Author Topic: Eastern Mediterranean  (Read 411 times)

Crafty_Dog

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Eastern Mediterranean
« on: July 20, 2020, 05:40:43 AM »
I've been seeing more and more pieces organized around this concept and so start this thread.

Off the top of my head, I would say that President Trump is looking rather prescient in having played things so that we are not part of this fustercluck.  Imagine if we were still in Syria, defending Turkey's border.

July 20, 2020   View On Website
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    Is the Eastern Mediterranean the New Manchuria and Abyssinia?

Regional tensions are calling into question international institutions’ ability to execute their mandates.
By: Caroline D. Rose

A financial crisis has swept the globe, creating socio-economic tensions and political divisions that divert governments’ attention from important global issues. In the preceding years of chaos, flashpoints emerged in Africa and Asia that pitted revisionists, allies and institutions against one another. Japan installed a puppet government in Manchuria in 1931 before fully invading the mainland six years later. Meanwhile, Italy attacked and annexed Abyssinia (present-day Ethiopia) in 1935 and 1936. These actions bent international law to its breaking point and tested the limits of allies. Despite its design for collective security, the paralyzed League of Nations – undermined by entangled allegiances and conflicts among its own members – was effectively dead.

2020 isn’t 1938, but the parallels are difficult to ignore. The world is bracing itself for the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, one that, without a COVID-19 vaccine, may only get worse. Indeed, the 2008 financial crisis may have started the turn toward nationalism and isolationism, but the current pandemic has accelerated it, creating a climate that prioritizes state imperatives over all else and calls into question the reliability of international institutions.

This time, the flashpoint is the Eastern Mediterranean. The ongoing hostility between Greece and Turkey is shaping the contours of energy competition, military alliances, trade partnerships and the Libyan civil war. Caught in the crossfire are NATO and the European Union. Many southern EU members – including Greece, France and Cyprus, all of which directly border the Mediterranean Sea – have called on Brussels to punish Turkey for its behavior there, either through economic measures or collective military action. Turkey isn’t an EU member, though it is an important trade and security partner. It is, however, a member of NATO. So is Greece. A direct military confrontation between them could tear the alliance apart. Notably, NATO weathered similar storms in the 1950s and 1970s, maintaining neutrality on Greece-Turkey disputes, but this time, the rift has pitted a number of NATO allies, outside actors and regional threats against each other in entangled Eastern Mediterranean conflicts, placing institutional credibility in jeopardy.

Time Isn’t On Turkey’s Side

Cultural, religious and ideological differences have no doubt played a central role in the Turkey-Greece rift, but ultimately, it all comes down to maritime interests: Both want unobstructed access to sea lanes and offshore resources. Turkey has been unable to discover hydrocarbons in the continental shelves off its own shores and so remains dependent on gas exports from its rival, Russia, and eastern and southern peripheral neighbors. Volatile relations with Moscow and unstable conditions in the Middle East and the Caucasus have jeopardized shipments, sometimes disrupting pipeline flows, while rising gas prices have caused increased political friction with the ruling government – never a good sign for a country that’s experienced more than 10 coup attempts in the past 60 years. Uncomfortable with the state of affairs, Turkey is trying to tap the proven oil and gas reserves in the Mediterranean, thereby reducing its dependence on others and earning some much-needed cash in the process. It has thus parlayed its relationships with the Government of National Accord in Libya (home to Africa’s largest proven oil reserves and around 1 percent of the world’s gas reserves) and Northern Cyprus to push west.

Yet mounting financial problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a recession in 2018 have forced President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s hand. Turkey has therefore upped offshore exploration and drilling activities and enhanced its military presence in a race to secure sought-out resources. This may work in the short-term, but operationally, Turkey doesn’t have the equipment, the resources, the logistics or, most importantly, the money to sustain this campaign. Time is not on Turkey’s side. Greece understands Turkey’s economic urgency and has adjusted its strategy accordingly. Athens has therefore led the charge for an anti-Turkey alliance of European, Israeli and Arab governments, has advanced military partnerships and exercises, and has sought out the promises of EU and NATO collective security to prevent Ankara from securing game-changing revenue sources.
 
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Old Friends, New Aggressors

Though the conflict has been largely confined to gunboat diplomacy, a proxy war in Cyprus, occasional airspace violations, and a rather spicy war of words, Greece’s coalition has increased the likelihood of a messy – potentially conventional – military conflict against its fellow NATO ally. This is no ordinary problem for the EU and NATO, which have made the Mediterranean a top agenda item in recent meetings despite the ongoing pandemic and financial crisis. The EU even held its first face-to-face meeting for EU foreign ministers since the pandemic began to assess EU-Turkey relations. And the EU and NATO have sent scores of foreign ministers and advisers between Turkish and European capitals to keep communication lines open and promote negotiation.

These attempts, however, have been undermined by hard-line elements in Greece and Turkey. Leaders are simply constrained by political pressure at home and a fear of an imminent attack. (There was hope for a breakthrough earlier this summer, but Greek and Turkish moves in Libya, religious tensions over the status of the Hagia Sophia, delimited maritime zone agreements, and continued maritime provocations of Greek fishing vessels and Turkish drilling ships have started to turn both Turkish and Greek public opinion against dialogue, period.) Greek Foreign Minister Mikos Dendias has asked the EU to produce a list of sanctions against Turkey’s banks, tourism industry, and exports and imports, and to reconsider Article 42 of the Lisbon Treaty, Europe’s mutual defense clause that asserts EU members’ “obligation of aid and assistance by all means in their power” in the event of an armed aggression on a member state.
 
(click to enlarge)

The EU is walking a tightrope, balancing its need to cater to one of its members and its need to de-escalate tensions. Brussels has drafted a list of harsher sanctions to smooth Athens’ ruffled feathers, but ultimately the EU and its northern members want to keep this list hypothetical and steer clear from harsher sanctions on Turkey. Only seven countries opposed sanctions: Austria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Slovakia, Luxembourg and Estonia. Yet the EU’s remaining members – many of them Balkan and northern members that are popular destinations for migrant groups traveling from Turkey – indicated they have no appetite for raising stakes with Turkey, a country with a record of encouraging mass refugee migration in Europe when it seeks leverage with Brussels.

