A high-stakes bargaining game is currently in progress over the fate of the US-made F-35 fighter jets and Russian-made S-400 missile systems ordered by Turkey. We are keenly anticipating how this will all end. We are living in different times to the days when decisions in the United States were taken by bureaucrats and competent state officials.
We see, for example, that “official” Washington laid down its red lines in statements made by Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, etc. At the same time, however, we also see that a separate “son-in-law diplomacy” has been activated, as reflected in a photo of a meeting between US President Donald Trump with Turkish Foreign Minister Berat Albayrak – who is President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law – and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
It would be difficult for Greece to find out what was said during that meeting. The likeliest scenario is that neither the State Department nor the Pentagon were briefed on those talks. And this is the underlying danger that makes it crucial for Greece to correctly decode all the messages being transmitted by the US.
We are already hearing about a range of scenarios that could form the basis of a compromise. Athens was informed some time ago that Turkey may eventually buy the S-400 missile systems but store them in Azerbaijan. This would allow Erdogan to save face and the US would be able to proceed with the delivery of the F-35s.
It is too soon to draw any conclusions. The Greek government understands the problem and is trying to keep the lines of communication with the palace in Ankara open as bureaucrats there have also been sidelined. In any case, it is certainly very important for Greece and the US to have a solid relationship that does not depend on relations between the US and Turkey.
A top official remembers that when Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met Trump at the White House and started presenting evidence on Turkey’s aggression, the answer was rather disarming: “Erdogan is an OK guy and good for business.”