US Takeover of Greece Pushes Türkiye Closer to Russia and Increases Odds of Athens-Ankara Conflict

Conor here. Yet another example of Kissinger’s warning, “It may be dangerous to be America’s enemy, but to be America’s friend is fatal.” But here both Greece and Türkiye may be cast as “friends as losers”.

By Conor Gallagher

Greece’s recent embrace of the US is being driven by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis who has been in power since July 2019 (and might get thrown out soon), but the effects will be felt for much longer and in the wider region – especially in Türkiye.

Greece’s abandonment of its ties with Russia came to a head with the recent bombshell that it was considering sending Russian-made S-300 air defense missile systems to Ukraine. When Athens received the weaponry from Russia back in 1998 it agreed to never give it to another country (let alone one that is at war with Russia). But Athens’ demonstration of its non-agreement capability is just another sign that it is now wholly in the US/NATO camp.

While the S-300 would make little difference on the Ukrainian battlefield, the escalating tensions between Greece and Türkiye are much more consequential. Many of the US moves in Greece seem designed to apply pressure on fellow NATO member Turkiye, which occupies the most important geostrategic position in the alliance and has its second-largest standing army.

But Ankara has steadfastly refused to apply sanctions on Russia and mutually beneficial ties between the two countries have grown much closer. Putin helps Erdogan boost the Turkish economy and in return gets a sanction-free link for exports and imports. But Washington refuses to accept this arrangement and has grown increasingly frustrated to the point that US war criminal John Bolton now wants to boot Turkiye out of NATO.

Such an outcome no longer seems unlikely. And a conflict between Greece and Türkiye is also becoming an increasing possibility – especially if Russia decides Greece is a lost cause and no longer works to restrain Türkiye.

It’s unclear what Greece thinks it stands to gain in wholly throwing in its lot with the Americans who once supported the brutal military dictatorship in Greece in the 1960s and 70s. It appears to be more of an ideological mission by PM Mitsotakis who was educated in the US at Harvard, Stanford, and then Harvard Business School for an MBA. He went on to work for Chase Bank in London, McKinsey & Company, and in 2003 was nominated by the World Economic Forum as a global leader of tomorrow. That day has apparently come.

Mitsotakis has been lauded by the Wall Street Journal for opening up Greece to US companies:

Pfizer—led by Greek-American Albert Bourla —announced plans for new digital labs in Thessaloniki, Mr. Bourla’s hometown. Last year, Microsoft made an even bigger show of confidence in Greece by announcing plans for three new data centers to serve the broader region. Microsoft won’t put a value on the investment, but local officials have said it is more than $100 million.

“We took a bet, but we think it will be a very good bet,” said Theodosis Michalopoulos, Microsoft’s general manager for Greece, Cyprus and Malta.

Bureaucracy and outdated regulations have slowed work developing the data centers, which will take years, he said. “It hasn’t been easy, but we’re getting through.”

Since Microsoft’s announcement, Cisco Systems Inc., Amazon Web Services and others have announced investments in research, training and data centers. The projects remain a tiny part of Greece’s economy, but are helping raise the U.S.’s profile in the country.

If you find a Greek island vacation incomplete without Amazon surveillance, you’re in luck. According to Vice:

As Athens is being roiled by government surveillance, a different kind of surveillance is taking place in the Aegean with Astypalea not the only petri dish for large corporate interests: Amazon has its eyes on the Greek island of Naxos, which has a population of 22,000. Naxos is billed as a “smart hub,” for Amazon Web Services, which plans to upgrade much of the island’s services. The project is reportedly the product of a star-studded dinner in the summer of 2021 between Jeff Bezos and Mitsotakis, with actor Tom Hanks and fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg also in attendance. …

Drones are a key component of the project, and will reportedly not only be used to drop medicines to remote areas but also be military-grade and could aid coast-guards in “vessel monitoring.” Amazon plans to upgrade the island’s internet as well as facilitate remote medical consultations, introduce “smart taxi payments, smart parking sensors and electric vehicle chargers.” The company also plans to “smarten” the waste and water management but has not specified how.

Mitsotakis also signed a zero-cost deal with Palantir that gave the company wide-ranging access to Greek citizens’ personal data, but it was later canceled after intense criticism in the country.

The cooperation is even more pronounced in the areas of military and energy. As Türkiye has refused to be a US/NATO hub to move troops and supplies into the Black Sea region, Washington instead turned to Greece. The US is also using Greece in an attempt to pressure Türkiye to fall in line. In reality, those efforts have only pushed Türkiye and Russia closer together while increasing the chances of conflict between Greece and Türkiye.

In September Greece received its first two F-16 military jets from the US as part of a $1.5 billion program to upgrade the Greek fleet. Ankara, which is excluded from the US F-35 program for buying Russian S-400 air defense systems, is worried that in time Greece could have a stronger air force than Türkiye.