With two of its members threatening military action, NATO has likewise sought to balance between southern European and Turkish demands to avoid a fight. After all, NATO has no formal, legal mechanism for expelling a member outside of Article 8, which vaguely bars members from engagements “in conflict with the provisions of this Treaty” without any other enforcement mechanism. The result is a cocktail of appeasement, punitive measures and endless attempts at diplomacy to prevent intra-NATO conflict. For example, after a June 10 incident in which Turkish ships allegedly harassed a French ship under NATO command, a NATO probe sided with Turkey, saying there wasn’t enough evidence to proceed with punitive action. Clearly, NATO is coordinating its strategy with the EU, placating Turkey when the EU concedes to Greece in an effort to offset tensions. Giving Ankara and Athens an inch here and there is a way to keep its members happy, retain relative confidence in its credibility, and compensate for the lack of formal enforcement mechanisms.

Even so, escalating tensions between Greece, Turkey and an emerging East Mediterranean coalition is not going anywhere and will serve as both institutions’ greatest litmus test as the EU and NATO struggle to reconcile old friends with new aggressors.   



« Last Edit: September 09, 2020, 09:05:33 AM by Crafty_Dog »

Crafty_Dog

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Re: GPF: Eastern Mediterranean
« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2020, 11:15:58 AM »
By: Geopolitical Futures
Coalitions in the Med. Europe is scrambling to resolve the standoff in the Eastern Mediterranean. French President Emmanuel Macron held a meeting with Cyprus’ president, Nicos Anastasia, during which they called for sanctions on Turkey and criticized the European Union for doing “too little” in the face of a power struggle with Turkey and Russia in the Mediterranean. A spokesman for Turkey’s Foreign Ministry criticized the proposals and reiterated Turkey’s intention to defend its “legitimate rights” in the Eastern Mediterranean. But as Turkey and France participate in a war of words, Greece and EU leaders are conducting backdoor discussions to build a coalition against Turkey and explore possibilities for de-escalation. This past week alone, Greece’s foreign minister has discussed options with the foreign ministers of Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the EU. Greece is hopeful the situation can be defused without coming to blows. Its national security adviser, for example, has ruled out the possibility of military confrontation, saying talks brokered by Germany were trending toward de-escalation.

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GPF: Cyprus
« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2020, 02:27:44 PM »
   
    Cyprus’ Indispensable Role in the Mediterranean
The island’s location and natural resources have made it a target for ambitious neighbors and rival powers.
By: Caroline D. Rose

In 1956, Cyprus found itself at the center of a heated debate in the United Kingdom. Amid the growing push for independence on the island, which had been a crown colony since 1925, London was accused at home and abroad of repressing the Cypriot people’s right to self-determination. Prime Minister Anthony Eden tried to make the case that maintaining control of Cyprus was in Britain’s interest, saying in a speech on June 1, 1956, that without Cyprus the U.K.’s access to oil would be jeopardized, and without a reliable supply of oil, the country would see a spike in unemployment – even hunger.

Nearly 70 years later, Cyprus continues to play a pivotal role in the foreign policies of Mediterranean and global powers clamoring for influence over the strategically located island. Throughout its history, it has been occupied by numerous empires and countries, and today, great powers like the U.S., Russia and Turkey as well as European states are trying to gain a foothold there. How has a small Mediterranean island attracted so much attention from so many powerful players? The answer lies in its geography, location and natural resources.

A Target for Rivals

Located in the northeast corner of the Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus has access to some of the most important sea lanes and chokepoints in the region, including the Bosporus and the Dardanelles (the main arteries connecting the Mediterranean to the Black Sea) as well as the Suez Canal (the gateway to the Bab el-Mandeb strait and Indian Ocean). The Kyrenia and Troodos mountain ranges, which surround the capital city, Nicosia, and the country’s coastal lowlands make Cyprus an easily defensible island. It’s also a resource-rich island, with natural gas reserves, first discovered in 2011, worth an estimated $44.8 billion. It’s now part of the “energy triangle,” which also includes Israel and Greece, and the EastMed pipeline project to bring natural gas to European markets.
 
(click to enlarge)

Although it measures only 3,572 square miles, the island’s location and natural resources have made it a target for ambitious neighbors and rival powers. The Greeks, Phoenicians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Romans, Persians, Achaemenids, Macedonians, Byzantines, Ottomans, Venetians, British, Turks, Russians and Americans have all sought to gain a foothold in Cyprus, recognizing the strategic depth it offers, particularly when it comes to protecting access to sea lanes and projecting influence in the Mediterranean and beyond. But all these powers have been driven by different imperatives.

For Anatolian powers, Cyprus acted as a buffer between themselves and the Greek Aegean islands and southern Europe, as well as a launchpad for naval operations in the Western Mediterranean. Control over Cyprus allowed powers like the Ottoman Empire to become major naval powers that even rivaled the Portuguese for a time and to establish greater territorial control in Africa, the Gulf and the Balkans.

For Western powers like France, the U.S. and Britain, Cyprus has served as a hub to support military operations in the Middle East and North Africa, protect imperial assets in the region and counter Russian naval power. During the Cold War, Cyprus served as the West’s regional headquarters for intelligence on Soviet activity in the Middle East and Arab states. It also helped access chokepoints important to Europe and was used during Britain and France’s 1956 amphibious invasion of Egypt.

Russia’s interest in Cyprus stems from its imperative to establish warm-water ports along the Mediterranean. Although Russia has never controlled any part of the island, it has forged close economic ties there.

Divided Island

Cyprus’ population, therefore, is the product of centuries of shifting control. Cypriots in the southern half of the island speak Greek, while those in the northern half speak Turkish. In terms of religion, the population is a mixture of Greek Orthodox Christians and Sunni Muslims. Though its demographic diversity has made the island adaptable to frequent political changes, it also made the population vulnerable to outside influences. In fact, throughout its history, Cyprus has never experienced genuine autonomy. It became independent in 1960, but only on paper. The Treaty Concerning the Establishment of the Republic of Cyprus, which established Cyprus’ independence, and the Treaty of Guarantee barred the island from uniting with another state and entrusted defense of its independence to the signatories of the treaties: Greece, the U.K., Turkey and Cyprus itself. The U.K. managed to retain two bases in the country at Akrotiri and Dhekelia along 98 square miles of sovereign territory, which could be used for intelligence gathering and logistics and as a staging ground for military operations in the Middle East and North Africa.

