Greece’s ‘hostile act’ against NATO ally Türkiye ‘shocking’ – former U.S. diplomat

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Washington: It is shocking that Greece engaged in a “hostile act” against another NATO ally Türkiye during a NATO mission over the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean seas, an analyst and former US diplomat said.

On the Aug. 23 “harassment” (radar locking) by a Russian-made S-300 air defense system stationed on the Greek island of Crete, Matt Bryza told Anadolu Agency: “… as Ankara has stated, clearly this is considered a hostile act according to normal military procedures. It’s shocking to me that one NATO ally would take such action against another NATO ally.”

Bryza, a senior researcher at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank, called the incident “a further sign of escalation” by the Greek side, rejecting Ankara’s efforts to decrease bilateral tensions that rose in August 2020.

“I think from Ankara’s perspective Ankara tried to de-escalate what Athens decided to escalate and the locking a Turkish F-16 by the S-300 radars is a further sign of escalation as is the push backs of migrants in the Aegean Sea from the Greek side of the Aegean and back into the Turkish side,” he said.

Regarding Greek media reports which claim that the incident was a result of Türkiye “deciding to provoke” Athens, he said: “That’s a completely false narrative. And I think the Greek political leadership is using fear of Türkiye as a way to, of course, to strengthen itself domestically in Greek domestic politics.”

GREEK ACTIONS IN AEGEAN AND EASTERN MEDİTERRANEAN SEEM PROVOCATIVE

Greece indulges in certain actions in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean that might seem provocative to the Turkish side, said Tudor Onea, an academic at the International Relations department of Bilkent University in Ankara.

“Both sides have tried to sort of play on each other’s nerves. Each of them is trying to make the other one back up,” Onea told Anadolu Agency.

“Of course, there is a difference. Türkiye is a bigger and much stronger actor in terms of population, economy, and military. It is definitely the heavyweight in the relation,” Onea added.

Stressing that Türkiye and Greece had a long history, he described the ties between the countries as “friendly rivalry.”

The real root behind the rivalry is the discovery of reserves of natural gas in the Mediterranean, he said. This rekindled, in fact, the whole issue about having a clear demarcation line between the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of Greece and Türkiye, he added.

The only way that Greece can resist is to bring in help from outside, he said, adding that Greece has adopted this as the “modus operandi” for years.

While Türkiye has often criticized NATO, including the US, for not supporting it enough on its territorial dispute with Greece, he said the biggest areas of concern for the US right now are East Asia and Russia.

“As far as the US is concerned, it does not want to blow up it into something bigger. It would appeal to put pressure on both sides to reach some sort of diplomatic accommodation. And definitely not to escalate (the tension) to the point where there is a risk and serious response,” he said, adding that the US has decent relations with both sides to ensure peace in the region.

Omer Ozkizilcik, a Turkish foreign policy and security analyst, said that there are two factors that come into play. “The first is Greece’s lobbying power and the other is Türkiye’s declining lobbying power in America,” he told Anadolu Agency.

He stressed US Senator Bob Menendez was the “key element” in the Greek lobby. Greece locked on Turkish warplanes right after Menendez’s visit to Greece. “In his speech, Bob Menendez defines Türkiye as the biggest threat in the eastern Mediterranean and completely accepts Greek theses and tells them as if they are real,” the analyst said.

Ozkizilcik added that the Armenian lobby, the Greek lobby, and also the influence of the terrorist organizations such as FETO and PKK have reduced Türkiye’s lobbying power in the US despite Ankara being right on many issues.

“Greece succeeds in filling this gap in its favor,” he said.

According to Turkish National Defense Ministry sources, Greece violated Türkiye’s airspace and territorial waters over 1,100 times in the first eight months of this year alone.

Türkiye, a NATO member for over 70 years, has complained of repeated provocative actions and rhetoric by Greece in the region in recent months, including arming islands near Turkish shores that are demilitarized under the treaty, saying that such moves frustrate its good faith efforts for peace.

“US WAIVED SANCTIONS ON INDIA DESPITE S-400 PURCHASE”

Ozkizilcik said the US gave an exemption to India over the purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense systems, but not to Türkiye.

“There are geopolitical reasons. Since the US wanted to focus on China, it gave an exemption to India in its own laws. Here, India is an element to balance China. The US did not want to impose sanctions against India and damage relations,” Ozkizilcik said.

“Rather than wanting to balance Russia, the US preferred to balance China. There is a geopolitical interest here,” he added.

Washington has long tried to deter countries from buying military equipment from Russia, threatening them with punitive measures under its Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

However, when Moscow and New Delhi inked a $5.5 billion deal for the S-400 system in 2018, the US Congress recommended a waiver over sanctioning India for its purchase this year.

The proposal argues that a strong US-India defense partnership is critical in light of growing threats in the region, calling sanctions counterproductive-an argument that was not made when sanctions were proposed against Türkiye, a steadfast NATO ally of the US since 1952.

Ozkizilcik said the Indian lobby in the US was another factor that was working effectively much like the Israeli and Greek lobby.

He added that the US House of Representatives and the Senate are two institutions that are mainly under the influence of the lobbies.

“These institutions are bent on protecting the interests of other states, not the US,” he said.