The US is also ramping up its control over Greece’s Alexandroupolis port in the northeast of the country 18 miles from the Turkish border and using it as an entry point to send supplies to Ukraine. US military officials have proposed deepening and expanding the port in order to accommodate US Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

In November Greece canceled the long-planned privatization for the Alexandroupolis port with Mitsotakis declaring it too precious of a resource to relinquish. Gifting it to the American military is not apparently relinquishing it. There are also plans in the works to create a floating gas storage and regasification unit at the facility – no doubt serviced by American LNG supplies – and a pipeline from Alexandroupolis north to Bulgaria.

The US decision to make a fortress out of Alexandroupolis came after Türkiye’s decision to close the Turkish straits to all warships after the war in Ukraine began, including its NATO partners who wanted to send weapons to Ukraine via the straits.The move was well within Ankara’s rights under the 1936 Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits, and Türkiye’s adherence to the agreement has been credited in not making the Ukraine conflict even worse.

Turkish drones recently recorded Greece deploying US-donated armored vehicles on the islands of Lesbos and Samos. Such moves are likely in violation of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty.

The US is also proposing to the Greek armed forces to replace all Russian-made military equipment including air defense systems with new military equipment produced by the US. This is part of the plan of transferring the Russian-made S-300 to Ukraine; Greece would then replace it with US-made Patriot systems.

Despite its financial struggles, Greece spent 3.8 percent of GDP defense in 2021, which was tops in NATO. As a reward for his good work, Mitsotakis was invited to address the US Congress last year, the first Greek prime minister to do so, and received multiple standing ovations.

Understandably, Türkiye views all the US moves in Greece as directed not only at Moscow but also Ankara, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to envision an off-ramp unless the US accepts it cannot dictate Turkish policy. As War on the Rocks explains:

Aaron Stein recently posed that “there is no broad rapprochement in the making for Turkish-Western relations.” With Ankara poised to expand its cooperation with Russia, and perhaps widen its footprint in northern Syria, there is, he argues, “little — if anything — that can be done to manage Türkiye and its foreign policy aspirations.” If this is indeed the case, America’s position between Türkiye and Greece appears especially grim. In spite of the past, Erdogan’s positioning appears to negate Washington’s place as a mediator between the two neighbors. While it is possible that Brussels may be more successful in closing the divide, the possibility exists that even European mediation may have only limited success. Although some have argued that Erdogan’s posturing may be an election ploy, there appears to be little room for compromise between Greece’s sovereign rights and Ankara’s strategic designs. Moreover, as one Turkish pundit recently mused, the wind now may be at Türkiye’s back. With war raging in Ukraine, the West may be compelled to stomach a Turkish attack, for the sake of NATO unity, as it had during Türkiye’s 1974 invasion of Cyprus. These fundamental conditions may very well push Ankara towards war with Athens within the foreseeable future.

The increasingly confrontational rhetoric between Ankara and Athens over territorial waters, immigrants, and the status of Aegean islands, comes at a time when both Erdogan and Mitsotakis have tough elections coming up this year. Turning up the heat isn’t uncommon before elections in both Greece and Türkiye, but outside powers, rather than provide a calming force, are now fanning the flames, which is especially problematic given the two countries’ recent histories.

They came close to military conflict in 1987, 1996 and in 2020, the last of which was over an accident when a Greek and a Turkish warship were involved in a minor collision during a standoff in the eastern Mediterranean. NATO stepped in in 1987 and in 1996 to help both sides cool off, and in 2020, Germany, which had the rotating presidency of the EU, took on the role of mediator.

This time there might be no trustworthy mediator to be found.

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  1. JohnA

    As Sweden has announced it cannot accept Turkey’s demands to extradite Kurdish individuals for alleged terrorist crimes, Turkey will continue to block Sweden’s application to join Nato. Ultimately, Nato may have to choose between Sweden (and by default Finland) and Greece or Turkey. Were Turkey to then ally with Russia and Iran, the entire balance of power may shift massively.

      1. JohnA

        Yes, I saw that after I posted the comment. I have just posted another comment there about Sweden negotiating a Defence Cooperation Agreement with the US on the side of Nato membership.

      2. Patrick M P Donnelly

        The F-35 is a known err turkey….

        F-22? Now you are talking. The USA never sell those, except to its masters

      3. PlutoniumKun

        The Turks have their own very advanced fighter project, the TAI TF-X. Its worth keeping an eye on it as it gives a good overview of where the Turks see their future. The first prototypes are using US F404 engines, but a deal was almost done early last year for Rolls Royce to work on a variation of existing European engines to produce one for the TF-X. But the Russians have also offered to jointly produce an engine with the Turks. The Pakistani’s and possibly even others have been nosing around the project as it looks surprisingly advanced (there was a lot of scepticism that the Turks could pull off a genuine fifth generation aircraft).