The competition between the guarantors reached a peak in 1974, when the Greek military junta organized a coup that was carried out by the Greek army and Cypriot National Guard against Cypriot President Makarios III. Turkey responded by invading the island on the basis that it had a duty to defend Cyprus’ independence. The result was the partitioning of the island and formation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Cyprus remains today a frozen flashpoint in the Eastern Mediterranean, divided between the pro-Greece Republic of Cyprus in the south and the pro-Turkey TRNC in the north. Both Athens and Ankara see Cyprus as a buffer and are determined to prevent the other from controlling more of the island than it already does. Although Turkey is the only country that recognizes the TRNC, its key role in Mediterranean affairs can’t be denied. It’s through the TRNC that Turkey has managed to reestablish the influence the Ottomans once had over the island, in the hope that Ankara can increase its commercial, naval, economic and political power in the region. And Turkey has used its connections to the TRNC to defend its hydrocarbon exploration and drilling activities off the coast of Cyprus – which the Greek Cypriot government sees as a violation of its sovereign rights.
Ankara has also used its foothold in the north to increase its naval presence in the Mediterranean, which it has used to monitor sea lanes and support its military operations in Libya and Syria.
 
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Greece, too, has leveraged its influence over the island to advance its regional strategy. Since Cyprus became an EU member in 2004, Greece has used the Cyprus issue to block Turkey’s accession into the EU and to drive a wedge between Ankara and Brussels. It’s fearful of what a Turkish-controlled Cyprus would mean for its maritime claims, energy projects and control over islands in the Aegean Sea.

Beyond the Greek-Turkish Rift

Certainly, the Cyprus issue continues to define Turkish-Greek relations. But the island is also at the center of other issues in the region. It has become a pivotal launchpad for Western intelligence, military and counterterrorism operations in the Middle East. British bases in Cyprus have turned into a portal from which the U.S. and NATO can launch air missions, monitor electronic communications, signals intelligence and naval operations. It has also participated in joint naval exercises with NATO members like France, Italy and the U.S. in the Mediterranean. Cyprus has even signed a bilateral defense cooperation agreement with France, expanding its Evangelos Florakis naval base to host French warships. To counter these efforts, Russia is also trying to increase its influence on the island. In the mid-2000s, for example, it provided billions in loans to Cyprus. Russia has become one of Cyprus’ top sources for foreign direct investment, a well-placed expense considering that Moscow receives 26 percent return on its investments in Cyprus. The relationship between the two countries has meant that Russian vessels can patrol Cypriot waters mostly without interference and Russian warships can use Cypriot ports to support ongoing military operations in Syria and Libya and to keep an eye on U.S. and Turkish activities in the region.

With new discoveries and shifting national priorities, the competition over Cyprus has evolved over time. But the dynamics within Cyprus have more or less stayed the same: It remains a small, fragmented island, fought over by actors seeking to expand their strategic depth in the Eastern Mediterranean.   




Crafty_Dog

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MEF: Turkish threats to Greece
« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2020, 01:25:50 PM »
John Nomikos on Turkish Threats to Greece
by Marilyn Stern
Middle East Forum Webinar
August 5, 2020
https://www.meforum.org/61356/john-nomikos-on-turkish-threats-to-greece

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Turkey searching for an Edge
« Reply #4 on: August 28, 2020, 08:40:01 AM »
Turkey’s Navy: Searching for an Edge in the Mediterranean
Ankara’s aspirations go far beyond its capabilities.

By Caroline D. Rose -August 28, 2020
It seems that in every corner of the Middle East, Turkey has inserted itself in one way or another. In northern Iraq and Syria, it’s trying to establish buffer zones to prevent insurgents from penetrating its border. In the Caucasus, it’s trying to protect vital energy supply chains and counter Russian influence. In Somalia and Qatar, it operates shared bases and provides military training programs to maintain a foothold in the Horn of Africa and in the Gulf. And in the Black Sea, where it recently discovered significant natural gas reserves, it will be increasingly assertive to protect its access resources.

Yet for Turkey, the most vital theater is the Eastern Mediterranean. It has become the focus of Turkish energy interests, mercantile opportunities and an emerging, forward-leaning defense posture that not only protects existing Turkish interests but expands them. Turkey’s corresponding naval buildup is ambitious. It has invested significant political capital in establishing a greater Mediterranean foothold – using drilling operations off the coasts of Cyprus and Greek islets, intrusion in conflicts like Libya’s civil war, and gunboat diplomacy against regional rivals to “reclaim” its maritime dominance.

Still, Turkey’s immediate focus is closer to home: deterring conventional threats along its Mediterranean coastline. Operational constraints in the southern Mediterranean, logistical challenges, economic and defense limitations, and rising conventional threats will ensure that for now Turkey remains focused on its own backyard, not the dominant Mediterranean power it claims to be.

Turkey’s Vision

It would be an understatement to say that Turkey’s defense posture looks drastically different than it did just a few decades ago. Until the 1990s, Turkey’s inward focus on its economy, political modernization and infrastructural development, combined with the looming threat of the Soviet Union and its own loyalty to NATO, compelled it to follow a foreign policy based on deterrence rather than expansionism. But in the 1990s, Turkey and the West began to drift apart. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian threat waned, as did the interests shared between Turkey and the West. Ankara’s military leadership adopted a “two and one-half war strategy” – the idea that it should be prepared to wage two wars, one to its east and one to its west, simultaneously, while also fighting an ongoing, unconventional “half war” with Kurdish insurgents at home. The strategy essentially saw Turkey’s location, wedged between the Black and Mediterranean seas, as a vulnerability.

