Mediterranean powers see Turkey as threat, take no chances on U.S. policy

France, Cyprus and Greece’s decision to join Israel in a series of naval exercises in the Mediterranean earlier this month reflects concerns about U.S engagement in the region, said Dov Zakheim, a former senior official in the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush.

The main focus of the military drills held between March 7 and March 12 was the emerging military threat posed by NATO member Turkey, Zakheim, now a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote in The Hill.

Turkey has clashed with Israel, Cyprus and Greece over claims to hydrocarbon deposits in the Mediterranean, while France is at loggerheads with the country over regional influence, Zakheim said.

“The four-country naval exercise is, therefore, another manifestation of the increasingly volatile environment in the eastern Mediterranean,” Zakheim said. The exercise clearly “reflected the reservation” of all four states concerning the stance the United States might take in any military clashes with Turkey, he said.

Zakheim said U.S. President Joe Biden “shares the desire of its predecessors in the Obama and Trump administrations to avoid any additional military involvement in the Middle East”.

As Washington’s focus shifts further towards China and Russia, France is seeking to fill the power vacuum in the region, Zakheim said. The participants in the naval drills believe it is possible that the United States may have “only a marginal role to play in the new balance of power that is beginning to emerge in the Middle East”, he said.