        But certainly the TF-X is costing a lot of money for a country with a shaky economy, so the F-35 deal is pretty much dead even if the Turks do return to the fold. But to bring it to fruition, Erdogan will have to choose technological allies for the engines and other key parts, and it remains to be seen who they will be. My guess is that the US is leaning on Britain and others not to work with the Turks, but this seems very counterproductive.

  2. Patrick M P Donnelly

    There are no USA war criminals.

    They refuse the jurisdiction of non USA controlled tribunals. The USA does not prosecute war criminals, it seems. So, no judgements. No convictions.

    Invading other countries is a bit like Schroedinger’s feline. Aggressive but justified by Democracy and Freedom under the ‘George W Bush Doctrine’ of ‘you are with us or you are against us’.

    This is not earning friends …

    1. spud

      bush was garbage, but he did not start this. it was bill clinton.

      “Extraordinary rendition” is when shady government operatives stuff a bag over your head and fly you off to some foreign country where they can legally torture you. It sounds like something Alex Jones might dream up in a paranoid frenzy, but it’s a well-documented phenomenon under both Bush, Jr. and Obama—and Bill Clinton was the guy who started it all.

      Clinton and Gore signed off on the first rendition back in the ’90s, despite being aware that it breached international law. Until recently, rendered people frequently wound up in the prison cells of places like Mubarak’s Egypt or Gaddafi’s Libya, where they were tortured with electric shocks, rape, beatings, and even crucifixion. It can sometimes go hideously wrong: In 2003, the CIA snatched a terrorist off the streets and beat, tortured, and sodomized him, only to discover they’d accidentally grabbed the wrong man. The victim just happened to share a name with a wanted criminal. His suffering came care of the Clinton/Gore dream team.”

      it was bill clinton that enshrined wars for free trade also, he enshrined them in government.

      “President Clinton lied about the atrocities of the Serbs and the targeting in Serbia to justify an intervention whose real purpose was to dismantle a country which refused to cooperate with the U.S. and other Western powers.”

      “Regime change polices were set up by bill clinton: This was a unit established by President Bill Clinton, then continued by Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz. Mike Pompeo, the current director of the CIA, has confirmed that this unit exists. This has led to rumours in the press, followed up by President Trump, of a US military option.”

      “the Clinton-era policy made the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq possible, both in terms of practicality — Bush and UK prime minister Tony Blair dramatically escalated the no-fly zone strikes in the months before the “shock and awe” campaign that opened the Iraq War — and in terms of justification: Clinton and Bush defended their actions by pointing to Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction and the need to topple Saddam at all costs.

      The Clinton administration’s fixation on weapons and its desire for regime change were clearly on display at a February 1998 town hall, where Secretary of State Madeleine Albright tried to sell the public on bombing Iraq. Albright was repeatedly interrupted by antiwar activists, and pressed about why the US was so keen on attacking Iraq when there were many other, similarly terrible dictators throughout the world.”

      “In a now-infamous 60 Minutes interview in May 1996, Leslie Stahl questioned Albright about the policy. “We have heard that a half million children have died,” the veteran journalist said. “I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” Albright responded, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.”

  3. Catchymango

    Amazing how little play Greece’s about-face has gotten until quite recently in the western press, perhaps it is just me who has overlooked it but it definitely is something which even the alternative press hasn’t paid enough attention to. Really appreciate this piece, pulls together a lot of threads and helps explain further some of the Turkish motivation for taking up overtures from Moscow since 2013.

  4. PlutoniumKun

    Just a correction – Greece never bought the S-300 from Russia. They were bought by Cyprus (a non-NATO member) – the Greeks did an exchange with Cyprus in order to cool down a crisis in 1997 with Turkey over Cyprus. They were then moved to Crete, but it was never clear who was really operating them. So far as I’m aware, its not clear if Russia ever approved or provided back up to the system, which was old and I don’t think every received upgrades. The Greeks do use the Tor and other Russian short range missiles.

    1. The Rev Kev

      At the very least it will mean that the stock of missiles that the Greeks have for the S-300 and perhaps those for the Tor will be shipped to the Ukraine who must be running very short of those munitions by now.

    2. Conor Gallagher Post author

      What I read and what Lavrov said a few weeks back was, “There was a story when they (S-300s) were to be delivered to Cyprus, but then the West started doing everything possible to prevent this. Given the island position of Cyprus and the fact that it was not a NATO member, a compromise was eventually reached that suited everyone. Greece bought the systems. But according to the contract that sealed this deal, Greece has no right to transfer them (S-300s) to anyone without our consent.”

