Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seems to be obsessed with the northern Greek port of Alexandroupoli. He’s furious about the American presence at this strategic port and realizes that it serves US interests vis-a-vis Russia at this critical juncture. He also seems to be under the impression that Greece believes this gives it some safeguards against Turkish aggression. And the more the American presence grows and expands, so too will Erdogan’s ire. It is also likely to escalate even further when Ankara sees Alexandroupoli being used more often by American warships to dock.
Erdogan is locked in furious haggling with the Biden administration and will possibly seek to put Alexandroupoli on the negotiating table. He may try to convince the Americans that it’s an important parameter in the tension between Turkey and Greece and that the US is to blame for this. The US has no such intention, however.
In the meantime, Turkey will continue pressing its case to upgrade its F-16 fighter jet fleet, though Erdogan’s recent rash of incendiary comments is doing nothing to help its case. He is actually frightening everyone involved in Turkish and regional affairs, both in the US Congress and government, hence the recent change in tone from the State Department, whose latest chiding of Turkey brought it closer to European positions on the same issue.
However, because the Biden administration will, nevertheless, try to reach a deal on the F-16s, a new understanding seems to have emerged between Athens and Washington that is so far only being discussed behind closed doors. And that is the idea that Turkey will get what it has a “right” to in terms of equipment, but the US will ensure that Greece is supplied with weapons systems that give it a qualitative advantage. The Turks will get their F-16 upgrades, but Greece will go a step further, asking for a more advanced form of equipment that will give it a tactical edge. It’s basically a variation of the 7:10 defense supply formula toward Greece and Turkey that Athens agreed to as a condition for the lifting of the embargo imposed by Congress after the invasion of Cyprus.
This formula may satisfy Greek interests – according to experienced military officers – even though it is a very expensive solution that is unlikely to be covered by American resources right now.
Either way, the three-way bartering has already started and there are bound to be a lot of new developments as Turkey gets closer to general elections.