In Turkey’s eyes, U.S. getting too close to Greece

Ankara seems increasingly concerned with evolving Greek-American cooperation, which the neighbouring country’s political and military establishment sees as having “anti-Turkish” characteristics.

Successive American administrations and both parties in the U.S. Congress have indeed worked closely with Greece’s prime ministers over the past few years, regardless of the latter’s ideologies. Athens is developing a strategic relationship with Washington, important bilateral agreements are being implemented between the two sides and there are no tensions marring ties.

The opposite is true for Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has come under criticism from both Republicans and Democrats and, barring the Donald Trump phenomenon (the former U.S. president had a bizarrely close relationship with the Turkish leader), the entire American foreign policy and defence establishment has a bone to pick with Ankara, as blatantly evidenced by numerous public statements, decisions and even the implementation of sanctions.

For several years now, State Department and Pentagon bureaucrats – traditionally champions of close US-Turkey ties – have been expressing serious reservations about Turkey’s course and its behaviour.

This is the climate that is prompting Turkish politicians and analysts to believe that America is not just growing closer to Greece, but is acting in concert with it against Turkey. Some go so far as to claim that Washington is using Greece to somehow “encircle” Turkey. They point to American weapons systems at bases all over Greece, focusing in particular on Souda and Alexandroupoli as geographical reference points.

This sense of alarm only grew last week after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s stern comments to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu over the Russian S-400 missile defence system and after Washington chided Ankara for withdrawing from the convention for the protection of women’s rights.

To top it all, there was also the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower sailing into Crete’s Souda Bay and welcoming Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on board for a visit; the telephone call between Joe Biden and Mitsotakis, in which the U.S. president assured Greece of Washington’s support and said he’s there “to help”; as well as Biden’s warm message to the Greek people and his communication with leading members of the Greek-American diaspora, all on the occasion of the bicentenary of the Greek Revolution.

There is obviously a distorted assessment of the situation by some in Turkey. Still, President Erdoğan would go a long way to serve his country’s interests if he acted more like a loyal NATO ally and behaved in the spirit of good-neighbourly relations toward Greece.

(A version of this article was originally published by the Kathimerini and reproduced by permission.)