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Fair enough. My understanding (I’m not an expert, its some time since I read up on this) is that it was Turkey, not Nato specifically that strongly resisted the purchase and that they had been put in place in Cyprus – although of course Turkey is a Nato member and Cyprus is not. The informal deal that had been brokered to put off the possibility of a Turkish pre-emptive strike was that Cyprus would do a deal with Greece to exchange them for shorter range SAM missiles, but the Turks always argued that they were still essentially under Cypriot control, despite being in Greece. As it was already a very out of date and export only system, I doubt it has much more than symbolic value by now.

  5. The Rev Kev

    A very good post this. Greece is really going to come a cropper soon. So why are they doing this? In a recent video, Alex Christoforou was talking about how many of the Greek elite have been captured by America, even at the cost to their own country. As an example, it was only last year that Greece seized an Iranian oil ship and was going to give all the oil aboard to America for free. If you are going to act like a pirate, pirates don’t give stuff away for free. It was only when the Iranians seized two Greek ships that a Greek court ruled that Greece had acted illegally so all that oil had to be pumped back into that tanker and it was then set free. And now they have made a direct enemy of themselves to the Russians by breaking all agreements to give a S-300 system to the Ukraine. Apparently most Greeks feel friendly to Russians but the elite are fully signed up with Project Ukraine.

    I don’t know if the Greek elite have really thought out the implications of letting themselves be used as a proxy against Türkiye by Washington. There are many points where Türkiye could push against Greece. Maybe that is why Greece is building a fence between themselves and Türkiye. In case Türkiye lets out several hundred thousands refugees in the direction of the Greek border. And then there is the matter of Cyprus which is an ongoing story. Or maybe the Turks will send drones over those islands which aren’t supposed to have any military gear on them to threaten them. To an extent, the Russians have acted as a influence to stop Türkiye getting into a spat with Greece but perhaps the Russians will tell them to have at it. And the Turks know that Alexandroupolis port is not so much aimed at the Russians but at themselves. Between that and the Kurds protected by the US in Syria, the Turks may see themselves being surrounded like the Russians , Iranians and Chinese have been. Certainly that coup attempt a few years ago has not been forgotten. This will not end well for Greece.

    1. spud

      the elite are free traders, their mantra is whats mine is mine, whats yours is mine, and there will be no discussion about this period.

      a few weeks back when i read about the nato buildup of the greek port so close to that spit of land turkiye has in europe. i said here it goes again, those straights are a choke point that feverish parasitical free traders will kill for.

      if i was turkiye, i would be scared. i bet russia is watching things like a hawk.

  6. Patrick M P Donnelly

    Every monstering of one ally, produces alarm in all of its neighbours.

    The key to a large arms industry is …. buyers. Fear among allies of the maker of those arms, carefully stoked by intelligence provided by allies.

    Thus Indonesia and Australia buy arms for protection and in self defence against well, you know. Greece and …

    Well, maybe its neighbours can find other suppliers?

    The Joke in Ukraine may not be the best showroom for arms? Iranian drones??? Riight.

    “Kissinger!”, “calling Mr Kissinger!”

    1. wilroncanada

      Patrick M P Donnelly
      And Canada, the ever-active poodle, has just announced it is buying 88 F-35 fighter jets. Perhaps they can be flown by newly-arrived Ukrainian “patriots”. In 88 years, when the contract has been completed, the US will then contract to supply parts for 88 fighter planes grounded by electronic and mechanical faults.

  7. Lex

    I’ll add that much of this likely revolves around Black Sea geostrategic considerations. The US wanted Sevastopol badly to eliminate Russia’s warm water port. Odessa is/was a second line capable of hosting a large enough naval port to at least constrict Russia and be able to close the Black Sea in the event of hostilities. The article rightly points out that Turkiye closing passage was significant. Alexandroupolis is as close to the Dardanelles as is geographically possible outside of Turkiye.

    NATO will have to kick Turkiye out and I don’t think that will happen over Sweden. It could happen over Greece. If the rapprochement in Syria continues, I’d expect the US to start applying more pressure via Greece. It’s dumb and will fail in the long run, but that’s never stopped the US before.

    The islands will of course be pressure and potential flash points. But Alexandroupolis isn’t the most secure spot either. It’s only ~40km from the Turkish border by main road and the port is ~20 km from multiple spots along the border, so within artillery range.

  8. lyman alpha blob

    The Greek government may be in favor, but I doubt the Greek people are. They have not forgotten the US sponsored junta. They are also Orthodox, and I can’t imagine too many Greeks think highly of the new Ukrainian CIA and Nazi-sponsored “Orthodox” church meant to replace the traditional Russian-affiliated one.

