The unpredictability of U.S. policy in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, along with Turkey’s territorial claims in the region were two issues highlighted in a speech by former Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis in Thessaloniki on Saturday.
Speaking for the first time publicly since his ousting in 2009, Karamanlis called on Greece to be vigilant given the “unpredictability” of Washington’s erratic moves in the region recently.
These are moves that have supported Ankara’s expansionist tendencies, as has been exhibited in the past few months.
The former prime minister’s concern is mirrored by the governments in Greece and Cyprus and the general public of the two countries after the recent developments in Syria and the continuous violations of Greek airspace and Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The decision of US President Donald Trump to withdraw American forces from northern Syria, thereby seemingly giving permission to Turkey to invade the country, was an entirely unpredicted move.
This is especially true, knowing that Ankara’s plan to create a buffer zone in which to relocate a large number of Syrian refugees from Turkey is essentially a pretext to eradicate or at least drive out the Syrian Kurds from the area.
The US President must know that it was actually the Kurds, more than anyone else, who are responsible for discovering the hideout of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – the world’s number one terrorist leader, in Trump’s words.
The same Kurds who fought effectively the Islamic State jihadists, losing 11,000 fighters in the war against the terrorists.
Yet the U.S. President does not seem to acknowledge the Kurds’ valuable contribution to the fight against ISIS and has apparently turned his back on them, despite the disagreement of some of his top officials.
In addition, the withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria brought Russian forces into the area that are now engaging in joint operations with the Turkish forces which have advanced into Syrian territory.
Yet President Trump does not seem to mind this development — so far, at least.
The concern in Athens and Nicosia is that, given the tacit permission of the White House, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is now acting as the policeman in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean.
And this has the Greek and Cypriot governments worried over what would happen if Erdogan one day decides to make territorial claims in the Aegean and Cyprus’ EEZ, using military force.
In his recent visit to Athens, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed that Greece is a major US ally and that he welcomes its new government’s determination to forge a closer military relationship with the United States.
However, that does not guarantee that the US would intervene if the aforementioned scenario plays out in the Aegean. After all, the US President’s decisions often find his own officials in disagreement.
President Trump’s unpredictable and seemingly capricious nature makes Greece and Cyprus less likely to be able to count on American support with certainty in the future.