Turkey Still Fears NATO, US Military Buildup in Greece

The National Herald

(Photo by Twitter/@USAmbPyatt, file)

Turkey is not backing off its claims that the United States wants to expand in Greece, with the backing of NATO, the defense alliance to which Turkey and Greece belong, which has said nothing about constant Turkish violations of Greek airspace and waters.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy had said Greece wants to draw NATO into disputes between the countries over sovereignty in the Aegean and East Mediterranean, as tensions got so high that Turkey’s defense chief said he hoped war wouldn’t break out.

That statement conceals Turkey growing concerns that NATO and the United States may be planning to increase the number of bases in Greece and its Aegean islands, defence policy expert John C. K. Daly said, according to the Turkish news site Ahval.

Aksoy said in a written statement that NATO Activity in the Aegean Sea should be carried out in a manner that does not prejudice its allies national policies.

Aksoy said that, in line with the collective understanding in NATO, “it had been agreed that the military vessels operating in the Aegean Sea under the NATO Activity would refrain from visiting the Aegean islands under demilitarized status according to international law, including with the aim of refuelling or port visits.”

That was a reference to the Dodecanese Islands which Turkey says have a demilitarized status according to the 1947 Treaty of Paris and the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 - which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan doesn’t recognize as he wants return of islands ceded to Greece.

Greece noted as well that Turkey didn’t sign the Paris treaty and that the demilitarized status lost its reason with the creation of NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

There’s anxiety in Turkey that the US and NATO may be planning to deepen their military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean to include more bases in Greece and its Aegean islands, Daly said in an article for Eurasia Daily Monitor.

Turkish media in 2015 followed closely discussions in Greece over a potential U.S. or NATO base in the Dodecanese Islands, following former Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos’ visit to Karpathos, adjacent to Turkey, Daly said.

The US is also seeking to protect its security interests in the Middle East, the Balkans, and the North Africa by joining the Eastern Mediterranean Partnership (EMP) of Israel, Greece, and Cyprus.

“Ankara’s response to Athens’ cozying up to Washington—particularly as Turkey’s own relations with the United States have continued to deteriorate—has been to demonstrate its own military prowess,” Daly said.

A day after Aksoy’s statement, Turkey started its largest military exercise in its history in the Mediterranean, Aegean and Black Sea.

Relations between the US and Turkey are strained with Turkey - which wants to buy US-made F-35 fighter jets, saying it would also go ahead with the purchase of a Russian S-400 missile defense system that the US fears could severely compromise NATO.

Yet, “President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government presumably has no wish to see its positions in NATO and Washington diminished and supplanted by Greece,” Daly also wrote.