    When NATO dismantled Yugoslavia, a lot of the refugees wound up in Greece. Has it not occurred to this WEF-sponsored Greek PM that Turkey might flood Greece with fleeing immigrants? I’ve mentioned it many times here but it formed a really strong memory – back in the 90s during one of the conflicts in the former Yugolsavia I was in Athens and there were literally thousands and thousands of posters thrown up all around the city of Bill Clinton’s face with a bullseye on his forehead. Haven’t been to Greece for about 15 years now so don’t know how people there feel currently about all this, but I can’t believe the general public is really feeling that friendly toward the US.

    Could be some big crowds in Syntagma yelling “OXI!” before too long.

  9. none

    I thought China has bought up most of Greece by now. I didn’t realize anything was left for Amazon etc.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      Excellent point. Part of the austerity imposed on Greece by the Troika several years ago was forcing them to sell off public assets. I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember the main port of Piraeus being sold to the Chinese. That seemed drastic and completely unfair at the time, and it seems incredibly shortsighted from an EU standpoint if you’re a WEF type trying to put the screws to Russia and China right now. Of course the neoliberal types who run the WEF aren’t exactly well known for their circumspection or looking much more than three months down the road for what the next round of quarterly profits might be.

      If NATO doesn’t like China owning Greek ports, they can always blow them up in solidarity with the Greeks. And perhaps the Greeks will remain docile like the Germans did after Nordstream 2 went kablooie. Or maybe not.

  10. KerSer

    I must admit, I don’t understand the purpose of this piece. So everyone has to do Erdogan’s bidding because of Turkey’s supposed importance on the international stage? I’m sorry, I’m not buying it.

    Take Alexandroupolis, for example. The US’s investment there is directly aimed at creating an alternative route toward the Black Sea, and thus countering Russia, not Turkey. One can criticize Greece’s decision to so completely side with the USA against Russia, but what does that have do with Turkey. Of course, the Turks won’t be pleased about the reduced importance of the straits, nor will they look forward to the possibility of finding an American military base on their path in the case of open conflict, but in no way does that equate to fuelling the fire of Greco-Turkish relations.

    The reality is that Turkey is a revisionist state whose entire political class (not just Erdogan!) favors an ambitious foreign policy, and agressivity is very much a part of its toolkit. From Greece’s perspective, any appeasement of Turkey will only result in further concessions demanded by Turkey.

    Take Turkey’s recent threats against Greece about the latter potentially declaring an extension of its territorial waters south of Crete, linked to in 03/01’s Links. Can someone explain to me what right Turkey has issuing threats concerning territorial waters it doesn’t even border? And has no one hear heard of the Turkish Navy’s Mavi Vatan (“Our Sea”) doctrine, denying Greek islands’ right to an EEZ?

    1. lyman alpha blob

      The point is that US meddling all over the world just so it can continue to dominate the globe financially and militarily for no actual need to do so but because it like to be #1 tends to have unintended consequences and nobody except the Dr. Strangeloves infesting US government wants to see WWIII happen any time soon.

      I’m not an expert in international law so I’m not sure how any country can decide where it’s territorial waters end and international waters begin – I thought that was set by some international agreement. I do know however that Turkey is a hell of a lot closer to Crete than the US is to the Black Sea, which would not seem to be at all in the US immediate national interest.

    2. Lex

      There is no alternative route into the Black Sea. It’s through the Dardanelles, transit the Sea of Marmara and then through the Bosporus, all of which are within the territory of Turkey. Alexandropoulis is well positioned to threaten the final outlet into the Dardanelles, nothing more.

      In a way, yes, everyone does have to at least deal with Erdogan because Turkiye happens to sit on one of the most important pieces of land in geostrategic terms going back to Emperor Constantine. That doesn’t mean Turkiye is good or correct in any of these situations. It simply means that it must be considered. Trying to threaten it via Greece is probably the worst idea because it complicates Greece defending its actual interests in its relationship with Turkiye which include the issues you raise.

        1. Lex

          Thanks for the link. That’s interesting it’s an inefficient way to get goods essentially to Bulgarian ports rather than transiting Turkish waters. But I certainly see the benefit for expanding the flow of goods in the area. I was speaking more of strategic naval considerations than freight, which is why the US is interested in the port.

      1. KerSer

        Let’s be clear here: Turkey is no Russia, and doesn’t have the means to behave towards Greece the way Russia treats Ukraine (let’s leave aside whether Russia was justified in its invasion or not; that’s beside the point). So Turkey may be certainly be master of one of the world’s most important chokepoints, but that geopolitical importance doesn’t however automatically translate into military and economic power – at least not to the extent to allow it to dictate its terms to its neighbors (let alone the US).