In the 21st century, Turkey began to adopt a more independent, assertive military doctrine. The discovery of hydrocarbons in Turkey’s periphery piqued Ankara’s interest, particularly as it struggled to diversify its natural gas suppliers, and it needed a navy that could help defend its claim over them. It continued to drift away from the West as Brussels walked back its commitment to Turkish membership in the European Union and as it continued to butt heads with its NATO allies.

Natural Gas Cooperation in the Eastern Med
(click to enlarge)

The re-emergence of the Russian threat, an increasingly aggressive Iran and a growing anti-Turkey coalition in the Mediterranean further isolated Ankara. So it introduced the concept of Mavi Vatan, or Blue Homeland, which has dominated strategic thinking among Turkey’s military brass and nationalist politicians. The concept asserts that Turkey should work to dominate the Mediterranean and reclaim the mercantile and maritime supremacy that the Ottomans once had. Essentially, it advocates that Turkey’s location isn’t a vulnerability – it’s an asset that gives the country strategic depth.

The Ottoman Empire, 1683
(click to enlarge)

The purpose of the strategy is not just to expand Turkish influence abroad but also to fulfill many of Turkey’s domestic and financial imperatives. Having a strong naval presence in the Eastern Mediterranean allows Turkey to assert claims to oil and gas reserves in contested waters there – which may help Ankara eventually achieve energy independence and even become an energy hub. Boosting Turkey’s own defense industry to reduce its reliance arms imports, which often come with strings attached, is a key component of the domestic agenda of the ruling Justice and Development Party. Investment in indigenous defense manufacturing has introduced a wave of new financial opportunities for the struggling Turkish economy and has increased Turkey’s prestige abroad.

Turkey’s military spending has thus skyrocketed since the 1990s. It went from being the third-largest arms importer to the 14th-largest arms exporter. The country has reduced its arms imports by 48 percent since 2015 and increased its defense budget by 86 percent in the past decade. Turkey has also launched the highly publicized MILGEM program that will roll out indigenously built corvettes and frigates, Type-214 air independent power submarines and MILDEN attack submarines, as well as torpedoes, missiles and sensory equipment. It also announced that it will build 24 vessels (four of which are MILGEM frigates) by the Turkish Republic’s 100th anniversary in 2023.

Turkey’s Limitations

Despite these advancements, Turkey’s naval capabilities are still limited. While it’s laying the groundwork to have a navy capable of projecting power by the 2030s and 2040s, its current operational capabilities can’t extend much beyond the Aegean and the southern Mediterranean. Moreover, though Turkey’s navy is larger than that of its main rival, Greece, there are several other Mediterranean nations with which it must contend. Increased patrols and joint maritime exercises involving Greece, France, Italy, Egypt and even Israel have raised the stakes for conventional conflict. If Turkey poses a serious threat to Greece – say, by violating the partition in Cyprus or attempting to invade Crete – it will have to face a coalition of capable naval forces with substantial combined firepower that would overwhelm Turkey’s own.

Most of Turkey’s naval projects are years – or even decades – away from being operational. Chief among them is its first amphibious assault ship, the TCG Anadolu, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year. The Anadolu is designed to serve as both a light aircraft carrier and a command center in the Mediterranean. It can sustain combat missions at farther distances by carrying 14 STOVL fighter jets or heavy-lift helicopters, several amphibious assault vehicles, 29 main battle tanks, and four mechanized, two air-cushioned and two personnel landing vehicles. With the ability to carry out an amphibious invasion, it would a threat to the sovereignty of small Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast. It could also aid Turkey’s operations in Libya, allowing for quicker reinforcements, deployment of more equipment for mechanized infantry units and greater airpower projection.

On paper, the TCG Andalou appears to close at least some of the gap in Turkey’s Mediterranean capabilities. But the ship alone won’t give Turkey an edge over the combined forces of France, Egypt, Greece and Israel. The new fleet of locally built ships will assist Turkey’s strategy of defending its perimeter by applying pressure deeper into the Mediterranean, creating new maritime buffers and strengthening its bargaining position against regional rivals. But over the next decade, it will still have to rely mainly on gunboat diplomacy to achieve its defense objectives. Its focus will remain on its littoral waters and projecting power over weaker actors, like Libya and Cyprus and certain Aegean islands. This explains why Turkey’s arsenal doesn’t include a destroyer but does include a growing number of frigates and corvettes that can sail between critical sea lanes and islands in shallow waters.

Until Turkey can secure forward bases and a more powerful maritime fleet, its entire defense strategy will struggle to overcome logistical, refueling and funding constraints. Turkey still faces challenges in equipping enough fuel tankers with an escort fleet that can resupply its vessels, aircraft and patrol boats that venture beyond the Aegean. One light carrier can’t do the job on its own.

Moreover, production delays due to COVID-19 and Turkey’s sluggish economy have raised questions over whether Turkey can complete projects on time, let alone begin production on a second planned assault carrier, the TCG Trakya. Its economic woes have also led to slower growth in Turkey’s defense budget since the country’s 2018 recession. And although the runways of the TCG Anadolu and TCG Trakya have been reportedly designed to also accommodate F-35B Lightning-II jets, Turkey may not even acquire these aircraft given the U.S. decision to cut it out of the F-35 program. Ankara could theoretically acquire comparable aircraft from the U.K., Spain and Italy, but Europe would be reluctant to arm Turkey with fighter jets that could be used to intimidate other Mediterranean states.

Turkey has been juggling its defense priorities in the Levant, Caucasus, Black Sea, Gulf and Red Sea, but it’s now zeroing in on the Eastern Mediterranean, where it hopes to create the impression that it has an operational edge over its regional rivals. But while it incrementally builds up its naval capabilities, its focus will remain on coastal defense – no matter how much it touts its Blue Homeland aspirations.

Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Greece vs. Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean
« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2020, 09:31:30 AM »
Greece Suits Up for Another Seafaring Standoff With Turkey
4 MINS READ
Aug 27, 2020 | 18:06 GMT

HIGHLIGHTS

Turkey's expansion of energy exploration in the Mediterranean is prompting Greece to cautiously exercise its international maritime rights in order to protect its own claims to offshore economic resources in the region, such as natural gas and fisheries, without provoking a new round of conflict. On Aug. 26, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced that Greece would extend its territorial claim in the Ionian Sea along its Western coastline from six nautical miles to 12 nautical miles -- the maximum extent under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). For now, Athens isn't extending its claims in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, though Mitsotakis said that Greece maintains the ability to exercise that right in the future if it so chooses....

