US Senator Bob Menendez during the event (TNH/C. Athanasatos)
NEW JERSEY – The chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, sent a new message to Turkey that in the event it takes any action against Greece, it will suffer the consequences. He made the declaration during a fundraiser for him organized by Cypriot- and Greek-American leaders held at the Graycliff Manor in New Jersey on September 30.
Menendez, despite the fact that he made it clear that he considers any aggressive move on Erdogan’s part “stupid,” indicated, indirectly but clearly, that he did not rule it out, citing as an example the case of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
He said he hopes that Erdogan is not stupid enough to do something like that, but noted that many times desperate people make desperate moves, as has been seen with Putin.
Mendendez said there will be consequences if something happens, having previously emphasized that the Turkish president is trying to distract Turkish public opinion ahead of the elections.
He continued, saying that Erdogan is dangerous and unpredictable, especially now that he is struggling to stay in power, and given that autocrats are capable of anything, especially when their economy is collapsing. He wants to do something to distract the attention of the Turkish citizens as the elections approach, said Menendez.
Afterwards, the Philhellenic Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee criticized the diplomatic language of ‘equidistancing’ regarding Greek and Turkish actions, having expressed his displeasure both to Secretary General NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, as well as to his colleagues at the State Department, demanding an end to their ‘identification with the aggressor.’
He said he asked the NATO Secretary General what he would do if one NATO ally attacked another. Menendez said meant Turkey, and told him Stoltenberg there is one aggressor in such circumstances and that he does not want to hear that “both sides” are responsible. He said it bothers him when the State Department does that, notwithstanding that it’s not just done with Greece and Turkey. He stressed that he believes it should be mentioned which of the two parties is being aggressive, noting also that Greece has shown exceptional patience in order not to get involved in a ‘hot episode’. He reiterated that he has appealed to the State Department to hold Erdogan to account.
Menendez said that he also made it clear to the State Department that the United States must make it clear to Erdogan that overflights and violations of Greek territorial waters are not acceptable and he emphasized that any provocation against Greece is a provocation against a NATO ally, so Turkey should suffer the consequences. He said they must do everything they can to stand by their allies.
Menendez also made it clear that he would not allow Turkey’s F-16 requests to be granted under these circumstances, declaring that as long as he is Chairman of the Committee, which has a say in the sale of F-16s to other countries, that will not happen, calling it a matter of American national security.”
In the introduction to his speech, Robert Menendez emphasized, among other things, that his continued support for the Greek positions does not concern only his own feelings of friendship towards the Greeks, but primarily the fundamental national interests and national security issues of the United States.
In fact, he made a special reference to the value of the bases at Souda Bay and Alexandroupoli, not only for Greece, but also for the whole of Europe, while reminding that Greece was an ally that stood by the United States in all critical moments.
He emphasized that he does not consider them Greek issues, but American issues and that he has adopted those positions on that Committee in response to the question “what is the U.S. national security interest.” He said the answers help him formulate positions for the United States, stating again that it is in the national interest of the United States to have a strong relationship with Greece, which is a steadfast ally and has been with America at all critical moments for the past 45 years. He added that Greece and Cyprus, under these circumstances, have had a significant geopolitical opportunity.
Asked by an attendee whether Joe Biden shares the same views regarding Greek national issues, Menendez replied that, until now, Joe Biden speaks with actions, citing the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the strengthening of Greek-American relations.
Menendez noted it is a fact that the President met with the Greek Prime Minister and signed the new Greece-U.S. defense agreement, and that the United States’ relationship with Greece has expanded. That, for him, is Biden’s broader statement on these matters, though he also noted that the President also had a history of support for Greece and Cyprus before he became the President of the United States.
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