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American Hellenic Institute Rebuts former Supreme Allied Commander’s Take on Turkey

Featured American Hellenic Institute Rebuts former Supreme Allied Commander’s Take on Turkey

Retired U.S. Navy Admiral James Stavridis, former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, participated in the Turkish Heritage Organization Webinar, “The Future of The Transatlantic Military Alliance” held May 14, 2020.

During the interview, Admiral Stavridis made statements about Turkey that are of deep concern to the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) and should concern U.S. policymakers.

“Unfortunately, Admiral Stavridis views Turkey through an outdated prism,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said. “We greatly appreciate and respect his lifetime of dedicated service to the US. However, his views on Erdogan and Turkey are either nostalgic or simply wrong.”

Admiral Stavrides reminisces fondly about the Turkish general officers he knew over seven years ago when he served as Supreme Allied Commander. U.S. policymakers and even the Greek military had good relations with their Turkish counterparts in NATO. Since the 2016 attempted coup, Erdogan has purged the Turkish military of the professional general officers who Admiral Stavrides remembers. He has replaced them with officers whose primary qualification is abject loyalty to Erdogan.

On Turkey-Libya and the Migrant Crisis

In a discussion about the migrant crisis and Libya situation, Admiral Stavridis described the Eastern Mediterranean as a “southern zone of instability.” In doing so, he failed to identify the primary source of “instability” which is Erdogan’s Turkey.

As AHI has stated, Turkey has used refugees as geopolitical pawns, which is a violation of international law. Turkey’s actions have threatened the sovereignty of Greece and all of Europe. Further, the Turkey-Libya Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on maritime borders has been resoundingly dismissed by the international community as null and void and without any legal foundation.

Turkey’s Hostile Acts in the Region

Admiral Stavrides failed to note the following hostile acts which Erdogan’s Turkey perpetrated:

Erdogan has essentially repudiated the material provisions Treaty of Lausanne which established the status quo in the Aegean Sea, northern Greece and parts of the Middle East.

  • Turkey violates Arms Export Control Act (AECA) each time it orders US supplied F-16s into Greek airspace because the condition under which Turkey received the F-16s is that they be used only for “legitimate self-defense.” No one, not even, Turkey alleges that Greece has provoked the F-16 sorties.

  • Turkey also violates international law when its F-16s enter Greek airspace.

  • Turkey has been violating Greek airspace and territorial waters for decades. It is difficult to even estimate the number of violations. In 2019 alone, the actual number of violations is:

    • 4,813 Hellenic airspace violations of which 124 are categorized as “Hellenic Territory Over-Flights,”

    • 2,150 maritime incidents, and

    • 384 mock dogfights between Turkish and Greek aircraft.

  • Turkey has unlawfully occupied 37.3% of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus (Cyprus) since it invaded Cyprus in 1974, and

  • Turkey has deployed exploration and drilling vessels protected by Turkish warships into the into the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Cyprus on three occasions in 2019, another act which has been condemned by the international community.

On Praise of Turkish Military and S-400 Purchase

As noted above, the Turkish military which Admiral Stavridis praised the Turkish military as a “professional group” does not exist.

As NATO member, Turkey’s purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system threatens the integrity of NATO and violates the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). Admiral Stavridis described Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400s in trivial fashion as a “disagreement among friends.” This statement borders on the bizarre. The S-400s are designed to shoot down F-16s. The only country in the region which has F-16s is Greece.

On Turkey’s Role in Combatting Terrorism and Syria

In addition, Admiral Stavridis praised Turkey’s role in fighting terrorism. To the contrary, Turkey has enabled ISIS fighters to transit Turkish territory to sell oil and other products and provided other support to ISIS. Turkey openly supports Hamas and its policies which violates the security of Israel. Under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey has become a central financial hub for terrorists and has helped Iran skirt sanctions.

Finally, during Admiral Stavridis’ discussion about Syria, Turkey’s attack upon U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters during Turkey’s illegal invasion of northeast Syria, was notably absent.

It is perspectives such as the admiral’s that have led to the United States’ endless appeasement of Turkey’s demands, which must stop. Admiral Stavridis’ remarks only embolden Erdogan’s authoritarian tendencies and his egregious, provocative actions that are illegal and threaten U.S. interests.