Turkey's expansion of energy exploration in the Mediterranean is prompting Greece to cautiously exercise its international maritime rights in order to protect its own claims to offshore economic resources in the region, such as natural gas and fisheries, without provoking a new round of conflict. On Aug. 26, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced that Greece would extend its territorial claim in the Ionian Sea along its Western coastline from six nautical miles to 12 nautical miles — the maximum extent under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). For now, Athens isn't extending its claims in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, though Mitsotakis said that Greece maintains the ability to exercise that right in the future if it so chooses.

In 1996, Greece and Turkey sparred over disputed claims in the Imia/Kardak islets, which prompted Athens to send in special forces units. Greek hydrocarbon exploration near the island of Thassos in 1987 also provoked threats of military action.
Since the 1970s, Turkish policy has considered any extension of Greek territorial water claims from 6 nautical miles to 12 nautical miles in the Aegean Sea to be a "casus belli," or cause of war.

Greece has long avoided declaring an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Mediterranean Sea to avoid conflict with Turkey. Greece's recent maritime agreements with Italy and Egypt were the first times that it had signed such pacts.

At the heart of the dispute is whether Greek islands, such as Crete and Kastellorizo, have the same level of rights when it comes to generating maritime claims as large mainland countries with lengthy coastlines, such as Turkey. Turkey's provocative maritime moves over the last year have been specifically designed to support Ankara's position that these islands cannot claim the same rights, challenging Greece and UNCLOS’s position that they can. The use of Crete, Kastellorizo and other islands in demarcating an EEZ would limit Turkey's potential maritime claims due to the significant number of small Greek islands laying off the coast of Turkey — resulting in what Ankara perceives to be an inequitable distribution of territorial waters between it and Greece.

Turkey's Oruc Reis seismic survey vessel has been explicitly challenging Kastellorizo's ability to generate an EEZ claim by transiting waters near the island.

In late 2019, Turkey signed a maritime agreement with Libya that challenges Crete's ability to generate claims further south and west. Greece's maritime agreement with Egypt, however, explicitly states that Crete can generate such a claim, but Athens refrained from fully declaring an EEZ under what Kastellorizo could generate.

Additional disagreement between Greece and Turkey over these maritime claims will probably require mediation by outside powers to prevent escalation, though a negotiated resolution to their dispute remains unlikely. Turkey will probably continue to aggressively defend what it perceives as its own claims, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan increasingly turns toward nationalism and national security to distract from the country's domestic economic challenges.

Turkey will seek to avoid actions that could trigger a war with Greece or significant EU sanctions on its fragile economy. But the two countries' expanded naval presence in the Mediterranean will raise the risk for more accidents that could further escalate the situation, as evidenced by the Aug. 10 "mini-collision" between Greek and Turkish frigates near Kastellorizo. Greece's calls for broad sectoral and economic sanctions against Turkey's expansionary efforts have yet to yield significant economic recourse from the European Union. But a direct Turkish challenge to Greece's territorial sea claims around Crete or in the Aegean Sea, or a major incident between rival naval forces, would make such sanctions more likely. Should Greece and Turkey's maritime dispute unfold into a wider military crisis between the two NATO members, Europe and the United States would likely closely back Greece by sending more naval vessels to the region and conducting military exercises with its navy. Such obvious favoritism would reinforce Erdogan's belief that Turkey's security imperatives — such as fending off Kurdish militants in nearby northern Iraq — are not high on NATO's priorities, thus emboldening Ankara's push for strategic autonomy. This could, in turn, prompt Turkey to reduce its collaboration with its NATO allies and seek to deepen its defense cooperation with Russia, further fraying Ankara's ties with the West.

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Turkey means business in the Eastern Mediterranean
« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2020, 10:25:13 AM »
September 2, 2020   View On Website



    Turkey Means Business in the Eastern Mediterranean
Erdogan is determined not to back down.
By: Hilal Khashan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is on a mission to remake the Eastern Mediterranean. Within Turkish society and across the country’s fragmented political landscape, there is a consensus that the decision to cede islands in the Aegean Sea to Greece decades ago was a tremendous mistake. Thus, in 2017, at a welcoming ceremony during the first visit to Greece by a Turkish president in 65 years, Erdogan stunned Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos by saying the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which established the borders of modern Turkey following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, needed to be revised.

It’s not hard to see why Erdogan places such stock in the region: The recent natural gas discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean are massive. For Turkey, gaining access to energy sources is a key foreign policy objective, and a matter of territorial sovereignty, entitlement and rectifying past injustices.

Ankara’s Demands

Much to Ankara’s chagrin, the Treaty of Lausanne essentially made the Aegean Sea a Greek lake and enabled Athens to challenge Turkey’s access to trade lanes at will. Turkey has never come to grips with the fact that, for example, the island of Kastellorizo (known as Meis in Turkish) that lies one mile from the Turkish coast and 360 miles (580 kilometers) from the Greek coast belongs to Greece. What aggravates Turkey most is that the island, which measures 3.5 square miles, has a 15,500 square mile exclusive economic zone. Turkey did not envision this becoming an issue in 1923. But last week, the Greek government announced that it would submit a bill to expand Greek territorial waters in the Ionian Sea from six nautical miles to 12. Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said it would be a cause for war if Greece were to expand its territorial waters farther east where Turkish interests are at stake.

Turkey does not recognize maritime agreements that delineate waters around Cyprus’ coast. In 2017, it dispatched naval vessels to surveil a ship drilling on Cyprus’ behalf. A year later, it prevented another ship from prospecting in what it considers its continental shelf. Ankara lacks allies in the Eastern Mediterranean, save for the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord in war-torn Libya, with which Turkey signed a maritime boundary agreement in November 2019 that drew sharp criticism from Greece and Egypt.

