Erdogan disrupts NATO unity over Putin’s threat to European security

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Internal NATO relations have become increasingly strained following Turkey’s apparent refusal to allow Sweden and Finland into the fold, with NATO member Greece becoming the latest European nation on Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s chopping block.

Erdogan this week lashed out at Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis when he accused him of trying to block a US arms sale of F-16 fighter jets to Ankara.

“There is no longer anyone named Mitsotakis in my book,” he told reporters after a cabinet meeting on Monday.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan holds a press conference during the NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium, June 14, 2021.
(Reuters/Yves Herman/Pool/File Photo)

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Turkey’s president also said he would refuse to meet his Greek counterpart for a previously scheduled summit later this year.

Erdogan’s comments came a week after the Greek prime minister met with US lawmakers on Capitol Hill and urged them to consider NATO security when making “security procurement decisions.” defense concerning the Eastern Mediterranean”.

“We are always open to dialogue. But there is only one framework we can use to resolve our differences – international law and the unwritten principle of good neighborly relations,” Mitsotakis told US lawmakers. “The last thing NATO needs at a time when our goal is to help Ukraine defeat Russian aggression is another source of instability on NATO’s southeastern flank.”

The Greek prime minister did not mention Erdogan or neighboring Ankara, but his comments hinted at a long-running row with Turkey over alleged airspace violations.

Turkey and Greece, which are both members of NATO, have had a complex relationship for more than a century. But Athens and Ankara’s latest spat amid Russia’s aggression in Europe could spell trouble for the military alliance that Russian President Vladimir Putin would like to see dismantled.

Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi listen to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis address a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill on May 17, 2022.

Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi listen to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis address a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill on May 17, 2022.
(Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

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“All nations act in their own self-interest, all the time,” Michael Ryan, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Europe and NATO, told Fox News. “[Erdogan] defines Turkish interests and it defines how they pursue them. And in this case, he sees Turkey as a rising regional power, and he pushes hard in all directions towards certain Turkish prerogatives.”

The NATO expert explained that the sale of arms only highlights several dynamics at play that Erdogan is juggling.

Turkey’s defenses have lagged since Washington blocked Ankara from buying US F-35 fighter jets in 2019 after buying the Russian-made S-400 missile system.

The White House said at the time, “The F-35 cannot co-exist with a Russian intelligence-gathering platform that will be used to learn more about its advanced capabilities.”

Turkey is seeking to upgrade its air defense systems with modern US F-16 aircraft, not only to boost its military capabilities in its ongoing air disputes with Greece, but also to facilitate its operations in Syria.

“It’s a game of cat and mouse,” Ryan said. “Congress really has something the Turks want.”

But he added that “the Turks have something the Congress wants – that is, Sweden, Finland in NATO. Maybe that was Erdogan’s game from the start.”

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An F-35 Lightning II

An F-35 Lightning II
(Stock)

“The United States cannot let Erdogan take the lead here,” European policy expert Nile Gardiner, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, told Fox News.

“All NATO allies need to be able to work together. It comes crashing down if you have one or two countries trying to derail the future of the alliance – that’s what Turkey is doing,” he said. -he adds.

The Greek prime minister’s veiled comments to US lawmakers last week may have been an attempt to dissuade Washington from concluding an arms deal with Turkey amid its blockade of NATO membership.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has renewed the clout of the NATO military alliance, particularly regarding its Article 5 stipulation that an attack on one country will trigger a united response from all 30 countries. members.

Sweden and Finland formally requested to join NATO in the wake of Russian aggression not only in Ukraine, but amid threats Moscow has issued against other European nations.

NATO military commanders have defended the decision to include Stockholm and Helsinki in the alliance and said it would strengthen NATO defenses and identify “vulnerabilities” in Europe’s security.

But Turkey took the opportunity to block NATO offers over allegations that Sweden and Finland harbored individuals it considers terrorists.

“The Turks are undermining NATO by taking this reckless position,” Gardiner warned. “President Erdogan has a clear choice between helping NATO or weakening it, and he needs to be on the right side of history here, instead of placating the Russians.”

Some foreign policy experts have suggested that Erdogan could act as Putin’s “Trojan horse” to strategically block NATO expansion and wreak havoc on the alliance.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands during talks at the Kremlin on March 5, 2020 in Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shake hands during talks at the Kremlin on March 5, 2020 in Moscow.
(Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

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But the former defense secretary for Europe and NATO has dismissed those claims.

“I don’t think it’s that simple, at all,” Ryan said. “Erdogan is the kind of guy he doesn’t want to be anyone’s lackey.

“It tries to balance its advantages while minimizing its disadvantages,” he added.

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