Greek Auditory Illusions in the Greek-American-Turkish-Russian Labyrinth
Aris Petasis, Editor of Intractable Dilemmas in the Energy-Rich Eastern Mediterranean and author of Leadership Triumphs & Failures
William Mallinson, Professor of Political Ideas and Institutions at Guglielmo Marconi University, Italy
A correspondent shared the following with one of the authors of this piece: In an event organised in the USA for a group of Greek luminaries the main speaker was a former American ambassador to Greece. He boasted about his strong philhellenic credentials and even brandished a photo of himself dressed in an ancient Greek tunic, earning universal applause from his Greek audience. When he had finished his address, which was replete with praise and expressions of admiration for Greece, he was asked about America’s position on Graeco-Turkish relations. Suddenly the cheerful and polite speaker turned sour and morose, banging on the table with his palm and asking the audience to get it into their heads that America will never disappoint ‘strategic military ally’ Turkey just to please the Greeks. This episode strikingly describes the reality of Graeco-American relations. When it comes to American support for the Greeks, it boils down to empty words and no deeds. American policy favours Turkey and will continue thus for the foreseeable future. This trend started with the Truman Doctrine in 1947 and continues to this day (for 73 years.) Surprisingly the Greek leadership appears to see nothing wrong in this, and continues without complaint its suppliant relations with America. In exchange for supple behaviour, the Greeks get words of praise for the achievements of their forefathers 2,500 years back. The American response to Turkish aggression against the Greeks is and always has been predictable. Turkey puts out an unreasonable claim against Greek sovereignty, and then uses intimidation to get her way, knowing that at some point America will step in to ask both sides (aggressor and victim) to compromise! Although both Greece and Turkey are NATO members, Turkey sits on the first-tier, while Greece is considered less vital. Greece is expendable; Turkey is not.
There has always been one constant in Graeco-American relations: irrespective of which American administration is in power, American policy consistently supports the Turks over the Greeks. Equally, irrespective of which administration runs Greek affairs, Greece remains an American instrument. The supposedly ‘anti-American’, ‘socialist/communist’ Syriza administration proved to be an American acolyte. Interestingly, when it comes to American presidential elections, Greeks support the most ‘philhellene’ of candidates, only to be disappointed. The ‘socialist/communists’ in Greece typically pray for a Democratic win, only to receive a rude awakening when their prayers are answered. When ‘philhellene’ Jimmy Carter won the Presidency in 1976, church bells pealed in Cyprus to welcome the ‘saviour’ of the Greeks, as he had promised to rid Cyprus of Turkish occupation. But instead of working to free the Greeks, Carter’s administration worked overtime to lift the American arms embargo against Turkey. Clinton glibly yet sweetly fooled the Greeks into believing that he was a man of ideals and fairness, only to see him provide Turkey with arms galore; a staggering $10 billion funded fully by the American taxpayer to the tune of $8billion. These weapons in the end served Turkish aggression against the hapless Kurds and threatened the Greeks. (see, Arming repression) Other Greeks pray for a Republican win, oblivious to the fact that it was the Republican Henry Kissinger who gave the nod to Turkey to invade Cyprus and capture 37% of its territory. Democrat or Republican makes no difference to the Greek cause.
Greece’s membership of NATO, intended to afford her protection from outside attacks, proved illusionary, seeing that her tormentor and only adversary is NATO-member Turkey. This means that the collective defence provision at the centre of NATO’s founding treaty does not apply in this case. Article 5 of the Alliance, which says that an attack on one member is an attack on all, becomes null and void in the event of Turkey attacking Greece; in this sense NATO is of no use to the Greeks. Greece is however valuable to NATO, particularly in her support for American plans against Russia and China, neither of which have harmed the Greeks, nor intend to do so. Aggrieved Greece remains silent, voicing no dissatisfaction with American policy, and instead partaking in American designs against two friendly countries. Perhaps rather absurdly, the Greek political élite praises the ‘strategic military alliance’ with America, although this gives no protection to Greece from Turkish aggression.
To an independent observer, Greece seems to be interested more in American strategic designs against Russia and China and less in defending herself against Turkish aggression, enough to bewilder any political science scholar. Confusion sets in when one begins to think that Russia is a traditional friend of the Greek people and China an economic partner of debt-ridden Greece. Ingratitude hits roof level when one is reminded that Russia played the key rôle in freeing the Greeks from 400 years of Ottoman/Turkish occupation. In that period Russia even fought a war against Turkey (1828-9), with many Russians dying, when the Ottomans failed to avenge Russia’s involvement on the side of the Greeks at Navarino in 1827. Another twist to this saga is the fact that Turkey hardly co-operates with the USA on pivotal American challenges. Indicatively, in his memoirs Decision Points, President George Bush made reference to the 2003 second Iraq war saying that ‘ally’ Turkey proved not to be a true ally: “On one of the most important requests we had ever made, Turkey, our NATO ally, had let America down.” Yet, America steadily supports ‘ally’ Turkey, but not ally Greece which, unlike Turkey, fought on America’s side in both World Wars.
Linda S. Heard (October, 2020) correctly observes that Erdogan and Turkey behave aggressively against all and sundry because America turns a blind eye to Turkish aggression: “Instead of taking the moral high ground, NATO’s chief marshal and chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Sir Stuart Peach, recently praised Turkey’s role within NATO and its essential contributions to NATO operations and activities.” Was Sir Stuart playing games with people’s intelligence and memory, one wonders, when in the same breath he added, perhaps mendaciously, that, “[…] no other ally has suffered more from terrorist attacks,” conveniently hiding the fact that Turkey is a net contributor to terrorism (see “There’s no doubt Turkey sponsors terrorism; why won’t the State Department say so?”)