Turkey has used its Blue Homeland doctrine to justify expanding its jurisdiction to 177,000 square miles into the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean. It has even refused to sign the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea because it allocates EEZs to islands and islets, and thus would give jurisdiction over its expanded claims to other countries.

Anti-Turkish Coalition

The Blue Homeland doctrine is highly controversial, especially among Turkey’s neighbors. One of its main challengers in the Eastern Mediterranean is Greece, which says that Turkey’s hydrocarbon exploration operations violate its rights under the 1958 Geneva Convention on the Continental Shelf. Ankara, which didn’t sign the treaty, insists that it is defending its own rights. It believes that the European opposition to it stems from a European bias against Muslims.

In terms of military capabilities, Greece is no match for Turkey. It is therefore trying to secure the support of its allies. The European Union has backed Greece’s claims and threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey. The recently established seven-country EastMed Gas Forum has excluded Turkey, arguing that its EEZ – at least in the eyes of other Mediterranean nations – is small and irrelevant. Last month, Greece and Egypt signed a maritime agreement to demarcate their EEZs, several months after Turkey and the GNA agreed to a similar deal.
 
(click to enlarge)

Greece and its allies have also held frequent naval and air exercises and threatened Turkey with war. The French, who have vociferously condemned Turkish escalation, added muscle to their rhetoric by sending naval vessels to the area. France has a vested financial interest in the region; French oil giant Total stands to earn billions of dollars from its partnership with the EastMed Gas Forum.

Erdogan’s Determination

Erdogan has given up hope that Turkey will one day join the European Union. During his tenure, he’s visited countries like Russia, the United States and Qatar more often than European nations. Indeed, he has been anticipating trouble in the Eastern Mediterranean and preparing the Turkish navy for such a possibility through an ambitious modernization effort.

Erdogan is testing Europe and taking advantage of its indecisiveness and internal divisions. He violates Greek sovereignty in the Aegean Sea, for example, while simultaneously calling for dialogue. Meanwhile, he’s taking stock of the U.S. position, knowing that Washington will not let the situation escalate to war.

But if it does, Erdogan will not back down. He wants to rewrite history. Whether he succeeds is another matter. Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, drove Greek forces out of the Turkish mainland, and Erdogan wants to outdo him by making Turkey the dominant maritime power in the Eastern Mediterranean. But to do so, he must contend not only with Greece but also with France and the United Arab Emirates, both of which, he is convinced, are conspiring to limit Turkish influence. Three weeks ago, France deployed a naval frigate and fighter jets to the Eastern Mediterranean amid tensions between Turkey and Greece. The UAE also sent warplanes recently to the Greek island of Crete for joint exercises, though it’s unclear how long they will remain there. Indeed, the UAE has made a concerted effort to contain Turkey throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Horn of Africa, for example by using the al-Shabab Islamic movement to target its emerging ties with the Somali government.

Ankara simply can’t tolerate having UAE fighter jets flying a few miles off the Turkish coast, especially not after the UAE air force bombarded Libya’s al-Watiya air base near Tripoli and destroyed Turkish surface-to-air missile systems. Later this week, the Turkish navy is set to hold drills off the coast of Iskenderun in Hatay province near Cyprus.

The U.S. does not want war in the Eastern Mediterranean and has made it a point to avoid criticizing Turkey. Indeed, both the U.S. and Germany have stressed the need for dialogue to resolve the dispute.

But the U.S. will not turn on the Turks despite Greece's pleas to do so. In fact, the USS Winston Churchill has just completed joint exercises with the Turkish navy, illustrating Washington’s view of Turkey as an ally. Turkey possesses military and diplomatic assets that are unmatched in the region, and should war break out, it would spell the demise of NATO. France may be capable of inflicting heavy losses on the Turks, but it cannot defeat them, and it’s a Western Mediterranean power anyway. The French will eventually have to return to their side of the Mediterranean, but for the Turks, the Eastern Med is home.   



« Last Edit: September 02, 2020, 10:27:19 AM by Crafty_Dog »

Crafty_Dog

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Pipes on Turkey's reconquests in the Eastern Mediterranean
« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2020, 04:47:13 PM »


Daniel Pipes on Turkey's "Reconquests" in the Eastern Mediterranean and Beyond
Eastern Mediterranean Policy Note
September 2020
https://www.meforum.org/61459/daniel-pipes-on-turkeys-reconquests

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GPF: Russia in the Eastern Mediterranean
« Reply #8 on: September 08, 2020, 10:27:20 AM »
Russia’s position in the Eastern Mediterranean. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is in Cyprus on day two of a two-day visit that includes a meeting with President Nicos Anastasiades. The trip comes days after the United States announced plans to partially lift its arms embargo on the Cypriot government, provided that Nicosia stopped allowing Russian vessels to dock at Cypriot ports and more closely monitored Russian black money in Cypriot banks. Lavrov accused Washington of pitting countries in the region against each other, and said Moscow was ready to facilitate the establishment of relations between Cyprus and Turkey. Moscow has repeatedly expressed concern about the recurring crises in the Eastern Mediterranean, Lavrov said. Tuesday also marks the start of Russian live-fire military drills in the Eastern Mediterranean near Cyprus. Finally, Russia and Cyprus signed a protocol to amend their double taxation agreement.

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Stratfor: What is driving Turkish Aggression in Eastern Mediterranean?
« Reply #9 on: September 09, 2020, 09:07:46 AM »
What's Driving Turkish Aggression in the Mediterranean Sea
8 MINS READ
Sep 9, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
A Greek vessel patrols the waters surrounding the tiny island of Kastellorizo, which is situated just two kilometers off the south coast of Turkey, on Aug. 28, 2020.
A Greek vessel patrols the waters surrounding the tiny island of Kastellorizo, which is situated just two kilometers off the south coast of Turkey, on Aug. 28, 2020.

(LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP via Getty Images)

HIGHLIGHTS

Turkey is putting its 50-year view on maritime rights into practice through its Blue Homeland Doctrine, growing its naval and commercial presence in Mediterranean waters that it claims are part of its exclusive economic zones (EEZs). Oil and gas exploration is becoming a crucial tool in implementing this strategy. But Ankara's attempts to claim extensive maritime resource rights risk broadening to a wider conflict with Greece and other NATO allies that would bring foreign energy projects, and potentially the United States, into the fray....