        Put yourself in Greece’s position for a minute. Faced with Turkey’s hostility and explicit threats, what do you do? Accept Turkey’s demands and give it what it wants? Or beef up your military, especially in your most vulnerable areas, the islands, and seek alliances with and help from countries that don’t exactly look fondly upon Turkey’s newfound geopolitical ambitions? And I’m not necessarily referring to the US here, at least not exclusively. Egypt and Israel, two important players of the Mediterranean, are just as wary as Greece of Turkish power. Greece’s relations with India as well have been strengthened lately due to Turkey’s ties with Pakistan. (Rumors in Greece have it that Turkey’s F-16s are full of Pakistani pilots due to Erdogan’s decimation of the Turkish airforce pilots following the attempted coup of 2016. This is probably an exaggeration, in my not-at-all expert opinion, but I thought I might put that out there in any case.)

        What I mean to say is that Turkey is full of bark, but when it comes to adversaries with a serious army, the bite is lacking. It recognizes that war with Greece would be disastrous for the two of them.

        1. Young

          When push comes to shove, Türkiye does its own thing:

          Annexed Hatay province when it wanted
          Stayed neutral in WW2
          Established Northern Cyprus Turkish Republic
          Didn’t join Iraq invasion
          Not stuck with one side or the other wrt conflicts in Ukraine, Libya or Syria.

          It has no friends or allies, just interests.

          So who knows, what they will do with the Greeks.

          1. KerSer

            Hatay? Might as well bring up ancient history to make a point, while you’re at it. It’s one thing to remain neutral during a conflict, it’s another to go to war with another country. And since you bring up Cyprus, the Greek government had placed a division there in 1964. It was later withdrawn in 1968 by the Greek Junta, after Turkey had threatened to invade if it wasn’t removed. Of course, its withdrawal didn’t prevent Turkey from invading later on in 1974. Of course, any resemblance to current affairs is purely coincidental…

            1. Kulaber

              So, Turkiye’s only aim was withdrawal of the junta and Turkiye’s operation in 1974 was unprovoked? What happened in Cyprus in the 60’ies till 1974 military operation?
              Now, Greece is claiming all the Aegean Sea and West Med to be their Inclusive economic zone, placing arms in Islands very close to Turkiye against treaties and it is Turkiye’s hostility? Anyone can check the maps and see how long the Turkish coasts are in Aegean Sea and Mediterranean Sea to compare whether Greek’s claims are just. Finally, Turkish operation in 1974 was more than barking i guess.

        2. Victor Moses

          Turkey’s actions in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea coincide with the current Greek government’s equally aggressive postures encouraged by the Americans. Previous to this Turkey was focused on expanding relations in the Muslim world and in developing countries. A geostrategic competition is a dance and is not played by only one player. A view that only Turkey is at fault here is entirely wrong headed.

          1. KerSer

            So much for expanding its relations in the Muslim word. Turkey’s on bad terms with nearly all important Arab countries, Qatar being a notable exception.

            Can you cite a single recent Greek statement or action which threatens Turkey? Contrast with Turkish actions and statements: threats on a regular basis, Sending defensive equipment to Greece’s islands closest to Turkey doesn’t qualify. (And yes, the equipment is “defensive”, as anyone who thinks that Greece could invade Turkey through its islands in the Aegean is out of their mind.)

            I get the sense that some here are interpreting Greek-Turkish relations through an Ukraine-Russia lens, but the comparison is completely absurd.

            1. tevhatch

              Greek missiles on those islands can bottle up Turkey’s military and commercial fleets, as well as render airspace null, then pop goes Cyprus. You really didn’t see this?

          2. danasta

            “Equally aggressive postures.”

            Erdogan: “We will come one night and take your islands and drown your citizens like we did in Smyrna in 1922!”

            Greece: “Leave us alone.”

        3. KerSer

          Ah, how could I forgot! Another country that Greece has cozied up to is France, with which it signed a defensive agreement. As a Mediterranean power, France has its own reasons to worry about Turkey’s geopolitical ambitions, not to mention Turkey’s meddling in France’s political life via funding of political and religious groups there.

        4. Lex

          I absolutely see Greece’s position and I don’t disagree with it. Erdogan’s Ottoman dreams don’t make him a good neighbor. I’m just not sure that cozying up to the US in the ways currently being done is necessarily a good idea. The US isn’t helping Greece against Turkiye. It’s doing these things so that it can use Greece to achieve its geostrategic goals. As a famous asshole once said, we don’t have friends, we have interests. And then he pointed out that being our friend is deadly weed hitch is probably why we don’t have many friends.

          1. KerSer

            Fair enough, and I can agree to an extent. Personally, I believe Greece should take advantage of Turkey’s distancing itself from the West. Where I find the current (and previous) government’s actions less clever is in USA’s relations with Russia, where for many reasons Greece, all the while remaining a member of NATO, should avoid taking such a partial stance. Even the most right wing Greek governments of the Cold War era attempted to balance, within limits, between USA and Soviet Russia. The current government has thrown all caution to the wind in that regard.