Seeing that things work in her favour and against the Greeks, irrespective of the merits of the case, Turkey has found it expedient to press for further advantage through the employment of lobbyists in America, as the ineffectual and powerless ‘Greek lobby’ looks on passively. Just over a year ago Ahval News reported that, “Turkey paid nearly $9 million to lobbying firms in U.S. in 2018.” Even a former US National Security Adviser lobbied for Turkey. Ahval notes that the Turkish lobbyist list includes international law firms. Even more bizarrely, a former senior American naval officer of Greek decent, though not a lobbyist, finds it morally acceptable to support the continued arming of Turkey.
The [Athenian] Greek political élite pretend not to see and not to hear and maybe not to bother. Lately the American Ambassador in Greece publicly mandated the Greco-Turkish agenda saying that Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis “[…] will make all the needed comprises […]” (SLPress.) Turkey is trying to encroach on Greece’s sovereignty; yet the Ambassador asks Greece to compromise. Meanwhile, Pompeo has announced cheerfully that the Graeco-American relationship is “at an all time high and getting stronger.” In his last visit to Crete, Pompeo even boasted that he was in Greece, “[…] to showcase one of America’s strongest military relationships throughout all of Europe […]” Not to be upstaged, the Greek Prime Minister heralded the permanent docking of «USS Hershel «Woody» Williams» in Souda Bay in Crete. Pompeo capped it all by adding that he was incredibly proud to support the Greek leadership (29 September, 2020 Washington Post). Pompeo spoke with no pretence and made no attempt to hide America’s real intentions as regards the three American military bases on continental Greece and the naval base in Crete. He said, “[the military relationship] is especially important, as Russia continues to destabilize the region, especially in Libya, where the U.S. calls for the withdrawal of all foreign military forces and support for military de-escalation and for Libyan reconciliation.” So, we see Greece in a Graeco-American ‘strategic military alliance’ that targets friendly Russia rather than enemy Turkey. The Greek political élite have yet to articulate a single benefit for Greece’s security needs from the Graeco-American recently announced ‘strategic military alliance.’
The Greek political élite are used to getting empty promises and by now are numb to these. The Greeks asked the EU to apply sanctions against Turkey for her violations of Cyprus’ sovereignty. A meeting was arranged for September 24-25, 2020, but was postponed to 1 October on the pretext that someone tested positive to the corona virus. Even that meeting was to be conducted remotely. Meanwhile, the agenda was miraculously expanded to include China, Belarus, Nagorno-Karabakh and the Navalny assassination, leaving little time to discuss sanctions against Turkey!. (see EU incompetence .)
Russia is perplexed by the Graeco-American ‘strategic military alliance’ that is steered against her. Thankfully Russia has not taken vindictive action against her friends the Greeks, who always turn to her for support in the UN Security Council. Greece is obviously unhappy with Russia supplying Turkey with the S-400 air defence system, but the truth is that Russia first supplied the Greeks with the S-300 over twenty years ago. A secret agreement between America and the then defeatist Greek government made this powerful defence system inoperable. Russia supports Cyprus unequivocally on the issue of the withdrawal from Cyprus of all Turkish occupation troops. America is vague on the issue, seeing that the Turkish occupation troops are also NATO troops. Most important, Russia spared Cyprus from the damage the American/British-initiated Anan Plan of 2004 would have brought to the Greeks of Cyprus.
. A lie was deliberately circulated many years back, to the effect that Russia was opposed to Greece extending her territorial waters to 12nm. This served America well in that it stopped Greece from exercising her legitimate rights in the face of an aggressive Turkish casus belli that could end in a war between two NATO [supposed] allies. In direct contrast to the disinformation, Russia’s Ambassador to Athens Andrei Maslov came out recently stating in no uncertain terms that all islands have a continental shelf and an EEZ of their own, thus rubbishing Turkish claims to the contrary. This unnerved the USA, which is now in a quandary, and worried that Greece may finally exercise her rights to 12nm. However, the Greek political élite made little use of the Russian pronouncement, for this would have meant having to take a decision that would have angered America and Turkey.
Is the Greek political éite therefore suffering from auditory illusions, creating false perceptions of what they actually hear the Americans telling them in clear words and actions? The Americans are crystal clear, saying openly that Turkey is their ‘strategic military ally’. Equally, the Americans tell the Greeks to concentrate their military energies on the perceived Russian threat to America, and not the real threat to Greece coming from Turkey. They tell the Greeks to compromise on Turkish demands that are outside international law and to stop creating problems for NATO, because if it comes to the USA taking sides, the Greeks will be the losers. For now Greeks have to be satisfied with the praise they get for their ancestry: Leonidas, Pericles, Xenophon, Plato et al. The Greeks do to Russia as America does to them. Whilst verbally praising the common cultural bonds and Christian Orthodoxy between Greece and Russia, in practice they provide Americans with bases to frustrate Russian plans in the Eastern Mediterranean. As long as Greece supports anti-Russian American plans, Russia will not openly favour their fellow Christian Orthodox Greeks. If Greece thinks that Turkey will be expelled from NATO anytime soon, with Greece filling the gap, that would prove illusionary; America is marking time, waiting for Erdogan to leave; then it’s back to business. Greece could test American sincerity and support for the Greeks by asking for a ban on servicing Turkey’s F-16s, to undermine her combat capabilities against Greece and to stop her from being a menace to her neighbours.
Conclusion: In a world of auditory illusions, games, international trickery and cunning, the [Athenian] Greek political élite stands little chance of gaining anything for Greece.