek territory?”

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