Turkey’s F-35s and the Greek diaspora
Conditions are not favorable for Greece and Cyprus to respond to the challenge of a Turkey that is increasingly unpredictable and showing an expansionist appetite.
There are both carrots and sticks in Athens and Nicosia’s arsenals – the European Union, relations with key countries (and particularly the United States), and cooperation with powerful regional players such as Israel and Egypt – but they also have another weapon, one that is much less publicized and whose effectiveness is still questioned by some.
I am referring to the diaspora, whose strongest voice is in the strongest country, the USA. It may not have the power it once had and its presence in the Senate and the House of Representatives may be significantly smaller than in previous years, but it exists, it has a role and it often yields results.
Greece and Cyprus need to mobilize the Greek-American community. Everyone has a part to play – the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA, the oldest Greek-American organization), the American Hellenic Institute and the Hellenic American Leadership Council, among others. In this instance I must note in particular the latter's effort, in cooperation with the Armenian lobby, to halt plans for the sale of state-of-the-art F-35 fighter jets to Turkey. This is no easy task as there are huge economic and strategic interests at play and the geopolitical balance is precarious. However, a well-aimed, concerted effort has begun which could bear fruit under the right circumstances.
If Turkey succeeds in strengthening its air force with “invisible” F-35s, this would seriously upset the balance of power in the Aegean. As the executive director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council, Endy Zemenides, stressed in a recent interview with Kathimerini regarding the perils of Turkey’s increasingly provocative behavior, allowing it to also acquire the latest in American military technology is a “recipe for disaster.”
I don’t know if this particular effort will work, but what is certain is that in this pivotal part of the Greek-Turkish equation, which finds Greece unable to challenge Turkey in an arms race because of the economic crisis, the Greek-American community is trying to help Greece in a tangible way – and it could succeed.
The Greek-American lobby exists and it could prove highly effective, especially if all the different organizations that often rival each other join forces in the pursuit of common goals.