Turkey is putting its 50-year view on maritime rights into practice through its Blue Homeland Doctrine, growing its naval and commercial presence in Mediterranean waters that it claims are part of its exclusive economic zones (EEZs). Oil and gas exploration is becoming a crucial tool in implementing this strategy. But Ankara's attempts to claim extensive maritime resource rights risk broadening to a wider conflict with Greece and other NATO allies that would bring foreign energy projects, and potentially the United States, into the fray.

Turkey's Maritime Ambitions

Turkey claims that all of its neighboring waters in the Aegean, Black and Mediterranean seas deserve special treatment under international law, and that the islands in the Aegean Sea (which Greece controls the majority of) should not enjoy the same rights as large countries like Turkey with lengthy coastlines. The international community never adopted these distinctions, which is why Turkey is not a signatory to the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and prefers to resolve disputes through bilateral negotiations in lieu of not international arbitration. This has so far led to two major disputes with Greece in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas, as well as a major dispute with Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean.


Turkey's most important dispute is in the Aegean Sea, where thousands of Greek islands help boost Greece's maritime claims over Turkey's, and where the two countries disagree on how to even start drawing a maritime border due to the disparity in the number of islands between them. Turkey has just three islands in the Aegean Sea, while Greece claims more than 3,000. Given the higher number of Greek islands, Turkey has long maintained that any expansion of Greek maritime claims from six nautical miles (nm) to 12 nm off Greece's shores would constitute a "casus belli," or cause of war. While Greece and Turkey have nearly gone to war several times over disputes in the Aegean Sea, the two countries have so far avoided declaring full EEZs in the region, as well as claiming territorial waters beyond six nautical miles. But that doesn't mean they can't do so in the future.

Ankara has argued that if both Greece and Turkey extended their claims beyond 12 nm, Turkey's percent ownership of the territory would only marginally increase, while Greece would see its territorial control reach nearly three-quarters of the entire Aegean Sea.

The use of Greece's islands in the Aegean Sea to demarcate a maritime border for EEZs, which extend up to 200 nm from the coast, would also leave Turkey with virtually no rights to the natural resources and fisheries in the Aegean Sea.
Turkey has argued that a more equitable way to split the sea's resources would be by ignoring the islands altogether and starting off with an equidistant line between the Greek and Turkish mainlands.

Ankara Takes Action

By more aggressively flexing its claims through energy exploration and naval exercises in the eastern Mediterranean, Turkey is trying to both legitimize its declared EEZ claim, as well as delegitimize any potential EEZ claims in the region that Greece has through its islands of Crete, Rhodes and Kastellorizo. Kastellorizo, in particular, has the potential to generate a significant EEZ claim for Greece that could connect to Cyprus's own claimed EEZ, thus significantly limiting Turkish claims to resources between Crete and Cyprus. Further escalation could result in Greece finally claiming its full EEZ in the eastern Mediterranean, which Athens has so far been reluctant to do for fear of spurring a wider conflict.

Protected by a Turkish naval convoy, Turkey's Oruc Reis surveying vessel has been active throughout the Mediterranean Sea since the beginning of the year.

Turkey's December 2019 maritime agreement with Libya's Government of National Accord aims to legitimize Turkey's claims by establishing a border between Turkish and Libyan waters that ignores Crete and Kastellorizo.

On Aug. 27, the Greek parliament ratified a maritime border agreement with Egypt aimed at countering Turkey's pact with Libya by legitimizing a potential EEZ border generated via its control of Crete with Egypt. Greece's deal with Egypt is a first step in potentially declaring a full EEZ in the eastern Mediterranean, but the agreement with Egypt does not legitimize potential claims that Kastellorizo could give Greece rights to.

Turkey has also been actively attempting to delegitimize Cyprus' claimed EEZ in the eastern Mediterranean by both conducting energy exploration in waters that Cyprus directly claims, as well as harassing foreign companies that are operating on behalf of the Cypriot government. Turkey has argued that Cyprus' claimed EEZ is not legal because it was not done in coordination with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which Ankara recognizes as a legitimate government for all of Cyprus. Turkey also argues that, as an island, Cyprus cannot claim a full EEZ.

Turkey's Yavuz vessel is currently drilling off the coast of Western Cyprus.

Turkey's Barbados vessel is also currently researching in the Northern Cyprus territorial waters that Turkey recognizes as a part of an oil exploration block held by the state-owned Turkish Petroleum Corporation.

In 2018, the Turkish navy prevented the Italian oil firm Eni from drilling on its Cuttlefish prospect in an exploration block the company received from Cyprus.

The Specter of War

Turkey's increased provocations will continue to drive the United States and other NATO countries, including France and Greece, to boost their own naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean. Both Turkey and Greece will try to refrain from crossing red lines that could spur a larger confrontation that neither wants, but the higher presence of ships in the eastern Mediterranean will nonetheless increase the possibility of incidents, as evidenced by the Aug. 10 collision between the Greek frigate Limnos and the Turkish frigate Kemal Reis. International mediation would likely avoid further escalation to a military conflict between Greece and Turkey, but is unlikely to result in a diplomatic solution to their dispute.

In the case of a wider crisis, most NATO members would view Turkey as the aggressor and would likely back Greece. This would likely reinforce Ankara's overall pursuit of its maritime strategy and intensifying national security push by offering Turkey further proof that NATO does not prioritize its national security priorities. Countries can only leave NATO on their own accord, which Turkey remains is unlikely to do. Instead, Ankara would probably continue to reduce collaboration with NATO countries.


Despite Cyprus and Greece's calls for a more significant response to deter Turkey's behavior, the European Union will likely be hesitant to impose more drastic measures for fear of prompting Ankara to reduce cooperation on migration and other EU priorities. Unless Turkey starts to more directly protect its claims in the Aegean Sea, fires upon a Greek or another European vessel, or conducts drilling or exploration activities around Crete, Brussels will likely limit its sanctions pressure to companies and individuals supporting Turkish activities in the Mediterranean.