            You have to realize that the years of the Greek crisis were disastrous for the Greek military. Procurement of the most basic of spare parts needed for maintenance was put on hold, whereas Turkey made leaps in bounds in its economy and domestic military industry. Greece has been playing catch-up for the past couple of years.

              1. KerSer

                Indeed in 2022 it rose significantly, but between 2009 and 2014 military expenditures dropped by nearly half in constant US dollars (source SIPRI). In any case the concensus among Greek military analysts is that Greek military strength took a hit during that period.

                1. Yves Smith

                  Greek military spending spiked enormously in 2007, 2008 and 2009, to the degree it looks as if there must have been enormous graft, so I am not sure a fall from 2009 levels is a valid metric.

                  And confirming my suspicions, in less than 1 minute I found:

                  Greece will overhaul arms procurement to make it more transparent, Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said on Friday, after a wide-ranging corruption inquiry led to the arrest of a former defense official and two arms dealers.

                  Heavy arms spending was one of the reasons Athens piled up debt and had to be rescued with European Union and IMF bailouts totaling 240 billion euros ($328 billion) in 2010 and 2012…

                  Greece had the highest defense expenditure in the European Union in relation to economic output over the past decade. Its military spending stood at about 4 percent of output in 2009, when its debt crisis started. Most contracts were awarded to foreign companies.

                  Athens has already convicted a former defense minister and Kantas’s immediate superior at the ministry for money laundering. ($1 = 0.7322 euros)


                  So your entire line of argument is in bad faith. The fall was a reversion to a mean after ending corrupt spending….where much of the money to bribes and bloat.

                  Shame on you. Try this sort of misleading argument again and you will be blacklisted. Making Shit Up is a violation of our written site Policies.

    3. reprobate

      Is this Mr. Rules Based Order speaking? Nothing to see here when actions advance US interests?

      You don’t have to like Erdogan to admit that Greece with US backing is arming islands that were supposed to remain demilitarized is by treaty represents a threat to Turkey. And that amounts to one NATO member threatening another.

      But you deem this to be inconsequential because Erdogan is a jerk? Sorry, he’s not the provacateur here.

      1. KerSer

        This has nothing to do with the rules-based order.

        Turkey issues casus belli on a regular basis. No statesman worth his salt would leave those islands undefended. It’s as simple as that.

        1. reprobate

          An impressive admission of what you denied!

          “Rules based order” = US, with its stooges in tow, makes up the rules as it goes along.

          Greece agreed by treaty to leave the islands unmilitarized. But you presume to know better, and think it’s a great idea to provoke Turkey by breaking a treaty.

          This is precisely US “rules based order” thinking: instigate conflict for the benefit of our military industrial complex.

          1. danasta

            You have it reversed.

            Turkey threatened the sovereignty of those islands in the crudest terms possible, talk of massacres of Greek citizens. This was Erdogan.

            Greece increased the military numbers on those islands AFTER that. Greece’s military has always been on those islands. Many Greek service members can attest to service on a base in Kos, for instance, while their brother was freezing doing his service on some frozen hilltop on the Albanian border!

            First, Greece’s treaty wasn’t with Turkey. It was with Italy. Italy had possession of the islands in question for decades. They were ceded to Greece AFTER Italy’s invasion of Greece in the late 1940s.

            Second, the islands were never supposed to be demilitarized. They have always had a military presence for defensive measures. The treaty forbids a naval base or naval installation and any offensive weaponry. But again, it’s with Italy.

            Third, Turkey’s claims of ownership over these islands are long-standing, not recent. And Turkey’s bellicose rhetoric is certainly not a reaction to any increased militarization of those islands.

            It’s unfortunate that nakedcapitalism would host an article shot through this lens because it has evidently convinced a lot of people that Greece is an equally aggressor here or equally at fault. People doubt that Erdogan has imperial intentions, but he is clear as day that the national program of Turkey is “conquest,” as he put it, and recapture of former Ottoman lands.

            1. Conor Gallagher Post author

              Danasta, thanks for taking an interest, but it’s difficult to make sense of all your incorrect and contradictory claims.

              The 1923 Lausanne Treaty prohibits the militarization of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, and Ikaria. It does, as you say, prohibit a naval base. In addition, please refer to Article 6 of said treaty, it forbids fortifications, permanent artillery, and military aerial organization.

              Article 14(2) of the 1947 Paris Treaty says the following islands shall remain demilitarized: Stampalia, Rhodes, Calki, Scarpano, Casos, Piscopis, Misiros, Calimnos, Leros, Patmos, Lipsos, Simi, Cos, and the Mediterranean islet of Castellorizo.

