By Kyra Adam
There are two key issues that the Biden government wants to discuss during Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ visit to Washington: the Ukraine crisis and Greek-Turkish relations.
Washington has already made clear what it expects from Greece in the matter of the Ukraine war. The US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, disclosed this himself (before hosting a global, 40-country summit at the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany), during talks with Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos. Mr. Austin directly asked his Greek counterpart to send heavy artillery to Ukraine, as Greece’s contribution to the war.
Mr. Panagiotopoulos, having recently stated to the Hellenic Parliament that Greece can contribute only so much to Ukraine, because national needs are paramount, replied that he has no authority to make such a consequential decision, since it rightfully belongs to Prime Minister Kyr. Mitsotakis, who will soon pay a visit to the USA.
Thus, the issue of Greece delivering heavy weapons to Ukraine was added to the agenda of the Biden-Mitsotakis meeting in the White House. Obviously, it is highly unlikely that the Greek side will escape the American demands, given that there is an “oversupply” of heavy offensive arms by willing US allies, against Russia. The problem, of course, is that Greece’s heavy artillery is concentrated primarily in the Evros region in order to meet any emergency needs, whenever and if they arise, thus any dispatch of this material to the Ukrainian front would upset planning and balances. Of course, there is also a considerable number of heavy weapons located in the Eastern Aegean Islands, whose presence there does NOT overturn, nor does it violate the Treaty of Lausanne, as only naval fortifications and bases are explicitly prohibited by the treaty.
The second issue that the Biden administration intends to raise with Mr. Mitsotakis, as reported by very well-informed top-tier diplomatic sources, is precisely that of the demilitarization of the Greek Eastern Aegean Islands.
The Greek government is not unaware of this matter – quite the contrary, since US Under Secretary of State, V. Nuland, raised the topic directly with the Greek government during her recent visit to Athens, coming from Ankara.
As already known, Victoria Nuland, under the instructions of US Secretary of State, Mr. Blinken, had presented to the Greek side the outrageous argument that the interests of Greece (and Cyprus, as well) are fully guaranteed by the presence of the US Sixth Fleet and the French fleet in the Mediterranean. Therefore, according to Mrs. Nuland, there is no matter of concern for Greek sovereignty and, consequently, there is no need of increasing armaments. Hence, the Greek islands may as well be demilitarized under the Treaty of Lausanne.
The Greek government refused to tighten the screws on Ms. Nuland for her outrageous views, which are strikingly similar to Ankara’s positions on the demilitarization of the Greek islands under the Lausanne Treaty. Thus, the pro-Turkey views of Blinken-Nuland on Greece-Turkey disputes and the situation in the Aegean seem to be widely prevalent in the cabinet of President Biden as well. According to the aforementioned top-tier diplomatic sources, the Biden administration does not seem to oppose the idea of disarming the Greek islands, arguing that “given the circumstances, Turkey’s complaints do not seem absurd”.
Let’s not forget that Mitsotakis’ visit to Washington is preceded by that of Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, M. Cavusoglu, to the State Department, as a personal guest of US Secretary of State, A. Blinken.