Decisions on implementing EU sanctions require unanimity among the bloc's member states. And some countries, such as Germany, are more concerned about aggressive sanctions only inflaming Brussels' tensions with Turkey.

If the European Union does not take significant action on Turkey, Cyprus is now threatening to veto proposed EU sanctions against Belarus amid the country's ongoing political crisis. This may result in slightly stronger EU sanctions that target more Turkish individuals and companies, but more broad-based economic sanctions against the Turkish government remain unlikely.

Energy Projects in the Crossfire

The United States will likely let the European Union continue to take the lead in responding to Turkey's attempts to delegitimize Greek and Cypriot maritime claims, but Chevron's recent entry into the eastern Mediterranean could eventually draw Washington more directly into the conflict. On July 20, Chevron announced an agreement to acquire the Houston-based oil and gas firm Noble Energy, which operates both the Leviathan gas field off the coast of Israel and the Aphrodite gas field off the coast of Cyprus. Ankara, however, will likely adopt a more hands-off approach to U.S. companies operating in the region, as the United States would be more willing to impose hardline sanctions in response to American firms being drawn into its maritime disputes.

By continuing to increase the cost of developing resources in Cypriot waters, Turkey's ongoing harassment of foreign energy firms will drive its neighbors closer together on both maritime security and energy exploration issues. But it could also potentially halt their construction of the proposed East Med pipeline. Cyprus, Egypt, Greece and Israel created the East Mediterranean Gas Forum in 2019. The quartet has since collaborated to construct the roughly $6 billion pipeline project, which would carry natural gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe. Under international law, Turkey is technically required to allow other countries to build pipelines through its EEZ. But Ankara retains the power to demand that any constructors of the East Med pipeline adhere to its environmental reviews and oversight, which would be de facto recognition of Turkey's EEZ. Otherwise, Turkey could send its navy to harass or intercept vessels involved with construction as Ankara did in 2018 with a drillship planning to spud a well in Cypriot waters.


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GPF: Eastern Mediterranean
« Reply #10 on: September 10, 2020, 11:58:13 AM »
The summit includes seven Mediterranean nations and focuses on the EU approach to Turkey.
By: Geopolitical Futures

Mediterranean talks. France is hosting the EuroMed 7 summit (which some have dubbed “Club Med”) beginning on Thursday, which this year will focus on rising tensions in the Mediterranean. Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain, Greece and Cyprus are attending the summit, held on the island of Corsica, but Turkey, of course, did not get an invitation. The goal of the meeting is to build a consensus around the European Union’s relationship with Turkey ahead of an EU summit set for Sept. 24-25.

France has made it clear that it would consider imposing punitive measures, including sanctions, on Turkey if it doesn't change its behavior in the Eastern Mediterranean. Greece has pressured the EU to apply “severe” economic sanctions against Ankara that would be lifted only on the condition that Turkey moves its drilling and military vessels out of Cypriot waters. Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his support for Greece after a series of fires gutted refugee camps on the island of Lesbos.

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WSJ notices the Eastern Mediterranean
« Reply #11 on: September 11, 2020, 09:10:06 AM »
Showdown in the Mediterranean
Two NATO allies could go to war over a maritime dispute.
By The Editorial Board
Sept. 10, 2020 7:27 pm ET

Aegean Sea surface temperatures naturally can reach the 80s, but the region has come to a boil this summer. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s confrontation with Greece over maritime claims could be resolved through diplomacy. The question is whether Mr. Erdogan wants to negotiate or simply assert Turkish power.

Territorial disputes around the Turkish coast and several nearby Greek islands existed long before Mr. Erdogan took office, but the Turkish leader’s growing belligerence has caused the latest round of tension. He unilaterally claims vast chunks of territory for Turkey and has escalated by sending exploration vessels into disputed territory with support from the navy. Each side has legitimate claims but Ankara justifies bad behavior with nationalist rhetoric.

“They’re either going to understand the language of politics and diplomacy, or in the field with painful experiences,” Mr. Erdogan declared Saturday. While leaders usually reserve such language for adversaries, Mr. Erdogan was threatening a NATO ally. The alliance hoped relations between Greece and Turkey would improve when they joined in 1952, but the two have come close to war three times since the 1970s. Tensions worsened as gas was discovered around the Eastern Mediterranean in recent years.

Turkey also has issues with Cyprus, which belongs to the European Union but not NATO. Ankara invaded the island in 1974 and is the only country in the world to recognize Turkish-speaking Northern Cyprus as a state. The south wants to cut deals with foreign energy firms but Ankara demands the north gets a share. Separately, Turkey wants economic rights in waters Cyprus sees as its own.

Military conflict between Greece and Turkey remains an unlikely but real possibility. NATO has tried to arrange talks but Greece says it won’t participate until Turkey withdraws its naval ships from disputed areas. These difficulties prompted the weekend tantrum from Mr. Erdogan, who sees the fight as about more than uncertain energy reserves.

Mr. Erdogan’s popularity has fallen amid Turkey’s economic and financial troubles. But a tough stance in the Eastern Mediterranean generates support across the Turkish political spectrum. Ankara has invested heavily in its naval ambitions, with a light aircraft carrier set to sail next year and more frigates on the way. Greece has announced more defense spending, but it will take years to have an effect.

In the past the U.S. and Europe have worked together to manage tensions in the region. This time Washington has called for dialogue but deferred to the European Union. Brussels remains divided—with France symbolically escalating against Turkey and Germany trying to play fair broker—and its efforts won’t mean much without America’s economic and military heft.

Under Mr. Erdogan, Turkey has benefited from its ties to the West while moving closer to Russia. Turkey is a strategically important NATO member, particularly in the Black Sea, and the relationship is worth trying to save. But intimidating another ally like this deserves an answer. If Mr. Erdogan uses force or threatens to cut refugees loose on Europe, Washington and Brussels will need a united response.

President Trump’s tweets and transactional approach to foreign affairs get all the media attention. But NATO as the world knows it could unravel in the Eastern Mediterranean.