              Greece’s militarization of islands close to its shores, such as the Dodecanese chain that includes Rhodes and the eastern Aegean islands including Lesbos, Chios and Samos, is in violation of these treaties.

              There are no exceptions granted in the case that the Turkish president says mean words about Greece.

              Whether Greece signed the treaty with Italy, is immaterial; It’s still an agreement under international law, and a violation is a violation, whether the militarization of said islands is directed at Italy or Turkey.

              Please get your facts straight before commenting here. Thanks.

      2. danasta

        1. Those islands were “armed” for 40 years.
        2. The treaty was with Italy, not Turkey, and the treaty doesn’t forbid defensive armaments. It forbids a Naval base.
        3. For many years, decades even, Turkey has been contesting the sovereignty of those islands. They even contest islands south of Crete.
        4. Greece recently moved military vehicles and guns to those islands AFTER Erdogan threatened them by saying “We will come suddenly one night,” and followed that up with telling Greeks what happened the last time they fought in the region (the Smyrna Massacre, when tens of thousands were either burned in a massive fire or drowned in the Quayside).

        1. Conor Gallagher Post author

          “Those islands were ‘armed’ for 40 years,” and yet Greece “recently” armed them “after” Erdogan’s threats. Please get your facts straight before commenting here.

  11. Cristobal

    A thread that runs through many of these geopolitical issues in Europe is the Young World Leaders program, or global leaders of tomorrow, or what have you. Are they run by NED, CIA, the Chamber of Commerce, or some lesser-known civil society organization? Who pays? Who deals with admission policy? Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis´s resume is US corporate all the way – McKinsey, WEF. The pime minister of Finland is an alumnus of this type of program, so is our beloved Ursela von L. The German Green Party big shots, the most deranged ideologues of all, are also members of the club, In Spain about half the prominant politicians have advanced degrees from prestigias US. universities (and a lot of them don´t even have to go to class!!). It is like getting their ticket punched. Over here in Spain there is a conservative Catholic organization called Opus Dei that seems to specialize in finding, educating and indoctronating likely bright youngsters for future positions of political and economic influence. A back scratching club. It is an old game but it is working very well for the US. Paying handsome returns. I would love to see a roster of the classmates.

  12. danasta

    Much of the write-up here is ahistorical. Decisions are ascribed to events that happened after the fact. Turkey’s policy on the Aegean long predates any breakup w/ the US. It’s long standing since at least the casus belli announced in 1995. The US in fact started showing interest in Greece after Turkey forbade it from using bases in Turkey. It wasn’t Mitsotakis’s American affinity that lead to the closer cooperation with the US, but the deals were made by Syriza’s Tsipras initially. The fact that all political wings in Greece are aligned on this issue except for the far right neo-Nazi Putinists and the far left Communist party says everything. Again it predates anything to so with S-300s to the Ukraine. The Russian ambassador several years ago told the Greek FM in confidence that in any Greek-Turkey blow-up, Russia would certainly take Turkey’s side. Greece never had an ally in Russia, and it is absolutely no surprise that Greece would support the Ukraine, especially not to Russia. I probably would have to right all day to chronologically order the history here without mucking it up this badly.

    1. Conor Gallagher Post author

      Wrong again on many fronts. Please read the article.
      It never states that Aegean disagreements and policies started with strained US-Turkey ties. It does state that the US helping militarize Greek islands in violation of international treaties increases the chances of Greece-Turkey conflict.

      It does not state that Syriza and Tsipras did not seek closer cooperation with the US. It states that current full embrace of the US neocon policy is being driven by the Mitsotakis government who has demonized the concept of an independent, multifactorial and nationally beneficial foreign policy, and therefore, nullified Greek-Russian relations.

      The arming of the Greek islands in violation of international treaties took place under Mitsotakis. The transformation of Alexandroupolis port into a US military fortress took place under Mitsotakis. The plan until just recently was to privatize the port.
      In 2021, the US-Greece mutual defense agreement was extended indefinitely, completely restructuring America’s presence in the region. Remind me who was Greek PM when that deal was signed.
      Public opinion polls in Greece consistently show that support for the war in Ukraine is the lowest in the EU. A major reason for that is the longstanding close ties between Russia and Greece.
      Greece may have never had an “ally” in Russia, but its position through Papandreou and Karamanlis up until recently had been to to maintain a good relationship with the USSR/Russia as a counterweight to the influence of the US. Why do you think Greece has the S-300 to begin with? When Brussels and Washington were busy crushing Greece in bailout negotiations and forcing austerity and privatization on the Greek people, who was offering to exempt Greece from the EU-Russia ban on food imports? Who offered to make Greece a major energy hub for southern Europe?
      Additionally, the article says the break between Greece and Russia came to a head with the potential transfer of the S-300 to Ukraine, not that nothing “predates” it. Please read the article, and once again, get your facts straight.

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