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Columnists

Greece, Turkey, and the Evolution of American Diplomacy

October 3, 2020
By Theodore G. Karakostas

There have been several crises between Greece and Turkey over the last several decades. These include the anti-Greek pogroms in the holy city of Constantinople on September 6, 1955. They also include the further ethnic cleansing and mass expulsions of Orthodox Greeks from Constantinople in 1964. In July and August 1974, Turkey invaded the Republic of Cyprus twice. On January 31, 1996 Turkey claimed for itself an islet in the Aegean belonging to Greece that was called Imia. That islet along with others was demonstrably proven to belong to Greece according to the Treaty of Peace with Italy of 1947. It is important to recount all these previous instances of Turkish aggression and provocations in light of the present displays of aggression being directed at Greece and  

Cyprus by Ankara. 

At the present time, American media such as the New York Times and Bloomberg have criticized the Trump administration for allegedly not acting to defuse the crisis. From a Hellenic perspective, there is a huge problem with this conclusion. This necessitates a  recall of how the aforementioned crises created by Turkey were handled by the United States. After the anti-Greek pogroms of 1955, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles wrote identical letters to Greek Prime Minister Alexander Papagos and Turkish Prime Minister 

Adnan Menderes. At the time it was not yet known that the Menderes government organized the pogroms against the Greek community. Still, the United States and NATO refused to condemn Turkey and subsequently threatened to cut off all military assistance to Greece if Athens persisted in its diplomatic and political efforts against the Turkish barbarism.  

In 1964, American diplomacy was non-existent when tens of thousands of Greeks were either expelled from Constantinople or fled in terror. As is well known, during the summer of 1974 Secretary of State Henry Kissinger supported the dual Turkish invasions of Cyprus because of his hostility to President-Archbishop Makarios. The Turks seized thirty-seven percent of Cyprus and ethnically cleansed over 200,000 Greek Cypriots from their homes. The Turkish invasion and occupation of Cyprus remains up to the present day. On January 31,1996 the United States Undersecretary of State Richard Holbrooke brokered an unsatisfactory settlement between Greece and Turkey in the aftermath of the Imia affair. Imia was an islet belonging to Greece and Athens came under enormous pressure to abandon its own territory and to remove the Greek flag from the islet. A Turkish victory to be sure. 

Therefore, those who lament the passing of the old American diplomacy have ignored the fact that virtually all acts of aggression from Turkey against Greece have been to the moral and political disadvantage of the Greek world. The Trump administration's absence from the Greek-Turkish crisis has in fact been to the advantage of Greece. Greece has stood firmly and in defiance of Turkey and there has been no American pressure to force Greece to surrender as occurred on January 31, 1996 when Athens withdrew its sovereignty over the islet of Imia because of American Undersecretary of State Richard Holbrooke. During this past year Greece has successfully defended its border with Turkey by refusing to admit thousands of refugees that Turkey was attempting to push into Greece. Most recently, Greece achieved at the very least a temporary victory when the Turkish vessel Oruc Reis ceased drilling for oil in Greek waters.  

The absence of American pressure on Greece under the Trump administration is a major break from all or most previous administrations of both parties. The Trump administration’s absence from the scene is to the benefit of Greece. Furthermore, Democratic Candidate for President Joseph Biden has been depicted by many as a friend of Hellenism. This is quite simply untrue and this image can be refuted by two important facts. Turkish officials have recently boasted of the willingness of Syrian volunteers to fight on the Turkish side in the event of a war between Greece and Turkey. Where exactly have these Syrian volunteers come from? These Syrians are jihadists that were sponsored by Turkey in Syria to fight the Assad regime and its Russian ally. These Syrians were also supported by the Obama administration and its Vice President Joseph Biden who provided these jihadists with important training and battlefield experiences.  

Secondly, the Syrian war that Joseph Biden supported as Vice President in the Obama administration was responsible for flooding the Greek islands with Syrian refugees. Joseph Biden and the administration he served have given Turkey a powerful weapon against Greece and  

Europe. The Syrian war created a refugee crisis that flooded both the Greek islands and Turkey. The Turkish government is exploiting millions of refugees in Turkey for use as a political weapon against Greece and Europe. The use of these refugees to threaten Greece and Europe becomes more dangerous and evil considering many of them may have COVID-19 and could infect people in Greece and throughout Europe. As such, the Syrian war that Joseph Biden supported as Vice President has created further potential threats for Greece in  addition to the present territorial expansionism being pursued by the Erdogan government.  

President Donald Trump is not exactly a friend of Greece at this time. But his radical changes in American foreign policy have been beneficial for Greece. The Trump administration ended the Syrian war that flooded the Greek islands with Muslims and Greece has benefitted from Washington's absence in the crisis between Greece and Turkey. At a very minimum, the Trump administration has ended the traditional foreign policy of both political parties that always and without exception always supported Turkey over Greece. While it is true that  

Donald Trump maintains friendly relations with the Erdogan government it is also true that every administration for the past century has been pro-Turkish. Previous to the United States the western world in the form of the Empire of Great Britain and France supported the Ottoman Empire throughout the nineteenth century.  

France and Italy were both notorious for their support of Mustafa Kemal's campaign against the Greeks in Asia Minor. Donald Trump can hardly be criticized considering the long and historic support for Turkey and its crimes against humanity by the western world. In any case, change appears to be happening.  

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