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Politics

Greece Poised to Replace Turkey as NATO Air Power in East Mediterranean

December 27, 2020

ATHENS — The two countries locked in a standoff over rights to the seas, Greece could gain an advantage by taking over Turkey's role as NATO's top air power in the East Mediterranean, where Turkey wants to drill for oil and gas off Greek islands.

The Pentagon-linked military news website RealClear Defense showed the US further tilting toward Greece after Turkey was barred from buying American-made F-35 fighter jets following purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system.

Buying that from an ideological enemy of NATO has compromised the security of the defense alliance to which Greece, Turkey and the US belong and the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden could see Greece further benefit.

Outgoing US President Donald Trump said Turkey's authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a friend and a “hell of a leader,” and praised his style, which has included jailing journalists, Trump being a media hater for revealing truths.

Greece's acquisition of the U.S.-produced F-35 stealth fighter jet, combined with its existing air force of over a hundred F-16 fighters, will make it a bulwark of NATO’s southern flank, the website also added.

Greece had already made a deal to upgrade F-16s and wants to get F-35s after reupping a military agreement with the US and allowing a greater American miltary presence in Greece, where the US Navy has a base in Souda Bay on Crete.

The F-35 has become a key feature of the military alliance’s plans to deter Russian aggression, the site said, because of its advanced survivability and versatility provide warfighting advantages that Russia cannot match, and its adoption by many NATO members assures that diverse air forces will synch effectively in combat, it said.

If Turkey had acquired the F-35s in conjunction with the S-400 and purchase of submarine components from Germany which continues to arm Turkey despite Greece wanting sanctions for seas provocations, Turkey would have an edge in a conflict.

Turkey has turned to getting closer to Russia while avoiding any punitive measures from NATO, including for repeated violations of Greek airspace and waters with fighter jets and warships.

That has led the US to eye the Iraklion Air Base in Crete to replace Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base as the country’s air force station in the Middle East despite the worries it could solidify Turkey in the Russian camp.

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